If you’ve ever wondered where to find a little slice of the country life close to Melbourne, your search is over. Welcome to Whittlesea!
There was a time when the land where townships and suburbs now stand in the City of Whittlesea were dotted with market gardens, orchards and dairy farms. Times have changed and the district is developing rapidly, but there’s still an exciting blend of both worlds; one where you have open spaces and nature to explore and another that offers culture, food, shopping and all the other amenities we love to surround us.
You’ll find little pockets of history dotted around the City of Whittlesea. When you arrive in the centre of Whittlesea township, you’ll spy the old courthouse — it dates back to 1864 — surrounded by a pretty rose garden. There are no criminals here anymore, though; just the volunteers who run the visitor information centre that’s now housed here. Then there are places like Bear’s Cottage, a hand-built, heritage-listed dwelling that, with its turrets and second storey, defies belief. Head to the Thomastown Pioneer Precinct — also referred to as Westgarth town —where the bluestone buildings that made up this former dairy settlement still stand. In fact, the Lutheran Church, built in 1856, is still operating.
Whether you’re bringing your family along for the ride or have your pet pooch in the car, you should definitely consider exploring some of the parks in the suburbs. Some of these, like Mernda Adventure Park and Brolga Park in South Morang, are equipped with playgrounds that will keep the younger members of the tribe swinging, seesawing and giggling for hours. There are plenty of off-leash areas for the dog at places like Creek Park in Mernda.
The real pay-off, however, comes for those who like to pull on a comfortable pair of shoes, lock the car and take a stroll through the bush. The Plenty Gorge Walk takes you through the traditional lands of the Wurundjeri people and past ponds, through the bush and to a lake that’s an important habitat for native birds and wildlife. Walking trails also meander through the natural landscape at Foothills Park in South Morang.
Amp up the action with some adventurous, high-octane adventures — T.U.K.E (The Ultimate Karting Experience), Funfields, lasertag at NRG Force Live Action Play offer a good time for all ages — or wander along some of the pretty main streets exploring the independent stores and unique retailers.
One of the most exciting aspects of the City of Whittlesea is the huge range of eateries. They range from simple cafes with seasonal offerings to special-occasion restaurants where you’ll be served a meal you’ll never forget. You shouldn’t head home without tasting Thomastown’s most Instagrammed dessert. The donutellas at Mick’s Place have caused a sensation, drawing folks from all over Melbourne. Just don’t leave your visit for too late in the day or they may have sold out. At the other end of the spectrum are two restaurants with sensational settings. Book for a home-style Italian feast at Farm Vigano, the former home of two well-known Melbourne residents — the views from the dining room are something special. At historic Carome Homestead, you’ll dine at Two Beans and a Farm, where the Spanish and South American-inspired dishes are created entirely from local produce.