Ah, midsummer. The days are long and (mostly) warm and the city moves at a leisurely pace. It’s a beer garden time of year.
Which is where we are lucky, because our fair city has more than its share of alluring garden bars.
KEEP IT CENTRAL
If Flinders Street station is part of your commute home, then the Garden State Hotel (101 Flinders Lane) can be, too. It has a capacity of more than 800, so you’re always likely to find a seat. Grab one in the leafy Garden Grill and get your hands on a menu. Evening sorted.
South of the river, your path to Flinders Street might cross Arbory (Flinders Walk). This is 150 metres of former rail line repurposed into a drinking and dining spot. There are station platforms on one side and the Yarra on the other.
Further down the river, the Boatbuilders’ Yard (23 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf) also makes the most of a Yarra-side location. Grab a deck chair and a drink and soak up the sun.
Head a bit further from town to find The Village (557 St Kilda Road), another venue that is generous in proportion and aesthetics. The garden bar is lined with tables and umbrellas, and it’s even dog friendly.
HEAD TO THE NORTH
The hipsters of the inner-north are especially blessed with outdoor spots to enjoy a craft brew.
One of the best known is the Treetops bar at Jimmy Watson’s (333 Lygon Street, Carlton). High above the spruikers of Lygon Street, this is a hidden oasis.
Around the corner, the Great Northern Inn (644 Rathdowne Street, Carlton) is a local legend. Go for the pub grub, stay for the atmosphere in the kid-friendly garden bar.
Over at the Standard Hotel (293 Fitzroy Street, Fitzroy), live music is a Sunday feature in the sprawling beer garden.
The Rainbow Hotel (27 St David Street, Fitzroy) is a bit quieter, but has its own charms. There’s an outdoor pool table and more than 100 brews to try.
A little further north, the Charles Weston Hotel (27 Weston Street, Brunswick) in the back streets of Brunswick, has a cosy courtyard and is a short hop from Jewell station.
Also worth a mention is the Union Hotel (109 Union Street, Brunswick West). Its courtyard is pleasant and leafy, but this is a no-frills kinda joint. Leave the labels at home.
TO THE SOUTH & EAST
If sea air is what you’re after, then Captain Baxter (10/18 Jacka Boulevard, St Kilda) is where it’s at. The Deck bar has resort-style lounges overlooking the beach. Nab one and channel your inner Robin Williams (Oh, captain, my captain … no?).
Closer to the city are two South Melbourne classics. The Railway (280 Ferrars Street) is all art deco inside and tiki-bar shade outside.
Around the corner is O’Connell’s (407 Coventry Street). If The Railway is pub grub, this place is gastronomic. Order a steak to enjoy with a drink in the smartly dressed outdoor area and soak up the ambience. You won’t be sorry.
Further south – quite a bit further, actually – is a treasure known mostly to locals. Doyles Bridge Hotel (1-4 Nepean Highway, Aspendale) has a prime spot on the Mordialloc Creek. Its bistro and cafe bars offer fabulous sunset views. You know you want to.
OUT OF TOWN
Designate a driver and explore further afield. Start in the suburbs with the Notting Hill Hotel (260-262 Ferntree Gully Road, Notting Hill). It’s a favourite with Monash students (especially on steak night Thursdays) and the beer garden is a cracker. It’s big and shady and there are even giant games (Jenga and Connect Four).
Raise the bar with a road trip to Portsea for polo or Pimm’s. The day won’t be complete without a stop at the Portsea Hotel (3746 Point Nepean Road), where the beer comes with a view of Portsea Pier.
If country is more your thing, then the Healesville Hotel (256 Maroondah Highway, Healesville) might be the answer. Out the back of this grand building, the beer garden has bench seats, umbrellas and a leafy outlook.
Heading west instead? In the pretty town of Trentham, the Cosmopolitan Hotel (corner High Street and Cosmo Road) is a gastronomic delight. It has an outdoor dining area shaded by century-old elms.
If your travels take you to Geelong, try Little Creatures Brewery (221 Swanston Street). It occupies part of an old woollen mill, but the wool is long gone. These days there’s food, fun and Furphys. Fab.
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