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South of the City

20 Feb 2018

Spend a day — or a weekend — exploring Melbourne’s pristine bayside suburbs.

Take some time exploring the finer side of life in South Yarra and its slightly grungier sisters, Prahran and Balaclava. Continue farther south through the historic and nostalgic Ripponlea and Elsternwick before arriving in sunny Brighton, where people-watching is a favourite pastime. Some of the grandest homes in Melbourne are located in these parts, and when the bayside breeze blows through the area you’ll understand why the suburbs that line the Sandringham Train Line are regarded so highly.

South Yarra

There are plenty of train lines that will take you from the city to South Yarra Station (in addition to the Sandringham line, the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Frankston lines all stop here as well), connecting the suburb easily with the city and the south-eastern suburbs. The station opened in 1860, making it one of Melbourne’s oldest.

If you’re making a day of the Sandringham line and you started in the city, you might emerge from South Yarra Station onto Toorak Road feeling more than a little peckish. Luckily the area is one of Melbourne’s hottest spots for an early morning caffeine hit and breakfast. Darling Cafe [2 Darling Street, South Yarra] and Cafe Republic [160 Toorak Road, South Yarra] are both open from 7am. The former specialising in creations such as Mild Chili Prawn Omelette with Asparagus, Sorrel, Cherry Tomato and Sriracha and the latter offering up an all-day breakfast menu catering to the sleepiest of sleepyheads.

For a little exercise, turn right out of the station and cross Punt Road to Fawkner Park [Commercial Road, South Yarra] and burn a few of those calories.


If you fancy yourself as a cool kid then South Yarra’s southern sister, Prahran, is arguably one of the places to be seen in Melbourne. Greville Street might not be as grungy as it was 15 years ago, but the strip is still chock full of culture, music, fashion and trendsetters. It’s also home to the hip end of Chapel Street, with some of Melbourne’s best restaurants and bars lining the strip.

Hopping off at Prahran Station will also see you just a block from Prahran Market [163 Commercial Road, South Yarra]. It’s a local treasure and a place where you’re sure to uncover some of the tastiest treats – and friendliest faces – in all of Melbourne. If you time your visit well, you can catch a free guided tour of the 120-year-old market space, or simply marvel at the architecture and be astounded at the fact the same building has catered for more than a century’s worth of traders and shoppers. Sunday afternoons (12noon to 3pm) sees live music performances in the Market Square.


Even hipsters from the trendy northern suburbs reckon Balaclava is a pretty happening place to be, and that’s saying something. Carlisle Street, which runs east-west and acts as the thoroughfare for the suburb (it’s also where you’re likely to exit from Balaclava Station) is literally lined with cafes and restaurants, meaning you’re guaranteed a great place to eat if you haven’t already had your fill.

The area around Balaclava, Caulfield South and Elsternwick are suburbs with large Jewish communities, and one of the best parts of having such a diverse population means that there are some exceptional food options. One that you simply have to try is Glick’s [330 Carlisle Street, Balaclava], Australia’s largest and finest kosher bakery. It’s impossible to try just one bagel, so succumb to temptation and stock up for the rest of your visit.

A few blocks to the east is the regal St Kilda Town Hall [99A Carlisle Street, St Kilda]. Home to the Port Phillip City Council, the building also houses the City of Port Phillip Collection, comprising artworks and heritage items that illustrate the history of the bayside area.


Without doubt the most popular attraction in this area is Rippon Lea Estate [192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick]. The heritage-listed, 19th century house and gardens attract visitors from around the world, so join the throng and explore not only some magnificent architecture, but a trip back in time.

Take a guided tour of the Mansion (10.30am to 3pm daily) or the 14 acres of Gardens (Wednesday and Thursday from 11am, and Friday from 2pm), or visit their website for details of upcoming – often family-friendly – events. The history of the estate stretches back to the glory days of the Gold Rush in the 1860s. Until 1972 the building was lived in by some of Melbourne’s wealthiest families, however for the past 40 years it has been managed by the National Trust for locals and visitors to explore.

Another of the area’s most popular attractions is the restaurant Attica [74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea], Australia’s most-awarded restaurant. Bookings are taken months in advance, so plan your trip well to enjoy arguably the country’s best dining experience. Alternatively, catch the 219 bus from the corner of Glen Eira Road and Hotham Street to Elsternwick Station.


Located between the trendy suburbs of South Yarra and Prahran and the bayside finery of Brighton and Hampton, you’ll experience the best of both worlds in Elsternwick. Glenhuntly Road is the main thoroughfare, home to Route 67 tram and plenty of welcoming, friendly shops and cafes. The strip is uber trendy with venues like Antique Bar [218 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick] and After The Tears vodka bar [9b Gordon Street, Elsternwick] staying open late.

Elsternwick is also home to the Jewish Holocaust Centre [13-15 Selwyn Street, Elsternwick], a memorial to the millions of Jewish people who were killed between 1933 and 1945. Designed to educate visitors of all ages, a visit to the Centre is a sobering experience that takes in thousands of artefacts commemorating the horrors of the Holocaust.

Across the Nepean Highway, Elsternwick Park [164 Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick], also known as Sportscover Arena, is one of Greater Melbourne’s most popular sporting grounds, home to the Victorian Amateur Football Association. If you’re here during the cooler months, expect the smells, sounds and sights of suburban footy at its finest.

Brighton Beach

One of the most affluent of all Melbourne suburbs (think average house prices of $2.3milllion) means that a stroll along Brighton Beach is going to provide some pretty stunning views. To your west, you will look out over a sparkling Port Phillip Bay, the sun glistening as it slowly inches towards the horizon.

To your east, you can look back at the mansions that line Beach Road, each one home to Melbourne’s rich and famous. And if you look over your shoulder, you’ll see the city skyline some 11 kilometres away, where the profile of skyscrapers stands high against a clear sky.

And as you feel the sand beneath your toes, you’ll walk past the Brighton Bathing Boxes [Dendy Street Beach, corner of Dendy Street and The Esplanade, Brighton], the postcard- (or selfie-) worthy structures that dot the beach. There are 82 of them in total, lined up side-by-side as they have been for more than a century. Classic Victorian architectural features are the norm, with weatherboards and corrugated iron roofs, but each one is distinctively decorated, making the scene an Instagrammer’s dream.

getting around

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