If there’s one thing you should know about my trip to Australia so far, it’s this: I love Melbourne. So much so that I stuck around for over a month longer than I’d planned, suffering both increasing cold (winter is decidedly not my thing) and diminishing funds (I’m looking at you, brunch!). As the de facto cultural, foodie and sport heart of Australia, Melbourne has heaps of things to do. In fact, save for our Great Ocean Road trip, Yarra Valley wine tour and a couple of short trips to Torquay, I hardly made it out of the city during my four months living there — and I still have a list of places to visit!
Hands down, one of my favorite parts of living in Melbourne was exploring its different neighborhoods, all of which have completely distinct vibes. While I left my heart in St. Kilda, my home base wasn’t the only neighborhood I fell for. One of my favorites is Brunswick, a trendy neighborhood I didn’t really start getting to know until my last week in Melbourne. Oh, to think of what could have been, Brunswick! We didn’t have much time together, but it sure was glorious while it lasted. Here are five of my favorite ways to spend a day out and about in this up and coming neighborhood.
1. Explore Sydney and Lygon Streets.
Brunswick’s main attraction, Sydney Street is one of Melbourne’s many hipster/foodie enclaves. There are so many cafes, restaurants, shops and bars along Sydney that you could easily pass a solid afternoon wandering this slice of Brunswick alone. Personally, having headed to Sydney for one destination in particular (more on that below), I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this street has to offer. And you know what? While Sydney Street bars like The Penny Black and Howler are high on my must-do list next time I end up in Brunswick, I actually found myself captivated by the less popular Lygon Street. From little cafes with Starburst-bright patio furniture to lush garden nurseries and curious secondhand stores, all of the storefronts we passed were so freaking cute I could hardly help myself.
Even if you’re not feeling into spending money on food or shopping, walking around Sydney and Lygon Streets is pretty lovely. I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of Melbourne’s contrasting Victorian architecture and bold graffiti, and in this regard Brunswick will not disappoint.
2. Get some custom-fit jeans at Dejour.
So, that certain reason I made the trip to Sydney Street? Jeans. Beautiful made-in-Australia, custom-fit, relatively cheap jeans. Don’t let that unassuming storefront fool you — this place is kind of a big deal. In fact, within twenty minutes of our showing up on a Tuesday morning, the shop got so busy they had to start closing for intervals throughout the day. On a Tuesday morning!
This is how it works: you sift through Dejour’s stacks upon stacks of jeans to find the style and color you want (and let me tell you, there are so many to choose from!), wait in line to try them on, have them marked for tailoring, pay for your purchases and come back from anywhere between fifteen minutes and a few hours later to pick them up on the same day. Locally made, tailored-to-you jeans in one day, and for just about $50! (Give or take a few — the price varies a bit by style.) For me, the craziest part might be that Dejour Jeans has been doing this since 1989 and still, I’ve seen almost nothing like it anywhere else. I love the dark skinny jeans I bought, and I’m pretty sure they won’t be my last!
3. Have a drink (or a few!) at Temple Brewing Company.
Because if you’re waiting for your amazing new jeans to be tailored, you might as well go for a drink or two, right? Lucky for you, Brunswick boasts a local brewery, too. Located on Weston Street just off of Lygon, Temple Brewing Company is open for brews and eats Thursday nights and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon until night. I was a little bummed that the outdoor patio was closed the day we went, especially because the inside feels a little dark and industrial. Still, the seating area does back up to a large window that allows for a look straight to the stainless steel tanks and pipes of the brewery itself, making for a pretty cool view. Most importantly, of course, the beer is good — I was a big fan of the Hard Rye in particular. While we didn’t go for any food, I can vouch at least for the mouthwatering look of the menu.
4. Spend an afternoon walking around CERES.
I can’t rave about this place enough. My only regret is not finding it sooner. In hindsight, it’s kind of crazy that it took us as long to find CERES as it did, considering that the 96 tram route (our favorite, by far) provided a direct line straight from our apartment complex to CERES — that is, it’s located basically at the opposite endpoint of the tram we rode everyday. As far as I’m concerned, CERES and I were meant to be.
CERES Environment Park is a nonprofit sustainability center in Brunswick East. It’s a little outside Brunswick’s central area, but walking there along the quiet bungalow-lined side streets is a treat itself, especially if you’re lucky to be in the neighborhood on a warm, sunny day.
The sprawling grounds comprising CERES have so many unique, environment-focused projects going on that it’s hard to know where to start. Luckily, there’s a visitor’s center with a calendar of events posted directly across from the entrance to the park. Regular events include markets, gypsy jazz, yoga, meditation and bicycle repair clinics. Besides all of these, the centers also offers workshops and courses on topics ranging from Moroccan cooking and urban gardening to permaculture and beekeeping.
Classes and events aren’t the only reasons to visit CERES, though. These grounds were made for exploring. Check out the gift shop with its stacks of sustainability-centric books, the permaculture nursery, the market and organic shop, green technology demonstrations and the farm. Wander and discover. There is so much to see — and once you’ve worked up and appetite, there’s amazing food, too! The cafe here specializes in all-organic, locally sourced meals. My Indonesian eggs and housemade chai were both incredible.
In a weird way, finding CERES felt something like a homecoming for me, and I know that my friends Anna and Ethan left our visit here feeling equally inspired. It’s the closest thing I found in Melbourne to Saxapahaw, the tiny sustainability- and community-oriented town we call home back in North Carolina. I wasn’t looking for home when I visited Brunswick, but finding a cousin of it halfway in the world was both a happy surprise and call for a closer look at how I want to spend the rest of my year in Australia.
5. Treat yourself to one of the world’s best brownies.
I’m not kidding. We stumbled upon Milkwood making our way back to the tram from CERES, and while our plan was to stop in for a coffee, we lost control of ourselves a bit. A round of cappuccinos, an amazing tuna melt, a caramel bar and the best brownie I’ve ever tasted later, we were full of food babies and ready to chill out on the tram ride home. If you’re looking for some late afternoon coffee and a sweet treat at the end of a long day exploring, this is the place to stop — and if you do, just know you’ll be cheating yourself if you say no to that fudgy, raspberry-cratered brownie…
At the end of our second day trip around Brunswick, the sky even surprised us with a show. The double rainbow that emerged with the sun after a short, cold rain was among the best I’ve seen — a full-on double arc reaching towards central Melbourne. In Brunswick, the magic just keeps coming.