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Top 10 Things to Do in St Kilda, Melbourne

The Victorian capital's perennial bayside suburb of St Kilda has long attracted local beachgoers and happy holiday makers in equal measure. Here's a checklist of must-dos in this much-loved precinct.
Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda

Oh! I do like to be beside the seaside!

So goes the popular music hall tune of the early 1900s, and you can’t help but hum it as you explore the foreshore in Melbourne’s fabulous seaside suburb of St Kilda. Back when the song was recorded in 1909, Melburnians flocked to the whimsical St Kilda Sea Baths for their sunny, salty pleasure. It was a time when neck-to-knees swimwear was de rigueur, and men and women swam in segregated ocean baths that jutted out into Port Phillip Bay.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
Image: St Kilda Sea Baths

Fast forward more than a century and a scaled-back version of the St Kilda Sea Baths remains to this very day. A visit to the complex — which now houses a spa, gym and a selection of bars, cafes and eateries — to look at the historical photographs on display there is a must-do. Melburnians continue to converge on St Kilda beach on a good day and the charm of this quintessential, slightly offbeat seaside enclave is still well worth singing about.

Here are ten of the best things to do in St Kilda.


Hidden Secrets' Melbourne walking tour

Melbourne Tours, Activities & Attractions


1. Do a self-guided walking tour

Walking is where it’s at when getting to know St Kilda. The main tourist strips of Fitzroy Street and Acland Street are linked by the semi-circle sweep of the Esplanade (where most of the historic seafront landmarks can be found), while freewheeling down any residential street will reveal myriad architectural treasures. If you prefer some structure to your roving, download one of the excellent self-guided walking tours from the City of Port Phillip website. The St Kilda Foreshore Trail covers around four kilometres and provides fascinating detail on the sights of note along the way.

2. Stroll along St Kilda Pier

No visit to this part of Melbourne would be complete without a meander along the iconic St Kilda Pier. This photographer’s dream (and purveyor of bad hair days when the wind is up) has had many extensions and alterations over the years. While it looks the business, the kiosk at the end is not original; the almost century-old structure was gutted by fire in 2003. However, the reconstruction is superb.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
St Kilda Pier. Image: Visit Victoria

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the pier. Buy an ice cream from the kiosk, admire the boating hardware at the Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, take a ferry to Port Melbourne and Williamstown, toss in a line, or just dangle your legs over the edge and drink in the stunning views of the city skyline.

Please note: St Kilda Pier has almost come to the end of its design life and is being replaced with a new structure (scheduled to open in 2024). The old pier will remain open throughout construction, however the kiosk is closed.

3. Meet the resident little penguins

While thousands of visitors to Melbs trek down to Phillip Island to see the world-famous Penguin Parade, it’s possible to enjoy a sunset encounter with the region’s pint-size celebrities much closer to home — and for free. A colony of little penguins resides on the breakwater at the end of St Kilda Pier and visitors can freely enter the conservation zone. However, don’t love the penguins to death. Feeding, touching, the use of torches, and flash photography are not permitted (a flash can stun the birds and cause them to desert their chicks, and no selfie is worth that). Volunteer guides from not-for-profit Earthcare St Kilda are on duty during peak periods to supervise proceedings.

Please note: Access to the St Kilda penguin colony is currently closed due to the Pier redevelopment.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda: Meet the local little penguins.

4. Smile at Luna Park

Next to the pier, St Kilda’s most prominent landmark is arguably Luna Park. Guests have been entering the amusement park through the toothy grin of the much-photographed Mr Moon, framed by opulent Moorish-style towers, for well over a century. Luna Park is home to a mix of old-time and new rides and attractions, including the Great Scenic Railway — the oldest continuously operating wooden roller coaster in the world — and the Carousel — which is listed on the Victorian and National Heritage Registers.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda: Luna Park

The park is open on weekends, public holidays, and during Victorian school holidays, but is closed on weekdays during school terms. Check the website for details.

5. Eat cake

St Kilda’s Acland Street has long been known for its continental cake shops. Built on the back of European-Jewish migration to the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne from war torn Europe, Acland Street saw its first cake shop — Monarch Cakes — open in 1934. Many others followed suit. While today only three or so pastry shops remain along the strip, they’re an enduring link with the past (and Monarch still bakes its Polish cheesecake using an original recipe).

