21 Nov 2018
From the seaside playground (St Kilda) to the edge of hipsterdom (East Brunswick), the line cuts straight through the heart of the city and travels through South Melbourne and Albert Park on its own designated stretch of track.
This line is frequented by all types of people – families, beachgoers and indie kids heading out for a night on the town. It’s also where many of Melbourne’s newest trams begin their lives, so chances are you’ll travel in style and (climate-controlled) comfort.
2016 saw the completion of a redevelopment of St Kilda’s much-loved Acland Street and with it a new terminus for Route 96. The streetscape now places a premium on pedestrian and tram access, removing cars from the cafe-lined boulevard. Visitors in particular have benefited from this work, and over the past year the area has thrived with the sound of friendly voices and dinging trams.
Looking to start a day’s adventure? There’s arguably nowhere in Melbourne better to begin. Settle in underneath the gig posters at Abbey Road Cafe [129-131 Acland Street, St Kilda], which is open from 7am every morning serving up crowd-pleasing favourites until 3pm (1pm on weekends).
A trip to Acland Street would be incomplete without a visit to one of the strip’s many cake shops. Taste your way through the front windows or take a punt on Monarch Cakes [103 Acland Street, St Kilda], an institution since 1934.
There’s no place in Melbourne with a more welcoming smile than Luna Park [18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda], and for good reason. Home to the Scenic Railroad – the oldest, continually operating rollercoaster in the world – the park is the perfect place to let the kids run wild, or embrace the child within.
With names like Pharaoh’s Curse, Coney Island Top Drop and Circus of Screams, the 18 rides on offer are sure to thrill, and with plenty of events happening throughout the year, Luna Park is a great place to spend some time.
Across the road from Luna Park sits another St Kilda treasure, the Palais Theatre [Corner Lower Esplanade and Cavell Street, St Kilda], looking as resplendent as ever. Having finished a complete restoration in October 2017, the Palais has seen many incarnations since its opening in 1914 and hosts major local and international concerts and events year-round.
Travel a little further past the Palais Theatre and you’ll find yourself deep in the heart of Melbourne’s seaside playground, St Kilda. The suburb is immortalised in Paul Kelly’s From St Kilda to King’s Cross, but it’s not until you spend some time strolling the sandy shore, relaxing on the grass that lines the beach, and experiencing the live music that pumps out from a number of Fitzroy Street’s quality establishments that you gain a full appreciation for the area.
Stop in at Republica [10/18 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda] for a refreshing beverage and casual bite to eat as the sun sits high in the sky, reflecting off the glistening Port Phillip Bay. Alternatively, take a walk to the end of St Kilda Pier (Pier Road, St Kilda) to look back at the city skyline.
When planning your day on tram Route 96, make sure you allocate an hour or so for browsing, buying, eating and drinking your way through the South Melbourne Market [Corner Coventry and Cecil Streets, South Melbourne]. Open from 8am on Wednesday (‘til 4pm), Friday (‘til 5), Saturday and Sunday (both ‘til 4), shoppers come from suburbs away to fill their trolleys.
Start your exploration in the fruit and veg section so that you can snack your way through a punnet of plump berries, a crispy, juicy apple or a melt-in-your-mouth plum while you walk. As you weave your way through boutique retailers, turn for the deli to slurp down an oyster or six, before picking up a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese and some meats for later in your journey.
Ever wondered why they built Parliament House [Spring Street, East Melbourne] at the top of Bourke Street? Well, hop off the tram, climb the stairs and turn around. The sweeping view down Melbourne’s most famous thoroughfare is impressive these days; imagine what kind of vistas would have been on offer when it was first built in 1855, in a time before skyscrapers.
Time your visit with the free guided tours that are offered through the austere building. Public tours for up to 25 people are conducted pretty much every hour on the half-hour on weekdays (excluding public holidays) when Parliament is not sitting. Simply turn up, or if you’re in a group of 6+ it’s advised you book via the Parliament of Victoria website.
Melbourne Museum [11 Nicholson Street, Carlton] is one of Melbourne’s most popular year-round attractions, with a permanent collection rivalling any other museum in Australia. It also hosts innovative temporary and touring exhibits, which means there’s always another reason to visit.
If you took our advice earlier and are still holding onto that bread and cheese from the South Melbourne Market, the Carlton Gardens are a gorgeous place to lay out a picnic blanket or find a park bench and enjoy a bite to eat al fresco.
Just around the corner from this otherwise-unassuming tram stop is the Rose Street Artists’ Market [60 Rose Street, Fitzroy]. A decade ago, Rose Street played a key role in the evolution of ‘the hipster’ by offering a place to buy and sell the coolest of clothes and gifts. While the market has shed some of its grungier aspects over the years, what hasn’t changed is the prevalence of friendly artisans and designers, eager to show off their wares and sell you a memento of your trip to the northside of the city.
Those that never ventured this far along the line once considered Brunswick East beyond the edge of suburbia, miles from the heart of the action and a destination visited only by partygoers who missed their stop on their way home to Fitzroy and Carlton. These days, though, it’s one of the hippest suburbs in Greater Melbourne. Only a few kilometres from the city centre, it’s also far enough away from the riff raff and therefore is home to some of the coolest cats in town.
Stop 27 (end of the route) will plant you just outside the little local favourite that is, Milkwood [120 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick]. A real contender for the best brekky and coffee in the East Brunswick. Or if you're a sweet-tooth, you’ll be taken away to dessert heaven; the perfect last stop on your ride along Route 96.
Need some help getting from A to B so you can discover Melbourne?
Just pop your starting point and where you want to go into the PTV Journey Planner, as well as your ideal departure or arrival time.
The Planner will find the easiest way for you to get where you want to go, plus give you easy-to-follow instructions on how to get there.
For more information, visit ptv.vic.gov.au