Melbourne's most popular seaside destination for more than a century, St Kilda is more inviting than ever. Cool bars, acclaimed restaurants and an oceanfront fun fair make this beach suburb a must-visit.
By Ute Junker
There are dozens of ways to enjoy St Kilda, Melbourne's favourite beachside suburb. Make the most of the bayside location by strolling along the palm tree-fringed Esplanade, or give yourself a thrill riding the roller-coaster at Luna Park. Take it slow with a lazy brunch, or enjoy a big night out at one of the cool neighbourhood bars.
- Take a stroll along the seafront, or try cycling or inline skating
- Graze your way through the bars and restaurants along Fitzroy and Acland streets
- Browse for bargains at the Sunday markets
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Top things to do in St Kilda
Eat with an ocean view
There is no shortage of choice when it comes to eating out in St Kilda. If you are in the mood for something simple, Mr Wolf on Inkerman Street has some of the best pizza in Melbourne. More exotic flavours are on the menu at Lau's Family Kitchen on Acland Street, run by Melbourne's top Chinese culinary clan, the Lau family. The tasty treats on the menu include everything from salt and pepper calamari to sweet vinegar pork loin.
If you want to make it a meal to remember, head to local landmark Donovans, overlooking the ocean on Jacka Boulevard. Donovans has a been a special occasion favourite ever since it opened more than 20 years ago, as admired for its elegant beach house decor as for its superb seafood. The grilled tiger prawns are always a popular choice, while the must-try dessert is the famous bombe alaska.
Drink at a natural wine bar
St Kilda's bars come in all shapes and sizes, but few are as quirky as Milk the Cow. While its decor reveals a cheeky sense of humour – there is a grass-covered wall, and fixtures made from dairy equipment – the bar pays serious attention to both its wine and cheese selections. If you prefer quaffing cocktails, try Love and Dysfunction in Grey Street. Choose between the old-school front bar – think leadlight windows, cut-glass decanters and gold-framed mirrors – and the intimate lounge, with its art deco murals and sink-into sofas.
Alternatively, enjoy some Parisian flair at Luxembourg, part of the growing empire of chef and entrepreneur Andrew McConnell, who runs some of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants and bars, including Cumulus Inc and Supernormal. Luxembourg is a bar and bistro specialising in natural wines (made without chemicals, and with minimum technological intervention) and it also serves superb cocktails. Head here for happy hour (between 5pm and 7pm daily) when oysters are half price, but don't be surprised if you find yourself staying on for dinner.
Brunch at one of St Kilda's cool cafés
If you enjoy a spot of people-watching over brunch, the ever-buzzing GB Espresso on Fitzroy Street is the place to go. This may be St Kilda's most stylish café. Even the bathroom comes complete with a chandelier. If you prefer a quieter start to the day, try Dr Jekyll, tucked away on tranquil Grey Street. Take a seat in the leafy courtyard while you pore over the extensive menu, with choices such as gin-cured salmon with potato rosti to baked bean tortilla and more.
However, it is Fitzrovia on Fitzroy Street that wins the award for best location, with its perch overlooking verdant Albert Park. This bright, airy café specialises in reinventing breakfast favourites. Try the crème brûlée French toast or, if you are hungry, a door stop sandwich – so-called because of its size – which is piled high with Istra bacon, smoked mozzarella and pear relish.
Shop at vibrant markets
St Kilda's signature shopping experience takes place every Sunday, when the St Kilda markets take over the Esplanade. More than 100 stalls showcase the work of Melbourne designers, jewellers and milliners, many of whom are on site selling their wares. The creative community feeling continues at Readings St Kilda on Acland Street, a cherished local bookstore known for supporting independent publishers, writers and artists.
If you have a taste for stylish homewares head straight to Scout House on Fitzroy Street, which has one of Melbourne's most enticing selections of furniture and kitchenware. From handcrafted Australian furniture to vintage European pieces, pine breadboards to country-style kitchenware, this is a haven for design fans.
How to get there
The best way to get to St Kilda from Melbourne's city centre is by tram number 96, which takes about 20 minutes. Alternatively, take an inexpensive Uber or taxi ride (about AUD$20).