A south coast summer awaits
Many decades in the making, and thanks to the world-class coastal amenity of its harbourside precinct, The Waterfront, Shell Cove has emerged as the must-visit destination on the NSW south coast.
A suburb-sized masterplanned neighbourhood the size and scale of Shell Cove on the Illawarra Coast takes shape slowly over decades. A park here, a shopping centre there, several hundred new residents every year, a marina, a harbour, and a waterfront promenade. Then one day you wake up and realise that this visionary development is now a fully-fledged destination with a character and magnetism all its own.
A long-term joint venture partnership between Shellharbour City Council with Frasers Property Australia, Shell Cove broke ground in the early 1990s and is today home to almost 10,000 residents. The centrepiece of the community is The Waterfront, Shell Cove – a harbourside precinct incorporating a 145-berth marina (swelling to 270 when fully completed); beach; dining precinct including bars, cafes, and tavern; town centre with Woolworths and convenience shopping, as well as – under construction – a future library and community centre and Crowne Plaza hotel.
The result is the creation of an exciting new south coast tourism destination that’s proving a huge hit with locals and visitors alike, especially as The Waterfront, Shell Cove is activated with a series of irresistible drawcard experiences and events.
Chief among them is The Waterfront Markets which takes place every month alongside the marina precinct. On a recent sunny weekend, locals soaked up the sights, sounds, and flavours of Shell Cove, with live music, shopping, and great food on offer from over 40 stallholders.
Frasers Property Development Director, Mat Gulliver, says that the markets are a community placemaking initiative that has now become a standard fixture in the neighbourhood’s event calendar.
“We designed the harbour to be a place where people could relax, unwind, and get together with family and friends,” says Mat. “It’s got this fantastic amenity with boardwalks and green spaces beside the water. Trialling a weekend market in that spot was a no-brainer. Though to be honest, I don’t think any of us expected it to be as hugely popular as it has. It sort of proves the adage, that if you build it, they will come.”
And come they have. Research by Shellharbour City Council shows that visitor numbers to The Waterfront, Shell Cove are up by 75% since the boat harbour opened late last year.
Chris Homer, Mayor of Shellharbour City Council, says as The Waterfront attracts more and more people, there’ll be plenty of exciting activities and milestones for them to enjoy in the weeks and months ahead.
"Since its opening in late October 2021, The Waterfront, Shell Cove has attracted over 200,000 people to the stunning harbour, marina and the local businesses here at Shell Cove,” says Mayor Homer. “It’s notable that approximately 40% of the people who have visited are Shellharbour residents, demonstrating the high value locals also place on this fantastic waterfront area.
“With more food and beverage offerings, a hotel, community centre and library all coming soon, visitors will continue to be attracted to everything The Waterfront at Shell Cove has to offer.”
Centre of attraction
One of those attractions is the first-ever Waterfront Food & Wine Festival on October 28th and 29th. Headlined by Chef Adam Liaw, and joined by renowned Indigenous chef Mark Olive, the festival is an unabashed celebration of the foodies, creators, producers, craft breweries, and distilleries that call the South Coast and Illawarra home. Featuring workshops, cooking demonstrations, meet-the-maker talks and live music as well as a special celebration to commemorate the annual opening of the boat harbour, the event promises to be another well-attended activation that draws visitors into the region.
Further exposing the wonders of the Illawarra coast is Shellharbour Wild, a local marine wildlife tour operator that heads out each day from The Waterfront marina to explore the great blue yonder. Popular between May and November for its whale-watching cruises, Shellharbour Wild offers awestruck landlubbers the opportunity to see majestic humpback whales on their migration north to give birth, and south again with their calves to nurse and feed in the Southern Ocean. The rest of the year, there’s a stunning scenic cruise around Bushrangers Bay, Perkins Beach, and the Five Islands to see dolphins and fur seals.
According to Mat Gulliver, it’s not just the events and experiences of Shell Cove that are bringing people to the region, it’s the lure of the laid-back coastal lifestyle as well.
“The realisation of the harbourside vision has really opened people’s eyes to the attraction of living in this beautiful part of the world,” he says. “The community is very established and highly engaged, and there’s this really amenity-rich and self-contained neighbourhood feel. We’ve particularly seen a huge spike in Sydneysiders looking to escape the city and take up residence in a place blessed with natural beauty, laid-back lifestyle, and first-class amenity in equal measure.”
As the project reaches its end stages (Frasers Property anticipates completion of the entire Shell Cove masterplan in 2027), and inches closer to the release of its premium oceanside precincts, that intensity is only expected to increase.
“The scale of this development means we’ve been able to offer a range of property types for people who value different things in life,” explains Mat. “We’ve got a stunning range of architecturally-designed townhomes for those that want the complete package, land lots for people that have their own special dream home design in mind, and harbourfront apartments for the high-amenity, low-maintenance set.”
And of course, if living at The Waterfront, Shell Cove isn’t quite on your bucket list yet, from 2024 you’ll be able to stay whenever you like at the upscale Crowne Plaza Shell Cove Marina Hotel, a home away from home that’s set to put this one-of-a-kind south coast destination well and truly on the map.