The Coolest Shit to Do in Melbourne
Ahh Melbourne. Despite the long winters, it’s a dream city for locals, out-of-towners and international travellers. With 24-hour live music venues, all-night public transport on weekends, bike lanes everywhere, world-class street art and delicious eateries on almost every corner, it’s got it all.
From snorkelling to park drinking to eating $1 tapas, are some of our favourite things to do in the city of hipsters, for visitors and locals alike.
Drink Beers in Edinburgh Gardens
Get There: It’s on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy North.
Summers in Melbourne are short but sweet. If you make it down to Edinburgh Gardens in these months, you’ll find people partying super hard in the park, with proper speaker systems, heaps of booze and perhaps even some illicit substances. It’s got a rep for getting pretty trashy at times but the vibes are always good and the people are friendly. With its close proximity to Brunswick Street, Eddie Gardens is a ripe spot to pound afternoon drinks before a night out (Sydneysiders might notice a resemblance to Camperdown Park). The heart of Melbourne’s north side, Edinburgh gardens isn’t just a party, it’s also a great place to have a picnic, read a book in the sun, kick a footy or take a nap. It even has public ping-pong tables.
See the Penguins at St Kilda Beach
Get There: Take the 16 tram from Melbourne City, stop at St Kilda Beach and walk along the pier and breakwater.
St Kilda beach isn’t exactly tranquil at night, and its promenade is more renowned for prostitutes than penguins. But visit the pier in the early hours of the morning and you’re just as likely to encounter nesting penguins as you are drunken fishermen. The protection is all volunteer efforts from Earthcare, so it’s up to you not to be a dick. There are no barriers or nest markers, so don’t clamber over the rocks, handle the penguins, touch their nests etc. Little penguin eyes are also extremely sensitive to white light and camera flashes, so keep your iPhone torch off. Oh – and if you see a rat, don’t be scared. They’re of the native water variety – not the feral, plague-hosting type.
Eat Vego in an Old Convent at Lentil as Anything
Get There: 1 – 3 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford
So you’re in Melbourne and you need to fill up, but you can only manage to scrape together a fluffy bunch of coins from under the couch. How sad and grumbly you must be. You shake a closed fist at the human race and all its greed, and think to yourself, Why isn’t there an establishment that caters to people like ME? If only someone would fill my belly… I totally promise I would pay them back the next time I had some dosh in my pocket!
Well – your prayers have already been answered. Lentil as Anything is a not-for-profit initiative spread across three locations in Melbourne, with its largest restaurant being in an Old Convent in Abbotsford. It serves a delicious array of vegetarian meals on a “pay as you feel” basis – or “pay when you can” – by way of a cutesie wooden truth box you fill after you eat. The venture was started by a clad of poor hippies bumming around St Kilda who one day decided to open a restaurant for broke-arse Melburnians with rumbling tummies just like themselves – what a kind bunch of souls.
Row the Yarra
Get There Studley Park Boathouse, 1 Boathouse Rd, Kew
Taking a leisurely paddle along the Yarra River in a rowboat sounds idyllic, and it is if you’ve got the biceps of a Union player. If your arms of more of the twig variety, what’s nicer to do is just sit in the vessel very close to the pier you rented it from, and have a picnic. Just be wary of the ferocious ducks and geese that you share the river with – they’re renowned for nicking your scones when you’re not looking. A rowboat will set you back $36/hour for two people, or you can switch it up with a kayak or canoe.
Party (or Catch a Rooftop Movie) at Curtin House
Get There: 252 Swanston Street, Melbourne
When you go to visit someone in Melbourne, it’s common courtesy for them to take you straight to Rooftop, an iconic bar that’s on the top floor of Curtin House. The building’s on Swanston Street, smack-bang in the middle of the city, so the view is pretty epic. But the Curtin building isn’t just a bar with a view, it also houses a whole bunch of other venues that are infamous in their own right. There’s The Toff, which is one of Melbourne’s best live music joints (an achievement in Melbourne because there are so many of them) and also Cookie, which may be the perfect place to cop a hickey on the d-floor.
For those looking for more of a dignified experience, there’s a Rooftop Cinema, a Thai Restaurant, a bookshop and a record store. Curtin House is like a big multi-level petri dish, containing little samples of all the good stuff in Greater Melbourne.
Snorkel at Half Moon Bay
Get There: Beach Road, Blackrock Wharf
Melbourne’s not exactly famous for its beaches, but there are actually some really nice spots to swim and snorkel not far from the city. Half Moon Bay is one of these – 22kms south-east from the CBD, it’s a pretty sweet spot to get some sun, drink a beer or eat some fish ’n’ chips. There’s also an abundance of starfish, stingrays and old wrinkly Liberal voters to perv on. You’re free to look, but it’s best not to disturb them.
Eat $1 Tapas at Naked for Satan
Get There: 285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
If you’re too stingy to pay for a full meal, or just need some drunken snacks en route to a boozy night out, you can do no wrong nibbling on the bite-sized Basque-style pintxos Naked for Satan has on offer. Load your plate up with the bread-heavy delights and eat your fill while sipping on an overpriced drink (to be fair, they make and infuse their own vodka, and it’s amazing). Once finished, simply tally up the toothpicks and take them to the counter where the barman will work out the total. You can satiate your hunger pretty quickly for under $10, and the pintxos are ridiculously gourmet: think quail yolk with taro crisps, cauliflower with manouri cheese and garlic prawns, and rice ball with artichoke and white anchovy. If you get the chance, eat on the rooftop balcony – the view is divine.
