The leafy eastern suburbs have an interesting history, sweet shopping precincts and cafes to fuel epic explorations.
These suburbs, with their wide streets of big houses filled with families who were attracted by good schools and a short commute to the CBD, once had a reputation for perhaps being a little sleepy. Those positive attributes are, of course, still evident, but there’s so much more to the City of Boorondara. The suburbs here, which include Kew, Hawthorn, Camberwell, Balwyn and Canterbury, are just five to 10km east of Melbourne’s main business district. For residents, the amenities are outstanding, but there is also plenty for visitors to explore.
Creativity and culture is celebrated here. Historic cinemas, such as Palace Cinemas Balwyn, which dates back to the 1930s, shows arthouse and independent releases. Literature lovers browse the aisles of Readings Hawthorn and Balwyn’s The Merchant of Fairness. Then, there’s the Hawthorn Arts Centre. Within its walls is the Town Hall Gallery, but there are also performances of theatre, dance and classical and popular music in the theatre. Another venue that acts as an off-shoot of the arts centre, and is excellent for live music and cabaret, is historic Kew Court House’s Just Theatre. Then there’s Villa Alba Museum, an 1882 Italianate mansion that’s been restored to its original glory.
For those who love to shop till they drop, these suburbs’ high streets — Glenferrie Road, Kew Junction and Whitehorse Road are just a few — bring independent retail to the forefront. Whether you’re after fashion or collectables, there is much to explore. Find an heirloom-to-be among the more than 50 stalls at Camberwell Antique Centre or discover a signature fragrance at specialty store Peony Haute Parfumerie.
Retail extends beyond the traditional shopfront at the City of Boorondara’s markets. Camberwell Sunday Market has long been a favourite weekend activity for anyone who loves to search out a gem — one man’s trash is another’s treasure, after all. If you love to support local artists, craftspeople and producers, head to Hawthorn Craft Market, held next door to Camberwell Library, on the first Sunday of each month. Pick up toys, homemade beauty products, jewellery, preserves and more on the day. Get the best seasonal produce for your table at Camberwell Fresh Food Markets (open Tuesday and Thursday to Saturday). There’s a fishmonger, butcher, deli, fruit and veg and even a florist.
Take a break in one of the beautiful parks or gardens. Familiarise yourself with native flora at Maranoa Gardens, take the kids to the playground and let your dog go off the leash at Camberwell’s Lynden Park or take to the Yarra at Studley Park Boathouse. Here, you can hire a rowboat to paddle downstream and see Kew from a completely different perspective.
Of course, all that activity, fresh air and wandering can work up an appetite. Lucky for you there is a venue for all tastes and any occasion. Rise early for innovative breakfast dishes at Hawthorn’s Short Stack. Linger over lunch among the foliage at Kew Nursery & Cafe. Gather friends for a taste of Europe at Arthur Radley in Kew, then head to a hidden gem like Camberwell’s East of Everything, where drinks on the rooftop reveal spectacular views of the skyline.