It's hard to believe that the suburb of Balmain started out as an industrial hub of shipbuilding and even coal mining. Located on a peninsula just west of the Sydney CBD, these days it's an affluent area of quaint streets and tidy homes and historic sandstone buildings. Balmain very much a self-contained neighborhood since all the daily necessities are a short walk away; residents speak highly of the tightknit community here.
The main thoroughfare through town is Darling Street, which winds its way right down to the water. Along this street you'll find tons of restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, and businesses like salons, realtors, hardware stores, pharmacies, news agents, grocery stores, and gyms. It's even got its own microbrewery.
There are several parks within the suburbs borders, including the waterfront Elkington Park, where you'll find the Balmain Rowing Club and the Dawn Fraser Baths – the oldest pool and swimming club in the country, dating back to the 1880s.
The single-family homes that make up most of the housing market here aren't very big, but they are expensive thanks to the suburb's desirability. You'll also find some small apartment buildings, particularly along Darling Street. And since Balmain is moderately hilly, many of these homes have amazing views of the harbor (homes on the east side claim the better view, since they get to look out at the Sydney Harbour Bridge). In fact, Balmain is one of the prime locations in Sydney for viewing the famous New Year's Eve fireworks.
For those with children there are several primary and secondary schools on the peninsula; all are highly rated.
Despite its location on a peninsula, transit to the CBD is quick and painless. Balmain is served by buses and a ferry wharf, so you can be at the office in about 20 minutes.
Balmain is bordered on the north by Birchgrove, on the east by White Bay, on the south by Rozelle, and on the west by Iron Cove.
CBD: 5.5 km / 10-25 minutes by car / 20 minutes by transit / 20 minutes by bike
Chatswood: 12.1 km / 25-45 minutes by car / 60 minutes by transit
Parramatta: 21.3 km / 35-70 minutes by car / 70-80 minutes by transit
Holding the title for the oldest pool and swimming club in Australia, the Dawn Fraser Baths feature a tidal water pool, showers, and a kiosk.