Wondering where one of the two swimming beaches in Melbourne’s west is located? Look no further than bayside Altona.

It’s no wonder so many residents are attracted to Altona. This beautiful suburb, right on Port Phillip Bay, has beaches, parks and plenty of opportunities for fun. Some of its earliest European settlers mined coal here, but there’s other history in its background. This was where the first cross country flight took off, when JJ Hammond flew from here to Geelong in 1911. More recently, it’s been the home of Australia’s first female prime minister, Julia Gillard. Head here for the day and check out all the opportunities for life in the great outdoors. 

Get fuelled up for the day at Bezirk. With its exposed brick walls and coffee mural, it’s a popular spot with locals, especially since the owners try, wherever possible, to support producers in the community. The brekkie burger has double eggs and bacon with cheese and tomato relish, but it’s hard to go past the waffles and donuts, where you get both with ice-cream and butterscotch sauce. 

Now it’s time to hit Altona Beach. When the sun is shining, you can pull on your cozzie and go for a dip. Otherwise, take a walk along the pier and see if the fishermen have managed to catch anything. Just up the street, you’ll find Between 2 Buns. Drop in to order American-style burgers — you can choose beef or chicken — and loaded fries to go. Find a spot between a shady tree at Logan Reserve and watch the beachgoers while you relax with your super-casual lunch. If you’re looking for somewhere you can eat in, Pier 71 Bar e Cucina serves up wood-fired pizza, pasta and salads — there’s even a bambini menu for the kids.

Speaking of the younger members of the family, they’ll love the Altona Miniature Railway. Members of the public, whether they’re small or fully grown, can ride the train pulled by scaled steam and diesel engines on the third Sunday of each month. 

While it’s certainly tempting to spend your time on the sandy beach here, go inland — just a little way — to Cherry Lake. Created in 1970 to control flooding, the lake is an important habitat for birds like pelicans and swamp hens. While you’re strolling the 3.5km trail that rings the lake, keep your eyes peeled for them and the Altona skipper butterflies that live in the sedge at the western end.

Before the sun disappears, you’ll want to check out the best view in Altona. At Truganina Park, you’ll find the 100 Steps to Federation, which lead to the top of a 17m mound. From here, on a clear day, you can see the Port Phillip headlands and the Melbourne CBD.

As the day ends, head to Mosaic Restaurant. This casual Mediterranean-inspired spot serves up lunch and dinner, but there’s a pretty outdoor terrace that’s perfect for enjoying tapas and a glass of wine. There’s another option for after-dark thrills… On Saturday nights, Lantern Ghost Tours leads spooky walks through Altona Homestead, where the long-deceased Langhorne family is still thought to walk the halls.

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