A river runs through the heart of Melbourne’s west. Head to Brimbank to commune with nature, discover artistic talent and have a little fun along the way.
Most people associate the Yarra River with Melbourne, but in the western suburbs it’s all about the Maribyrnong. Its steady flow begins in the Macedon Ranges, but in this part of the city it winds its way through Keilor, Sunshine and Avondale Heights before it joins the Yarra. Its presence offers unique opportunities to explore and enjoy the life it brings with it. Horseshoe Bend Farm, established in the 1930s and newly reopened, is a tranquil place for visitors of all ages. The original cottage, sheds and farm equipment remain on the site and there’s a peaceful wetland walking trail that meanders along the banks of the Maribyrnong. If you’ve got a canoe or kayak, you can put it in the river near Brimbank Park and take on a watery exploration.
More waterways can be found at Taylors Lake, where a trail and park follows the line of Taylors Creek. Established gum trees, an amazing array of bird life and public artworks make for an interesting stroll at any time of day. The sunset views, however, are particularly beautiful.
Nature lovers will also revel in one of the area’s hidden gems, the Keilor Botanic Gardens — its 10 hectares are dedicated to Australian flora and the trails are often devoid of other walkers. And there’s plenty for anyone who loves to get active or watch a game. Play a set on the tennis courts at Keilor Park Recreation Reserve, cover your ears as you take in the drag-racing action at Calder Park, or, for something a little different (and decidedly retro), strap on your wheels at Sunshine Roller Skating Centre.
Long walks often equate to big appetites and there are plenty of places to sate a hunger. Many of the suburbs around here, including Sunshine and Keilor Park, have a diverse population, with residents born all over the world. Their cultures influence both the streetscape and the assortment of eateries. Pizzerias, Vietnamese pho spots, continental butchers and Indian restaurants sit alongside hip cafes and bars.
Those ready to explore Brimbank’s history will be thrilled by all on offer. Sunshine was a model city during its formation — it was one of the first places in the state to have electric street lights, for instance — and there are still remnants of its past on display, including the McKay Smithy, where agricultural harvesters were made, and the original Sunshine Mechanics Institute Library. Take high tea in Overnewton Castle, a stately mansion built in 1859 in the Victorian Tudor style, or combine the past with a cold beer at the Keilor Hotel, established in 1840 and Australia’s oldest family-run pub.
There’s also a chance to indulge your cultured side. Contemporary public art enhances the streetscapes here. Derrimut’s Spiral Graph Seat is a functional installation piece in Balmoral Park; Dianne Beevers’ and Andrea Tomaselli’s Seeds of Hopes and Dreams stands in St Albans Square; and John Kelly’s Man Lifting Cow delights visitors who pass the Brimbank Community and Civic Centre in Sunshine. Elsewhere, the legacy of former local Leigh Bowery is celebrated at St Alban’s Bowery Theatre.