Apart from being Brimbank’s most delightfully named suburb, Sunshine has an impressive history. Explore it to discover another side of Melbourne.
There was a time when Sunshine was called Braybrook Junction. Then, in 1906, a businessman by the name of H V McKay moved his agricultural machinery manufacturing works from Ballarat and called it the Sunshine Harvester Works. It became the largest manufacturing plant in Australia and McKay bought the land around it to create housing for his workers. A year later, the residents petitioned to have the area’s name changed to Sunshine; it was also that year that an industrial dispute on the site lead to the creation of a minimum wage for Australian workers.
At the time this was the model of a modern city. McKay installed electric lighting and built parks, libraries, schools and other public amenities. Now, when you walk around the suburb, you can still see some of the remnants of the time, including the town’s first post office and, at Barclay Reserve, a replica of the McKay Smithy in which the first of McKay’s harvesters was built. Also celebrating the work of HV McKay is the HV McKay Memorial Gardens — one of the earliest examples of an industrial garden in Victoria. It was originally created for the enjoyment of McKay’s workers and their families. These days, it’s a place for locals to picnic and play, and an excellent reminder of Sunshine’s rich history.
On Corio Street, you can find the original Sunshine Mechanics Institute Library, which was built in 1912 and is one of the few remaining 20th-century civic buildings in the City of Brimbank. Today, the Sunshine Library is housed in the Brimbank Community and Civic Centre, a spectacular building designed by architectural firm Lyons — in 2017, it won an award in the Public Architecture category at the Victorian Architecture Awards. Over two floors, there are reading rooms, study areas, a games room and wi-fi lounge. Right outside, you can see John Kelly’s monumental sculpture Man Lifting Cow, which was installed in 2016.
Standing on the land that once housed the harvester works is Sunshine Marketplace, a modern centre that contains more than 50 retailers, a food court and cinema. Right next door is Sunshine Plaza, which houses major grocery stores, fresh food shops and more specialty stores.
Before you hit the shops, head to Grind Coffee Bar to enjoy a full range of drinks — they even serve matcha lattes and cold drip single origin — as well as breakfast, lunch and in-between pastries and snacks.
If you’re looking for the best local yum cha, you can’t go past Gold Leaf Restaurant. There are plenty of choices from the classic chicken feet to prawn dumplings, siu mai and mango pudding. In the evening, there’s an a la carte menu offering Cantonese favourites, as well as live seafood and banquet options.
Proving that the area is becoming popular with the cool kids is Sunshine Social. One of the owners also has a stake in Footscray’s Station Hotel, and there’s a cool vibe to the warehouse space with tall timber-topped tables and expansive outdoor area dotted with picnic tables. Everything here — chicken, burgers, meat on skewers, corn on the cob — is cooked over a charcoal grill or on the rotisserie, and you can pair it with a bevvie from the select list of wines, beers and ciders.
If you’re looking for a bit of retro fun, there are a couple of options in Sunshine. The first is Ace Karts Go Karting, where you can do fat laps in a rookie or super kart. Or you can head to Sunshine Roller Skating Centre, where there are general sessions throughout the week and a Family Karaoke SK8 on Saturday nights.