The Yarra River, Port Phillip Bay and parks. Lakes. A fishing spot. Cool cafes, everywhere. A village vibe, with more than one village to choose from. Bike paths linking into more bike paths. Two train stations. An arts centre. History. Tree-lined streets. Could an auctioneer ask for anything more for their spiel? Well, maybe a tram line. But that's just being fussy.
The first conversation I remember having about Newport mentioned nothing of the above. It was the early 2000s, and friends had bought in there. They'd tell people where they'd bought and more often than not get a "where?" in response. "Do you know Williamstown?" they'd reply, and get nods. "Near there."
It was a smart buy back then, and even if they'd bought in five years ago, instead of 15, they'd be ahead of the crowd, and, certainly, ahead financially. Like most of Melbourne, house prices in Newport have skyrocketed. The median house price is up 90 per cent in the past five years. However, considering the list of highlights above, and not even adding that it's just 7km from the CBD (I know, right!), its $1 million median price seems entirely reasonable, if not cheap.
Some say there are two sides to Newport - a right or wrong side of the tracks. I ask a local barista what side of the train line is better. "This side, of course!" he says, enthusiastically. "Over on that side, well, they think it's the Paris end, but we've got the bay. They think they've got the good side, but actually, it's us." Would he live on the other side? "Oh no, this is the cool side."
You've got to love a suburb with a train line divide. From an outsider's perspective, the two sides do look and feel different. The bigger blocks are further away from the bay. There's a long, long strip of early 2000s townhouses on Mason Street. It's got the 'burb's new library, which is joined to a bustling Mechanics Hall. It's got a Vinnies op shop that blasts Smooth FM. It's got the Substation, a century-old building that is now a not-for-profit arts centre.
But the bay side is probably cooler. Literally. Being close to the bay will do that for you. And it's a pretty section too of coast, too. Not Brighton pretty, but watching container ships shimmy in front of the West Gate Bridge, a hair's breadth away, well, it takes your breath away.
Warmies Boat Ramp is a popular spot for anglers, and it's an outlet for the Newport Power Station (making the water warm). Over the Yarra River's entrance, giraffe-like structures unload and load shipping containers. Wherever you go in Newport, the power station chimney stays in your view.
We often ramble on about the Royal Botanic Gardens, but if you like parks, spend the million dollars you were going to spend on a two-bedroom flat in Toorak on an entire house in Newport instead. There's Newport Lakes Reserve, Newport Riverside Park, Greenwich Reserve and more.
With all that park, it's a wonder they've been able to fit any houses in the suburb. Those that are there cover the whole spectrum of houses of the 150 years, from expansive brown brick '70s family homes, to townhouses, to dainty, shaded, grand Victorians and seaside view-huggers on The Strand. It's definitely a suburb with plenty of choice. You just have to work out which side of the tracks you want to live on.
Five things you didn't know about Newport
- Newport Power Station was once a coal-fired plant, but is now a gas-fired peaking power plant. In the 1950s it was the largest power station in the southern hemisphere.
- Newport has two train stations within its boundary: Newport and North Williamstown.
- ARHS Newport Railway Museum www.arhsvic.org.au has a large collection of Victorian railways steam locomotives. It's open most Saturdays from noon to 5pm.
- The actual boundary takes up half of the Yarra River.
- Shell's Newport Terminal has been operating for 101 years and operates as a fuel storage and distribution centre, receiving fuel from its Geelong refinery via pipelines.