Melbourne is always on my mind, especially when life in the UK gets a bit tough. I recall the sunshine, the happy memories, the friends and the fun alternative things to do in Melbourne that don’t exist over here on this cold island, which is getting colder by the day after this recent referendum.
With the fear of Brexit instilled in my tired British heart, I’ve been looking at places I could nestle in and call home, if the UK goes down like a sinking ship. A place that I have called home before is a little city called Melbourne that’s tucked way down under in the Australian state of Victoria. I’ve got a lot of love for this city – multi-cultural, hip and happening, all the tastiest Asian and Australian food money can buy, and big open space to escape to when the concrete jungle gets too much. Did I mention the amazingly rugged coastline that hugs the Victorian state and coaxes surfers to its wild waters daily?
To visit as a tourist can be tough as it is city life at its finest (it can be a tad pricey) – the best way to get a real feel for the city is to earn some dollars and experience life like a local… and with politics lately and 51.9% of the population going a bit nuts in the UK, perhaps its time we explore other options for somewhere else to call home? Let me try and entice you to this cosmopolitan Aussie city with a fab list of alternative things to do in Melbourne that the locals love.
10 alternative things to do in Melbourne
1. Stay in a piece of history
An alternative place to stay in Melbourne certainly has to be Hotel Lindrum. Situated just on the edge of the city’s grid-like system of streets and laneways, this art deco building is dwarfed on either side by shiny modern skyscrapers – a real jarring view of old vs. new in Melbourne’s architecture.
The building dates back to the 1900’s when it was first a tea merchants store, and still retains old charm with luxurious, boutique perks. Big plush beds that envelope you like marshmallows await upstairs, whilst a dimly lit bar downstairs has you wishing you could smoke a cigar and swirl a whiskey like the good old days. Brilliantly perched towards the north of the city, a stones throw from Flinder Street train station, Hotel Lindrum makes for the perfect base to explore the city and beyond.
2. Relax by Fitzroy pool
When the temperatures soar and you’re needing some cool R&R, head up to the outdoor pool in North Fitzroy. Locals gather here when the sun’s out, so it might be tricky to find a patch of spare ground to recline on, but try snagging a spot to people watch all the cool and beautiful north suburb locals, and sunbathe. The pool is large and expansive, meaning you can have a cool dip under the Aussie sun – who needs to trek far to a beach for a swim?
3. Sip beers in the backstreet pubs of Fitzroy and Collingwood
My utmost favourite thing to do on a free and lazy afternoon, would be to pop into the backstreets of Fitzroy and Collingwood to some great pubs. A huge number lurk off the beaten path and I slowly explored each one over my few years living there. It may have been the inner Brit in me looking for a drinking hole that was reminiscent to the cosy, old pubs of England, but they certainly had strong homely vibes and great atmospheres.
Have a kangaroo steak at The Napier, sip on one of 100 world beers at The Rainbow, huddle in the covered garden of The Standard in the winter and bask in sunshine on the rooftop of Labour in Vain in summer.
4. Shop at Camberwell Market or Fitzroy Market
Melbourne fashion is eclectic and varied – depending on the area you’re based or living in, the styles change dramatically. North vs South of the river is usually the divider of style, but the most fun fashion you spy is a mix of vintage and quality pieces.
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Pick up some amazing Aussie vintage at the secondhand ‘op’ shops or head to some fantastic markets. Camberwell Market is a huge outdoor free-for-all for any with a passion for rummaging. Paw through people’s trash (could be your treasure), authentic vintage pieces and wares by the odd local designer who are trying to make a buck or three. Fitzroy market is another brilliant Melbourne vintage market – it’s on a smaller scale to Camberwell, but due to the arty nature of the area, you can find some amazing cast-offs which will perfectly add an edge to your wardrobe.
5. Brunch like there’s no tomorrow
If you’re new to Melbourne, then you’ll quickly find out that brunch here deserves a public holiday. Guaranteed to be left table-less late on a weekend morning when the masses have descended on the top Melbourne cafes, brunch is all about researching your target and making sure you get to taste the eggs you deserve.
