Looking to Make a Tree Change? Here Are the Best Places to Buy (or Rent) a Country Home in Australia

With remote work normalised in 2020 and travel off the cards, we saw more people investing their money into real estate and making the move to a coastal town. From Victoria’s city of Jan Juc to Queensland’s iconic Surfers Paradise, we previously rounded up all the most popular coastal areas to relocate to across Australia. However, another notable real estate change in the market as a result of the pandemic has been the shift inland to regional towns.

Coined the ‘tree change’, the relocation is the perfect solution to disconnect from the stress of urban life, regional areas offer a wealth of other benefits including good infrastructure, a sense of community and an affordable alternative to high capital city property prices.

“Being in lockdown for a lot of the year, I think a lot of people are craving space, craving the outdoors,” said ME consulting demographer and director at Ethos Urban, Chris McNeill.

“For those of us who are in an office-based environment, it’s dawned upon us that we can quite effectively work outside a capital city, either on a full-time basis or a part-time basis.”

In particular, it has been a popular decision made by many first home buyers due to affordability, according to ME Bank research. In regional towns, you can find entry-level homes on offer for as little as $300,000.

Top 20 Regional Towns in Australia for First-Home Buyers

Here were the top 20 tree change destinations for first-home buyers in 2020:

  1. Nairne, SA
  2. Bungendore, NSW
  3. Margaret River, WA
  4. Mount Barker, SA
  5. Kiama, NSW
  6. Woodend, VIC
  7. Beechworth, VIC
  8. Dunsborough, WA
  9. Tatura, VIC 
  10. Lennox Head, NSW 
  11. Kilmore, VIC
  12. Byron Bay, NSW
  13. Tanunda, SA
  14. Nuriootpa, SA
  15. Mansfield, VIC
  16. Airlie Beach - Cannonvale, QLD
  17. Port Fairy, VIC
  18. Mullumbimby, NSW
  19. Castlemaine, VIC

Factors taken into consideration when ranking the above towns included housing affordability, healthcare, employment rate, education facilities, internet access, town character and the natural beauty of the area. 

You'll notice a lot of these towns are located in close proximity to the coast, too, so you can really enjoy the beauty of both worlds - without being interrupted by the fast-paced city life.

If you’re looking for that relaxed tree change lifestyle, here are some of the best locations around Australia you should consider. 

Most Popular Regional Towns to Relocate to Across Australia in 2021

New South Wales

Surprisingly, towns on the far north coast of NSW still managed to make ME Bank’s top 20 list with Lennox Hill in 10th and Byron Bay in 12th, despite their soaring housing prices, which is a testament to the amazing beach lifestyle on offer there.

Despite the appeal with Byron Bay, you can’t look past Bungendore, located in the Queanbeyan Region of NSW near the iconic Lake George. This small historic town has become a popular place for visitors from Canberra as a destination with quality eateries, wineries and lots of vintage shopping. It’s the home to some of the country’s most beautiful heritage buildings that will leave you in absolute awe every day. 


For another tree change option, look towards Central Tilba for a sense of an authentic 19th-century town. This beautiful historic town is packed with old-fashioned leatherwork and artisanal crafts, and even home to a cheese factory. It was also the site for the TV series River Cottage, and while secluded, it’s only minutes from some of the most pristine beaches in the country so you really get the best of both worlds.



Victoria dominated ME Bank’s top 20 list with eight towns featured in the top 20. Woodend ranked the best regional town in the state for first home buyers. Located in the Macedon Ranges, this quintessential modern rural village is the gateway to many attractions throughout the region. You’ll discover country-style bakeries, cosmopolitan cafes, stellar pubs, bookstores and vintage shops. Many visitors stay in Woodend when visiting Hanging Rock and boutique wineries located nearby. 


This town was followed closely by Beechworth in the north-east of the state, known as one of the state’s best-preserved former gold mining towns, and Tatura in the Goulburn Valley, more commonly known as the Water Wheel Country and a global manufacturing hub of quality dairy products. 



If you’re looking for outback pubs, impressive sand dunes and annual horse races, look no further than the notable town of Birdsville. Surrounded by Queensland wilderness, this quintessential Australian outback town offers the best of both worlds - the Diamantina River and the Simpson Desert.

Also look towards Airlie Beach - Canonvale, which made ME Bank’s top 20 list. This relaxed town definitely offers a more coastal vibe, so a good one for those who want both the beauty of the beach and the outback.


South Australia

South Australia’s town Naire took out the top spot on ME Bank’s list. Nestled in the Adelaide Hills, this town is a well-kept secret with a big community spirit. 

“Nairne has a vibrant and growing community expected to reach 6,200 by the year 2036; good access to hospitals and schools; spectacular surrounds in wine-growing country; and heritage streets that give it a ‘lost to time’ quality,” McNeill reported.

“A boom in new property developments in the town also means affordable modern housing is attainable for first home buyers.”

The median house price in Naire sat at just $400,000 in 2020, with Mount Barker, ranked fourth, having a median house price of $419,500.  

Another town to keep in mind is Goolwa, which is known to be one of the most picturesque towns in Australia thanks to the breathtaking coastal views from the top of the sand dunes. This romantic place is situated at the mouth of the Murray and the home to a historic port, sandstone architecture and many art galleries. 


Western Australia

It would be reckless to look further than WA’s Margaret River. This small town located south of Perth is known for its craft breweries, boutiques and surrounding premium wineries. The nightlife here is unexpected - the town comes alive with the scenery of fantastic restaurants, wine bars and pubs with live music. The days can be spent going for bush walks and cycling around the river and surrounding farms. The lush forest, the close proximity to the coast and the still rivers add an extra dimension to Margaret River that can’t be replaced by any other place on earth. 


Kalgoorlie is also a great place to relocate to if you’re after the Old West lifestyle. While being the largest urban centre in the Goldfields region, the tight-knit community here will make you feel instantly at home.


Looking for more cosy country stays? Here are 11 incredible Cottagecore Airbnbs around Australia you need to stay in.

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