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No longer St Kilda’s little sister, Elwood is a thriving suburb brimming with classy cafes, cool restaurants and a popular beach. Get some sun, some food and a late-night drink, and have a good time.

While the mixed architecture that lines Elwood’s residential streets and commercial strips suggests it has been part of Melbourne’s fabric for some time, the history of this land stretches far beyond the 1920s and 30s, when period houses started to feature art deco touches. Before European settlement, for forty thousand years Elwood was originally swampland used by Aboriginal people as a signal point. In 1840 the first settlers landed here (as opposed to Melbourne proper) due to significant illness on their boat.

In the late-nineteenth century, before permanent buildings could be erected on this swampland by the bay, construction began on the Elwood Canal. Bridges – including those designed by Sir John Monash at the turn of the twentieth century, reinforcements and additional works have been carried out on the canal for more than a century, ensuring the liveability of Elwood, as well as surrounding suburbs such as Elsternwick and Gardenvale (a detailed history, courtesy of the City of Port Phillip, can be read here). These days the Elster Canal Path offers walkers and cyclists a contemporary way to enjoy the quiet reflection of the canal.

Of course, the other key geographical feature of Elwood is Elwood Beach. Stretching between two popular beaches in St Kilda and Brighton, Elwood Beach is perfect not only for families, but for the countless kite surfers and stand up paddlers that take to the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay here. Bring the towels to stretch out on the sand, or take a quick dip before heading for a bite to eat.

One of Elwood’s most popular cafes is Jerry’s Milk Bar, one block from both the beach and the canal, on Barkly Street. Step back to the 1950s with a coffee or a milkshake out front or in their small courtyard, which also features a children’s play area – making Jerry’s insanely popular with local families.

Elwood Lounge takes pride of place in the heart of Elwood’s Glen Huntly Road shopping strip. Locals have been coming here for decades to enjoy live, mostly acoustic music – including an excellent open mic night on Wednesdays – and there’s a food special to be found most nights of the week (think $10 steak nights and $10 big breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday).

Ormond Road’s restaurants and bars are where most of the action happens in Elwood. Blue Tongue, open every day of the week for lunch, dinner and late night festivities, is a wine bar catering to locals and visitors alike. They have an extensive list of wines available by the glass, as well as a sub-$20 line of cocktails and more beers than you could drink in one sitting. Note: that’s not a challenge, simply a fact!

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