Words by Caitlin Johnston Art by Finn Astle
When you think Melbourne you generally think inner-city laneways, coffee carts in every nook and heritage buildings that hide our trendy bars and niche art galleries. But are Melbourne’s outer suburbs getting pushed out of the limelight? Whether you find yourself somewhere in the suburban north, south, east or west, here are some hidden gems for you to check out.
N O R T H
Welcome to Thornbury, Thornbury
In the heart of the northern suburbs is a permanent bar and food truck stop that is said to be Melbourne’s biggest beer garden. I’ve given this place the ‘unpredictable Melbourne weather’ tick of approval with its choice of spacious indoor and outdoor space. Rock up with a group of friends for good hearty street food and an envious selection of drinks, in a trendy and seriously aesthetic atmosphere that feels quintessentially Melbourne.
‘Fresh Food’ Street Art, Preston
If you didn’t already know, the Preston market is one of the best in Victoria. There are over a hundred stalls to peruse through with food, home goods, clothes, handmade gifts and plants galore. But did you even go if you didn’t take a cool Instagram shot? One of the best parts of the markets is the massive street art graffitied on the side of the building. It looks good at any angle and is best with no filter applied. Nothing screams “I hung out in the north today” more than posing with a freshly baked almond croissant in front of this masterpiece.
S O U T H
The Kayak Shop, Sandringham
Explore the south-east with a beautiful and calm kayak along the bay—or do what I did and just try to not capsize. In all seriousness, not only is it a stunning experience, it’s pretty affordable for our financially struggling student selves. On the bright side, if you fail miserably, just sneak over to the dog friendly beach on Sandringham Harbour and spend the evening watching the sunset and enjoy dog spotting. Win-win, right?
The Lyrebird Lounge, Ripponlea
On Ripponlea’s short strip of shops is Attica, which happens to be the most famous restaurant in Australia (and top 30 in the world). Unfortunately, it’s not only way too expensive for us students, but you have to book incredibly far in advance to score a seat. Luckily, JUST across the road is a dainty little bar called the Lyrebird Lounge. You can catch the Attica staff here unwinding after a long shift, pet the local ginger cat, get some affordable drinks under the fairy lights in the courtyard or head inside for some live acoustic music.
E A S T
The Hatter and the Hare, Bayswater
Take a trip down the rabbit hole because this is an Alice in Wonderland themed café. This is not your average corner-of-a-busy-street café, it’s in a trendy refurbished warehouse. Whether you’re settling in for a full-on high tea session, brunching with friends or swinging by for a quick coffee, this place is ideal for all occasions. But don’t leave without buying one of their desserts. Seriously. There’s 80 to choose from! You’ll leave satisfied, ready to unbuckle the top button of your pants and graciously welcome that sweet food coma.
The 1000 Steps Dandenong Ranges Walk, Upper Ferntree Gully
Modelled on the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk, the 1000 steps are a place for both nature lovers and fitness fanatics alike. Don’t let the name scare you too much, because there’s actually just under 800 stairs (yes, I counted). It’s good to note that there are three options of paths you can take, and they range in difficulty. If you’re not keen on breaking a sweat, you can do some of more relaxed nature walks or hang out around the picnic grounds. Either way, it’s the ideal spot to escape into the peacefulness of nature.
W E S T
Hopheads is a shop that doubles as a bottle shop and eat-in bar. Bring in your own takeaway food or order Uber Eats while working your way through the large selection of local and imported beers. There’s a big outdoor eating area and heaps of surrounding takeaway joints. My insider recommendation is to head to Pier 71, grab a takeaway pizza, walk over to Hopheads and chill in the spacious courtyard out the back. Make sure to try the Two Birds Brewing Golden Pale Ale which coincidentally is also brewed in the western suburbs!
Organ Pipes National Park, Keilor North
Located in the far north-west, this is one of Melbourne’s most underrated national parks. You can easily make your way through and see everything in under an hour. It’s perfect for a quick morning walk or little hike to enjoy the Australian wildlife and scenery. Formed from hardened lava, the ‘organ pipe’ rock formation is picturesque. Definitely worth bringing your camera for some cool snaps.