It might not be a part of Melbourne you’re aware of, but get to know Mernda and its parks, bushland and community and you might find you’re hooked.
While many of Melbourne’s suburbs are named after early European settlers or towns in Britain, Mernda is different. The name comes from the word murnmurndik, which means ‘young girl’ in the language of the local Wurundjeri people. This is one of the City of Whittlesea’s fastest growing suburbs, with residential developments and new facilities being built apace.
If you’re seeking entertainment for the younger members of the family, there’s plenty out here to keep them occupied. Pack some snacks in the car and take them to Mernda Adventure Park. Instantly recognisable by the huge horse sculptures in front of the play area, it has plenty of places to swing and hide. There’s a fireman’s pole, ladders, flying fox, slides, seesaw, fort and a scrambling wall.
Bigger kids who like to explore the bush and walk along creeks will be in their element at Plenty Gorge Park. Start at the Red Gum picnic area and take on the Plenty Gorge Walk. This was an important area for the Wurundjeri people, who found food, medicine, shelter and fresh water here. Look closely as you walk and you might be able to see some of the scarred trees they left behind. The walk takes you past ponds into the bush and to a lake that attracts a large variety of birds, like black swans and white necked herons. You can detour on to Morang Wetlands Walk or head back to the start.
Dogs aren’t allowed at Plenty Gorge Park, but your pooch is welcome at Creek Park, where there’s an off-leash area. Let them off for a run and play with their new doggo mates.
After all that activity, you’ll be feeling some hunger pangs. Turners Bakehouse Eatery makes its own traditional sourdough bread that accompanies many of its brunch and lunch dishes. The bakers make good use of the oven here, because you can also snack on a variety of gourmet meat pies, cornish pasties, quiches and freshly baked scones that come in the Devonshire tea.
At the beautiful Carome Homestead, you’ll find Two Beans and a Farm, where the philosophy of paddock to plate is embraced. All the produce used, and the chefs here serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, comes from the property or is grown locally. The menu, influenced by the flavours of Spain and South America, changes with the seasons. Many of the dishes are served tapas style, so you can share the likes of house-smoked chorizo with red onion jam and Moroccan spiced cauliflower with whoever you’ve brought along for the tasty ride.
Another historic building — a pub originally built in the 1890s — is home to the Bridge Inn Hotel. Pull up a seat in either the sports or lounge bar, depending on whether or not you want to watch the big game, or head out to the bistro in the modern extension for a full range of steaks, pasta and main meals.