Melburnians seeking escape from the congestion and stress of the city should consider the bucolic delights of nearby Ballan. With a population of less than 3,000 and conveniently located 78km northwest of Melbourne, the town offers surprisingly affordable and appealing properties.

Ballan has a median property price that’s still well below $400,000, according to the Domain Group. Additionally, owner-occupiers who want to settle down but still want to commute to Melbourne can take advantage of the 18 direct train services each day.

Originally part of the tribal area of the Wauthorong people, the town was an important staging point for coaches travelling to the Ballarat goldfields during the Victorian Gold Rush. Today, Ballan is situated in the middle of a thriving wine and springs regions, with easy access to neighbouring Trentham, Blackwood, Daylesford, and Ballarat.

Perhaps Ballan’s greatest appeal is the fact that it has retained its country charm. Residents describe it as being “not too gentrified” (though there’s a small number of op shops, cafes, and artisanal shops).

Elke Kerr, who works for an environmental non-government organisation in Melbourne, chose to settle in Ballan because of its laidback country charm, affordability, and ease of access to Melbourne via the train line.

“Ballan was perfect. It has everything I need, which isn’t much: op shops, a couple of cafes, hardware and farm supplies and a nursery,” she told the Domain Group. Kerr purchased a weatherboard house dating back to the 1930s in May 2015. She has since transformed her property to suit her needs.

She’s particularly proud of her backyard, where she tends to fruit trees and a vegetable patch. “I was looking for a place that still had the country town feel, that was not too over-developed and retained its original architecture and great community,” she said.

The town is slowly changing, according to Mark Dudley, branch manager at Rayner First National Real Estate. Many of his clients are baby boomers who want to live simpler, less demanding lives.

“We get a lot people from the city who say they are just sick of having to live on top of others and wanting to reconnect with the forests, fresh air and animals,” he said. “Ballan [is also appealing] because it’s one of the easiest cities to commute to [via a] direct road and rail link.”