Drinking Melbourne dry

by Laura.Dixon

Laidback or lawless: no matter what your mood, there’s a bar in Melbourne to suit you

Now, I’m not saying that drinking is the only thing to do in Melbourne. But the explosion in super-cool bars in the city makes a bar crawl one of the best ways to appreciate its design heritage, friendly locals, expert mixologists and sense of fun. And better than that, there’s a place to suit your every mood.
Laidback: Donovan’s
40 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda
This beachside hangout has hosted the Minogue family in recent years and we can see why. Sit outside and enjoy the view of St Kilda’s sun, sea and sand or cosy up inside, where it’s decked out in warm colours with squashy sofas that will remind you of home. A great spot for afternoon drinking or hangover brunches.
Friendly: Hairy Canary
212 Little Collins St, CBD
This bar has been a fixture on the Melbourne bar scene for many years and it’s still a vital stop on any bar crawl. There aren’t many seats so you’ll have to make friends with your neighbours. Try their Hairy Pear cocktail – pear and vodka – and snack on freshly cooked wood-fired pizza.
High: The Red Hummingbird
First floor, 246 Russell St, CBD
It’s the antithesis of the typical Melbourne basement bar: the Red Hummingbird is up on the roof, with hanging wicker chairs that look a bit like big bird nests, silk drapes, big stone buddhas and a Balinese feel. It’s opulent but not pretentious – even if, like all the best Melbourne bars, it doesn’t have a sign outside. If you’re peckish, check out the birdseed menu for nibbles like bread and olives and grissini.
Shaken but not stirred: The Market Lane Bar
Rialto Hotel, 495 Collins St, CBD
The Rialto Hotel reopened at the start of 2009 after an 18-month refurb, and is the city’s newest luxury hotel. The Market Lane Bar, on the lobby floor, has a list of over 100 martinis to choose from. Stumble in here for a few before heading out on to prime cocktail territory on Little Collins Street.
Edgy: Misty
3 Hosier Lane, CBD
Turn up in a suit, or wearing a Sloaney pashmina and you’re gonna feel out of place here. This trendy bar, down graffiti-strewn Hosier Lane, is small but perfectly formed, with friendly bar staff, indie music and a lot of Formica table tops. It’s one for the arty, indie crowd, where dressing down is better than dressing up.
Classy: Match Bar and Grill
QV Building, 249 Little Lonsdale St, CBD
The newest Match bar in the world brings together the legendary Cosmopolitan maker Dale DeGroff and Jamie Oliver’s former sommelier and Melbourne boy Matt Skinner to create surely some of the best drinks in the world. Sip them under the huge chandeliers and check out the retro flyers on the wall.
Retro: White Rabbit Record Bar
176 Bellair St, Kensington
The White Rabbit Record Bar is one of the city’s newest retro bars, run by a group of die-hard vinyl junkies. Expect soulful jazz, Brazilian, Latin, break beat and house from the DJs, and 1960s styling in the bar and garden at the back. Tony Starr’s Kitten Club (267 Little Collins St) is another retro hot spot, reminiscent of an old lounge bar.
Lawless: The Gin Palace
190 Little Collins St, CBD
Like an old fashioned speakeasy, The Gin Palace is hard to track down until you look at the pavement and see the lights in the concrete slabs leading you there. Once inside, the waistcoated waiters will take your order as bankers recline on chaise longues in the basement bar, comparing the relative merits of the cocktails.
Grungey: The Esplanade Hotel
11 Upper Esplanade, St Kilda
Just as grunge is giving it another go in 2009, at the Espy, it never went away. This iconic music venue has hosted the best of the best in the past and continues to do so today. Real rockers shouldn’t miss it or its sticky floors. Around the corner the Prince of Wales Hotel also hosts cutting edge new acts, including recently CSS and the Ting Tings.


The Urban in St Kilda is well placed for getting into the city. Or for something closer to the centre, The Langham Melbourne is under ten minutes away on the Southbank, in easy reach of the CBD.


Austravel offer packages to Melbourne including return flights, hotels, car hire and more.



I've been writing about travel for nearly ten years, and currently work as a freelance travel writer for glossy women's magazines, Sunday supplements and national newspapers. My specialist subjects are city breaks, design, culture, modern art and architecture, quirky travel, and anything involving seeing animals in the wild. I've also got a thing about 'living cities' - I'm interested in what makes a city feel alive and what's going on right now, rather than dusty museums and ancient monuments. And I've written and edited over twenty travel guides. Favourite places - My best ever holiday was in Tokyo - that's everything I love about travel in one city: weird experiences, strange food, lovely people and ultra modern everything. I also love Reykjavik, India, Sri Lanka, Melbourne, Hong Kong and my home town, Manchester.