Where are the special places in Melbourne?Posted: June 9, 2010
When I think of Sydney, where I lived for 10 years, I naturally think of the harbour. Not the familiar expanse around the bridge or opera house, but rather the myriad small inlets in places like Mosman that can only be fully appreciated from the water.
When I think of Brisbane, where I grew up, it’s those wonderful old latticed timber Queenslanders, laced with tropical vines and shaded by white and pink frangipani, stepping up and down the steep slopes of inner city Paddington.
But when I think of Perth, where I lived for four years, nothing truly special comes to mind. There’re plenty of interesting places, like Northbridge, Fremantle, Kings Park, Cottesloe and Rottnest Island, but they don’t seem different enough to really distinguish Perth from other cities.
So what about my favourite city – what are the special places in Melbourne? My rule is that these can’t simply be nice places to go to if you live in Melbourne. They have to be places that are special and not readily found in other cities – they are either unique or done so well they make a lasting impression on visitors. Here’s some I like.
Like most people, I like the lanes and secondary streets of the CBD. Other Australian cities have laneways and narrow streets but for whatever reason they’re not as developed or as “alive” as those of Melbourne. To my mind they show the inherent attractiveness of density – how a special quality is liberated when lots of activity is concentrated within a small, defined space.
The Yarra River park system, starting in the vicinity of Kew and Abbotsford and extending through Yarra Flats, Westerfolds Park and onto the Warrandyte State Park, is magnificent. It’s remarkable that such a massive park system exists so close to the centre of the metropolitan area. I’ve never researched the subject, but I imagine it survived development solely because it’s floodplain. By the time dams were built it’s recreational value was sufficiently appreciated to prevent bricks and mortar development. We probably owe it all to the businessman’s obsession with golf.
Melbourne’s off-road bike paths are another special part of life in Melbourne. That you can cycle from Westerfold’s Park to the CBD and on to the four corners of Melbourne on paths that are almost entirely separated from the road system is remarkable. That much of this path system also tracks through green and tranquil settings, most of it along watercourses, is outstanding.
The concentration of major sporting and entertainment facilities on the eastern edge of the CBD is another special attribute of Melbourne. When major events like the Australian Open or the footy finals are on the atmosphere in the central city is electric. The special thing here I think is that the arenas are so close they draw people into the already crowded CBD. It’s the density effect again.
There’re a few more I’ll look at another day. Anyone else have their special places?