Throughout the 1910s and 20s, Walter Burley Griffin and his wife, Marion Mahony Griffin, made a name for themselves in Melbourne for their design of a number of estates and buildings across the city. From Mount Eagle Estate in Eaglemont to Newman College at the University of Melbourne, their suburban designs – based around the concept of shared amenities and community parklands – evolved to include a large part of Avondale Heights. It was an approach that also took into consideration the topography of the suburb (perched high on the west bank of the Maribyrnong River) when planning the streets and parklands that you’ll find as you walk, ride or drive around the area.
With the Maribyrnong acting as a natural border for Avondale Heights on three sides – Buckley Street, one of the best ways to get to the suburb, acts as its northern border – it’s understandable that the suburb has plenty of bike and walking paths to explore. In fact, it makes up a five-kilometre section of the Maribyrnong River Trail (6MB download), in total a gorgeous, 28-kilometre cycling and walking path that stretches from Brimbank Park in Keilor to the city centre.
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If you’ve got the kids in tow, start your exploration at one of the great parks located along the river. As well as being home to the Avondale Heights Football Club (home club of Essendon AFL champion, Matthew Lloyd), Canning Reserve is also home to a number of great attractions perfect for spending some time at. There’s not much left of the Canning Reserve Tea Gardens, but the historical significance is not lost; during the interwar years the area was popular with ladies who would journey up the Maribyrnong for dining and dancing. The playground, too, is worth a visit; alongside the BBQ facilities, picnic lawns and a spot to dangle a fishing line in, it’s a great destination to while away an afternoon. On match days you’re sure to meet other local families, but if you’d prefer a quieter atmosphere, check of this list of other Avondale Heights playgrounds.
The main street through Avondale Heights is Military Road, and a stroll along the strip will reveal quaint cafes and shops worth poking your head into. Impasto Forno Antico reflects the strong Italian heritage of many Avondale Heights locals, with the Italian bakery offering a taste of home for many residents. For visitors to the area, it also means there’s an excellent spot for filling up a picnic basket or enjoying over a coffee with friends (or the newspaper).
For something more substantial, visit the new kids on the block, Rice Fields Restaurant. Dishing up traditional Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine, it’s a sleek operation run by fun staff who truly want you to have a grand old time. A browse of the menu will have you drooling, and when you bite your teeth into dishes like their noodle soup bowls and fried noodle plates you’ll know you’ve made an excellent decision.