Sidewalk cafes, second-hand shops, bikers and rollerbladers, an amusement park and a craft market make St. Kilda a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon. It is just a 25-minute ride from downtown aboard any of the "St. Kilda Beach" trams that go by.
Guidebooks say St. Kilda is Melbourne's Playground, and even on a gray and drizzly early spring day, there were lots of Melburnians out trying to put winter behind them. The spring flowers hadn't pushed up yet, but colorful pink and purple winter cabbage added color to flower beds, while brilliantly colored lorikeets worked on their nests in the neighborhood's many date palms.
We went in search of work by local artisans at the weekly craft market on the esplanade. Lots of beautiful work at great prices, especially considering the exchange rate to the US dollar. I found a great selection of Australian animals made from hand-dug local clay. I had admired this same artisan's work at a gallery near the Queen Victoria Market earlier in the day at twice the price. Getting to meet the artist and hear about her techniques made the treasures even more valuable to me. We also found a selection of hand-sewn wool toys shaped like wombats and koalas that were perfect gifts for the tiniest tots back home, and a beautiful lathe-turned peppermill made from the wood of a red gum tree made the ideal Australian addition to the mill collection.
Next, we went off to find lunch and, seeing the cafes so packed with people, we decided to get some take-away fish and chips and sit down near the water. St. Kilda Beach is lapped by the waves of Port Phillip Bay, and an unusual-looking lighthouse made for a nice backdrop to our quiet lunch.
Most people are familiar with the amusement park at Coney Island, New York, but did you know that the same folks also built a couple of parks in Australia too? Luna Park in St. Kilda was constructed in 1912, and was completely renovated and restored in 1999. Though it was closed for the season during our visit, the gaping clown mouth that forms the entrance to the park made for some great photos, and we enjoyed learning about the Coney Island and Sydney Luna Parks, too.
I wish we had had more than a couple of hours to spend in this area, as the architecture on neighborhood streets looked very appealing, as did some of the many restaurants and shops. Next time!