Melbourne is home to the more quirky and arty scenes in Australia, and it’s the main reason why I am choosing to base myself there over Sydney when I plan to land in the country in late 2014. Known for its vibrant culture and off-the-wall vibe, the capital of Victoria offers plenty for those that are into more unique experiences.
Of course, travelling around Australia would not be complete without a huge road trip, but even a shorter trip in and around Melbourne can uncover some super, secret spots. It’s easy to compare prices and hire a car from one of the big international companies before you arrive, like Hertz, or alternatively you can look for car hire locally when you arrive (it always helps to plan ahead to get the best deals). The hard part is knowing where to begin your roady adventures!
Get started on this introductory guide to the hipster haven that is Melbourne, and discover some of the coolest things not many travellers have heard about in the region – I’ve been told by a few Melbournites and I can’t wait to try them for myself!
If you really want to get out of town, Echuca sits about 215 kilometres up the B75. This tiny town has lots to offer for those of a more independent spirit. Trade four wheels for two by renting a vintage bike and then cruise around the Murray River before stopping by a winery to pick up some supplies for a rustic picnic. You can also check out the bridge that crosses into New South Wales overlooking the Murray, the 1865-built timber wharf and the old paddle steamer boats.
Closer and to the northeast of Melbourne is the small town of Kyneton, which has a lot of hipster staples that make for a cool afternoon road trip destination. Located about an hour from the city, many of Kyneton’s cafes and eateries cater to localvores, sourcing their produce and materials from nearby. The old surroundings coupled with organic consumables, (food truck, anyone?), provide plenty to do.
Of course there are also a bevy of hip indie spots in and around downtown Melbourne that shouldn’t be missed. Perhaps the heart of the city, Federation Square, is another great single-speed biking spot. Fed Square is always full of people of all shapes, sizes and fashion sense. Make sure to check out the second-hand stores for some sweet new garb and survey Hossier Lane, home to some of the greatest graffiti going.
Just about 10 minutes outside of downtown Melbourne in the suburb of Collingwood is Smith Street, arguably the most well-known hipster hangout. It’s edgy and at-times brash vibe is in direct contrast to the more established, proper feel of neighbouring suburb Abbotsford. Retro shops selling books, music and other knick knacks, the street-art of Langridge Street and a smattering of cafes provide plenty to do on a wandering afternoon.
If gigs are what you’re after, then the variety of venues pumping out the tunes in Melbourne will be music to your ears. The city prides itself on hosting some of the most eclectic and obscure bands, providing a sound that will satisfy anybody’s musical taste.
While stadium-sized venues such as Rod Laver Arena, the Palais Theatre and Sidney Myer Music Bowl draw in larger international acts, smaller spots such as The Espy and The Prince Bandroom in St. Kilda and the Northcote Social Club are perfect for catching local underground performers. And the Rochester Castle Hotel (known colloquially as “The Rochy”) in the suburb of Fitzroy, with its laid-back decor and old-school video games, blasts indie rock and brit-pop until the wee hours of the weekend mornings.
There’s plenty of kitschy fun to be had in and around Melbourne. Whether you’re interested in driving off the beaten path to some hidden hipster paradises or staying in town and seeing all the unique and independent establishments inside the city limits, Melbourne is the free-spirited place, perfect for the avid explorer. Stay tuned.