It's time to get outdoors and enjoy all Monash has to offer as the weather warms up, from great parks and bike rides to cafes and sports clubs.
It’s spring – and there’s nothing quite like blue skies and warm rays to tempt us outdoors.
In the City of Monash, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to alfresco activities.
Some of Melbourne’s finest parks, bike paths, cafes and sports clubs are right here, offering you the chance to reconnect with nature, dine outdoors and embrace the notion of getting fitter.
If you’re scratching around for things to do, allow us to make some suggestions. Check out these wonderful ways to enjoy spring in the beautiful, multicultural, lifestyle suburbs of Monash.
Have a picnic
The huge 127ha Jells Park in Wheelers Hill draws hundreds of thousands of visitors a year and it’s easy to see why.
A large man-made lake, picnic areas, barbecues and playgrounds are among the attractions, not to mention the abundance of space – this is one top spot for the kids to run wild.
Pack a picnic and grab your tribe, but if you want to take the fuss out of self-catering, pre-order a hamper or platter from Madeline’s at Jells, a cafe and kiosk right in the park.
Madeline’s at Jells manager Jess Blackwell says you could also nab one of the cafe’s tables and enjoy the menu’s seasonal spring flavours – served up with superb park views.
“From inside our restaurant, you can see through the full-length glass windows across the fresh green grass right down to the lake,” she says. “The trees are sprouting new-growth leaves and the smell of the oncoming summer is crisp in the air.”
Watch the kids whizz by
Monash is home to plenty of playgrounds, but don’t miss one of Australia’s very best: the award-winning adventure playground hidden in Mt Waverley’s Valley Reserve.
Set in stunning natural bush, it has stacks of creative equipment for the kids to explore, including flying foxes, climbing ropes and a tree house. The reserve also offers peaceful, bushy walking trails, ideal for a stroll or (leashed) dog walk.
Meanwhile, if you have a skateboarder in the house, make a beeline for Central Reserve, Glen Waverley.
There, your daredevil can perfect their kickflips and ollies at the skate park. Also at this reserve are a playground with a rope-climbing spiral net, and barbecue facilities.
Go for a spin
Monash’s most popular cycling path would have to be the 13km on and off-road Scotchmans Creek Trail, a shared-use path for pedestrians and bike riders that winds its scenic, leafy way past bird-filled wetlands, pretty reserves and a manicured golf course.
One of its loveliest points is around Stanley Ave, Mt Waverley, where it takes in both natural bushland and a bank of willow trees dipping their branches over the creek.
At one point, the trail passes under the Monash Freeway, adding the thrill of a tunnel to the route. The trail links at either end with other paths, which can take you all the way to the city in one direction and the Dandenong Ranges in the other.
Wander the wetlands
In the residential back streets of Mt Waverley lies a local secret: the sprawling Huntingdale Wetlands, home to bushy paths, open grassland and water birds.
It’s a tranquil, leafy spot to immerse yourself in nature. Good places to access the wetlands are Osborne Ave and Carrol Grove. The Scotchmans Creek Trail abuts one side of the wetlands – perfect for a lazy spring cycle.
When you’re done exploring, head to nearby Stanley Cafe, in Stanley Ave. It’s been stylishly converted from a corner milk bar and is a top spot to relax with a coffee or Insta-worthy dish.
Other bushy settings ripe for exploration include the Corhanwarrabul Wetlands, in Wheelers Hill, and Bogong Reserve, Glen Waverley, which has a playground.
When the weather warms up, thoughts turn to water play. And an unbeatable place to splash out is the Monash Aquatic & Recreation Centre, in Mt Waverley.
Facilities include a 50m outdoor pool (due to reopen by November 2019), an indoor 25m pool, toddler play pools and a wave pool. The waves are unleashed at selected times and you can ride them on body boards, supplied by the centre, during fun Big Wave sessions.
