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Hidden attributes of Melbourne: Secret spots locals love

Beyond the well known municipal and lifestyle features that deservedly make Melbourne one of the world’s most liveable cities, lie the hidden suburban gems and insider secrets that only locals know about.

We’re not talking about the well known suburb draw cards, like Edinburgh Gardens, Albert Park Lake or Lygon Street. 

These are the places that don’t typically make the tourist maps and ‘what’s hot lists.’

Let’s take a journey to some of Melbourne’s hidden gems and best kept secrets.

McAdam Reserve: A hidden oasis in Northcote

Tucked away between Leonard Street and Stanley Street in Northcote, McAdam Reserve is a quiet, secret park surrounded by homes and accessible via an old laneway on Leonard St or pathway from Stanley Street. 

Unless you’re a local resident nearby or have heard about it via word of mouth, you’re unlikely to spot the pathway in. 

Featuring a grassy area and a playground, this hidden gem is a favourite among local families and residents, providing a perfect spot for a picnic, a leisurely wander with the dog, or a playdate with the kids.

Nonna’s House: A sub cafe in a suburban converted garage

In the heart of Nicholson Street, an unassuming 1960s brown brick house hides a secret in its backyard – a sub cafe housed in a converted garage. 

This authentic Italian eatery, owned by Hamish Vickery, continues on the tradition from his grandparents. 

Entry is via a little red gate, into a small concrete paved courtyard, where a small servery awaits, offering meatball subs,  parmigiana subs, and other Italian delicacies. 

This hidden gem is a step back into suburban Australia of decades past, complete with a nice old lemon tree and rustic picnic tables. 

It’s a must-visit for foodies and anyone looking for a unique and authentic dining experience.

A secret veggie patch in Fitzroy Gardens

For residents of East Melbourne, a unique opportunity awaits – the chance to create their own veggie patch in the heart of Fitzroy Gardens. 

Through a ballot system, residents can secure their own plot of land and cultivate their own tomatoes, zucchinis, and other vegetables. 

This provides a beautiful setting to sit and be with nature in the heart of one of Melbourne’s most iconic garden settings, right on the edge of Melbourne’s bustling CBD. 

This exclusive initiative is a testament to Melbourne’s commitment to community gardening and sustainable living.

Briquettes Cafe: A tiny local favourite

This one has a touch of bias, given it’s a local business the Wakelin team visits quite frequently for their weekday caffeine or sugar hit.

Space is at a premium at this popular cafe, which is actually housed in a former power transformer, which in later years morphed into the office for a firewood and briquette yard. 

Located on the corner of Harp Junction, what Briquettes Cafe loses in size, it more than makes up for in character. 

Known for its excellent coffee and pastries, this local favourite is a popular stop for those enjoying their morning run or walk along another Boroondara icon, the Anniversary Trail a converted railway line that runs through the eastern suburbs.

Surfing in Brighton Beach

Let’s be honest here, Melbourne’s beaches don’t make for the same sunny tourists postcards as Bondi in Sydney or Cottesloe in Perth. 

And for most surfers willing to brave the cooler Victorian conditions, the closest decent swell is typically at least an hour’s drive down the coast. 

However, for those in the know and waiting for the right conditions, Brighton Beach offers a novel opportunity for surfers. 

When the wind and swell conditions are just right, a gentle beach break forms, creating a fun wave for those learning to surf; or even the more experienced, who just want the thrill of a Port Phillip ‘bay wave.’

In between sets you can take in the uniquely Melbourne view, with the Brighton Beach boxes on the shoreline and and the city skyline further afield on the horizon.

Fishing at Newport Power Station, aka ‘Hotties’ 

This one is for the fishing enthusiasts, who might be looking for something a bit more off-beat than throwing their line over the boat or off the typical pier. 

This fishing spot in Newport is known as ‘warmies’ or ‘hotties’. It’s located right next to the Newport Power Station, hence the nickname. When the power station discharges warm water into the inlet, it raises the water temperature and attracts some good sized fish, including snapper, flathead, and salmon. 

It’s not unusual to see lines of anglers fishing near the power station when the conditions are right. And while the fish are generally considered safe to eat, I would definitely be going with the catch-and-release approach.

Hays Paddock: Melbourne’s first all-abilities playground 

Situated between Kew and the Eastern Freeway, Hays Paddock is a popular park offering a range of amenities for visitors of all ages and abilities. 

It features Melbourne’s first all-abilities playground, running tracks, ovals, and ample green space. 

Hays Paddock is a fun-filled and inclusive place for all. It’s great for the young, old (but young at heart), kids with a disability and able-bodied kids.

It’s a perfect destination for families, fitness enthusiasts, and anyone looking to enjoy the outdoors.

Share Your Hidden Gems

We want to hear about your favourite hidden gems in Melbourne. 

What are the secret spots, local businesses, or unique experiences that make your suburb special? 

Send us your recommendations and we’ll feature them in a future blog post.

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