Wide streets boasting grand period houses harmonised with stunning new designer homes give Essendon its deserved reputation as an elegant and enviable suburb of the north west. Prestigious Mar Lodge estate, excellent schools and a position within easy reach of the CBD confirm the suburb as the kind of place where residents settle down for decades. Napier Street and North Essendon Village, on Mt Alexander Road, draw coffee connoisseurs and boutique browsers alike, and Essendon DFO is a hub for savvy shoppers seeking smart bargains. Well served by transport, Essendon also reaches down towards the Maribyrnong River, where walkers, runners and cyclists flock to the park-lined paths.
An attractive suburb that is perhaps one of Melbourne's best-kept secrets, Strathmore is locally renowned for its refined homes, peaceful streets, cafes and parks, resulting in a lovely locale that residents remain loyal to for many years. More would know of the excellent reputation of Strathmore Secondary College, and homes in the school's zoning area benefit by association. Napier Street is the place to go for a latte that hits the spot or a quick spot of shopping, and the majestic river red gums of Napier Park provide a window to the area's history. With many large houses on big blocks and trains easily taking you into the CBD, Strathmore is also desirably close to Melbourne Airport.
Attracting new admirers each year, Maribyrnong is only 8 kilometres from the CBD, boasts the shoppers' paradise of Highpoint Shopping Centre, the perennially-popular Maribyrnong River, frequented by native species including rainbow lorikeets, and a mix of affordable accommodation and luxurious homes. In some of its most prestigious locales, including The Esplanade, and the sought-after Edgewater Estate, where homes often feature spectacular city skyline views, competition can be high. The consensus is that Maribyrnong is close to the city yet chilled out, with many parks by the river and leisure facilities including the Maribyrnong Aquatic Centre. It's easy to drive to the CBD, plus trams and buses service the area.
Dame Edna made the suburb a household name but many have discovered for themselves that Moonee Ponds offers a fantastic lifestyle to everyone from singles to large families. 7 kilometres from the CBD, and wonderfully served by transport, it's a community where theatre, cafes, parks, shopping precincts and schools combine to create the perfect place to thrive. The home of the Cox Plate, Moonee Valley Racecourse is a local landmark, as is historical Queens Park. Puckle Street's cafes and boutiques are complemented by Moonee Ponds Central Shopping Centre. The Clocktower Centre runs an impressive calendar of cultural events, and everything from apartments with city views to sprawling period residences with tennis courts comprise the vibrant locale.
Increasingly sought-after for its great proximity to the CBD yet friendly community feel, boosted by the local shopping hub of Union Road, Ascot Vale has leisure, lifestyle and likeability covered. Large parks are great for relaxing or exercising, golfers will enjoy Riverside Golf Course, prestigious homes neighbouring the course on renowned Whiskey Hill offer lush views, and the popular Maribyrnong River forms the western border of the suburb. There are various primary schools in the suburb, with secondary schools nearby, and no doubt the local kids love the proximity to the Melbourne Showgrounds, an enduring Ascot Vale landmark. With plenty of handsome period homes, great transport and the city about 6 kilometres away, Ascot Vale is on the up-and-up.
Brunswick & Brunswick West
Transforming in recent years from a working class area popular with immigrants to a cool and fashionable locale drawing an artistic crowd and edgy professionals, Brunswick represents a dynamic marriage of the traditional and the trending. Still very multicultural, superbly served by transport, home to an RMIT campus and the newly renovated Brunswick Baths, the locale is synonymous with a busy stretch of cosmopolitan Sydney Road. Host of the Sydney Road Street Party during the annual Brunswick Music Festival, it's famous for many good reasons: pubs, restaurants, cafes and colourful shops vie for attention year-round. On the other side of a cluster of adjoining parks on Brunswick's edge you'll find Brunswick West, where Melville Road is the place to be seen, homes are often larger, the pace a little slower, and the streets somewhat calmer.
As the name suggests, an enormous proportion of Parkville is comprised of parkland, primarily within the bounds of Royal Park, home to top sporting facilities including Royal Park Golf Course, the exotic inhabitants of Melbourne Zoo, and the suburb's train station. Much of Melbourne's brains trust calls Parkville home, with major hospitals, research centres and The University of Melbourne situated within her borders. At the same time, a vast number of the locals are young and bright, including scores of tertiary students, and pupils of the public yet prestigious University High School. With coveted heritage homes and chic modern apartments on offer, Parkville is a mere 3 kilometres north of the CBD, so it's easy to travel to exciting city venues when the bright lights call.
One of Melbourne's best-known and most visited suburbs, Carlton combines coffee, culture and cinema with aplomb. Energized by a large student population, with parts of Melbourne University and RMIT falling within its bounds, Carlton is heavily frequented by diners, particularly in Lygon Street's "Little Italy," where pizza and pasta find their place on the menu. Readings bookstore, the delicious delicacies of Brunetti and exclusive offerings of Cinema Nova are favourites of many, adding to the lively vibe of the locale. Peaceful parks include Carlton Gardens, home to the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Museum and Imax. Carlton has plenty of historic Victorian terraces, and an increasing number of modern apartments, which you're more likely to find on the market. It's easily possible to walk to the CBD, or zip in quickly on a tram.
Flemington, Kensington & Travancore
The gateway to the city for many, Flemington's name is spoken around the world as the home of 'the race that stops a nation'. There's much more to the suburb than a racecourse though, with family-friendly leafy streets, a weekly farmers market at Mt Alexander Secondary College and a diverse populace. With plenty of life and shopping opportunities in Racecourse Road, and a cool selection of stores and cafes in Pin Oak Crescent, Flemington also boasts several schools, spacious Debneys Park, and terrific transport. Graceful period homes and apartments alike share the convenience and buzz of life just a few kilometres from the CBD. Cross Mt Alexander Road to Travancore and you'll discover a surprisingly peaceful green wedge of inter-war homes, including many Californian Bungalows and Italianate villas, now joined by chic new apartments.
Leaving behind its past as an unsung working class suburb, North Melbourne has made a trendy name for itself in the last decade or two, and warehouse conversions, workers cottages, Victorian terraces and apartments comprise most of the local homes. Setting the northern fringe suburb's cool vibe, Errol Street is the fashionable heart of North Melbourne. Easily found from neighbouring streets by the landmark clock tower of North Melbourne Town Hall, now a major arts venue, Errol Street is the place to visit for great food, shopping and laughs in the Comic's Lounge. There are handy transport options, Royal Park is nearby, and Queen Victoria Market leans up against the suburb's border, demonstrating that the CBD is within easy walking distance.