With spring comes a sense of renewal, and many of us are keen to shape up. The centre is the ideal place to do just that, with its large gym and 110-plus group fitness classes a week, including zumba, yoga and tai chi.
The centre also has a spa, sauna and steam room – great spots to wind down.
Another Monash favourite is the seasonal pool complex at the Oakleigh Recreation Centre. Due to reopen on November 6, the complex has four outdoor pools, including a dive pool (with springboards and dive tower).
Tempt your tastebuds
One of the joys of spring is being able to eat outdoors. And there’s no better place than at The Glen shopping centre in Glen Waverley. A recent mega makeover has delivered an outdoor dining precinct dotted with funky cafes that will take your tastebuds on a trip around the world. Vietnamese, American, Mediterranean, Chinese, Thai and Japanese are all on the menu.
On weekends, the precinct throngs with locals keen to sample the global flavours. Our tip: get there early to avoid the queues.
When the sun goes down, Glen Waverley’s SkyBar & Kitchen lights up.
At this elevated venue, you can toast the sunset from the rooftop dining and cocktail bar and enjoy a meal with views across the suburbs.
Meanwhile, there are more views to be had in Wheelers Hill. The Rogue Squire brewhouse has an outdoor deck where you can enjoy a craft beer and a meal accompanied by panoramic views of the Dandenong Ranges.
Enjoy the Greek vibe
Eaton Mall is a pedestrian mall packed with lively cafes in Oakleigh’s buzzing heart. Beloved by Melbourne’s Greek community, on fine weekends it oozes an open-air party atmosphere as families dine at outdoor tables on platters piled high with meat skewers, octopus, dips and pita bread. Join in the feasting, delight in the Mediterranean atmosphere and savour the mall’s most popular drink: a Greek frappe (iced coffee).
Each year, the community’s rich Greek culture is celebrated at the Oakleigh Glendi festival, a free annual event held in Warrawee Park.
This year, it will be held November 2-3 and is expected to attract 20,000-plus people with its dancing, music and food. If you fancy yourself as a champion eater, you might like to enter the Greek donut eating competition. Competitors will be challenged to down 30 loukoumades in less than 15 minutes.
Nab a bargain
Bargain hunters will know the joy of fossicking in the morning sunshine, coffee in hand, at a secondhand or craft market.
Locally, Rotary operates a market in Oakleigh every Sunday morning (in the Hanover St carpark) and in Mt Waverley on the second Sunday morning of the month (in the Hamilton Place carpark).
Gourmet food lovers have also been taken care of courtesy of local farmers markets, where you can stock up on everything from organic fruit and vegies to artisanal breads.
Check out Mulgrave Farmers Market, held every Sunday morning (corner Jacksons and Wellington roads), and Wheelers Hill Farmers Market, on the third Saturday of the month (at the Ferntree Gully Rd entry to Jells Park).
Join a club
The physical and mental-health benefits of playing sport are well known, and in Monash you’ll find dozens of sports clubs to tempt you off the couch, from golf, tennis and archery to soccer, football and netball.
The social benefits of sporting clubs are not to be underestimated, too.
In Mt Waverley, the local bowling club is a drawcard for people of all ages and abilities, offering a sense of belonging and a fun way to get moving.
Mt Waverley Bowling Club president Richard Sluggett says the club is seeking new members to play on its greens (which feature disabled access) and use the club facilities, including its comfortable clubhouse with bar and lounge, as a community hub.
The club’s gardens are looking particularly lovely with the arrival of spring.
“The flowers are blooming, especially the roses in the Bev Miller memorial rose garden, along with the other areas around the club tended to by volunteers,” Mr Sluggett says.
The arrival of daylight savings means night-time barefoot, corporate and competition bowls are back on the agenda.
Barry Plant Mt Waverley is a platinum sponsor of the club and will sponsor the Arthur Barton Shield tournament on October 23. Drop by the club to find out more about its busy bowls and social calendar.