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda: Eat cake. Image: Visit Victoria/Roberto Seba

It’s also worth boarding the number 16 tram for the short ride from Acland Street up to Carlisle Street in Balaclava (past the majestic St Kilda Town Hall) to visit Glick’s bagel shop. Founder and Polish-born holocaust survivor Mendel Glick passed away in 2017.

Watch our video of ten top things to do in Melbourne:

10 Top Things to Do in Melbourne, Victoria, 2022 | Melbourne City Guide

Welcome to Top Oz Tours’ YouTube channel! In this episode of our online travel series, we bring you ten fabulous things to do in Melbourne.

6. Stop and smell the flowers

Walk off your crumbly indulgences with a stroll in the sublime surroundings of the St Kilda Botanical Gardens. This has to be one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets, and on weekdays, save for a bunch of ducks and the odd gardener, you are quite likely to have the 6.4 hectares all to yourself. One of only two suburban botanic gardens established in the 19th century in Victoria (the other is in Williamstown), today the layout of the gardens remains largely faithful to the original design. The ornate wrought iron gates are open from sunrise to sunset.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
St Kilda Botanical Gardens. Image: Adam Ford

7. Experience St Kilda’s café culture

All that exploring will have left you in need of a restorative latte or bite to eat, and as you would expect, St Kilda has no shortage of great cafes. Check out fabulous Fitzrovia on Fitzroy Street, which effortlessly melds old world charm and boho bric-a-brac with an innovative menu that packs plenty of flavoursome punches. If you’re yet to venture to the gardens or foreshore, enquire about Fitzrovia’s picnic hampers. They come complete with a five-course tasting menu, cutlery, crockery, napkins, glassware and sparkling water. All you need to add are the bubbles. Now that’s what we call a picnic!

8. See a show

There’s an undeniable and somewhat indefinable edge to life in St Kilda, and the precinct’s entertainment offerings generally like to push the mainstream boundaries. Experimental and fringe theatre works have long found a platform at Theatre Works in Acland Street. It’s worth booking a ticket even if you know nothing about the show you’re seeing. Just go with it. More recently, the Alex Theatre in Fitzroy Street has come online with three performance spaces. The soaring Palais Theatre, which at one time was Australia’s largest picture palace, now hosts everything from stand-up comedy and drag, to burlesque, bands, and the odd bit of ballet. Live music fans will also love the new look Espy (Esplanade Hotel) of RocKwiz fame.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda: Palais Theatre

9. Dine at a local institution

St Kilda has no shortage of ritzy, glitzy restaurants, but it’s much more fun to seek out the affordable culinary staples long loved by locals. Banff Cafe has stood on Fitzroy Street for longer than anyone cares to remember, and serves up bargain-priced pizzas and pastas, washed down with no-frills-beakers of wine. Leave your personal space requirements at the door. Over on Acland Street, Claypots serves up incredible and affordable seafood concoctions in, well, clay pots — just as it has done since 1998. Hit up any helpful local for more recommendations.

Ten of the best things to do in St Kilda
St Kilda Esplanade Market. Image: Visit Victoria

10. Shop for a handmade souvenir

If you’re in the market for a meaningful memento of your stay in St K, make haste to the Esplanade Market — held every Sunday along the Upper Esplanade. The market only allows products handmade by vendors (at least partially) to be sold at its one hundred-or-so stalls. From crocheted cushion covers to tie-dyed tea towels, you’re sure to pick up a completely unique souvenir.

The writer travelled as a guest of TFE Hotels.

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Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in St Kilda? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

 

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  1. Hi Adam,

    Great article about St Kilda. Thanks. We really need some positive publicity at this point.

    I run St Kilda Art Tours where we walk to 5 or 6 art galleries in St Kilda (there are 11 in total), have a curated talk From the artist or gallery curators at each stop, about their current exhibition, then enjoy some wine and cheese at the end.

    There’s a real mixture of art mediums and most very high quality including 2 indigenous galleries. I’d love to invite you on a famil tour on Saturday 22nd if you’re available. Alternatively contact me on 0412 705 700 or go to my website: http://www.arttoursmelbourne.com.au.

    Cheers Adam

    1. Hi Violet. Thanks for getting in touch. That sounds amazing. I am not based in Melbourne but I may be able to find a local writer interested in coming along. I will get back to you. Regards, Adam Ford (Editor)

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