After nearly four decades, the Australian soap has pulled out all the stops to end with a celebration of past and present, Gemma Dunn discovers.

Everybody loves good Neighbours - and you'd be hard pushed to beat the bunch found on Ramsay Street.

Whether the eighties, nineties, naughties or teens was your era, viewers have stuck by Erinsborough's residents through the highs and lows, willing them on through the generations.

It's little surprise, then, that the sudden announcement of Neighbours' demise, earlier this year, devastated fans. So much so, they launched a petition to save their beloved Aussie soap.

But did it work? Sadly not, for this month, over three decades and 8,903 episodes later (the series made its debut in 1985), the Channel 5 stalwart triggered its on-air goodbye.

And it is certainly going out with a bang.

Although not literally, promises executive producer Jason Herbison, rather, "The ending will be a celebration of the past and the present, with the door very much left open for a future.

"Ramsay Street is eternal, and I like to think it will live on in the hearts and minds of the viewers, long after the final scene."

So just what can we expect?

A double episode, prime-time, history-making finale, coupled with a mix of stars, old and new, for starters.

The soap - which made names out of Liam Hemsworth, Natalie Imbruglia and Margot Robbie - will excitingly welcome back Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan as they reprise their iconic roles as lovebirds Charlene and Scott.

Elsewhere, the honour roll includes, among others, 80s veterans Ian Smith as Harold Bishop and Peter O'Brien as Shane Ramsay; 90s stars Daniel MacPherson as Joel Samuels and Lesley Baker as Angie Rebecchi; 00s Natalie Bassingthwaighte as Izzy Hoyland and Chris Milligan as Kyle Canning; and recent teens Olympia Valance as Paige Smith and Ben Hall as Ned Willis.

"It is the biggest head spin coming back here," Samuels, now 42, recalls of his own return. "I haven't been on the Neighbours set for 20 something years, so even the drive out here my mind was blowing.

"To come and see all the faces again, all my friends, to get back on the sets, it was one of the most enjoyable times of my life. I was 18 when I started here, left when I was 21 so to come back again, my head is spinning.

"As for Joel in his 40s..?" he follows. "I can tell you what you won't get - no nipple piercing, no speedos, no blonde frizzy mullet hair, no full-monty, thank goodness. But some friendships rekindled, which is terrific and a lot of fun."

"(Viewers will see) the same old shenanigans from Izzy," Bassingthwaighte, 46, says of her character, who famously had an affair - and subsequent baby - with Neighbours veteran Dr Karl Kennedy.

"I love this character so much. She is complex and loves to make trouble, and this time is no exception."

How does she think fans will react to her return?

"Oh gosh, I think they'll secretly love it, bring it on. They are so loyal to Karl and Susan, I'm sure there will be a bit of ground swell of not messing with the Kennedys. Hopefully, they're going to go with it."

Elsewhere, past and present collide as friends and family gather for Toadie and Melanie's wedding, while Terese and Paul confront their unresolved feelings.

As for Jane and Mike, the duo embarks on a sentimental journey through time, as she gives him a tour of all the Ramsay Street houses before the go under the hammer. While Clive's jealousy leads to a shocking confrontation.

The Kennedys will of course feature highly too, with Susan in particular grappling with the departure of all of her neighbours.

Which isn't far from the truth, shares 66-year-old actress Jackie Woodburne, who has played the family matriarch since 1994.

"I was so shocked, very sad, disappointed," she recalls, upon hearing the soap was being axed. "I think it took quite a long time for everybody to get their head around the fact of it. It was always something that could happen one day. Maybe it will be this year, maybe it will be next year. But for it to actually happen, I don't know that you can ever kind of be completely prepared for that.

"For me personally, obviously, it's been the biggest chunk of my professional life," she follows, quoting the love triangle between Susan, Karl and Izzy as one of her favourite ever storylines.

"I've made relationships with people that is so specific. The relationship that I have with Fletch is completely unique, and unlike any other in my life. But no less precious because it's a working relationship. It is so unique."

"Well, you know what, my character's past will come back to haunt him again," teases Alan Fletcher, who also joined in 1994 as husband Karl Kennedy. "I think for all of us it was just important that we go out with a bang and give the show the ending it deserves."

As for his favourite storyline: "For me, the big moment was Libby's wedding to Drew. It was a very, very happy day. I had to give a speech as a father of the bride in the studio scene. And I really did feel like I was giving away my own daughter. It was very moving; it was a beautiful scene."

Also in the finale, Harold (played by the brilliant Ian Smith) asks Karl and Susan to be the custodians of his curated history book.

And Smith, 84, who plays the veteran, was only too happy to be asked back - if a bit worried.

"I hope they're not thinking that I'm the much younger person that was in the show the last time I was there, because the old memory is fading a bit," he quips.

"You can only do your best, can't you? A lot of people have been using the word iconic about me being back on the show. In fact, I may be getting too big a head to be talking to you!"

As for ending it on a high, "You can be awfully sentimental, like some of those whole black and white movies used to do with World War II bombers flying out in the sky," he reasons.

"I suppose there are so many ways that they can end the show, and we will either agree or disagree. There'll always be disagreement, of course, but I just hope they're kind and give the old show what it deserves."

Neighbours airs Monday to Friday at 1:45pm and 6pm on Channel 5.

Neighbours: The Finale will air at 9pm on Friday, July 29 on Channel 5.