[Sept. 13, 2015] Today was a beautiful day in the city of Melbourne. The first truly warm day after July and August turned out to be two extremely cold winter months for this part of the planet.
In fact, today’s temperatures felt so nice, [25°C], it would make one think that winter is over and spring might be skipped this year.
The result? Lots of happy and colourful people out and about. A sight I love to see.
Nothing in the world makes me happier than to be outside enjoying the sun. Or I should say, enjoying life while being in the sun.
And that brings me to a thought that crossed my mind this morning.
I was sitting on a Melbourne tram, staring into oblivion at first, but soon enough flashing an ear-to-ear smile to anyone and everyone as a thank you note for the mere presence of the sun, when suddenly I realised there is something I am really good at.
Over the years, usually living on less than royal salaries [the understatement of the century], I’ve gotten pretty good at finding all sorts of fun things that you can do for FREE. In fact, I have discovered some sort of free entertainment in each and every city I have ever visited or lived in, even those with the highest cost of living, the poorest infrastructures, or the most …. reputation for being boring.
Granted, some cities score significantly higher than others on the “Fun-For-Free” scale, but that does not mean there is no free fun to be found!
Sometimes, you just have to know where to look. Or how to look. Use your imagination a little. 🙂
“That’s right!” I told myself, “You really kick *ss at NOT spending money!”
Ha! How is that for a talent?
I can tell you that it usually comes in very damn-well handy. Especially, when you love to go out and do things, but your wallet (temporarily) doesn’t allow you to splurge on fancy dinners, movie nights, theater shows, sports matches, or whatever other form of costly entertainment. And even if the budget isn’t tight, I am a firm believer of the fact that fun should not always come with a price tag.
So as I was having my morning epiphany, I came up with the idea of turning my cheap-o experiences from all around the world into a series of blog posts on fun free stuff, activities, and sights in the most diverse of locations or genres. Fun For Free.
If you are one of those people who have a hard time figuring out how to entertain themselves on a low budget, I recommend you keep reading. You’ll see that here is absolutely no reason to lock yourself up at home if you’re low on cash flow. You too can benefit from my stinginess! 😉
Starting now, I would like to show you how.
On the “menu” today? St. Kilda: a southern suburb of Melbourne.
I couldn’t have asked for a better location to kick off this new blogging series. What an amazing place to free-ride!
1. Window shop along Carlisle, Fitzroy, or Acland St
Acland St was one of the first streets of St Kilda around the mid 19th century, and still has what it takes to draw the crowds today. Just a short walk from the beach, running north to south across St Kilda, and home to many amazing cake shops (!), coffee houses, and popular restaurants, offering their guests all sorts of different cuisines, it’s not hard to imagine what drives its popularity among locals and visitors.
Alternatively, St. Kilda houses a large number of cute boutiques, art galleries, and recycle stores on (or just off of) Fitzroy and Carlisle St. Don’t you just love to look at paintings, sculptures, furniture, or other curiosities you really don’t need or would never be able to afford? I know I do!
Let your eyes roam free, feed your own creativity, and sniff those delicious smells.
Just make sure to withstand the temptation to go inside… or it will cost you! 😉
2. Please the history and architecture nerd in you
[“I know you’re in there!”]
This one is for history lovers and architecture connoisseurs. I will not pretend to be an expert on either one of these topics, but I do like taking pretty pictures, so here’s a few tips from a layman.
St. Kilda boasts a number of interesting photo opportunities. Be sure to check out Town Hall, the National Theatre, the Esplanade Hotel, the funny yet creepy (!) entrance to the historic  amusement park “Luna Park”, and the majestic facade of one of Melbourne’s oldest theatres, the Palais Theatre (the rest of the building is somewhat dilapidated, but currently under renovation).
3. Relax in the St Kilda Botanical Gardens
The St Kilda Botanical Gardens are located between Blessington, Tennyson, Dickens, and Herbert Street. Once you set foot in this beautifully landscaped park, you’d forget for a moment that you are standing in the bustling metropolis of Melbourne. A great location for spending quality time with your little ones, or playing catch with some of your guy friends, while your little ones are testing the – fortunately shallow – waters of the pond.
