Has the notion of 'sea change' and its considerable implications for non-metropolitan coastal Australia been exaggerated? In this article alternative perspectives of 'sea change' in Australia are reviewed, and the policy implications of each assessed. One perspective regards migration to coastal areas beyond the capital cities as incidental to continued metropolitan primacy and unlikely to affect or change Australia's overall urban or economic structure. The other considers the movement as a significant and enduring process with major environmental and socio-economic repercussions. With reference to research conducted for the National Sea Change Taskforce, the article finds partial support for both positions, leading to a more revealing understanding of 'sea change' in Australia. A set of policy responses, sensitive to the particular qualities of Australian coastal environments and communities, are proposed for consideration by all three tiers of government.