What was once a swamp is now one of Melbourne’s most family-friendly areas for recreation. With a host of trendy cafes, markets, outdoor trails and water activities, there’s something for everyone in Elwood. Best of all, it’s about eight kilometres south of Melbourne’s central business district and easily accessible by bus and car for a day trip that can be as busy or as relaxed as you see fit.
There’s no doubt that Elwood Beach is the star attraction for many, and with good reason.
Much quieter than its flashier cousin at St Kilda, Elwood might not have the waves or sand of the Gold Coast, but it is ideal for escaping the crowds and the heat with a swim in calm, shallow waters that are safe for young kids. But be sure to look for the lifesavers’ flagged area to determine the best spot to take a dip.
The activities on the water are equally enticing. A popular destination for wind surfing, particularly in the afternoon when a cool sea breeze usually frequents the bay, Elwood Beach was also the site of the 1956 Olympics sailing competition.
The parkland along the foreshore, including Elwood Park, has all the amenities you’d expect, such as playgrounds for the kids, barbecues, picnic areas and public toilets. The octagonal kiosk, built in 1915, serves coffee and snacks for those on an unplanned visit. Also within easy walking distance are the Elwood Village shops and cafes.
Modern-day Elwood, which was named after Quaker poet Thomas Ellwood, was planned around the geographic features of Elster Creek (now Elwood Canal) and the Point Ormond promontory.
The latter was used for centuries by Boon Wurrung people used it as a gathering point and as a lookout overlooking Nerm (Hobsons Bay). Unfortunately, the area’s use as a campsite and ochre harvesting site was ignored in 1840, when Victoria’s first quarantine station was created there to deal with fever that had swept through the immigrant ship Glen Huntly.
Much of the original sandstone bluff was used to fill in the swamp in the late nineteenth century as the suburb took shape. The spot, with its bay and city skyline views, continues to be popular with photographers. Twilight images can be quite spectacular. The 246 bus stops nearby.
It’s hard to deny Elwood’s place as a destination for foodies. The main shopping strip of Elwood Village on Ormond Road is easily reached via the 246 and 630 bus routes. Again, there’s something for everyone. The year-round appeal of The Elwood Lounge [49–51 Glen Huntly Road] lies in its simplicity as an affordable and relaxed spot to meet friends for a meal or drink. The wood-fired pizzas and pastas (gluten-free available) at Zanini Pizzeria [106 Ormond Road] take some beating, while the clean and simple delights of Japanese cuisine can be enjoyed at the nearby 20-seat Ebisu Kitchen [161 Ormond Road].
Four generations of a single family have built up a loyal following for Greek and Mediterranean-influenced brekkie and brunch fare at Home of Bread and Pastries Elwood [162 Tennyson Street], while Elwood Patisserie and Bakery [75 Glen Huntly Road] is consistently praised for its cakes, coffee and value. Miss Alex & Co [83–85 Brighton Road] also rates highly for its chicken burger, welcoming service and coffee.
Elwood’s charming architectural mix of Art Deco apartments and Edwardian and post-war residences blend harmoniously with the serene streetscapes brought to life by coloured lorikeets zipping from one plane tree to another.
If you’re taking a stroll, test your literary knowledge by identifying the streets named after famous writers and poets, or those paying homage to the beach.
The City of Port Phillip has a series of self-guided walks and rides to take in the many sights along the wide paths and separate bike trails. Those who prefer to go the distance on two wheels can continue on the 17km Bayside Trail bicycle path, which will suit cyclists of all abilities. It stops at points of interest along the coast, such as Brighton, Hampton, Sandringham, Black Rock and Beaumaris.
A hive of activity with avid walkers on most days, the Elwood Canal Precinct extends from the foreshore to the municipal boundary at St Kilda Street. Originally designed to carry only flood water as part of a scheme to reclaim the South Swamp, the Elwood Canal is spanned by 12 bridges and two bluestone fords. Those who prefer to take a more leisurely pace should check out Maggie Fooke’s Twenty Seven Stories art installation — hand-made tiles with anecdotes from long-term residents along the canal route.
Those who love to pick up a bargain or the freshest produce on the market will more than find what their hearts desire in Elwood’s market.
Eight times a year, the Elwood Community Market is held on a Saturday at Elwood Primary School [49 Scott Street, 9am to 1pm]. Volunteers from the school community provide a fun environment for all ages, including trash and treasure, kids entertainment such as jumping castle, games and animal farm, plants, jewellery and delectable home-made treats. There’s even barista coffee for those who appreciate a wake-up call. Check the website for the next market day.
Similarly, the Elwood Farmers Market has more than 40 stalls showcasing the very best of Victorian produce on the second Saturday of each month at Elwood College [101 Glen Huntly Road, 8.30am to 12.30pm]. Think award-winning pies, free-range wagyu beef, organic garlic, artisan bread, olive oil, chocolate and seafood. And you can even bring along your pooch, provided they are kept on a leash.