© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Arguments that fairness should be a guiding principle of climate change adaptation have been primarily concerned with distributive and procedural aspects of fairness, with far less attention paid to the temporal, spatial and interactional dimensions of fairness. This paper presents the results of a study that sought to understand the multiple dimensions of fairness of adaptation strategies that exist or can be developed to deal with sea-level rise. The study focused on five small communities along the south-east coast of Australia—Lakes Entrance, Seaspray, Port Albert, McLoughlins Beach and Manns Beach. Interviews were conducted with residents of the local communities to examine perceptions of current adaptation policies and their social impacts. A questionnaire was used to develop a nuanced understanding of the types of people living in these communities and their everyday lives, practices, and relationships. This enabled us to identify a range of non-material social impacts that may occur as a result of sea-level rise. Finally, focus groups were used to obtain community perspectives on the fairness of a range of potential future adaptation strategies. Together, these methods revealed that adaptation to sea-level rise is likely to affect some groups in the community significantly more than others, and in ways that will fundamentally change the nature of living in these communities. Understanding nuances in the social values of communities reveals how policies can be adapted to provide fairer outcomes for all community members through processes that create the time and space required to establish long-term working relationships between communities and government.