Take a stroll down the flourishing main street of Belgrave and you will immediately feel swept up by the charming atmosphere of the town.
Nestled amongst the picturesque surrounds of the Sherbrooke Forest, Belgrave is often touted as the gateway to the Dandenong Ranges. The unassuming town, located between Emerald and Ferntree Gully, is sure to enchant all visitors thanks to its natural beauty and community atmosphere.
Belgrave was established in 1851, and named after the property owned by prominent local councillor E.W. Benson. Early development was centred around the timber industry, but the establishment of a railway in 1900 saw Belgrave evolve as a tourist destination. In the 1920s Belgrave was promoted as a resort town as it was within easy reach of Melbourne. As more holidaymakers flocked to Belgrave coffee palaces and cafes began to pop up in the town to service the needs of new residents and visitors.
One of the first attractions built in Belgrave was the Cameo Cinema. Since 1935, the theatre has been a local icon. Immersed in history, the building has been restored a number of times over the years and now has eight cinemas. For a unique cinematic experience, be sure to visit the Cameo during the summer months to watch a film on the outdoor screen.
The Belgrave Manor is another historical building of significance. Situated in a beautiful garden, the heritage listed manor was once one of the first doctor’s surgeries in the region. The manor is now home to the Earthly Pleasures Café. Diners at Earthly Pleasures can choose to sit in the main room of the café or at an outdoor terrace. The menu boasts a number of delicious gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options and all produce is fair trade and free range.
These days, Belgrave has a population of around 4,000 people and the town is a vibrant hub of activity. A number of superior retail and hospitality services can be found dotted along both sides of the winding main street. On offer is everything from art and craft wares, jewellery, books, clothing, health food stores, bakeries, cafes and restaurants.
Belgrave has always been known as somewhat of a haven for artistic types, and if you want to see the talent of artists living in the region then a visit to Limerence is a must. The fashion, art and jewellery boutique has a very organic, natural feel and stocks quality handmade items which have been produced both locally and Australia wide. Limerence has a dedicated area to exhibit works from local artists and each month a new artist takes over the space in the shop, so far around 40 local artists have been represented in the gallery.
A little further along the main street is The Confectory, and if you have a sweet tooth you will not be able to resist popping in. The Confectory is a modern take on the candy shops of yesteryear, and the design and layout of the shop screams sophistication. Large glass jars of liquorice, chocolates, marshmallows and jellybeans line the walls and countless other varieties of confectionary fill the store. There is a number of gluten free and vegan products available for purchase.
One of the newest hot spots in Belgrave to grab a coffee is the Grunge Cafe. When you step inside you would be forgiven for thinking you were at a café in Fitzroy instead of Belgrave. The café has a very retro feel, furniture has been sourced from recycled materials found in the area and there is a large amount of space for parents and kids. At the back of the café a vintage record player has also proved to be a hit with customers. The menu features a range of hearty breakfast and brunch fare as well as mouth-watering desert options. All items on the menu cost less than $15.
Another popular eatery in Belgrave is Mountain Fresh Sushi Express. Since its establishment, Sushi Express has garnered a reputation for providing the best quality Japanese cuisine in the Dandenong Ranges. The highlight of the eatery is a miniature train modelled on Puffing Billy, which draws carriages of sushi portions around the counter top and delivers them to hungry patrons. The sushi prepared by the expert chefs looks almost too good to eat as the colours explode off the plate.
If you feel like a spot of shopping in Belgrave then look no further than Walk in Wardrobe. The store stocks an array of beautiful vintage treasures including clothing, jewellery, hats, accessories and shoes as well as other bits and bobs. As you step through the doors you feel as though you are stepping back in time, and whether you are after lace, floral or sequins you are sure to find a one of a kind item at Walk in Wardrobe.
Don’t miss Hugs for Kids, a specialist children’s boutique which is putting the fun back into child’s play, and Little White Box, stockists of fine jewellery and fashion jewellery, perfect for a special gift for the adults. Pieces are both classical and modern, and the shop tries to keep a number of different lines in stock so there are always fresh pieces on hand which cater for all tastes and budgets.
Belgrave is bursting at the seams with charm. The town has a number of treasures that are just waiting to be explored and enjoyed so be sure to stop by and discover the wonders.
Words Karlie Italia