I hear Melbourne

By Ken Williams

Guide to Clifton Hill

I was sitting at my desk this morning when I got a call from a big, scary monster, sorry, an estate agent (that’s a bit harsh. They’re nice people estate agents), asking me to write up a property in Clifton Hill.

“I expect you to weave your magic in 300 words or less,” she said. “Capture the hidden gem within,” she said. “Capture the vibe, the ambiance,” she said.

The bull-dust more like, I thought.

“And, I want it ASAP!”

“No problem,” I said. I almost said Too Easy, but I stopped myself. I hate that saying so much. I said, “I Know Clifton Hill like the back of my hand, I’ll have something on your desk by close of play today.” I hung up, made myself a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich on the little grill I have in my office and got to work.

Where is Clifton Hill? 

A mere 4 km from the Melbourne CBD – sandwiched between Collingwood and Fitzroy is the inner city suburb of Clifton Hill.

This one-time blue collar suburb is a little roomier than its neighbours, with ample parklands, sports facilities and adventure playgrounds, along with great shops, pubs and cafés, it’s got it all. However, when I put an ear to the street as I arrived, one thing was clear, Clifton Hill has a very different voice today than it did a few years back. Refined and polished. It said, “Look at me now. I am not blue collar anymore!”

Clifton Hill today

And, that’s why coming back seemed strange. You see, I grew up here. Back then, Clifton Hill was a real mix of industrial area and working class homes. Now, much of the industrial landscape has gone giving rise to residential development. Inner city living is trendy now – homes with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath and very little car parking are going for $1.3 to $1.5 million. Horses for courses I suppose. With the median price around $1.3 million. Look at me now!

I’ve always loved Clifton Hill and I always will. I went to school here. I played footy and tennis and cricket here. I shared my first kiss with a girl named Michelle here – a peck on the cheek in grade one. I’ve worked here, and had my first beers here. I only kick myself now when I see the prices of the homes we used to live in. Ah well.


The Clifton Hill Hotel and a bloke called Peter

Like many kids I grew up with here, I moved out and kept moving further out to the suburbs. And, I don’t know if inner city living is my thing now, but I sure have fond memories. I even met my wife at the Clifton Hill Hotel. So, of course I had to go in for a beer. Just the one.

guide to Clifton Hill - a brew pub

It’s one of those trendy micro-breweries now with 16 different beers on tap. There are no pool tables, no bands in the corner, no beer stains on the carpet, actually no carpet, it all looked brand new. I scratched my head and finally settled on a freshly brewed pint of Clifton Hill Irish Red Ale.

“Yuppie beer!” said a voice at the bar next to me.

A man in his late 50s introduced himself as Peter. Like me, Peter had stopped in for a drink for old times, on his way through to Preston. He used to drink here all the time he said and lived just over the railway line. “I moved out though,” he said. “Clifton Hill has gone to the Yuppies. It’s lost its character. The pubs have either gone or changed. The whole place has changed. All my neighbours left too. Yuppies moved in. They’ve taken over the place.”

His voice was passionate, and I could see his point, I miss the old days too. But I disagreed, “Yes it’s changed,” I said. “But that’s life. Everything changes and Clifton Hill today seems to have kicked on in leaps and bounds. It’s a vibrant suburb with so much to offer young families and singles alike. It has two highly regarded primary schools in Gold Street and Spensley Street, an aquatic centre, good sports and recreational facilities and the properties, like the apartment I viewed a moment ago are stylish and sleek to say the least.”

“Fuckin’ Yuppie!” he said.

How did Clifton Hill get its name?

You can’t please everyone. I finished my beer, enjoyed it too, and decided on some lunch.

As I crossed the street, I looked over at where my old school once stood and remembered my year-8 teacher at St Thomas’s, Mr Coyne, telling us that Clifton Hill was named from the hill on Queens Parade. I later discovered this wasn’t true. It got its name from Clifton Farm, one of the first properties of the area. The Hill part was added by a land developer to jazz up his estate. It wasn’t a lie though, there are several hills with excellent views of Melbourne’s city skyline.


Could Clifton Hill be the centre of the Known Universe?

Somebody once said, “Where ever you are is the middle of the ever expanding universe.” I think the person who said that was standing smack-bang in the middle of Queens Parade Clifton Hill. One of the best things about this suburb is its location. There are trams, trains and buses going in all directions to all parts of Melbourne. Couple that with shops, parks and cafe’s and you feel like you’re in the middle of it all.

