Back to beach ba­sics, but at a price

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

IT used to be that if you wanted to snare a great hol­i­day house for Christ­mas at the beach you started look­ing about 12 months (if not 12 years) ahead.

The global fi­nan­cial cri­sis sorted that out. Now you can book a fab­u­lous bolt­hole just a cou­ple of months out from the fes­tive sea­son — per­haps some­thing with a se­ri­ous pool, mul­ti­ple liv­ing spa­ces and de­signer kitchen. But it de­pends very much on your choice of lo­ca­tion.

At Mis­sion Beach in far north Queens­land, the hol­i­day rental out­fit headed by Steve Wilt­shire is slash­ing prices on its luxe prop­er­ties from $1000 a night to $850 a night for the fes­tive sea­son. Al­most 80 per cent of its beach houses and water­side apart­ments are now let for Christ­mas.

‘‘World­wide, pri­vate hol­i­day house book­ings are grow­ing and it ap­pears re­sorts are wan­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, other than those in Bali,’’ Wilt­shire says.

Of course, he would say that. But there’s no deny­ing that, from the posh res­i­dences of Sydney’s Palm Beach down the east coast to Mel­bourne’s Port­sea, hol­i­day house rentals are sud­denly pop­u­lar again. Some reckon it’s a lot eas­ier to drive to your des­ti­na­tion than fly some­where ex­otic, par­tic­u­larly if you have kids in tow or you want to make the odd visit to the of­fice dur­ing your break. Oth­ers like the con­cept of fam­i­lies and friends rent­ing a house dur­ing the Christ­mas pe­riod to save costs and to share the fes­tive fun.

Still, on Vic­to­ria’s Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula, Beach House Rentals di­rec­tor Glen Be­g­ley re­ports most of her best Christ­mas prop­er­ties are booked out the pre­vi­ous Jan­uary. She says the hol­i­day rental mar­ket, tak­ing in posh sub­urbs such as Port­sea and Sor­rento, is do­ing fab­u­lously. ‘‘Book­ings in­crease ev­ery year, but this year it seems more places have been booked out ear­lier than usual,’’ she says. ‘‘We have listed prop­er­ties at $12,500 a week and they’ve been taken within a cou­ple of days.’’

Prices are even steeper in Palm Beach, where hol­i­day house ren­ters think noth­ing of fork­ing out $40,000 a week come Christ­mas. Palm Beach Hol­i­day Rentals coowner Diana Ed­wards says: ‘‘Last year the high end was dead. This year I have more [peo­ple than ever] who want to pay $15,000 a week. Ev­ery­one is ex­hausted with the stress of the GFC . . . peo­ple tell me they do not want to get on a plane with kids and worry about [dif­fer­ent] lan­guages, the jet lag . . . This is about lob­bing up the road to the beach with the tra­di­tional Li-Lo and bucket and spade; it’s about com­ing back to the ba­sics.’’

But Ed­wards adds that she is ‘‘freak­ing out’’, with more staff and clean­ers on her books for a sea­son that looks likely to triple last year’s re­turns.

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