Prices are higher in this suburb but the good stuff is next door

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I love Coburg. Well, actually I don’t, but someone does; they’ve stuck a sticker on their letterbox saying just that. It’s a weird juxtaposition: a McMansion of the late 1970s, taking up all the land with its two storeys of brown brickness, its roof lined with solar panels. But that’s Coburg. Traditional, multicultural, green and loveable for its quirks.

I lived here in the late 1990s. My would-be-housemates advertised the sharehouse as in “Brunswick East” but after I moved in, the letters arriving suggested differently. Brunswick was across Moreland Road, and I’d found myself in Coburg. Then, it seemed miles away from the CBD, and miles away from the “Brunswick” way of thinking.

If I’d bought one of the lovely Cal bungs in that street back then (alas I didn’t have $140,000 to spare at the time) I’d be living the dream now. Coburger and Co, selling “burgers, loaded fries and shakes” would have been around the corner, and a reinvigorated Merri Creek, then a scary place to get lost, would form part of my route for the eight kilometre ride into the city.

But Coburg sits in many Melburnians’ memories for one thing: Pentridge. The jail was the first landmark on the traditional roadtrip to Sydney. You’d motor past those gates, wondering about those living their lives out inside the medieval bluestone walls. I kind of wonder still.

My GPS freaks out when I end up in the Pentridge housing estate, looking for Coburg High School. As I spin around roundabouts avoiding the no through roads it’s telling me to go down, I notice that some of the townhouses aren’t ageing so well. There are acres of fenced off zones that are waiting for something to happen. There’s a cool cafe there though (The Boot Factory), and even burgers (called Pentridge Burgers, no less!) so I’m sure it will all be okay.

One of the unusual things about Coburg is that most of its good stuff (sorry Bell Street, Coburg, you’ve still got a way to go) is in Coburg North. Like the outdoor Coburg Olympic Swimming Pool on the north side of Murray Road (open December 1 until March 31 and not when the temperature is below 24 degrees). Coburg North is home to one of Melbourne’s last drive-ins, the Coburg Drive-In, which triples as a Food Truck Festival (occasionally; the next one is April 12-13), and, each Sunday morning, a trash and treasure market.

Yet, according to Domain Group data, in December 2016, the average house in Coburg North was $100,000 cheaper than Coburg ??? $767,000 vs $870,000. Domain Group chief economist Andrew Wilson puts this down to better properties.

“Coburg has more buyer buzz and overall better quality properties – it was a prestige suburb in the ’20s and ’30s” says Dr Wilson. Stickybeak down The Avenue or The Grove to see what he means.

Meanwhile, agency Alex Karbon has listed one of the most remarkable sites in Coburg: 10,000 square metres of land at 7-23 Elizabeth Street. What will it become? Who knows. Anything seems possible in Coburg. Six things you didn’t know about CoburgCoburg High School (try Urquhart Street to find it) is educating 550 students this year, but expects over 1000 in 2020. It had a staggered opening in 2007 and started taking the whole gamut of high school kids last year.It’s popular with cyclists. Moreland BUG isn’t some rare insect; it’s the local Bicycle User Group. Cycling initiatives in the ‘burb include the almost decade-old O’Hea Street east-west route where the footpath is for cyclists as well. The death-defying 40-year-old Coburg Velodrome (Coburg North) hosts food truck festivals and cinema nights.The Harold Stevens Athletics Field (Coburg North) hosts extreme running events, including an ultramarathon where runners run around and around the oval for either 24 hours or until they hit 100km. The next one is April 22-23.Coburg has strong ties with East Timor: Ex-First Lady Kirsty Sword Gusmao OAM now lives here, and Wild Timor Coffee, a cafe started by returned soldiers, operates from 282 Sydney Road, Coburg.When Courtney Barnett wrote about looking for a house to buy in Preston (Depreston), she’d actually been traipsing around Coburg.Vance Joy lived here and has been the Coburg Football Club’s No 1 ticket holder since 2015. He played for the Coburg Tigers in 2008 and 2009.