Melbourne’s Best Neighbourhoods: A Guide to the Quietly Trendy Moonee Ponds
Melbourne is a fantastic city in so many different ways. One of the things I love most about living here, is the abundance of activities available in the suburbs outside of the city centre.
With another year living in the world’s most liveable city having already kicked off, I’m going to do my darnedest to get off the beaten path and fully explore as many neighbourhoods in Melbourne as I can regularly access by public transport, until I get a car. Then the world (or at least this city) shall become my oyster once more.
So, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favourite suburbs of Melbourne – Moonee Ponds. Located in the north-west of the city, home to Dame Edna Everage and chockablock full of things to do and delicious foods to eat, here’s the very best of Moonee Ponds.
Things to Do in Moonee Ponds
Shop along Puckle St
The main stretch of Moonee Ponds is littered with delightful boutique and secondhand stores.
I recommend Homing Instinct for cute cards and clever gifts, the Source Bulk Foods for plastic-free presents and Collins Booksellers, because bookstores need all the patronage we can give them.
For op shopping, try Community Wardrobe, Red Cross Australia or the Brotherhood of St Laurence, located right outside the train station. I’ve found some super pleasing bargains in and amongst all three, especially CW.
Take a dip at Queen’s Park Pool
Melbourne isn’t exactly renowned for its beach scene, so thank goodness for local pools.
Queen’s Park Pool is open from late November to early March and is priced at $5.95 for an adult entry. It gets pretty packed out during school holidays and hot days, but if you visit at certain times during the week (say at 1030am on a Tuesday) you’ll be pretty close to being the only one there.
Have a picnic at Queen’s Park
Victoria is known as Australia’s “Garden State” and so the parks in Melbourne are something else. Queen’s Park is a lovely expanse of space, featuring entertaining areas, a lawn bowls field, wonderful plant life, playgrounds for kids and… well, a giant and I suppose eponymous pond.
Go for a stroll along the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail
If you’re in the mood for a stroll, consider giving the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail a whirl.
This shared bike/pedestrian path starts at Melbourne Docklands and continues all the way onto the airport.
Along the way, it passes a series of parks and reserves, perfect for chilling out
Explore the Essendon Historical Society (when it re-opens)
Housed in Moonee Pond’s old courthouse, is the museum of the Essendon Historical Society. Or it used to be, in any case.
A fire destroyed the roof of the courthouse in mid-2016, as well as some of the EHS’ collection. Luckily, the building is currently being restored, with hopes it’ll be open and functioning soon.
Catch a play at the Clocktower Centre
You can read a full history of the Clocktower Centre here, but to summarise – it was once the site for the Essendon Town Hall, with the actual Clocktower itself now the only part of the original building that remains.
The Centre now plays home to events throughout the year, predominantly plays. They’re too far and few between, but be sure to try and time your visit with one, in support of the local arts community.
Check out the Incinerator Gallery
Technically located in Aberfeldie, the Incinerator Gallery houses exhibitions of work done by local artists. The venue also offers art classes for adults and children. Excellent. I’ve always wanted to learn more about ceramics.
Ogle all the pretty houses and buildings
Moonee Ponds is at its core, a nice, residential area. It’s a place for families and is filled with beautiful, big houses.
As an architecture nut, I have mixed feelings whilst walking through the streets. A simple appreciation for the beautiful structures around me, but also feelings of jealous that turn into downright angst and anxiety should I ever care to look up the housing prices within the area.
Visit the library
As this post is also intended to be helpful for those who have moved to the Moonee Valley district – I implore you to join the wonderful, wonderful library.
Sam Merrifield is part of a five library system and it is very infrequent that a book that you are after will not be available, even if you have to wait a few weeks to get your paws on a copy.
This library enabled me to read over 100 books last year and I adore it. Join, join, join (it also has decent public toilets and free internet for members!).
Where to Eat
The following section is divided into places to brunch (truly a time-honoured Australian tradition) and dine at night.
Ascot Food Store
This is probably the most popular place to eat out in Moonee Ponds, so if you’re heading there on a weekend – get there early.
It’s small, but cute and features traditional brunch fare, with a twist – such as pulled-pork eggs Benedict (so, so delicious, but terribly rich) and fried-chicken waffles, which I’m going to try straight after exercising, one day.
Curator’s Collective Café
This is one of my favourite cafés in the area.
Located in the centre of Queen’s Park, the fare is affordable and they make the best matcha lattes in the area, giving them a big tick of approval in my book. They also make some killer freakshakes, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The only downside is that the café is located right next to a park, which means lots of families frequent it. As a childless young woman, sometimes I just want to go somewhere where I can read my book in peace, without the quiet being punctuated by the sounds of screaming children. This is not a thing that happens here, during weekends or school holidays.
Sir Duke is located on Puckle Street proper and is always fairly busy. I find it to be a little bit more on the expensive side for brunch (I once bought smashed avo, a latte and a muffin – it cost $36 and a tiny piece of me died as I paid the bill).