Clifton Hill itself seems to be split into two sections divided by Hoddle Street and the railway station into what I call Upper and Lower Clifton Hill.

Upper has more space, more parklands, quiet homes with walking tracks by the Merri Creek and links to Yarra Bend Parklands. Serene and outgoing.

Lower Clifton Hill is more go, go, go, with Queens Parade and on to Smith Street with shopping and café’s at your doorstep. Cosmopolitan and Chic.

guide to Clifton Hill - the shops


Clifton Hill still has loads of character

I sat outside a café eating my focaccia and washing it down with a pot of English Breakfast tea and thinking, Yep, maybe I am a Yuppie. But, as I peered down Queens Parade watching people picking up groceries from local delis and fruit shops, sitting outside eating and chatting, just like they always did, I thought, Clifton Hill hasn’t lost its character. Okay, it has lost some pubs. The Normanby, a once thriving Irish Pub, is now the Rubber Duck Café. And, of course, at the top of Queens Parade, the United Kingdom Hotel, where I had my first beer, is now a McDonalds. There’s a sign of the times for ya.

guide to Clifton Hill - pubs and cafe's

But in short, if inner city living is your thing, Clifton Hill is still full of character, and a place you must check out. Just stay away from a bloke called Peter. You *%$^ Yuppies!

The Specs 

Suburb: Clifton Hill – 3068

Location: 4km North-east of Melbourne’s CBD, in the city of Yarra.

Transport: Major roads include Queens Parade, Heidelberg Road and Hoddle Street.

Melbourne’s Eastern Freeway begins at Alexander Parade Clifton Hill, providing access to the Eastern and outer Eastern suburbs and to beachside suburbs of Mornington Peninsula.

Public Transport: The number 86 tram will take you to Bundoora in the north or to Docklands through Bourke Street and Melbourne’s CBD to the south.

Buses along Queens Parade and Hoddle Street to various neighbouring suburbs.

The train is the junction between the Hurstbridge line and the Mernda line. A trip to Flinders Street via the MGC (Jolimont Station) will take you around 10 -15 minutes.

Schools: Three primary schools – 2 state and 1 Catholic.

Leisure: Restaurants, cafés, bakeries, parks, grocery stores, football/cricket ovals, tennis courts, aquatic centre, microbrewery. Merry Creek trails are popular walking and cycling tracks along with Yarra Band parklands offering sporting amenities and clubs.

Personality:  Clifton Hill has a trendy feel, artsy with plenty of sport and family activities.

According to Census 2016, population is 6341


Sports, family and leisure activities:


Clifton Hill Tennis club:

Coaching, competitions or social tennis available: http://www.cliftontennis.net/

Sunday social days are a great way to come along, meet some locals and have a hit.

The George Knott Athletic Field – Heidelberg Road Clifton Hill is the home of Collingwood Athletics club – part of Athletics Victoria.

Collingwood Harriers has a wide range of facilities to suit athletes running needs. The club has a new synthetic track equipped for all the disciplines of athletics. The club offers well experienced coaches for all events. Collingwood Harriers is situated on Heidelberg Rd, close to Yarra Bend Park where we run numerous club competitions during the winter. 

Collingwood Harriers caters for athletes of all ages and standards giving opportunity to compete at the highest level in both summer and winter fixtures run by Athletics Victoria as well as providing club events.

Clifton Hill Cricket Club:

Established in 1967, Clifton Hill is a friendly and welcoming local club with a strong record of success. With 7 junior sides for boys and girls, 2 senior women’s teams, 6 senior men’s teams and a veterans’ team, there is a place at CHCC for players of every level.  The Club also runs successful and fun Cricket Blast program on Sunday mornings for under 8s.  

 For over fifty years CHCC has offered people from all backgrounds and abilities an opportunity to play cricket. In recent years, Clifton Hill has led the way in building female participation in local cricket and now has a full program for girls and women.

Kindy Karate:

Kindy Karate is a martial arts program especially for kids aged 3, 4 & 5 years old. Set up to assist pre-schoolers develop confidence, self-control, awareness, respect, balance, coordination and a sense of fun. Check it out here: https://www.kindykarate.com.au/

Clifton Hill cafes’:

There are so many places to stop in for a feed, a coffee or a drink and a chat that you’ll have to see for yourself. Take a wander around Clifton Hill today.

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