The highs and lows of Melbourne's most surprising suburb

Macedon Square, Templestowe Lower, is packed. It's mid-week, but you'll be lucky to get a car park at this traditional and nicely shaded shopping centre. See, a new all-day cafe opened up in the huge old ANZ bank there two weeks ago and, despite being able to seat 130, locals are lining up to get in.

It's bemusing: it's not like Templestowe doesn't have cafes a-plenty already: Melissa Cakes on Parker Street, Templestowe Lower, has a packed car park; four kilometres away at Newmans Local Centre, Templestowe, Down the Rabbit Hole is busy. Another bare lightbulb-style cafe, Salted Caramel, a few (smaller) doors down has trade as well. But Riddik has arrived in Templestowe Lower, and people are rolling up to try it.

Templestowe is full of contrasts. There's the lower part, and heights part. Really, it's all up and down. Think sprawling new and old McMansions with tennis courts, palm trees and agapanthus on one hand, and crackling dry Australian bush, complete with creeks, the Yarra River and eastern grey kangaroos, on the other.

This area was once covered in orchards, and one - Petty's Orchard - still remains, watched over by the aforementioned mansions. But it isn't all big houses and tennis courts. Templestowe Lower cracks a median of $1,181,000, which, in Melbourne today, is not exactly mansion territory. Templestowe itself (far from the graffiti-covered brick walls of Riddik) is more expensive, with a median of $1,405,000.

There's a lot of open space here, thanks to high voltage power lines running overhead, as well as natural waterways. Manningham City Council is doing a great job of trying to coax its residents away from their airconditioned turrets and into the fresh - if electric - air by putting together six walks in the area, including the Fitness at Finns & Walking Westerfolds and Petty's Fruits and You Beaut Eucs.

Still, you can imagine that it'd be easy to live here and totally ignore the amazing rivers and creeks that run through. Unless they flooded, of course, which is why, thankfully, Westerfolds Park, a 123 -hectare area of bush and trails, became a park, and not more mansions. It does have one, though: Manor House, at the top of the hill. It housed an art gallery until 2013, but right now it's empty and falling apart.

Despite this, Westerfolds is certainly a highlight. It's popular with runners, walkers and cyclists. There's even a slalom course for canoeists under Fitzsimons Lane Bridge. Add all the Australian wildlife and there's only one thing missing from this park. Yep. A cafe.

Five things you didn't know about Templestowe:

  • Templestowe is home to platypus. Keep up to date with recent sightings - or add your own - on Platypus Spot. Look for them under Finns Reserve Bridge or in the waters near Wombat Bend playground.
  • Parkrun, a free, timed 5-km run sets off in Westerfolds Park each Saturday at 8am.
  • The sealed Main Yarra River Trail is popular with road cyclists, while off-roaders seek out its single track trails. See Warrandyte Mountain Bike Club for maps.
  • Petty's Orchard, at the end of Homestead Road in Templestowe, is named after Thomas Petty who arrived in Australia from England in 1853. The property is one of Melbourne's oldest commercial orchards, and was bought by Parks Victoria in 1981. The Heritage Fruit Society runs regular apple-related events there.
  • Heritage-listed Pontville Homestead was constructed in the 1840s in Paddle Reserve, near the junction of Mullum Mullum Creek and the Yarra River.

This story The highs and lows of Melbourne's most surprising suburb first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.