Lush, rural pride of Port­sea

The el­e­gant coastal town is a mag­net for those who can af­ford it, writes An­nie Reid

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Primespace -

THERE aren’t too many places like Port­sea. Where the Na­tional Aus­tralia Bank’s Ahmed Fa­hour plays cricket on the beach with his kids, Lind­say Fox ducks into a shop for a straw­berry ice- cream or Paul McCart­ney’s en­tourage lands their he­li­copter on the Port­sea golf course to run an eye over the area.

The el­e­gant, exclusive Vic­to­rian sis­ter town to Sor­rento is a mag­net for well- heeled res­i­dents and hol­i­day­mak­ers, skirted by stun­ning beaches to the north and south, arch­ing cy­press trees, na­tional parks and Port Ne­pean at its tip.

It’s been la­belled Aus­tralia’s rich­est post­code, and any­one who catches the ferry from nearby Queen­scliff knows why.

Ten years ago, prop­erty de­vel­oper Sam Taras­cio of Salta Prop­er­ties bought a lime­stone house on the wa­ter­front next to the Port­sea Ho­tel.

I was lucky be­cause it was just be­fore ev­ery­body dis­cov­ered Port­sea. The same fam­ily had owned it for 80 years, and I bought it then and there at the auc­tion,’’ he says.

Taras­cio, who sold West­gate Lo­gis­tics to Lind­say Fox’s Lin­fox for $ 180 mil­lion last year, and whose com­pany has about $ 800 mil­lion worth of de­vel­op­ment on the go, later bought land that backed on to his block, which in­cluded a gen­eral store, a cafe on Point Ne­pean Road, plus a small house.

Ren­o­vat­ing the shops, build­ing two apart­ments above them, and re­plac­ing the houses with a large fam­ily home and gar­dens, he cre­ated a fam­ily com­pound’’ for his wife Christina and chil­dren David, Lisa and Sam Ju­nior.

With a tra­di­tional lime­stone con­struc­tion, the five- bed­room house nes­tles un­ob­tru­sively into the land­scape, and a key fea­ture is the whole of the front liv­ing area, which opens out to cre­ate a seam­less in­door and out­door space.

I just think Port­sea is as good as any­where else in the world,’’ Taras­cio says.

It still re­tains its lush, rural feel, and its rare north- fac­ing lo­ca­tion means the beach, the salt and the wa­ter is pris­tine.’’

Port­sea’s stretch of multi- mil­lion­dol­lar man­sions hug the clifftops above Fish­er­man’s Beach, Shelley Beach and Point King, where es­tab­lished fam­i­lies built their im­mense hol­i­day homes dur­ing the late 1800s, and the rich and fa­mous fol­lowed suit.

Early res­i­dent Ge­orge Coppin brought wealthy Mel­bur­ni­ans to the area on day trips in his pad­dle steamer. The prop­er­ties th­ese days are more likely equipped with he­li­pads or ca­ble­car- es­que lifts.

You won’t get much change out of $ 20 mil­lion for a small hand­ful of the big­gest and best prop­er­ties here — some more than 1.2ha — while the rest of the cliff- top com­prises about 150 prop­er­ties rang­ing be­tween $ 5 mil­lion and $ 12 mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to Liz Jensen, a di­rec­tor of Kay & Bur­ton, prop­erty prices have soared since she joined the firm in 1993, with some fam­i­lies will­ing to wait up to 10 years to buy.

Its 90- minute prox­im­ity to Melbourne sees com­pet­ing city suits and wealthy wannabees rub­bing shoul­ders hap­pily at the Port­sea Ho­tel over sum­mer: a far cry from the 1970s where Jensen says you could fire a can­non down the main street.

When we opened, we sold it for $ 1.5 mil­lion. Now it’s worth in ex­cess of $ 12 mil­lion,’’ Jensen says of her first cliff- top sale.

Ac­cord­ing to War­wick An­der­son, a di­rec­tor at RT Edgar, Port­sea’s ar­chi­tec­tural style is just as in­ter­est­ing as its in­hab­i­tants.

Most of the old man­sions in Sor­rento and Port­sea are built from lime­stone, be­cause it could be eas­ily quar­ried on site. It’s al­ways fas­ci­nated me that all the main doors face the sea, as there was no road back then,’’ An­der­son says.

There has been huge ar­chi­tec­tural di­ver­sity since the 70s, with spe­cial­ist coastal ar­chi­tects such as prom­i­nent lo­cal Rob­bie Robert­son work­ing on in­di­vid­ual projects.

Now, peo­ple have a higher stan­dard of am­bi­tion when it comes to build­ing and qual­ity here, and they don’t want to repli­cate what they have in Melbourne,’’ An­der­son says.

Port­sea has an army of high- profile sup­port­ers who un­der­stand the im­por­tance of pro­tect­ing this del­i­cate en­clave.

Kate Bail­lieu, a prom­i­nent cam­paigner and mem­ber of one of the long­est- es­tab­lished fam­i­lies in Port­sea, grew up here and be­lieves all Aus­tral- ians should en­joy the beaches.

Our fore­fa­thers had great fore­sight in re­al­is­ing the im­por­tance of preser­va­tion, and my po­si­tion is that I never want to get to the point when beaches are owned by private in­di­vid­u­als,’’ Bail­lieu says.

Af­ter six years, Bail­lieu is near­ing the end of a suc­cess­ful bat­tle for Point Ne­pean to be re­turned to the state Gov­ern­ment, when the land will be re­tained as na­tional park­land and re­main un­de­vel­oped.

With help from Olivia New­tonJohn, Ron Walker, Joan Kirner, ra­dio per­son­al­ity Tracy Bartram, and prom­i­nent bar­ris­ter Tony Southall among oth­ers, lo­cal res­i­dents are com­mit­ted to their cur­rent protest against the chan­nel- deep­en­ing project.

As Bail­lieu and a group of friends sat out on the jetty one night re­cently, they ate freshly caught mus­sels cooked on the bar­be­cue by their side, watch­ing the sun­set and drink­ing in the soft breeze.

There re­ally aren’t too many places like Port­sea — or many peo­ple that can af­ford them.

Aus­tralia’s rich­est post­code’:

Port­sea golf club is just one of the at­trac­tions bring­ing the well- heeled to the area

Life’s a beach: Lind­say Fox en­joys Port­sea’s nat­u­ral set­ting

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