25 Jul 2018
Do you like your suburban explorations with a little extra grit? Footscray is undergoing a renaissance, with locals realising that its proximity to the city centre makes it not only a great place to live, but also a great place to open businesses catering to Melbourne’s trendsetters.
Like South Yarra in the east, there are a number of train lines that can take you to Footscray Station, with the Sunbury and Werribee lines also stopping there. Another similarity to South Yarra is that when you come out of the station you’ll find yourself deep in the heart of this thriving suburb.
Footscray Market [18 Irving Street, Footscray] is its epicentre, a multicultural melting pot that will awaken your senses the moment you step inside. Open from 7am Tuesday to Saturday, it’s highly recommended you come with an empty stomach so you can sample delicious banh mi, steaming dumplings and other Asian delights. Or tuck into some of the finer options in the deli, where mountains of cheese and meat will have you licking your lips with anticipation.
Melbourne is the live music capital of Australia, and the best place to catch a gig in the west is the Reverence Hotel [28 Napier Street, Footscray]. With shows on practically every weekend, you’re guaranteed to get up close and personal with eager, young local bands or touring musicians keen to put their best foot forward. Most shows are relatively cheap too, with tickets usually priced between $10-20. Plus, make sure you’re there for Taco Tuesday, every Tuesday from 6pm to 9pm.
How do you know if someone lives in Yarraville? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you. So the joke goes, but people from this charming suburb are immensely proud of the fact they live in one of Melbourne’s nicest areas. They’ve seen perceptions of the west change over the past five years, and their house prices have soared accordingly.
They also know that they live in an area that boasts some objectively excellent attractions. The first – and most widely-known – is the Sun Theatre [8 Ballarat Street, Yarraville]. An Art Deco cinema that originally opened as a single, 1,050-capacity theatre in 1938, it now houses eight boutique theatres ranging from 200 seats down to 23 couches. It’s the perfect destination for catching arthouse films (although they screen their fair share of Hollywood blockbusters), and enjoying an afternoon or evening at the flicks in a cinema with a little more personality than the major chains.
The area around the intersection of Ballarat and Anderson Streets is where the action happens in Yarraville; cafes like Healthy Self Co [26 Ballarat Street, Yarraville] and The Naked Egg [32A Ballarat Street, Yarraville] are great spots to waste away the hours with a newspaper and a delicious meal.
For some fresh air and the chance to clear your head, take the 409 bus from Fehon Street (a block to the west of Yarraville Station) to Yarraville Gardens [Corner Hyde Street and Somerville Road]. Mature trees line the footpaths, barbecues and picnic tables are scattered across the park ready for you to take advantage of, and there are regularly families and groups of friends enjoying the oasis of green in the bustling inner west. You’re also likely to spy a food truck or two along its perimeter.
If you’re exploring the Williamstown line with children of virtually any age, the must-see destination is Scienceworks [2 Booker Street, Spotswood]. Part of Museums Victoria (the same organisation behind the Melbourne and Immigration Museums), a ticket into Scienceworks is excellent value, with adult tickets $14 and children under 16 receiving free entry.
One of the most popular parts of Scienceworks is the Planetarium. Sit back, look up at the 16-metre domed ceiling and go on a journey through our night sky. Another favourite is the Lightning Room, featuring a Tesla Coil, Jacob’s ladder and other electromagnetic entertainment. An extra charge applies to these two rooms, but if you have the time to explore them, they’re both highly recommended (Lightning Room suitable for ages 6+). Scienceworks is also an Autism-friendly museum, with social scripts and maps available on the website.
If you’re travelling through the inner west without kids, a different kind of attraction is Two Birds Brewing [136 Hall Street, Spotswood]. Open since 2011, Two Birds is the brainchild of Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen; an award-winning, trailblazing brewery that embodies everything that is excellent in the Melbourne craft beer scene.
Stop in for lunch or a snack (Thursday-Sunday) at ‘The Nest’, a huge warehouse with a history in the beer-making business (beer cans were manufactured here in the middle of last century), or take a tour of the venue. Alternatively, sit back and sip on a beer or four, celebrating the achievement not only of a couple of excellent brewers, but of yourself to be exploring a different side of Melbourne.
Surprise, surprise, at the end of the Williamstown line is the bayside suburb of Williamstown! It’s the perfect destination for visitors who want to combine some delicious food and a community vibe with some beachside relaxation.
Walk along Thompson Street until you arrive at Nelson Place, home to Commonwealth Reserve [181a Nelson Place, Williamstown]. If the weather calls for it, compare the frozen treats from Gelateria [171 Nelson Place, Williamstown] and Williamstown Ice Cream Shoppe [199 Nelson Place, Williamstown], because who should be forced to choose just one ice cream? Alternatively, pick up some fish and chips from Williamstown Mussels [129 Nelson Place, Williamstown] and sit down by Gem Pier [1 Syme Street, Williamstown].
Visit Williamstown on the third Sunday of each month (between 10am to 4pm specifically) and you’ll arrive for the Williamstown Craft Market [Commonwealth Reserve]. Between 70 and 100 local stalls set up each month across the grassy expanse, making it a great place to meet some of the locals and pick up an excellent gift or two for yourself or the folks back home.
Before hopping back on the train (or catching the ferry from Gem Pier back to Docklands), head down to Williamstown Beach [Esplanade, Williamstown] for a dip in Port Phillip Bay. Safe, enclosed and very family-friendly, a visit to ‘Willy Beach’ is a favourite pastime for western Melburnians.
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