Every Wednesday and Sunday scores of boating enthusiasts set sail in one of Melbourne’s most landlocked suburbs.
Box Hill is less than 15km from the Bay, 20km if you aren’t a flying crow, but the suburb has a dock, a fleet and a variety of people with naval titles.
Small boats set sail twice a week in at Surrey Park (off Elgar Rd), which was once a swimming hole known as Surrey Dive.
The Surrey Park Model Boat Club headquarters has improved a lot since it was founded 1988, its vice-commodore Tony Weaver says, when the shed it called home didn’t have a ceiling or a floor.
Tony says he became hooked on miniature boats after visiting the club with a friend. Up to then he had never built a boat and even now, he is hardly a prolific boat maker. “I’ve only got the one, the Paddle Steamer Success. It took 18 months to build,” he says.
The club is, he says, essentially social.
Sometimes, in Box Hill, you can be led by your nose. For instance, if you smell smoke, chances are it is a Sunday and that the Box Hill Miniature Steam Railway Society is the source.
The society’s small trains run along a 1.25km track at Elgar Park on the third Sunday of every month. Most trains are steam- powered, hence the smoke, but rolling stock includes petrol, diesel and electric trains. Tickets cost $3, and the next departures are on 16 August.
The old Brick & Pipe Co chimney stack pierces the sky at Surrey Park. Built in 1884, the brickworks shut in 1988 and, though surrounded by barbed wire, it has proved popular with urban explorers.
The former brickworks is one of only two places in Victoria where you can see a rare Hoffman kiln, the other is in Brunswick. There is a good view of the kiln’s chimney from the park and the footpath at Surrey Drive.
Just over 2km to the south, and technically in Burwood, the route 70 tram regularly rumbles past Wattle Park. The park has two W-Class trams that make for a good selfie backdrop and provide entertainment for people of all ages. Australia’s first electric tram, which ran along Station St, connected Box Hill with Doncaster in 1889.
Wattle Park also teems with life: 20 species of butterfly, 50 bird species, 60 types of beetles and several varieties of bats and possums.
The Basketmakers of Victoria also call the park home. Their gallery is open Wednesdays and Sundays. The basketmakers collect their own materials, then dry, prepare and soak the plant matter to make it pliable enough to weave.
Basketmakers are warned that when collecting beyond their own backyard, permission is needed, and national parks are off limits, president Sue Dilley says. The basketmakers run free workshops at Federation Square in the city on the third Monday of each month. Their ‘Entangled’ exhibition runs from 4-30 August at Stonehouse Gallery in Warrandyte. Visit basketmakersofvictoria.com.au.
Box Hill’s art history stretches back 130 years when a group of artists set up camp at Gardiners Creek to paint en plein air (in the open air). You can follow the Whitehorse Artists’ Trail from Box Hill station through Box Hill South and Blackburn Lake Sanctuary.
The Whitehorse Art Collection, at Whitehorse Artspace (Box Hill Town Hall), has more than 1300 works. Admission is free. It is open Tuesday-Saturday.
The main shops are split into Box Hill Central north and south, and there are some gems among them. In the outdoor middle that joins the two indoor centres, L&L shoes is a real find. The daggy display gives no hint of the shoe utopia inside.
Daiso, a Japanese variety store on the north side, stocks more than 200,000 products each costing $2.80. On the south side, the fresh food market has a great Asian and European selection.
Japanese-fusion restaurant Irodori House (578 Station St) is a standout. Just down the road, DC Dumpling (590 Station St) has your dumpling needs covered.
Instead of chef recommendations, they’re more specific with recommendations from “Uncle Albert”. Albert is usually out the back cooking but is sometimes seen in the dining area.
Vietnamese restaurant Indochine (51 Carrington Rd) is often busy so it’s worth booking. The pho goes down a treat in colder weather and the bun (pronounced ‘boon’), a cold vermicelli noodle salad, is perfect when it’s warm. For a bit of serenity, head 4.5km east to Blackburn Lake Sanctuary (Central Rd). It’s a 26-hectare chunk of bushland that is home to many indigenous plants. About 50 types of fungus are known to pop up; especially in the cooler months they’re plentiful.
The visitor centre is open Sundays 2-4pm.
The volunteers are active, hosting a variety of events including exhibitions and walk and talks.
Midori Japanese Take Away (4a Gardenia St, Blackburn) doesn’t look much from the outside. Like a sushi roll, it’s what’s inside is what counts. The sushi and don dishes are a delight.
Around the corner, Nuts about Coffee (80 South Parade) is the caffeine highlight in the area.
Local tip: Surrey Dive, a lake used by ducks and model boats, was Australia’s first Olympic-size pool. Try Box Hill Swimming Pool instead.
Local tip: There are many ways to get to Box Hill, with more than a dozen bus and two tram routes, a major train station and cycling path.
Local tip: If you are looking for shoes, ignore L&L’s display and enter the Box Hill Central store. It has a great collection of Doc Martens.