[I couldn’t keep my eyes off a little girl who kept leaning over the edge dangerously in an attempt to touch the water, holding my breath as I imagined her tumbling into the pond, until I realised that it was only about 20 cm deep.]
4. Admire the artists displaying their creations on the Sunday Market
St Kilda’s Sunday Market, showcasing a wide variety of expressive creativity, is a popular sight among Melbournians and tourists alike. As a fan of outdoor markets, I’d say it is definitely worth taking a stroll along the Esplanade stalls. Clothing, drawings, glass art, handbags, paintings, candles in the shape of popular desserts, or everyday cutlery turned into jewelry. You name it, they’ve made it.
5. Soak up the sun on St Kilda Beach
I don’t think this point really needs any explanation. Isn’t she a beauty?
Come to think of it, I do have one tip for potential visitors. Better get your bottom down here before the summer season floods St Kilda Beach with endless packs of sun-sand-and-sea-seeking tourists!
6. Slowly stroll down St Kilda Pier (and spot some penguins!)
St Kilda Pier offers its visitors a scenic view on the beach, the ocean, and the city of Melbourne (see next point). Nicely decorated with a white balustrade and retro looking street lanterns leading all the way up to the historic St Kilda Pavilion (1904), the pier offers beach goers a pretty picture in return.
And did you know that the pier continues behind the pavilion in the form of a gravel path surrounded by huge rocks? Not only a great place to let the kid in you out to play, but the St Kilda breakwater actually houses a unique and protected Little Penguin colony! Earthcare St. Kilda Inc has been taking care of our little furry friends since the 1970s. If you love penguins as much as I do, visit their website for more information or to make a donation.
Better yet, go out there and spot some penguins yourself! As luck will have it, we are in the middle of the breeding season [incubation tends to start end of September – beginning October], so if you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of a Little Penguin’s mating dance or a pair of cheeky birds getting down to ‘business’. I promise you, never a dull moment in a penguin colony.
There, I said it. Penguin spotting makes for great entertainment. Completely free!
7. Enjoy the spectacular view of Melbourne’s skyline
As quickly mentioned in the previous point, St Kilda Pier offers a magnificent view on the skyline of Melbourne.
I am not sure if it is the calm that comes over me when staring at sailboats ever so slightly wobbling on the waves in a harbour [or marina], the pretty and predominantly blue colour of this panoramic, or the stark contrast in shape and size between ocean and skyscraper, but I love to take it all in. Let the world come to a halt for a minute and enjoy the view.
[If you do happen to have a few dollars to spare, I recommend having a coffee or lunch on the terrace of the St Kilda Kiosk / Little Blue restaurant on the Pier. What a great spot to soak up the sun!]
8. Picture yourself on Sunset Blvd in the palm tree-lined Catani Gardens
If for some reason you are not much of a beach person – or you have already had your sun and sand quota for the day – the St Kilda shore offers a number of great parks to hang around, have a picnic, or hike about. The Catani Gardens struck me as particularly pretty, with its long line of palm trees making me feel like somehow I had taken a turn for Beverly Hills!
[About the hiking, if you are up for it, I very much recommend walking all the way back to the CBD through Albert Park. Too picture perfect to be true!]
9. Bike along the beautiful shore
Looking for some active fun instead? Sunbathing or ‘sitting around’ not your cup of tea? Not to worry.
St Kilda has a great network of well-maintained bicycle paths, so you can also bike your way along the shore!
10. Play ball [whichever sport you like] in the southern stretch of Albert Park
Finally, if you are into practising ball sports or you are just looking for some more open space, you might want to consider going to the southern stretch of Albert Park. Bring your whole team if you like! At the very north-eastern end of St Kilda, this enormous stretch of grassland will lend itself for any type of outdoor activity!