Cafes in Melbourne change really quickly, but ones that make waves become legends. Delicious cafes include South Yarra’s SOS cafe, which is stocked to the brim of ridiculously thick smoothies and healthy treats; Collingwood’s roastery-come-cafe, Proud Mary, which serves sublime coffee; and Richmond’s airy Top Paddock where every ingredient has been painstakingly chosen to compliment the myriad of flavours. I highly recommend their fresh salads washed down with a sweet glass of Prosecco.
6. Hit up hard-to-find rooftop bars in the CBD
It’s a darn annoyance when you’re scrolling through Instagram after your trip and you find a load of exciting places that you totally missed. In the CBD (Melbourne’s city centre), you can easily miss out on the rooftop bars if you don’t know where to head.
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Perched up high, balanced on high rise buildings, these Melbourne rooftop bars are the perfect alternative to the laneway bars that litter below. Get some fresh air and rise up above the crowds for a fresh cocktail and a bit of perspective.
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Madame Brussels will have you sipping on cocktails and nibbling cucumber sandwiches served by waiters in tennis whites; Transit Rooftop bar is smack bang by famous Federation Square so has fantastic views of the city; and Rooftop Bar is an open-air cocktail and beer hang-out all year round – catch a movie up there in the summer! If you’re in the north suburb of Fitzroy, you cannot forget to climb up to Naked in the Sky, the top floor of Naked for Satan – this view of the city will be the highlight of your trip.
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7. Go to Dejour
Up in the depths of the inner suburb, East Brunswick, lies a stretch of relatively rundown shops piled in closely next to each other. Walk far up Sydney Road, past the tacky bridal shops and you’ll likely walk into a queue of young, fit things at a small ramshackle shop called Dejour Jeans.
Now if you’re in Melbourne, this is the place to get… your jeans. Forget about Sportsgirl or H&M – any hip girl or guy walking the streets here are bound to be clad in Dejour jeans and you’re guaranteed a perfect fit if you head up there. Floor to ceiling shelves harbour all the different colours, cuts and styles of jeans that you can think of, plus a range of denim skirts too. Be brazen and grab a couple of pairs in this strange shop – beautiful tailors are on hand to then taper the fabric to your body shape. In 3 hours, you can be rocking a perfect pair of jeans that hang exactly how you’ve always hoped.
8. Head to White Night (after midnight)
White Night is an amazing event which shuts down the entire city centre for 12 hours through the night. Artists take over, decorating the streets and buildings with lucid lights and laser patterns that bring the night-time darkness to life. Iconic buildings are electrified with vivid colours and musical events take place all throughout the streets.
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Wander the laneways of Melbourne for hidden surprises and catch a top DJ spinning the decks at 3am on the same high street you do your clothes shopping on by day. It’s an alfresco funfair of frivolity, but it does bring about huge crowds. HUGE. The secret is to get into the city after midnight and actually have breathing space to explore!
9. Watch a band in a local’s home
The music scene of Melbourne is varied – teamed with the creativity of the city, forward thinkers are now organising gigs in the comfort of homes. Parlour is a great way to catch intimate performances in the homes of Melbournians – have a browse and see which great act is performing in a neighbourhood near you, and enjoy an eve curled up on the floor with a glass of wine in hand. Also, check-out Sofar Sounds for other musical performances that could be right next door to you.
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10. Take weekend breaks
Alternative things to do in Melbourne include… getting out of Melbourne. The beauty of this place is that you have all the hustle bustle and flashing lights in the city, but when you’ve had it with hordes of people, you can just hit the freeway and immediately feel a world away.
Venture east to the Great Ocean Road for a fun road-trip with amazing natural sights and surf; drive up north into the plush countryside of Daylesford for a bumbling country town surrounded by kangaroos and eucalyptus trees; or head south for the Mornington Peninsular where you can recline in hot natural spa waters in the middle of nowhere.
If you really want a hidden spot outside of Melbourne which only the lucky locals find, try Turpins Falls. I won’t give too much detail on how to find it (meaning: I have no idea how to get there), but it is the most incredible natural water swimming hole. Don’t forget your inflatable!
Doing alternative things in Melbourne after OD-ing on all the tourist sights will really give you a true taste of the city. Don’t forget, there are plenty of free things to get up to here if you want to make your dollar stretch that little bit further, or just nab a working holiday visa and soak up the Aussie life in leisure. Lets all Brexit the hell out of here and get some sweet Melbourne love in our lives.