Looking for a vibrant city in an idyllic coastal location with beautiful beaches, clean air, no traffic jams and affordable housing that's less than less than 2 hours from Sydney? Welcome to Newcastle - jewel of the Hunter.
Newcastle is booming with an architectural and cultural transformation already well underway in the city. Major public investment by the NSW Government is driving private investor confidence with billions of dollars of construction projects already approved and many already being marketed, sold and built.
Many of these projects are attracting residents back into the CBD and inner suburbs and this is fueling a new and vibrant feel for the city. There is fine dining, hip prohibition-style bars, chic boutiques and a thriving arts scene sandwiched between the sea and Hunter wine country.
"It's an exciting time to be living in Newcastle", says Sydney ex-pat Felicia Harford-Fletcher who lives with her husband and young daughter. "Newcastle is on the up and up. In every way, with the inner city revitalisation bringing the city's centre to life, there is so much on offer that you never feel like you are missing out on anything. I don't think there is another city where you can be so close to the CBD and pristine beaches at the same."
''We have family in Sydney and visit there often but we just got tired of living amongst the traffic, crowds and high prices. Newcastle offers the lifestyle and work-life balance we were yearning for but found hard to achieve in Sydney - but Sydney is never too far away if you need to visit family or go to a favourite haunt. We realised that you don't have to live in Sydney to enjoy the things you like about it."
Apart from the idyllic lifestyle, Newcastle has a rich history because it is Australia's second oldest city - in fact the first school in Australia is celebrating its bicentenary this year. With that history there is no shortage of classic period houses including Victorian terraces, Federation and Art Deco homes that would cost a fortune in Sydney.
With exceptional healthcare and education facilities, including a world class University and a busy airport, Newcastle offers all of the services for young professionals, families and retirees alike. This is sea change with all the big city conveniences.
And if you are looking for a place escape the rat race then selling up in Sydney and buying in Newcastle might be just the ticket and could leave a large amount of change in your pocket too.
Australia's number one regional real estate agent (reb Top 100 Agents ranking), Mark Kentwell from PRDnationwide says that house prices are still way below levels in Sydney.
"We have seen people sell up their $2million to 3million terrace in Paddington or Annandale, buy a beautiful home in an exclusive inner-city suburb like Hamilton or Cooks Hill here in Newcastle moments to beaches, shopping centres and restaurant strips for around $1 million and put $1million to $2million in the bank - essentially having the option to retire or wind down at age 50-something."
"The city is changing at an unprecedented rate. With the introduction of retail, commercial and entertainment precincts, new cafe and dining options growing, a new light rail system around the city and public spaces increasing, the city really is a wonderful mix of old and new.
"The city is riding the wave of a construction boom, with council figures showing the value of approved projects soaring 70% to $875 million last year" said Mr Kentwell.
"We recently sold 23 luxury apartments in one CBD project in just 10 weeks revealing there is plenty of demand and confidence in the city's residential property market," said Mr Kentwell.
"While many of the locals and sea-changers want to keep Newcastle a secret, we believe the next ten years will be the most exciting for this region with Newcastle emerging as one of the fastest growing and most attractive places to live and work in Australia."