With jaw-dropping scenery, 300-plus days of sunshine a year, and more beaches than you can shake a stick at, it’s unsurprising that Byron Bay is a hot destination – including for some of the world’s most famous people.
Positioned on the northern New South Wales coast, an hour’s drive south of the Queensland border, the perfectly situated town has been a go-to for surfers and counterculture types since the 1960s.
These days, it’s not only surf hounds and hippies who call the place home. The formerly sleepy locale has become a firm fixture on the international tourism map and many cite one man as the reason for Byron’s newfound fame: Chris Hemsworth.
Despite being Australia’s hottest acting export — and earning squillions for his blockbuster turn as Thor in the various Marvel franchises — the Hollywood hunk knows that there’s no place like home.
Especially when home is a $30 million pad right by the beach. Now Chris and brother Liam have combined separate holdings to form an enormous parcel of land dubbed ‘Hemsworth Hills’.
Buying up Byron
The Hemsworth clan’s journey to become Byron’s biggest property owners began back in 2014 when Chris relocated to the area from Los Angeles.
Paying $7 million for a Broken Head estate that year, he and wife Elsa Pataky proceeded to tear down the existing eight-bedroom Balinese-style house and build a mega-mansion in its place.
Beginning construction in 2017, the 4.2ha architecturally-designed estate took a few years to complete and now boasts six bedrooms, a media room, gym, spa, and games area, and vast outdoor living and play spaces.
Chris Hemsworth and Elsa Pataky’s enormous family home, which has a reported estimated value of $30 million. Picture: Media Mode
The 50m rooftop infinity pool alone was estimated to have cost at least $400,000 in install. On top of that, the couple added a two-lane bowling alley for a reported $110,000.
To add to the excess is the Hollywood couple’s other 35ha site in Byron that’s currently under development.
The site of Chris and Elsa’s future home – a 35ha parcel of land that they’re building a huge home and horse ranch on. Picture: Media Mode
According to reports, the pair want to build a new seven-bedroom home on the chunk of land, less than 1km from their mega-mansion. They bought the picturesque parcel in 2019 for $4.25 million but it has a current estimated value of $10 million.
The actor’s brothers, Liam and Luke, have also bought several multimillion-dollar properties in the Northern Rivers region.
Liam, star of the Hunger Games franchise, spent $6.8 million on a property in the town of Newrybar in 2020.
The 37.5 hectare sprawling former wedding venue features five bedrooms and four bathrooms across two separate wings, all built around a swimming pool, tropical gardens, and a lawn bowls area.
The 37.5ha property bought by Liam Hemsworth. Picture: Media Mode
Meanwhile, eldest sibling Luke owns a $4.3 million beachfront mansion in nearby Suffolk Park. The Westworld actor and wife Samantha lodged a development proposal last year to add an additional level to their single-storey property.
“The Hemsworth’s investing in Byron and the Hinterland has definitely shone a light on the region,” said Amanda Gould, Byron-based buyer’s agent and director of Highspec Properties.
“While it has been a stand out holiday destination for Australian’s for years, it now has international attention.
“They are obviously buying where they know and love but given the growth statistics over the last eight-and-a-half years, it’s also a shrewd investment, and clearly one they want to secure for their children’s future.”
And Chris has just made another addition to his portfolio that has locals wondering what the brothers are up to next.
Chris, Liam and Luke Hemsworth have been busy buying up big in Byron Bay. Picture: Getty/WireImage
‘Hemsworth Hills’ expansion plan
The recent settlement of a $10.5 million off-market deal in Newrybar, a record in the tiny town, shows that the family’s ever-expanding Byron property portfolio shows no signs of slowing.
Chris snapped up the 46ha property, situated next to Liam’s existing mega block, in a deal described by listing agency McGrath as “the hinterland’s premier land opportunity boasting some of the best vistas in the Northern Rivers”.
Chris recently bought another huge chunk of land right next door to brother Liam’s mountain estate. Picture: Media Mode
This enormous chunk of land now brings the Hemsworth brothers’ combined landholding, which has been dubbed Hemsworth Hills, to about 220ha – and an estimated worth of a staggering $100 million.
