If you are anything like me, you have already thought about where you want to go for your next vacation, and the vacation after that, and the vacation after that. The next time you are planning a trip, don’t forget about the land down under and a small beach town in the city of Melbourne.
Situated about 6 km south of Melbourne’s central business district lies a small beach town like no other. It once was once the city’s red light district, bustling with prostitutes and low-cost rooming houses. Now, it’s a beautiful backpacking oasis, loaded with artistic charm and vestiges of its seedy past that make it that much more interesting. This little beach town is called St. Kilda, and it’s one of the most uniquely amazing places in the world.
A few weeks ago, I found myself back in St. Kilda, after having lived there another time in my life years before. School testing, cheap flights, and summer in Australia meant it was time to have a small holiday. During my first trip here in 2009, St. Kilda was supposed to be a “stopover city” for me during my travels around Australia but an instant love affair with the city kept me here for two years.
I am back, strolling down Acland Street, the town’s main drag, and I can feel the excitement in the air once again. Delicious bakeries display mounds of cakes and pastries in their windows as a buttery gust of wind takes me aback. Restaurants everywhere are jammed with people outside sipping coffee enjoying the cool, sea breeze. Bars are full of young people having an afternoon pint, while old classic trolleys lumber by. Art is everywhere, hanging off the roofs of buildings above spray-painted alleys. Somewhere in the distance I hear a rollercoaster beginning its descent evident by the screams of enjoyment.
I look one way and see a busker playing a steel guitar belting out classic tunes. I walk a bit farther and see an Elvis impersonator with a huge crowd around him, people spilling out of nearby restaurant to see what the commotion is all about. A man with a leopard print outfit, a huge fake beard and oversized orange glasses walks up to me pushing what looks like a portable ice cream freezer on wheels with a huge radio blaring mellow tunes. He looks at me and hands me a party popper with a large smile. I pull the string sending the confetti up into the air and with a smile of approval he resumes his sauntering gait down the busy street. That is St. Kilda in a nutshell: cool, relaxed, and different.
There is something for everyone in St. Kilda. The beautiful beach touches one of the oldest theme parks in the world, Luna Park. The Palais Theater and its beautiful art deco façade is a classic venue featuring top music performers from around the world. Countless bars and restaurants make it impossible to ever get bored eating at the same restaurant or drinking at the same pub. It is a great place to meet foreigners from all around the world while staying in one of the many hostel or hotel offerings. Locals and foreigners alike pack the beaches in the summer drinking and hanging as time slowly crawls by. Weekly festivals in the main square, outdoor movie showings, great shopping, live music, all night partying, penguins that live under the St. Kilda pier, and the famous Great Ocean Road are a few more highlights. Also, if you feel like going to the city for a day, downtown Melbourne (which was just recently named the most livable city in the world,) is only 20 minutes away by tram. It’s a wonderful place in the world and everyone should experience it at least once in their life.
There are two main ways to get to Melbourne. The First route is through Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia flying with AirAsia. Kuala Lumpur is a nice stop over city for a day where you can check out the massive Petronas towers, sample some local fare, and make a short trip to the Batu Caves where you can explore the ancient caves that are inhabited by monkeys. The other route is to fly Jetstar through the beautiful tropical city of Cairns in Northern Australia. Another great stop over city where you can check out the world famous Great Barrier Reef. If you plan sometime ahead you can find tickets on special and get a round trip for about 45,000 Yen. The best time to go is during the Australian summer which is from December to February, a nice summer escape from the harsh Japanese winter.
So, the next time you are sitting under your kotatsu, feet almost frostbitten, searching the internet for somewhere go during the cold winter, think about Australia. A perfect vacation in the sun, stunning natural beauty, amazing culture, and nice break because sometimes it’s nice to be able to just speak English for a bit, putting your brain on vacation too. St. Kilda will be waiting for you, but don’t let the boundless adventures take you hostage, for once you come here it is easy to get lost in the life.