The city meets the countryside at this growing village-style suburb in Melbourne’s north west.
It was in the huge mansion called Rupertswood, one of the largest ever constructed in Victoria, that the Ashes was born. In 1882–83, English cricket captain Ivo Bligh was presented with the urn when his team won the series. Now, the house is used as offices for Salesian College, but Sunbury is still best known as the birthplace of one of Australia’s favourite sporting competitions.
Apart from its place in sporting history, Sunbury is a thriving community that is just 30 minutes from Melbourne’s CBD on the Bendigo V/Line train yet still surrounded by countryside.
In the surrounding hills, you find a number of wineries. Craiglee Vineyard was established back in 1863 by James Johnston, a Victorian parliamentarian and businessman, who planted six hectares of grapes. Shiraz and riesling proved to thrive, but during the 1920s, during an economic downturn, the land was returned to pasture. In the 1970s, vines were re-established on the cool-climate site and it now produces excellent drops using chardonnay, shiraz and viognier varieties. The cellar door is open by appointment. Otherwise, head to the Ballcourt Hotel, where you’ll find Cellardoor Wine Bar, which supports local wineries and breweries.
Another important historical landmark in the area is Emu Bottom Homestead. Built by settler George Evans when he arrived on the Enterprize in 1835, it is Victoria’s oldest homestead and has been restored to its original splendour, complete with furnishings from the period. It is surrounded by other buildings, including the woolshed and slab hut, now used as venues for weddings and functions.
Early risers might want to start the day right with a few holes at Goonawarra Golf Club, sitting high over Sunbury. Its championship-quality 18-hole course has lakes on six holes, is well bunkered and roams over gently undulating country.
With its pink neon signs and poster-clad walls, Vietnamese eatery District 3429 is a lively spot for lunch or dinner. If you’re on your own order a vermicelli bowl with fried chicken; better still, bring the gang and you’ll be able to order up big from the sharing offerings, like sizzling lemongrass beef and green apple and papaya salad. Just a couple of doors down is where locals come for a great cup of coffee. The Spotted Owl has a rustic vibe and is always busy. At lunch, the soft-shell crab burger, topped with house-made spicy kimchi mayonnaise, is a must.
If you’re looking for a big, friendly pub, with a great bistro, head to the Olive Tree Hotel. There are specials every day and an extensive menu that stretches beyond the average pub grub dishes. You can order steaks, chicken parma and grilled fish of the day, of course, but the lamb souvlaki burger and salt and lemon pepper squid and prawns are also excellent.
Afterwards, walk down the main street for some shopping. People stocks a large range of surf, ski, skate and streetwear, including shoes and boards, from labels including Vanishing Elephant, Carhartt, Vans and Status Anxiety. Further along, you’ll come to Sunbury Square, which, as well as being a favourite for groceries, deli goods and fruit and veg, is also home to boutiques, EB Games and Toyworld.