However, the food is delicious and the staff very friendly, which definitely goes a long way. Plus, they’re open all day and have $12 cocktails from 3pm – hell, schöner (that’s beautiful in Deutsch and coincidentally, the only thing I remember after months of studying the language).
Contained in an old church, Dear Abbey wins hands down, for having the coolest decor in the area.
It helps that the food is darn delicious as well. I’m a sucker (fun fact, accidentally wrote “ducker” first) for the Eggs Bene-duck in particular and although I don’t drink coffee myself, I have it on good authority that their coffee is very nice.
As an aside, the rest of the church has been converted into flats. My boyfriend and I once stumbled across a rental listing and holy moly – it would be nice to live in a cool abode such as this, but you’d be paying out the nose at around a grand a week. But still. You’d be sleeping in a church every night. How cool is that?!
I haven’t actually eaten at District North (plan to within the next week), but they’re the only café in the area to sell poke bowls. I don’t care if they’re considered the painfully hip “next big thing” in Australia – I ate my body weight in them when I was in Hawaii in 2017 and I want one. Their milkshakes also look to be epic. I think my arteries clogged while scrolling through their Instagram.
The Brother Hen
This café is conveniently located right near my favourite laundromat, so I frequent it often. The Brother Hen is named such, as it plays home to a few chooks out the back area.
Incidentally, the fried chicken wrap there is really good, although I’m sure it’s not the café’s own chickens who are on the menu!
I love Japanese food and Moonee Ponds is home to not one, but two decent restaurants.
Chiba is where I go for lunch as it has a decent Bento Box, particularly enjoyable with a side of green tea. That being said, I do love the decor (and food) of Yokoso Izakaya on Mt. Alexander Rd and Mizyu on Puckle St is where I pick up my sushi, when I’m rushing off to work and fancy a tasty treat for lunch.
This Italian restaurant is a wonderful place to visit for delicious pizza and pasta or a refreshing bev in the late eve.
It’s always packed out, so I recommend booking. If it’s going to be a nice evening, definitely consider getting a seat outside, where you can sit and watch the world (or at the very least, Moonee Ponds) go by.
I haven’t actually eaten at this Indian restaurant (it’s not my favourite cuisine), but it comes recommended. Once again, it’s always well-patronised and I find the venue itself to be quite cute, in an understated way.
For a tipple
Legends is the name of the local race club and is my favourite place to grab a drink in the area.
It’s not only cheap as chips, but provides a lovely view of the city, particularly pleasing during sunset. I try not to come during race days because horse racing is horrible, but on normal days, it’s all hands on deck. Don’t expect anything too fancy – this place speaks to my inner bogan and that’s what makes it so enjoyable, at least for this Aussie.
I best like to visit on a Saturday night, grab a glass of sparkling and a seat outdoors and watch the local seniors dance to cover bands playing ABBA and Cold Chisel. It’s the small things which make life worth living.
The Valley Cellar Door
A favourite amongst locals, good luck getting a seat on a weekend as it is generally packed out. I always see this as being a good sign for a venue and so can only say good things about this particular wine bar.
Once just a really cool bottle shop, Penny Young also now operates as a venue, with its very own bar and beer hall.
It stocks lots of local drinks, particularly craft beer and cider and always makes me wish I were more into beer, because I go in there and get sucked in by the pretty labels.
It’s good to shop local, so I try to buy my wine from here rather than Coles or Woolies. Now that Penny Young has expanded, it’ll be lovely to drink locally as well!
The bar closes late Sunday-Thursday and is open until 12/am on weekends. The best part is the bottle shop is now closing a lot later too – (8pm Mon-Weds and 10pm Thurs-Sat) so if you don’t feel like staying out, you can gather up some craft beer, wine or cider to enjoy at home.
Transport and Accessibility
So, how do you get to this wonderful part of Melbourne? There are a couple of options.
Moonee Ponds is five stops away from Flinders Street Station (depending on the day and whether or not the City Loop is currently in action, it changes throughout the day as an act of utter insanity). The train line you’ll need to jump on is the Cragieburn Line.
The 59 tram will take you straight into the centre of town from the city. If you’re travelling from the west, hop on the 82 from Footscray.
Where to Stay
There aren’t a lot of options on where to stay and I’m not a massive fan of AirBnB, so I won’t be suggesting it.
Your best bet would be Quest Apartments – they’re self-contained, leaving you with the option of eating all your meals at the delicious local cafés and restaurants, which I highly recommend. Yum, yum.
So, there you have it! That is Moonee Ponds and it is a wonderful place to escape or even move to, should you want a break from the frenetic energy of Melbourne’s CBD.
This is part of an ongoing series, exploring Melbourne’s lesser known suburbs. I’ll be publishing a guide every month. If you’d like to keep across these posts, sign up to my newsletter or simply give my Facebook page a like.
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