The air feels fresher in Ashburton. It’s a suburb that combines big city diversity with a country town friendliness that’s impossible to fake
As you hop off the train at Ashburton Station and land in the charming village of Ashburton, you’ll feel right at home, no matter where you’ve travelled from. The precinct’s local credentials come in the shape of warm shopkeepers, cosy cafes, quality provedores, a local library and a five-star playground. The High Street shopping strip near the railway station is bustling with activity; it’s an exciting hub where you can pick up produce, flowers and a new wardrobe, then reset with a caffeine hit at one of many boutique cafes. A sense of community is Ashburton’s secret ingredient.
Despite it being a relatively small suburb in size – you can stroll across the entire suburb in just 20 minutes – Ashburton packs plenty into its boundary. Gardiners Creek runs to the south, its peaceful trickle providing a sense of calm and a natural contrast to the Monash Freeway that passes nearby.
Popular with locals and visitors alike, Markham Reserve is one of the best parks in all of Melbourne’s east. As well as a playground, sportsgrounds, a community garden and beautiful spots for picnics, the reserve has a great area for BMX, scooter and skateboard riders. There is an excellent adventure playground featuring climbing nets, a large seesaw, a flying fox, monkey bars, a rotating flower, large wooden kookaburras, a sandpit and great swings for all ages. What’s more, the playground is completely enclosed by a safety fence, so you can sit back while the kids go wild.
For a more grown-up activity, ‘The Ashy’ Op Shop is regarded as one of Melbourne’s best op shops. Here you’ll be spoilt for choice with bargain books, bric-a-brac, furniture, clothes, bags, linen and shoes, children’s clothing and toys. They also have a Garden Club, with special market days on the first Friday of each month catering to local – and visiting – green thumbs.
When you’re ready to put some food in your belly, you’ll find plenty of places to eat in High Street, Ashburton. Daytime is the time to be spotted dining in the village, sipping on coffee from Oakroom or treating yourself to a late-afternoon cocktail at Mr Burton (that’s Ash Burton, get it?), which is also open on Wednesday and Sunday nights for specialty events.
Off the main strip, but well worth the detour, is Habitat Cafe. Super-friendly staff, paired with perfect (all-day) breakfast and lunch fare is the norm here, and a high-quality coffee just adds to the charm. Just try to say no to the brekkie burrito or the coconut chia bowl, with candied ginger, spiced pineapple preserve and toasted coconut flakes.
On a sunny afternoon, the Ashburton Pool and Recreation Centre is the perfect spot to while away the time. With a 25-metre outdoor pool, as well as space to lay out a towel, you can slip in and out of the water as many times as you want.