But what’s the lure for the screen stars in Newrybar specifically?
A stone’s throw from Byron town, the tiny hamlet has charm in spades with restored heritage shopfronts housing cute artsy homewares, vintage stores, and galleries.
There’s big city culinary chutzpah at Harvest Cafe, which has become a destination in itself.
And the surrounding countryside is dotted with farms producing locally-grown produce.
In short, it has everything a Byron hipster could need.
Byron Bay’s property market has exploded in recent years. Picture: Getty
Byron has become ‘Aussie-wood’
While Chris is top of mind when it comes to A-listers who have opted to bliss out in Byron, there are plenty of others who’ve joined him. In fact he’s just one of a growing list of celebrities taking up residence in the area.
Screen legend Olivia Newton-John started the trend some 40 years when she brought a 75ha farm in Ballina, a property she just sold earlier this year.
Actor Simon Baker bought his hinterland property in 2009 for $1.5 million, and a few years ago pop star Natalie Imbruglia reportedly forked out $1.3 million for a three-bedroom property in Byron.
Other famous faces to put down roots here include TV presenter Carrie Bickmore, The Block co-host Shelley Craft, international model Gemma Ward, actress Isabel Lucas, and most recently actress and singer Natalie Bassingthwaite, who moved with her family from Melbourne just before the pandemic hit.
Byron has wowed other Hollywood dwellers too, with Zac Efron snapping up a 128ha block in Tomewin near the Queensland border last year for a cool $2 million.
Both Matt Damon and Margot Robbie have in the past shopping around for their very own Byron boltholes.
Even film productions have moved into the area, with Nicole Kidman choosing Byron to film the blockbuster series Nine Perfect Strangers, and Netflix setting its influencer reality series, Byron Baes, there.
Nicole Kidman shot her series Nine Perfect Strangers in Byron Bay at a wellness retreat. Picture: Airbnb/Hulu/Courtesy Everett Collection
The impact of the ‘Hemsworth Effect’
The arrival of this star-studded population has ruffled some feathers in the local community.
In what has been dubbed ‘The Hemsworth Effect’, the famous family have been touted as one of the main reasons for Byron Bay becoming Australia’s most expensive housing market in 2021, during which time property prices seemed to soar in tandem with the celebrity population.
“In 2014, the growth in Byron was a gentle 3.1%,” Ms Gould said. “In fact, Byron had many years of slow growth.”
The stand-out periods for growth were in 2015, when median house prices soared by 36.4%, and in 2017, when they jumped again by a staggering 42.6%. But last year, the exponential rate of growth was the biggest in Australia at 51.6%.
“The median house price in 2014 was $660,000 but now it’s more than $3 million,” Ms Gould said.
Are the Hemsworths to blame? Not entirely.
A look at Liam Hemsworth’s hinterland estate. Picture: Media Mode
COVID-19 lockdowns in southern states throughout 2020 and 2021 fueled a surge in tree- and sea-change seekers from the city, who flocked to Byron for a better lifestyle.
“While Chris and Liam have highlighted Byron as the place to visit and invest, the surge in demand was definitely brought on by the pandemic,” Ms Gould said.
“For most of our clients it was a catalyst to seek more living space. It caused people to reassess where they wanted to live and since most people worked from home, it made people focus on what was important to them, which was their home life.”
Not many locals are celebrating the enormous growth of the Byron property market. Picture: Getty
Regardless of where the blame lies, what is certain is that the price hike has had a major effect on long-time local residents who have been driven out of the area by the soaring prices.
“The knock on effect is affordability for locals,” Ms Gould said.
“Since property prices have soared many locals have been pushed out of the area to outlying regions that are more affordable.”
Looking to the future, the changing property market is likely to see an increase in stock hitting the market – and perhaps more opportunities for the Hemsworth brothers to add to their sizeable local portfolios.
“The Hemsworths are heavily invested in the Byron Shire,” Ms Gould said. “Yes, they are ‘land-banking’ but — with the current market having corrected, meaning that there’s more choice for buyers — I don’t see the changing anytime soon.”