Whenever I visit a new city, I always look out for its bohemian quarter. In many cities around the world there is a district that is a byword for twenty-something trendiness. My twenties are receding into the distance, but I still like the look and feel of districts like Travestevere in Rome, Santa Theresa in Rio or Islington or Camden in London. Melbourne's equivalent is the uber-hip St Kilda suburb and beach. This was where the TV programme "The Secret Life of Us" was filmed in the 90s, and being so close to the CBD makes a nice afternoon away from the city and a chance to experience Melbourne beach life. [Cough] Oh, yes, I almost forgot, nowadays it is given extra cachet by having IgoUgo guide Golem choosing it as his new home. Can it get any groovier then that?
It's easy to reach from the CBD. Just catch the no. 16 tram from Federation Square/Flinders Street Station (there are lots of "greeters" to help you). And this will glide across the Princes Bridge and down the St Kilda Road and pull up on Fitzroy Street after a journey of 20 minutes. The ocean lies at the end of Fitzroy Street, which is very trendy. The old train station had been turned into a "noodle bar," and you got the feel that money was being pumped into the area. Fitzroy Street had hostels, cafes, restaurants, bookshops and nightclubs stretching down to the sea. It does have a seedy edge: strange characters appear at night (and during the day)and alternative Melbournians and backpackers spill out of the rowdy pubs and nightclubs. But I was there early in the morning and it was the epitome of calm.
There are some excellent cafes that serve up coffee, bacon and toast. But most people are interested in the beach, which extends into Port Phillip Bay. When you stand on the esplanade, you can see a breakwater/pier extend into the bay, which ended in a huge yacht marina. At the start is a wooden Art Deco gate edifice built in 1921 (see photo) in cream-coloured wood. And from the pier you can see expansive views towards the CBD and its collection of skyscrapers that dominate the horizon.
As I walked along the nearby beach, I surmised that I always hit beach resorts in the off-season (Venice Lido, Buzios). This doesn't worry me, as St Kilda is preferable on a chilly September day than it is in uber-hot January. A spring day with cloudy skies and nibbling chill has that touch of melancholy about it. The beach is very well looked after with a cycle and jogging track and people keeping fit with their dogs. It's a gentle walk with a lighthouse at the end of the beach, and the Clown Face entrance (see photo) at nearby Luna Park is worth a look. It comes from a time when seaside attractions were big, brash and gaudy.
But most of St Kilda is pleasant and tidy. I saw it out of season, so perhaps I didn't see it in its best light. I'll have to ask Golem about this, but I bet at the height of the summer, St Kilda is a riot of fun!!!