Note that if you dine Thursday night – Sunday lunch, pinxtos are $2 each – they’re $1 Sunday night – Thursday lunch
Get a Pair of Jeans Tailor-Made for $50
Get There: Dejour Jeans, 542 Sydney Road, Brunswick
It’s hard to find jeans that are ethically made for under $200, and if you’re only willing to spend a quarter of that, you’ll usually end up with jeggings crafted in a sweatshop by an underpaid Bangladeshi child. Enter Dejour. This Sydney Road institution, whose owner has been in the jeans biz for decades, will tailor-make you a pair of bad boys for about $5o. It works like this: enter the rather unimpressive looking building and choose a pair of jeans from the countless stacks and styles in the room. There’s every type of denim, colour and cut imaginable, and in-between sizes like 9s and 11s. Then, take them to the counter and choose what alterations you want: legs or waist taken in, length shortened, rips added, hems cuffed, button moved, pockets extended – if you can dream it, they can do it; and it’s all free, though if you want a re-dye, it’ll set you back $8. If you come on the weekend, expect to wait up to an hour for your turn, but Sydney Road is scattered with an abundance of cheap grub and booze options to keep you entertained in the meantime.
Eat Dumplings in China Town
Get There: 112 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne CBD
There’s a restauarant in China Town called Shanghai Village, but it’s better know to Melburnians as “Vagina Palace” (the walls inside are pink, like a… y’know). Stepping through the tiny front door is like entering heaven, because if you pay more than $15 bucks for your meal, you’re doing it wrong. Albeit a sticky, loud heaven where tables of drunk (and sometimes sober) humans shovel tiny parcels of dough into their mouth like there’s no tomorrow.
Don’t even think about trying to book a reservation, and make sure you turn up for a late or early dinner. This place is perpetually busy and rocking up to eat at peak time will mean standing in a line that snakes out the entrance. Then again, it’s BYO and no one really seems to mind if you start drinking your bottle of cleanskin while you wait. And it’s worth it because this place has the most delicious dumplings in the world (bold claim, we know) and is ridiculously cheap. Whatever you do, don’t leave without ordering the crispy pumpkin pastry; it will change your life.
Bender at REVS!
Get There: 229 Chapel St, Prahran
No self-respecting hobo could compile a listicle about Melbourne and leave out Revs; it’s just too great. Perhaps Melbourne’s most infamous venue, Revs is literally open from Saturday arvo until Monday morning, so it’s well and truly a place to kick on. It probably goes hardest on Sunday mornings, when the d-floor is a juicy pit of chemical-fresh energy and optimism. It’s a good place to make lifelong friends, only to forget their names, faces and all other recognisable details and never see them again. Contrary to most all-night joints, they actually play a pretty diverse array of music, from live bands to techno to funky soul stuff. When you leave, preferably at around 1pm on Sunday, you’ll find yourself in the midst of Chapel Street shoppers looking all clean and healthy and well rested. This is the most surreal part of the whole experience.
Build Your Own Recycled Bicycle
Get There: The Bike Shed, CERES Community Environment Park, East Brunswick (on the banks of Merri Creek – main entrance on the corner of Roberts and Stewart Street)
In Melbourne these days, ticket inspectors outnumber hobos by a ratio of more than 10 to 1, making tram travel effing expensive. At the end of the day, what you really need is a bicycle. Enter The Bike Shed. This nifty craft haven allows you to choose your own recycled bike frame, have a mechanic tell you what’s wrong with it and then have a mechanic vaguely instruct you how to fix it and where in the shed to find the parts. It took us five hours, three shifters, two derailers, a set of brakes and our sanity, but for just $50 in total, we rolled out of CERES a certified grease monkey with a revamped pink mountain bike that runs like a dream.
Get Some Arty Cred at the NGV
Get There: 180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Apart from the fact that there’s a fountain chock-full of coins out the front (don’t you dare, hobo), the exhibitions at the NGV are really worth a stroll and a gander. Though you’ll sometimes have to splash a bit of cash for temporary catalogues, such as when Van Gogh and the like swing through, all permanent exhibitions are free, and there’s a solid mix of modern shit and not-so-modern shit that is sure to challenge your perspectives and delight your eyeballs. Oh – and the Royal Botanic Gardens are straight across the road: the perfect spot for an after-art snoozing.
Rummage at Camberwell’s Sunday Flea Market
Get There: Market Pl, Camberwell – opposite the Woolworths
Open: 6:30am – 12:30pm
Find yourself not quite fitting in to the Melbourne scene? Does your house reek of Ikea and your wardrobe of H&M? Sounds like you need a makeover à la Camberwell Markets. Here, you’ll find stalls, suitcases and car boots packed with vintage clothing, young designer accessories, old trinkets, strange homewares, classic records and musty books. If you’re up early on a Sunday, these flea markets are always worth a rummage – and are close to some epic Vietnamese bakeries too for when you get hungry. Plus, if you’re moving away from Melbourne and need to flog all your shit, you can book your own stall for just $65.
What have we missed? Comment your best hobo-friendly additions and we’ll chuck ’em on.