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In just 20 years, the bustling suburb of Cairnlea has blossomed with things to do for families and outdoors-y types.

1999 was the year American Pie was released, MySpace was launched and the world discovered Spongebob Squarepants. It was also the year that, 17 kilometres to the north-west of Melbourne’s city centre, the suburb of Cairnlea was established. Now, with more than 10,000 residents calling it home, Cairnlea is emblematic of the population boom that has taken place in the region. Bordered by Kororoit Creek to the south and with parks and nature reserves throughout the suburb, thoughtful design has led to a friendly, welcoming vibe for residents and visitors alike.

Cairnlea Lakes (also known as Cairnlea Park) is a series of manmade lakes that are a haven for wildlife, native flora and locals, who flock here on sunny afternoons. They draw folks from all over the west to enjoy the open spaces and blue skies. Laughing children, the sizzle of barbecues, and bike riders can be heard echoing across the lakes as ducks, geese and ibises paddle and wade around the cool waters. Bring your walking shoes and spend some time navigating your way through and under the 500,000 native plants and trees that have been planted here over the past two decades.

If you enter Cairnlea via Furlong Road, your introduction to Cairnlea Lakes will be through Kevin Flint Memorial Reserve, which is where you’ll spy local soccer and cricket teams sweating it out. With a playground for the little ones to climb their way around, toilets and sheltered areas, it’s a clever spot to base a day at Cairnlea Lakes from.

On the other side of Furlong Road you’ll find one of the few habitats in all of Australia for the endangered striped legless lizard. The Iramoo Wildflower Grassland Reserve, which covers roughly 40 hectares of land springs up out of nowhere; an oasis of greens, greys and yellows amidst a quintessential suburban neighbourhood, and an unlikely spot to discover these snake-like (but non-venomous) creatures. The community group Friends of Iramoo run regular volunteer days; contact them if giving back to the local environment and ensuring the survival of these local reptiles is of interest.

A focal point for many in Cairnlea and the wider Brimbank area is the Cairnlea Community Hub, just west of the Cairnlea Town Centre shopping centre. No matter your age or interest, it hosts dozens of activities from creative writing for adults to Cairn-Glee, where primary school-aged kids learn to sing harmonies and dance. Yoga classes and (free) walking groups take place weekly, as do craft and sewing groups.

For a quick bite to eat, or to stock up on supplies for a picnic or barbecue, Cairnlea Town Centre is your local go-to destination. Try Delite Fish for some of the best chips this side of the Western Ring Road, or choose from the Asian delights on offer at Basil Leaf (hint: if you’re planning to dine in at Basil Leaf, it might be worth ringing ahead to book at table!).

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