Positioned between the Yarra River’s Southbank precinct in the north and Port Phillip Bay and Albert Park in the south, is the bustling hub of South Melbourne. As one of the city’s oldest inner-city suburbs, the Real Estate Institute of Victoria has bestowed South Melbourne as Victoria’s most expensive suburb per square metre. Why don’t we leave the Real Estate people to agree or disagree on that one. And take a look at what you can experience in South Melbourne. And the best part is, you won’t need a suitcase full of money to visit the ‘posh’ enclave.
In South Melbourne, preserved historical sites share space with multicultural restaurants and cafes. Alfresco strips offer outdoor dining experiences beginning at breakfast, extending to lunch and ending later under twinkling lights and inky night skies. As the sun disappears and the streetlights start illuminating South Melbourne’s backstreets, its fun to watch the evening café culture awaken.
Melbourne’s oldest market, the South Melbourne Markets in Coventry Street has stalls with colourful rows of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. Munch on tasty treats from one of the specialty food stalls as you peruse the artisan jewellery and vintage stores, then try (arguably) the best dim sims in Melbourne. While their partners browse the stalls, at the market barber, men can sit back in the barber’s chair and have their hair or beards expertly trimmed.
Stroll the suburban streets or catch a tram to one of the many green spaces in the friendly neighbourhood. Follow the locals to the inner-city bars and restaurants. In summer take advantage of the long twilight evenings and dine al fresco serenaded by live jazz in one of the many historical pubs.
How to get around South Melbourne
Melbourne has four airports: Melbourne International Airport, Avalon Airport, Essendon Airport and Moorabbin Airport.
When you arrive in Melbourne you will land at either Melbourne Airport (often called Tullamarine Airport) or Avalon Airport. Tullamarine is 23km from the centre of Melbourne. Travel via the Tullamarine Freeway via bus or car. The Skybus runs every 10 minutes during peak times and can drop you at Southern Cross Station where you can catch a bus or train to South Melbourne.
To get around Melbourne on the city’s trains, trams and buses, purchase a Myki card. This plastic pre-paid smartcard can be used to transport you to many destinations around the city. Travel within the central area of Melbourne by tram is free, though you will need a Myki card if you plan to start or finish your journey outside the central area.
When is the best time of year to visit South Melbourne?
Melbourne experiences four different seasons and the weather is often unpredictable. Occasionally there are four seasons in one day (and you don’t want to be caught out unprepared when the weather suddenly changes).
Australia experiences summer from December to February. If you enjoy cooler temperatures, consider visiting between March and May (Autumn) and September and November (Spring). The changing colours of the leaves in Autumn are a spectacular sight. If you visit South Melbourne during the warmest months of the year – January, February and March – find a place either inside or under cover to chill out during the day when its too warm to be outside. Temperature highs average 29.2°C rarely dropping below 17.2°C at night. Although Melbourne experienced its hottest day in 16 years on January 26th this year (Australia Day 2022), with temperatures reaching 36 degrees near Olympic Park in the late afternoon.
Remember to pack a warm jacket if you’re visiting during spring or autumn as temps drop when the sun goes down. Days can hover between 8°C and 21°C with little warning.
The top 5 annual events held in Melbourne
The first of the four tennis Grand Slams, the Australian Open is played during January. This busier time in Victoria’s capital is usually when accommodation in Melbourne is in high demand – so do your homework and try and book in advance.
Car enthusiasts head to Melbourne in March for the Formula 1 Grand Prix
The biggest social event on Melbourne’s calendar is the Melbourne Cup, the horse race that ‘stops a nation.’ Held on the first Tuesday in November – a public holiday in Melbourne – thousands of visitors come to Melbourne to have their Melbourne Cup experience. Many racegoers go all out with fashion. Women will ‘frock up’ – dress in high fashion for the special day – especially if they wish to enter the Member’s areas. For general admission areas the dress code is more relaxed. Dressing stylishly is completely acceptable as is as dressing down (more casual attire.)
Remember the paparazzi are out in force. Many are waiting to capture any Melbourne Cup patrons who’ve over indulged in alcoholic beverages and end up doing things that make other sober onlookers in Australia and around the world laugh, shake their head (or cringe.) While you may be having a great time in the ‘moment‘ there is a good chance you’ll be caught on camera and become a permanent member of the online ‘Carnival Carnage’, gallery.
Three memorable South Melbourne experiences
Melbourne Town Hall
After stocking up on fresh produce at the South Melbourne Markets, its an easy 750-metre stroll to the grand old South Melbourne Town Hall on Swanston Street. Completed in 1880, the ochre sandstone building sits on the highest point of what was originally called Emerald Hill. The striking looking building is a popular location for wedding photos. Keep an ear out for the bell that rings every half hour from 6am until midnight.
From the city, take a five minute ride on the number 12 or 1 Tram to Town Hall, or take the double decker red hop on hop off bus – it stops right near the Town Hall too.
South Melbourne Beach
Enjoy a stroll along South Melbourne Beach made famous by Harry and Meghan, who were photographed as they walked across the white sand hand in hand on the third day of their Royal visit to Australia. Watch a stunning sunset framed by palm trees along a busy boardwalk popular with families, dog walkers and runners. Grab some takeaway fish and chips for dinner from one of the many shops along the front.
St Kilda is only three kilometres away and the pier overlooking Port Phillip Bay is another popular place for sunset lovers.
See Yup Temple
Visit Melbourne’s oldest Taoist temple that’s been a spiritual centre for over 100 years. The current temple with its eclectic blend of European and Chinese architecture, was constructed in 1866. It replaced a two-storey wooden building built in 1856 for the Chinese immigrants who were heading to the goldfields. A site for quiet prayers and worship, the temple’s interior is covered with traditional Chinese décor. Follow the smell of burning incense and it will lead you to this Temple on Raglan Street.
With plenty to see, do and many, many places to eat in South Melbourne remember to allow enough time. Because you’re more than likely want to take some time to just ‘be.’ Rushing is so pre-pandemic!