It seems like with every new day comes another article applauding Melbourne as one of the best places to live in the world. High praise, indeed, and enough to draw numerous travellers keen to experience its many bright lights. But with four million people living in the metropolitan area, it can be confusing deciding where to settle.
Enter: St Kilda. There is no doubt that this seaside suburb is up there with the best of what Melbourne has to offer. Not many places offer a seaside town feel just 15 minutes from the hectic Central Business District, but Melbourne’s famous tram network allows easy access in and out of the City Centre. Just grab yourself a Myki (Melbourne’s Oyster Card) on arrival and hop on a tram.
On arrival, there is accommodation for all budgets and all lengths of stay. The area is popular with backpackers, with some hostels offering deals for longer tenants. St Kilda Beach House is the cheapest hostel in the area with a bar that offers discounted drinks for guests, whilst Habitat has won a variety of local tourism awards; dorms start around the $20-$24 mark out of season, though this increases in the summer.
If sleeping in a dorm for three months doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, there are plenty of temporary flat shares going – just take a look on Gumtree or Flatmates.com.au. Decent double rooms go for about $200-$250 per month, so if you’re keen to keep costs down, you might want to find your future life partner ASAP, or consider sharing a room with a friend/fellow backpacker.
Next, it’s time to find a job. Bars/cafés/restaurants are always popular and St Kilda has plenty of all three, but being a backpacker area, competition can be high. ‘Seek’ and Gumtree are a good place to start for other jobs – there are plenty of sales/call centre, admin, and labouring jobs going. For admin work, also upload your CV to recruitment agencies – Hays, Charterhouse, PKL and Randstad all have opportunities going. If you’re lucky, you might get placed in one of the office blocks along St Kilda Road.
Things to Do
Once you’ve got some cash in your pocket, it’s time to get out and explore the area! The massive Albert Park offers plenty of greenery for exercising or general lounging but St Kilda’s most obvious feature is of course its long sandy beach. It may not be the most beautiful of beachy settings, but on a hot summer’s day (of which Melbourne gets a generous helping), it’s hard to beat its convenient location. Just grab your speedos and head down to top up your tan. If you’re not a fan of pink skin and sand down your pants, why not take your sea legs for a spin – surfing, kite surfing, sailing, windsurfing, etc. are all available for those wanting to try something new.
If you prefer more leisurely hobbies, Readings bookshop has a great range; the Sunday market offers some great crafty bits, and during the summer there is an open air cinema by the sea.
Outside the summer months, the beach retains a lovely feel to it. With the crowds gone, it’s the perfect place to exercise or take a romantic stroll. Walk out onto St Kilda Pier around dusk and you’ll be in with a good chance of spotting the local penguins. These guys are seriously cute, so remember to take your camera.
If this sounds a little chilly for you, then head to the St Kilda Sea Baths, which pumps in and heats seawater, and then lets you swim/float in it. Just down the road is the iconic Luna Park, with its quite frankly terrifying clown face entrance and 100-year-old rickety rollercoaster.
With all this excitement, it’s easy to forget to eat, but what an error this would be! St Kilda is home to some fab cafés, restaurants, and bars that are waiting to be discovered. Head to Acland Street at any time of day and you will be spoilt for choice regarding where to eat, drink and be merry.
If you like cake (who doesn’t?) then you’ve come to the right place. St Kilda takes its cue from Eastern Europe – think baked cheesecakes and strudels, washed down with amazing coffee.
If a solid meal is more your thing, why not try the stone baked pizzas at Renix Pizza? Breakfast options include 95 Espresso Bar, which does tequila baked beans(!), and West Café Pavilian, where you can have breakfast with your toes wiggling in the sand. There is also a monthly farmers’ market where you can pick up a whole range of awesome foodie bits.
Finish off the night with a few drinks at Abbey Road, which does $30 beer towers (awesome) or, if you’re missing the pub feel, stop by Iddy Biddy – good beer, live music and reasonable prices. If you fancy a night in, get your wine from Clearskins wine shop and beer from Acland Cellars (it has a big international selection).
There we have it. St Kilda is cool. And living in St Kilda is even cooler. If you’re new to Melbourne, you could do a lot worse than heading straight there and enjoying the area for everything it has to offer.
By Matthew Richards