While a popular surfing and fishing spot, for some time Bellambi has been dismissed by many as a potential location to live or buy property, partially due to its abundance of social housing.
However, residents, business owners and agents believe that negative reputation is rapidly changing as the suburb's many benefits became apparent to a new wave of home buyers.
Michelle McLaughlin is owner of Olive's Cafe, which has operated out of the Bellambi Surf Life Saving Club premises for the past four years.
She said Bellambi was a suburb on the rise.
"There's a lot of really good people, and people who are just moving into the area because it's beautiful," she said.
"It's definitely changing the stigma that it had for a long time. We've got the Catholic high school up the road, there's cafes that have opened.
"The beach is fantastic. There's lots of community events on... It's got good transport as well. It's got a family-friendly atmosphere, and [it's] dog-friendly. There's a really good sense of community here."
Rachell Fisher, 50, has lived in the Illawarra for the past decade, including Bellambi for seven years, after relocating from Sydney.
The solicitor was drawn to the suburb by its affordability and location. As someone who commutes to Sydney for work, she also appreciated the accessibility of transport options.
"In terms of the northern suburbs, it's quite a central position relative to Wollongong," she said.
"You're ten minutes to Thirroul, ten minutes to town, you've got the beaches close by - a choice of beaches. And there's the transport options, with the trains and bus routes. It's well serviced by public transport.
"It's good for getting on to the expressway - you're close to the distributor and you're not far from the M1."
Ms Fisher said at the time she moved to the suburb the perception was changing, and much of that negative outlook was nowadays unfounded.
"I know there's the social housing aspect and there can be negative stereotypes that come with that," she said.
"But from my perspective, coming from Sydney, there's social housing in almost every suburb, and it just adds to the diversity of the suburb, and probably makes Bellambi a more diverse suburb than other parts of the northern suburbs.
"Personally I feel safe in the area and have never had any concerns. And my kids are fine and haven't had any hassles. I think people are now starting to realise that it has a lot of potential.
"Since I've been living here, I've noticed more younger families moving into the area."
According to CoreLogic, the predominant age group in Bellambi is 50 to 59 years.
Currently the median sales price of houses in the area is $925,000.
The median sales price increased from $750,000 in July 2020 to $925,000 a year later.
Angela Bolton from Stone Real Estate Illawarra said Bellambi was proving popular with first home buyers and developers.
"I think it's that one suburb on the east side, in the northern suburbs, that hasn't quite popped," she said.
"And the lifestyle is great - you're right near the beach and the bike track. The lifestyle definitely appeals to people, it being a walk to the beach... It's where you can afford to have a house on the east side and a parcel of land, as opposed to a unit or townhouse."
Ms Bolton said the suburb had a long-term potential that was appealing, and while it may have had a stigma in the past, it was overcoming that.
"I think it's the place you should invest your money now," she said.
"It will be one of those suburbs, one of those stories in the future, [that's a] should've, could've, didn't. We all have those stories of, 'Ah, I should have bought there when I could afford to'. That's what Bellambi will be."
Andrew Hedley from One Agency Kane Downie Thirroul said among the keys to Bellambi's burgeoning popularity were its "beautiful" beaches, decent sized blocks and relative affordability, as well as more recent trends such as growing coffee options.
He agreed that the perception of the suburb was quickly shifting, as a new wave of buyers who weren't concerned by any past notoriety discovered its benefits.
"Where Towradgi and East Corrimal have completely become to a degree inaccessible [to many], you can buy in Bellambi for just over $1 million.
"And people are realising that some of the past stigma of Bellambi is disappearing.
"People are hearing more and more stories of people moving in. More young families are moving in there and finding it a great place to live. Those stories get passed on from friend to friend or colleague to colleague, and they start to say, 'actually, Bellambi's a good spot to be'. So it's quickly changing... That stigma is quickly on the way out."
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Recent sales in the suburb include 26 Lorking Street for $1.1 million; 6 Pioneer Road for $842,000; and 44 Park Road for $1.45 million.
Ms Bolton is the selling agent for 12 Ellen Street, Bellambi.
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom home is set on 601 square metres. There is currently no price guide.
It's an original cottage located at the end of a cul-de-sac and a short walk to amenities.
She said the home had been on the market for two weeks, and was attracting plenty of interest from first home buyers, who liked the size of the north-facing block.
Mr Hedley is the selling agent for 8 Park Road, Bellambi.
The three-bedroom, one-bathroom home sits on 658 square metres, and is due to be auctioned on November 27.
East Corrimal Beach, cycleways and coffee shops are located nearby, while another key feature is the pool surrounded by tropical palms.
Mr Hedley said it had a price guide of $1.1 million, and expected the home would be popular with couples getting into the market, families and downsizers.
"It's single-level, good size, two living spaces, so it had a broad appeal in terms of what it offers people," he said. "It has a great location."
Adam McMahon from Dignam Real Estate is the selling agent for 4/16 Owen Park Road, Bellambi.
The three-bedroom, one-bathroom villa has a price guide of $740,000 to $790,000.
Mr McMahon said the property was drawing interest from "50/50 Sydney versus local buyers", many of whom were first home buyers who were attracted to the coastal lifestyle Bellambi offered.