Melbourne's little parcel of forest less than 20km from the city

Forestville and Frenchs Forest. Two interesting suburbs 12 and 13 kilometres from the CBD, respectively. Sydney's CBD, that is. Known for their bushiness (Forestville means "Town in the Forest" according to Wikipedia) and hilliness, you'd be hard-pressed to find something similar that close to Melbourne.

Or would you? See, I've found a 'burb almost just like them. They even kind of share a name. Welcome to Melbourne's suburban slice of Sydney: Forest Hill.

OK, Forest Hill Reserve, inside our Forest Hill's boundary doesn't quite compare to Garigal National Park and Davidson National Park - near Sydney's Forested suburbs, but if you like hills and a fairly good tree canopy, and the squawks of native birds, this may be the 'burb for you.

Forest Hill Chase (why, who's running?) is certainly a highlight of this suburb. It was one of the first shopping centres in Melbourne, a mall that started off small in 1964.

It's your standard centre, with extended shopping hours on Thursdays and Friday nights (though apparently still very quiet at those times). It's got an AMF bowling centre, Big W, Target, Dimmeys (currently with a closing down sale - how low can you go?) and Hoyts cinema. Nothing fancy inside, though it looks fairly fancy from the outside.

Fancy, for sure, is the new Forest Hill Police Station - a 24-hour complex that opened on Springvale Road in 2015. Designed by Bamford-Architects, it received a public architecture award at the 2016 Victorian Architecture Awards.

There are other highlights: the large suburban, and fairly new Vegie Bowl restaurant on Springvale Road boasts a whole array of "mock" meats on its menu. Nothing is as it seems there, and the reviews are good: "I didn't know you could get tofu in this many textures!" reports one diner.

Forest Hill is an oddly-shaped suburb, bordering Blackburn, Blackburn South, Burwood East, Vermont and Mitcham. It's in Neighbours and Channel Ten territory; Ramsay Street is around the corner.

Still, mock meat aside, Forest Hill has some downsides. It only has one primary school ??? Parkmore Primary School ??? and it does lack an array of public transport options. Tram 75 runs down Burwood Highway, which is close enough, maybe; otherwise you'll just have to Smart Bus it. Eek. Or get yourself to Nunawading Railway Station, north up Springvale Road. The suburb is split in the middle by Springvale Road and Canterbury Roads, so drivers can rejoice (unless they get stuck in traffic).

DOM Online News Suburb Profile Vermont South. Picture Michael Rayner. End of Route 75 Tramline DOM Online News Suburb Profile Vermont South. Picture Michael Rayner.

One of the few public transport options nearby. Photo: Michael Rayner

There's a hotel in town: the large modern 1980s-style Clarion Hotel on Canterbury (on the corner of Canterbury and Springvale Road) which is particularly useful come Christmas time when distant family members need accommodation but the spare room is full (possibly deliberately so).

So, down to the houses. Well, if you're looking for a good old 1950s-style brick or weatherboard family home (there are still plenty), you'll be up against developers who are eyeing off the very land they sit on. To make change easier and faster, some houses are being sold with "planning permits for three townhouses!" Modern townhouses are popping up like pimples on a teen. For the most part, they're not pretty, either.

Hopefully Forest Hill's established trees will remain, and grow taller, and the bird song will still be strong, and this will remain a little parcel of forest just 18km from the city.

Five things you didn't know about Forest Hill

  • Forest Hill was home to the first Safeway in Australia in around 1964 - then an American brand. It was designed by American designer Herman Shultz, but the only surviving Safeway with a bow truss roof is in Boronia.
  • Forest Hill is not a new suburb: its post office opened in 1874 (and has opened and closed a few times since).
  • Forest Hill's current 6-month house price median is $1,013,000. (It's risen 94.1 % over the past 5 years).
  • Forest Hill College is not actually in Forest Hill; it's in Burwood East. Conversely, Aqualink Nunawading (the local swimming pool/sports complex) is actually in Forest Hill, not Nunawading.
  • Census data from last year shows that the top two countries of birth for Forest Hill's residents are Australia (56 per cent) and China (10 per cent).

This story Melbourne's little parcel of forest less than 20km from the city first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.