At Republica, there’s a quirky bar installed in a tastefully refurbished caravan, as well as fun hanging basket chairs. The look and feel is decidedly tropical, with established palm trees and canvas shade umbrellas. Fish ’n’ chips at the beach is a tradition that is hard to beat, and it remains a firm favourite on the menu. The desserts, however, are the real stars. Try the salted caramel parfait with peanut sauce and buttered popcorn ice-cream as you enjoy the beach views.
Step into Captain Baxter’s elevated beachside lounge and enjoy ocean views for miles. The blue and white decor and banter of circling seagulls create a distinctly nautical vibe. The menu takes its inspiration from Asian street food – the big hit is Sunday yum cha, offering a dozen delights including vegetarian options. Consider booking ahead, as this place fills up early.
The outdoor deck at Donovans overlooks St Kilda Beach, providing the perfect backdrop for your beachside dining experience. Everything, from the comfy lounge area to the friendly service, makes you feel at home. The menu celebrates local produce in a playful mix of contemporary flair and familiar favourites. We love the handmade Shark Bay crab ravioli, served with sweetcorn veloute, baby corn and finger lime pearls.
At the doorstep of Flinders Street Station and Federation Square, Arbory Bar & Eatery sidles up to the Yarra River with great dining and outstanding water views. Perfect for a pit stop or a relaxed meal, this is the spot for anyone wanting a creative contemporary menu and icy cold drinks with a view. Big umbrellas offer shade from the sun without upsetting the outdoor vibe. The fried soft-shell crab is a must-try menu item for seafood lovers.
New kid on the block Bombini Buzz takes full advantage of its prime position within Hamer Hall, offering alfresco seating alongside the Yarra River, in the beating heart of Melbourne’s arts district. Treat yourself to delicious house-made ice-cream or share a grazing plate of cheese, meats and antipasto. If you’re catching a show at any of the Arts Centre Melbourne venues, you couldn’t find a more convenient spot for a bite. Be sure to let the friendly wait staff know what time your show starts, so they can have you out with enough time to take your seat.
Is that a bar in the middle of the Yarra River? Yes, it is. It’s Ponyfish Island, one of the most unique establishments in Melbourne and just about the only place where you can see the skyline from the water without actually being on a boat. Look for the staircase that descends from the pedestrian bridge to Southbank, because that’s the only way to reach the water-hemmed wonder. With a menu that changes seasonally, along with year-round favourites like nachos and toasted sandwiches, this is the ultimate venue for views and casual dining, with a few drinks thrown in.
For a welcoming alfresco dining experience with a difference, take a short tram ride from the CBD to Northcote and visit Melbourne’s first permanent food truck park, Welcome to Thornbury. Each day, a line-up of trucks rolls in offering cuisines from around the globe. There’s ample seating in the huge undercover outdoor pavilion and dogs are welcome, making it a fun place for the whole family. If the Pham Sisters are in residence, give them a go. These sassy siblings turn Vietnamese food upside down with their modern take on classic dishes.
For a hip, urban outdoor dining experience, head for Industry Beans in Fitzroy. The purpose-built outdoor space was once just a parking spot outside the cafe. It’s now a comfortable, bright and airy space that makes the most of light on a summer’s day. Tuck into the likes of truffled egg and cinnamon dusted brioche, although the speciality of the house is, unsurprisingly, coffee. Ethiopia, Indonesia, Guatemala and Colombia are just a few of the places the beans come from. For some interesting outdoor reading, download the current coffee menu – not only does it tell you what’s on offer, it also explains how it was sourced and prepared.
Featuring one of the most colourful courtyards in Melbourne, the delightful dining space at Paco’s Tacos makes eating outdoors a joyful occasion. The menu is simple, yet creative, bringing Mexican street food to the masses. Here, traditional preparation methods and ingredients mix with modern flavours. Pineapple, feta and kohlrabi make an appearance alongside classic favourites like guacamole, jalapenos and pico de gallo. Just leave room for dessert, because the Mexican churros with cinnamon sugar and chocolate sauce come in serves of four.