Saturday, March 30, 2013

Not to miss in St Kilda

1/ People watching. St Kilda has three main tourist streets, Acland Street, The Esplanade and Fitzroy Street. The former and the latter are great for people watching. You will hear languages from all over the world, predominantly Irish, a mix of down and outs and local yuppies to older people who are surprised they live in a trendy area, and must pay council rates accordingly.

2/ St Kilda Botanical Gardens, also known as the Blessington Street Gardens.Go on a sunny day and see Rain Man in full action. Now the weather is cooler, there is much less chance you will step on a syringe.

3/ You simply cannot visit St Kilda without taking a walk out on the pier. Never mind that you will blown into the sea, right by a southerly gale, or to the left by a hot northerly. You haven't been to St Kilda if you do not walk out onto the pier and partake a cup of very ordinary coffee. To the right of the end of the pier, there is a little sand and some rocks. Unless you travel for a couple of hours by bus, this might be your only opportunity to see a penguin, well penguin eyes, as they are trying to hide from you. Look for their deposits on the rocks for a clue as to where they are hiding.

4/ The Sunday market on the Esplanade is a must see. Depending how busy it is, you may be wondering what the point of it is, as you can't get near a stall, or you may wonder why so many spots are empty and why there are so few people there. Nevertheless, it is pretty dinki di Aussie product on sale, no matter how kitsch.

5/ Acland Street is renown for its cake shops. I think three or four are still left, and this is surprising as most people don't like stale and overpriced cakes.

6/ Coffee, most places in Acland Street serve great coffee. They could not get away with less as no Melburninan would ever go there.

7/ Acland Street does not end at McDonalds. It runs right through to Fitzroy Street. Take a walk up and down the hill from the former to the latter, or vice a versa. You will come across the really local loon residents, not the ones you see on the main streets who come in from socially and economically deprived outer suburban areas.

8/ Trams. You can't help but be overwhelmed by them, especially on weekends. There are everywhere, coming and going constantly, that is until you want to catch a specific tram on a specific route. You may have to wait for a bit. Look out for the occasional ghastly yellow Bumble Bee tram, especially if you have kids. It like the other other trams, only there is a lot more of it and the kiddies will love the faded bees on the side.

9/ The Farmer's Market at the Peanut Farm happens on the first Saturday morning of each month. My advice is to catch a train to country farmer's market where you buy the same thing for 1/3 the price. Oh, I forgot, the government took the train away from St Kilda.

10/ There are some fine restaurants, mostly cafes actually, in St Kilda. The service is usually good. The Irish are so grateful to be here and have a job, any job. The rest of your waiting staff will be Asian students who get underpaid and work cash in hand, so be nice to them.

11/ While you are indulging in everyone's favourite pastime of people watching, St Kilda is a mecca for the mentally ill and drug users, so do give them a good look over. I have been visiting St Kilda for 35 years and aside from the beggar woman twenty years ago who complained when I only gave her $2 rather than $5, I have only experienced one unpleasant incident in the 35 years. Perhaps it is getting worse.

12/ Look for traces in Acland Street of its days when it had a strong Jewish flavour and colour. Nah, don't bother. There is nothing left. They have been and gone, except for their ownership of every building along the street.

13/ Stand across the big roads opposite McDonalds and swivel your eyes right to the pedestrian traffic lights and look up at St Kilda's glorious architectural heritage.What copper cladding is not heritage?

14/ Just to help you foreigners, Safeway and Woolworths are interchangeable supermarket names. In St Kilda, it is Safeway. This is where to do your celebrity spotting. You have to look closely as they disguise themselves as ordinary people and don't wear Jackie Onassis sunglasses. The larger older lady at the checkouts is perfectly pleasant but don't give her crap. You'll be sorry if you do. The staff there are experienced with all kinds and they will know how to deal with you. Nobody of note goes to the other one, Coles supermarket, not even if they live next door.

15/ Can I tempt you with pony rides for the kiddies in the Catani Gardens on Sundays? Probably not. Pity, as it is so close to another St Kilda icon, the Cowderoy Street Drain, a significant local feature.

16/ Ok, this one is serious. Remember this post? Mirka remains a Melbourne institution and was on tv just this week past. The western side of Fitzroy was the location of her restaurant, now Tolarno Hotel

17/ St Kilda West is the western side of Fitzroy Street almost. But St Kilda goes quite a distance to the east. Catch the 16 tram east to the bagel belt suburb of Balaclava, which is still St Kilda really. What is there to do there? Nothing much really except more people watching. The library is rather good and the St Kilda Town Hall impressive. Up a lane, across a carpark, in a shed, you will probably find the best cup of coffee you will ever have.

18/ Take a walk along Wimmera Place and check out the lorikeets, assuming they are still there.

You may wonder why you have selected St Kilda to stay in or visit it at least, when it might sound like it is not such a good place.  Let me assure you, St Kilda is a fabulous microism of Australia and perhaps the only Melbourne suburb where you might meet a real life Australian Aborigine.


  1. You have missed your calling Andrew. You could be the world's No 1 guide book author. Eat your heart out Lonely Planet.

    1. Sounds like hard work Fun60. I guess you saw some of those things.

  2. My first ever visit to store in Australia was at Acland Street many decades ago when I was away from home and parental supervision and on work trip to Melbourne.

    1. Victor, and it is still there if it is the one on the corner.

  3. I've been to the Esplanande Sunday market, it was many many years ago and there was so much to see! I loved it. I remember buying a painting of a little settlers cottage done on a piece of slate. I still have it although I haven't yet hung it in this flat. Still searching for the "right" spot.

    1. River, I don't think it is quite as good as it used to be, but still popular enough. You must show us the painting one day.

  4. Yep it sure is an interesting suburb. We have visited a few times. Disappointed that you don't have a few pics to go with your super descriptions.

    1. Diane, any pics would be be reposts. I thought of including them, but I wanted to get the post up while a couple of o/s visitors are here, so just pics at the links I included.

  5. LOVE IT! When we were living at home with the oldies, my brothers and I spent every Sunday in StKilda, covering a lot of the places you mentioned. But particularly the old baths (all jazzed up now), Ackland St cafes, Leo's in Fitzroy St and Luna Park.

    After I was married and back in Australia after 5 years away, the first house Joe and I ever bought together was in StKilda. It was a grand Victorian bluestone with a wrap around veranda. StKilda stilled played footy at home, back then - so we walked to games.

  6. Hels, the house sounds lovely. I have mixed feelings about living in St Kilda now. I think it is a bit too full on for someone my age. Yes, walking or tramming to the Junction Oval. Local footy for local people.