Well, after what seems like about seven decades of cold, dreary drizzle in Melbourne, the sun has finally decided to show its face. Now we’re staring right down the barrel of summer, we’ve gotta get in quick with all the sunny day activities before Melbourne pulls out another tornado, or goes back to having two-degree mornings. If you need some ideas on how to while away those summer days, you’ve come to the right place. Here are our top picks for this sunny season.
#1 Slurp down some ramen at the noodle markets
Summer evenings + noodles + a good cider = a pretty perfect way to spend a night, really. Melbourne is blessed with not one, but two evening summer markets – the Night Noodle Market at Birrarung Marr from November 12-29, where you can find all sorts of asian-style dishes, desserts and drinks; and the Queen Victoria Night Markets, which are on each Wednesday night until the end of March. There you’ll find a BBQ pit, the Little Creatures beer garden and plenty of street food stalls, as well as live music and arty designers with clothes, homewares and all sorts of other goodies. Bon appetit!
#2 Spend a day watching the tennis greats
One of the highlights of the city’s sporting calendar, the Australian Open in January, is a favourite among locals and international guests alike. Not a tennis tragic? There’s still plenty to do in the Melbourne Park village – from live music on the Heineken Live Stage during dinnertime each day to the Garden Square, where there are loads of fun, interactive things to play with. Just make sure you pack your sunscreen. Six hours sitting under the January sun won’t treat you well.
#3 Cocktail-hop around the city’s rooftops
We’re pretty spoilt for choice of rooftop bars ‘round these parts, so spend an afternoon (and evening, and night!) hopping between Melbourne’s best. Start yourself off at the beautiful Madame Brussels, and treat yourself to their watermelon cocktail – you won’t regret it. Trot down Swanston Street until you reach Rooftop at Curtin House, where their Pimms jugs, sangria and exquisite burgers will keep you refreshed and your stomach lined. Then finish off by jumping on the tram to Brunswick Street, where Naked for Satan’s rooftop Naked In The Sky provides an incredible sunset view, cheap jugs of craft beers and delicious pinxtos – tapas-style food. This is quite literally what dreams are made of.
#4 Explore the city by bike
Melbourne’s Bike Share system – modelled on London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ – seems criminally underused, which is a shame for such a brilliant and convenient initiative. Pick up a cycle at over 50 city locations for $2.90 per day (as long as you switch up your bike every half hour), not forgetting to grab a helmet at any 7/11 for $5, and you’re off. There are some brilliantly mapped out routes of the city by bike, as well – from the Culture Craving to the Feed Me, Retail Rejuvenation and Footy Fever routes, there’s something for everyone. Or, just jump on a track and ride until your butt can’t take it anymore!
#5 Venture out of the CBD for a coastal trek
There’s plenty happening outside the centre of Melbourne in summer, and where better to go than the Great Ocean Road? It’s easily one of Australia’s most beautiful areas, and an amazing drive through beaches and rainforests – but did you know you can walk it, too? The Great Ocean Walk provides a number of short and longer overnight walks around the 104km stretch of coastal road – or, stop off at designated campsites along the way and go the whole eight-day hog.
#6 Get your boogie shoes on with local music and dancing in the parks
It’s just a non-stop dance party down here this summer, with Melbourne’s Sunset Series – a set of free live music showcases and fun, chilled-out dance workshops like Bollywood and Go-Go inside Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens. Gather your mates, pack a picnic or sample something from the food trucks at the event and be prepared to dance the night away.
#7 Groove to some of the world’s best musicians amongst the monkeys
There’s nothing more lovely than spending an afternoon getting back to your youth at the zoo, then settling down on the grass with a picnic and some wine to watch some brilliant musicians from Australia and beyond. The program for this year’s Melbourne Zoo Twilight series features acts such as José Gonzáles, the John Butler Trio and Josh Pyke. Shows run each weekend from January to March. Tickets available here – and they’re selling fast.
#8 Go for a run – and be rewarded
In another event confusingly called the Sunset Series, here’s your chance to have a workout and then treat yo’self afterwards. Sole Motive run loads of runs around Victoria throughout the year, and the Sunset Series is an amazing way to see some of Melbourne’s most loved areas while burning those calories and watching the sun set. It’s $88 to register for all three races – or you can just do one – and run either 4 or 8km around Melbourne Zoo, Princes Park and The Tan. After you’ve run there’ll be live music, great food and a Sunset Bar to collapse onto after that final sprint.
#9 Relax on the grass with an outdoor film
Again, we’re spoilt for choice here – with two outdoor summer cinemas to fill all our desires. The Moonlight Cinema inside the beautiful Botanic Gardens will run again from early December to the end of March, where you can see films such as Spectre, Suffragette and cult classics like Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Ben & Jerry’s Openair Cinemas is a similar concept – with live music during the day and films in the evening (with FREE ice-cream…what?!). Their program includes Back To The Future, He Named Me Malala and, of course, Grease – for the best suu-uu-mmer naaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiights. Well-uh-well-uh-well-uh!
#10 Gorge yourself on wine and cheese
Another venture out of the CBD you won’t regret, So Frenchy So Chic In The Park is a wonderful day out based on the So Frenchy compilation CDs released each year. Located at the lavish Weribee Park & Mansion on January 10, bring a bunch of mates, a huge picnic and a très chic sun hat – then sit back and enjoy performances from some brilliant French and Franco-Australian artists, and wander around the food stalls sampling as much champagne, fromage and crêpes as your little tummy can possibly handle. Formidable!
#11 Get a cheap feed and a gig
Its future has been put into jeopardy recently, so why not head along to the stunning Abbotsford Convent on a summer night? Support Lentil As Anything, the pay-what-you-feel restaurant that promotes education, multicultural integration and community – and makes bloody delicious food, to be honest. After you’ve filled your belly there – and hopefully paid for it – wander a few metres away to Shadow Electric, a wing of the old convent that has been transformed into a live music venue hosting some of Australia’s brightest stars. Highlights for the summer include Liam Finn and Dan Kelly, Andras & Oscar and the Royal Funk Festival to name a few.
#12 Practice your soliloquies under the stars
There’s no time like the present to get a bit of culture up in you, and the best place to start is definitely Shakespeare Under The Stars. The Australian Shakespeare Company, who do really top-class productions every year, have a season inside the Botanic Gardens with shows for adults and families.
This year is their 28th season in the gardens, and the main event will be Shakespeare’s ‘Greatest Hits’, a play-within-a-play that’s like a huge mashup of lots of Shakespeare productions, as well as one-off performances of the stunning Godspell the musical, and an evening with showbiz legend John Wood. There’s also an annual season of the classic Wind In The Willows, which is performed around the entirety of the Botanic Gardens. (You have to walk around the park with the characters before finding out what happens next.) Super charming and such great fun for kids and big kids. Grab your tickets here.
(Lead image: St. Kilda Open Air Cinemas/Facebook)
Matilda is a British-Australian-French freelance writer. She has flat-packed IKEA furniture in London and Melbourne, and no idea what's coming next. She’s written for The Guardian, FasterLouder, mX and Grazia, and really likes hot chocolate.