One of Melbourne’s most delightful suburbs is just ten kilometres from the city centre. Welcome to Balwyn North.
Surrounded by manicured streets and postcard pretty vistas, Balwyn North (or North Balwyn, depending on who you talk to) exudes village charm only a 30-minute tram ride from city life. Punctuated with a range of eateries, retail boutiques, a delightful fruiterer, delicatessen, fabulous florist and even its own nursery, this hub of early art deco style exudes a local village vibe.
Trams on route 48 roll through the heart of Balwyn North along Doncaster Road. Slow down, though, as Tamwell Arcade is a jewel in the eye of Balwyn North Village, a sneaky spot off Doncaster Road that you would be forgiven for missing altogether. Accented by wrought-iron fixtures and checkerboard tiling is a gorgeous little florist and gift store, Bloomsville. The space is filled with colour and vibrancy – from not only the flowers, but also the shop’s owner who sells his own handmade cards and gifts as well. This is a true neighbourhood experience.
At the same tram stop, and for an authentic piece of Italy where you’d perhaps least expect it, Salzano Delicatessen is a local gem. This deli, produce store and cafe stocks imported Italian groceries and serves some delectable treats alongside authentic coffee that you’d be tempted to drink standing up, just like in a real Italian espresso bar.
Other casual dining spots nearby that are worth stopping in at include The Village Cafe (for some friendly faces and a quality cup of coffee), Via Roma Caffe & Gelateria (for a warming latte followed by a scoop of gelati – the perfect combo no matter the season) or Olive Lane (for saganaki and some of the best loukoumades – Greek doughnuts – this side of Thessaloniki). If you're after a burger accompanied by a eye popping freak-shake, look no further than Jolly Miller Cafe.
One of Balwyn North’s more exclusive pockets is Greythorn, and the central point of the area is Greythorn Park. A hub of community activity, as you stroll through the green landscapes you’ll spy football, cricket and tennis matches play out, with other local sporting and recreation groups using the buildings and spaces throughout. Stop by Tony’s Gourmet Delights on Doncaster Road for some fresh cuts of meat, then slap them on the barbecues scattered throughout the park. Your kids will fall in love with the playground, while adults will revel in the serenity of blissful suburbia.
Another area adored by locals – as well as visitors traversing the suburb on bike or by foot – is Koonung Creek Reserve. Following the path of the Eastern Freeway from Bulleen Road to Doncaster Road, it meanders past wetlands, off-leash dog areas and a playground or two that are just waiting to be explored and climbed.
Finish the day off with a banquet from the Lebanese restaurant Dunyazad, one of the best Balwyn North dinner options going. Their open banquets allow you to keep topping up your favourite selections (think melt-in-your-mouth felafel, pan-fried scallops and prawns cooked in lemon, garlic and coriander, or the perfectly light dessert, Mahallabia). You’ll leave full, satisfied, and if you’re there on a Friday or Saturday night, entertained by the resident belly dancers.