Most suburbs are Brisbane are seen as suburban wastelands of Westfields and KFCs with no redeeming features (unless you are into Westfields and KFC, then they are paradise.) On the surface Chermside in Brisbane's north seems that way too. However if you look a little deeper you will find one of the most interesting suburbs to visit and in which to live.
When people think of Chermside they think of the Westfield Shopping Centre
Chermside is a great example of how Brisbane is developing with reliance on buses as the main public transport link around a central area with high rise apartments, shops, restaurants and entertainment. Surrounding the central hub are houses on larger bloack and plenty of green spaces. While development can be bad it does mean that the area attracts more businesses, especially cooler restaurants and cafes.
The main reason that people go to Chermside is that it has a huge Westfield Shopping Centre. This is a good enough reason if you want to browse numerous chain stores. Other than Garden City or the Brisbane CBD, you won't have such an extensive selection.
If you look beyond the Westfield you will find a number of little local treasures, especially for northsiders. Along Gympie Road you will find the only Asian Grocery store on the north side that stocks Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and South East Asian groceries. There is also an Indian Grocery store nearby and a Delicatessen (there used to be one in Westfield but it closed).
In case you are wondering, the name in Korean is simply Good Morning Mart written with Korean letters
Some other highlights include a comic book shop on Hamilton Road, sewing machine specialist shop and several places to buy wedding dresses and supplies. There is also a Save the Children Op Shop on one side of Gympie Road and Grapples Thrift Shop on the other. Further down Gympie Road, in the direction of Kedron, you will find a few other shops popping up.
Don't forget to explore down Rode Road as well. One of the main places that I visit there is Flannery's Organic Shop.
Dining & Cafes
Chermside has a wide variety of takeaway shops, cafes and restaurants. There are a few bars and restaurants at the two main entrances of Westfield. This is okay if you want a chain bar or chain restaurant. Within Westfield you can also find a number of chain cafes and takeaway places. There are two main food courts, one near each main entrance.
But Chermside and the surrounds are becoming cool. People are coming here to try their luck at opening cafes and restaurants. Cantina 817 is just one example of a successful indepedent cafe in the area. Flowerfusion was an example that closed because people couldn't find parking. If you search the areas surrounding Chermisde you will find some other cafes as well, such as the Fuzzy Duck cafe in Kedron.
Gympie Road has a number of takeaway shops and restaurants. The New Chungshan Chinese restaurant has been there for years and the Ayutthaya Thai restaurant is a popular spot. There are also a number of takeaway shops on Gympie Road, including a food van that turns up most Thursday nights next to 99 Bikes. One of the highlights for me is Mei Yummy which does Fish & Chips, Burgers and Chinese street food.
One good thing about all the new apartment buildings in Chermside is that many of them have space below for restaurants and cafes. Toskan Thai in Playfield street is one example of this and Bella Cosi is a great Italian restaurant in Thomas Street.
Hamilton Road is also home to a number of little restaurants. The Brightest Thai is a small Thai restaurant that mostly does takeaway but also has a few tables where you can dine. On the corner of Corrie Street and Hamilton Road there is a strip mall with several places to eat. The highlight is the little Japanese udon noodle restaurant there named Maruwa.
One of the great disappointments of Chermside is lack of entertainment. Sure there is a cinema in Westfield and the Chermside Aquatic Centre screens kids movies some evenings. The only real place to find bands is the Kedron-Wavell Services Club. It is also a good place for cheap drinks and meals.
Photo courtesy of Kedron Wavell Services Club
Parks & Sport
One of the best attractions in Chermside is the Aquatic Centre. This place features a half sized pool that is great for laps, an indoor heated pool for aquarobics, an extensive kiddies pool, and of course the waterslides.
Exercise equipment in Bernie Brae Park in Chermside
Beyond swimming the main places for exercise are the parks. The Seventh Brigade Park and neighbouring Marchant park have great cricket grounds. Meanwhile Burnie Brae Park is a great little park to jog around while stopping to use the various high quality exercise equipment.
The 7th Brigade Park is also the place for outdoor activities of all kinds. For kids there is a giant covered climbing fort (being upgraded as I write this to be even better), kids traffic training centre and bike path, handball and basket ball courts. They also have a giant chess board and maybe once or twice a year the Giant Games people will hold events there.
Chermside is also a great location for recreational cycling with the Downfall Creek Cycleway. This is 10 km of almost continuous cycle paths from Raven Street Reserve to Virginia Train Station. Past Virginia Train Station you can follow the cycle way on quiet streets until it joins up with cycle way to Nudgee Beach, Boondall Wetlands and beyond.
While the Downfall Creek Cycleway has a few little pockets of bushland it is better to head to Chermside West to the Raven Street, Milne Hill and Chermside Hills Reserves. All together, there are 3 reserves there that link together. You can easily do 8 kms of hiking in the reserves, including a few hills and of course the green bridge that crosses Hamilton Road (this is a grass covered bridge for animals to cross over between the reserves).
Chermside and the surrounding areas provide a great combination of low to high density housing. Clustering around the the Westfield are an every increasing number of 8 story apartment buildings, many with gyms, communal barbucue areas and swimming pools. In addition many of the nearby streets are seeing new townhouse complexes. Yet the area is surrounded by beautiful houses, both new and old, on large blocks.
Chermside is a public transport hub with buses in all directions. In the morning you have a choice between at least 8 different buses to the city while at the rest of the time there are only 6 different buses. Then there are buses heading off north as well as to other locations.
Driving to Chermside is fairly simple, even though Gympie Road tends to be a traffic nightmare at even the best of times. The main issue though is often parking. On weekdays the streets are often filled with people who drive to Chermside to take the buses. On weekends it can be better unless there is a big sporting event and then people do the same thing. The main thing to remember is that you can park at Westfield for 3 hours for free.