Nowhere in the Sydney property market has there been more gentrification than in its prime beachside areas.

Once, beach suburbs like Manly and Bondi were rough places, with high unemployment and a population making do with only the most basic of services and shops, says Justin Brown, chairman of residential projects at real estate marketers CBRE.  

Now they’re some of the best areas around, with top-quality apartment developments and prime retail, and are proving a real force for change for all the areas around them.  

“Apartment developers now love them,” says Brown. “Land tends to be very tightly held in these areas so there are only boutique-sized sites available which they prefer. That also means there won’t ever be masses of supply available so they’ll always be sure of strong sales, and they’ll be prepared to pay a premium.”

The popularity of living by the beach also means plenty of demand, with buyers equally ready to pay extra for that, too. Over the last few years they’ve become home to a number of top developments, like Pacific Bondi Beach, and are set to see even more coming up, such as Bower in Manly, Lantern at Cronulla, 21 new apartments on the site of the old Bronte RSL by Winston Langley, Bayside Botany and Illume at Little Bay.

“Everyone loves a view, as well as being able to live in a seaside location,” says Michael Fox, managing director of developer CostaFox which is developing the $43-million Bower, six luxury homes designed by Koichi Takada on the waterfront at Manly. “We’ve had overwhelming interest in our project.

“There are a lot of local empty nesters around looking for high-end product and who understand that spectacular location, between Manly Beach and Shelley Beach, better than anybody. It’s the kind of special site that deserves the best kind of home we can provide, and there are a lot of people looking for top quality.”

That’s certainly been the experience too of the developers of the iconic Pacific Bondi Beach, on Campbell Parade. “I think it’s about having an aspirational lifestyle,” says Eduard Litver.

“As people become busier and have less free time, they’re focusing more on quality of life, so they can feel like they’re on holiday at the beach even when they’re at home. As the pace of life increases, time becomes more precious, so they want to make any time off even more special.”

Down south in Cronulla, both developers and buyers feel much the same. Lantern, a new development of 14 apartments for sale off the plan, are mostly being snapped up by empty nesters looking for something of a quality that will compensate them giving up their large family home, says David Smith, of Highland Property Agents Cronulla.

Developer James Brooks of Jarvis Brooks Developments says people can simply feel terribly nostalgic about beaches, too. He does; his late grandmother used to live opposite the site so, after spending much of his youth surfing there as a kid, it holds very fond memories for him. “There’s a finite amount of land by the beach, a lack of new properties and a lot of demand,” he says. “People are often looking for something really special.”

Lifestyle is the key to it all, believes LJ Levi agent Mark Meyer, who’s currently marketing the next 72 apartments at the Landmark Group’s Bayside Botany. “Living close to the beach is every Australian’s dream,” he says. “That’s always going to be a huge drawcard.”

Peter Goulding at NG Farah Project Marketing, selling Illume as well as two smaller developments in Coogee, is even more blunt. “People just love the lifestyle, the beach, going on coastal walks, pools, the fresh air,” he says.

“Five million people live in Sydney. One million of those live on the coast, and 4 million want to.”

Feature Property - 102 Bower Street, Manly

As the designer of the new $43 million development of six luxurious apartments right on Manly’s Fairy Bower,  architect Koichi Takada decided early on  the building shouldn’t be a show-stopper. Instead, it should stand back to allow the stunning ocean views to grab all the limelight.

“In the end, it’s about less being more,” says Takada. “I really believe that. The more is the view and surroundings, the light and the lifestyle, and the amazing buzz you get from being there. And the less should be the design.

“That should be more about giving everything else a platform to be enjoyed, for someone to really celebrate what it’s like to be living there.”

As a result, developer CostaFox’s planned four-level building Bower on a 1190-square-metre oceanfront site, a two-minute walk to the aquatic reserve of Cabbage Tree Bay, will have frameless glass balustrades to make the most of the vistas. Its exteriors will be clad in sandstone, with a wave-shaped horizontal composite timber screen echoing the location.

The luxury interiors are by Mim Design, with heated stone flooring the same colour as the rocks on the beach and the palette of the walls and furnishings also referencing the outdoors. All the penthouse-style apartments will have an integrated audio system and fully automated lighting, blinds and airconditioning.

“It’s such a spectacular setting, it’s really inspirational,” Takada says. “It’s so close to the water, you almost feel you’re floating. I think apartments like this, in this kind of setting, are really the Australian dream.”

Two-bedrooms (156-172 square metres internally) $4.2 million-$4.7 million; three bedrooms (239-322 square metre) $7 million-$9.5 million. Completion expected early 2018. Phone Steve Thomas at Belle Property (9976 6444).