I'm a Melbourne girl, born and bred, and new resident of Geelong. Fantabulous adventures await as I explore my gorgeous new city and the stunning Surf Coast. But don’t worry—I’ll be crossing the bridge regularly to get my Melbourne fix.
Published September 7th 2015
Whiz on by, or stay and rest a while
The EastLink tollway was completed some years ago now, and I'm a big fan of it: not so much because of the time it saves me when I'm travelling by car, but more because of the trail that runs basically the whole length of the tollway. I'm still amazed at the sheer distance it covers, the pockets of green that pop up along the way, and the hidden parks and intersecting trails that unveil themselves around every twist and turn. I've peddled my way through many a kilometre on the EastLink Trail, and Oakwood Park, in Noble Park North, is one of these little spots that just appears out of nowhere. It has probably been there for some time, but since the development of the EastLink Trail, it has been turned into somewhat of a small haven with wetlands, a walking trail around the perimeter, a playground and barbecue facilities.
Oakwood Park is nestled down in a dip under the tollway and the Princes Highway—two horrendously busy thoroughfares, and probably not where you'd expect to find such a pleasant place to stop and rest on your bike ride. And there's been many a time that I've come careening around the corner, down the hill, feet spinning on my pedals, and then just fly through the park as I continue on my bike ride towards Dandenong in one direction, or back to Wantirna in the other direction. But on the days that I have a bit more time, Oakwood Park is perfect to have a little wander around, fill up my water bottles, or just take a couple of happy snaps of the surroundings from the many wooden decks and lookout points.
The EastLink trail passes right through the park...
And of course the park is not just accessible by the bike trail. Oakwood Park abuts the dead-end of the service road that runs alongside the Princes Highway, just down a little from Sunline Avenue, so cars are able to park in the surrounding suburban streets. There's not heaps of room though, but that's OK—the park itself is not huge, so it's great for smaller gatherings. And if you have to leave the car a little further away, nevermind—you can walk the rest of the way, and build up a bit of an appetite before you get the sausages cooking on the barbecue.
Fancy a leisurely Sunday afternoon at the park? Bring your sausages and cook them up on the barbecues
Oakwood Park is also a lovely place for a brisk run or a quiet walk. The smooth, concrete EastLink trail runs right through the middle of the park, but there is a separate gravel walking path that takes you down to the wetlands in the middle of the park—and the further you go down, the quieter it gets, with the traffic from the tollway hidden behind the garish orange barriers. New, modern-looking wooden decks and walkways are dotted around the edge of the wetlands, and are ideal for looking out over the water to catch a glimpse of some of the birds that inhabit the space.
The gravel path takes you around the edge of the park and wetlands.
There's swings and slides and monkey bars for your little monkeys, all set against the backdrop of the trail and the wetlands, just right for a little play after school or on a sunny weekend afternoon. Take the bikes too, and challenge your little monkeys by riding up the hill from the playground to the top of the park and the overpass that zig-zags its way across the Princes Highway—hold on to your handlebars coming down though, it can get pretty fast!
For many people, Oakwood Park will just be a blur of plants and playground and pathways as they whiz on through it as they pedal on to their next destination. But if you have a bit of downtime, or need a rest, hop off your bike for a short while and enjoy this little piece of nature under the highways. Walk down to the wetlands, keep a look out for the birdlife, or even have a turn on the swings (swings are not just for kids you know). I'll be forever grateful for the bright spark whose idea it was to develop the EastLink trail, and I'll continue to be enthralled each time I head out and explore it, no matter how many times I cover the same ground. For my fellow south-east Melburnites, I encourage you to do the same! (Just make sure you're not on the swings when I want a turn.)