One of these places was Altona, in Melbourne's industrial heartland on the western shores of Port Phillip Bay. The city's western suburbs tend to be looked down upon by those living in the wealthier east, though that's changing as the inner west slowly gentrifies.
Whatever the case, between Christmas and New Year Narrelle and I decided to hop on a train and check Altona out.
This section of Melbourne's passenger rail network is a single track which loops off the main Melbourne-Geelong line, so is a quieter stretch of rail.
Alighting from the train, we discovered some quirky decor around Altona Station (I knew I'd find a use for the iPhone's Panorama Mode one day!):
Pier Street led from the station to this huge and interesting mural in a laneway along the way, outlining the history of Altona (and here's another panorama):
The street leads to Logan Park, a remnant of the lands once owned by Alfred and Sarah Langhorne, the first white settlers of the area in 1842:
In 1851 they rebuilt their timber home in brick and stone, and remarkably the building has survived into the 21st century. Nowadays it's a museum which opens on the first Sunday of the month from 2-4pm:
The biggest Altona surprise was its beautiful beach, one of only two swimming beaches in Melbourne's west. It was a lovely spot to hang out on a sunny day, and the locals were making the most of it:
From the pier we could see the line of Norfolk Pines lining the foreshore. These trees always make me think of visiting the beach as a kid, as for some reason it used to be de rigueur for country towns to plant them behind the sand dunes (possibly to prevent erosion?).
After having fish and chips in the park, we retraced our steps and walked north of the station toward Cherry Lake. It was less picturesque here but I liked the retro architecture, from the 1963 Altona Civic Centre buildings to a bunch of old-school facades and shopfronts:
Bye Altona! I'll let this second mural, which faces the historic one, point the way to a glowing future...