It has all the hallmarks of a major international attraction: water views, fine-diners, markets, bars, and even free transport thanks to its location in Melbourne’s free tram zone. But until recently, Docklands’ lures have largely remained hidden in plain sight. A major new development – District Docklands – is going to change that. From floating barbeques, to shopping giants and artist markets, here’s our guide to the young suburb’s attractions, both established and new.

Eat and drink
A prime dining lure in Docklands since opening in 2014, Bar Nacional is a Spanish-influenced oasis nestled on Collins Street. It’s s pintxos bar offering contemporary dishes including sardines with grilled bread; a chorizo hot dog; Josper-roasted lamb ribs with a Pedro Ximinez glaze; and a trio of Spanish-inflected desserts. It also has a huge charcuterie selection, including a bellota puro (a type of Iberico ham) cured for 36 months that tastes like melted acorns. That array is bolstered by beer, sangria, and a list of Spanish and Australian wines managed by Jeff Salt (Vue de Monde, Circa the Prince).

Johnny Di Francesco’s 90 Secondi, based at the foot of Etihad Stadium, has a custom-made wood-fire pizza oven shipped from Napoli. It offers Neapolitan pizza staples as well as deep-fried zucchini flowers, pan-fried octopus, char-grilled lamb ribs and fresh tomato salads with bocconcini. There’s also a selection of desserts, including vanilla and strawberry-infused panna cotta. And a lengthy wine list.

Rubbing shoulders with those established fine-diners this summer is a newcomer: The Food Truck Park. A rotating line-up of some of Melbourne’s most popular food trucks, the new attraction in District Docklands will offer a mix of indoor and outdoor dining among surrounding street art every Friday during summer.

Coffee is also well represented at Docklands. Halyard Coffee on Bourke Street has a serious piece of kit, its Spirit Triplette Espresso machine and offers filtered coffee, rotating single origins, sweets and milkshakes. Long Shot on Collins offers specialty coffee by St Ali along with breads, pastries, bottled fermented sodas, flavoured milks, gourmet sandwiches and house-made salads. Story Coffee & Foodstore from Peter Frangoulis (Dukes) pairs Dukes Espresso and Ross House blends with paninis, toasties and its ever-popular honey-candied bacon roll.

Docklands has long been a lure for shoppers thanks to its tight collection of retail big names. That will expand with the introduction of Swedish fashion giant H&M, which will appear as part of a $150 million redevelopment of the area. H&M will rub shoulders with General Pants Co., Platypus, Canterbury, Hype, and Miniso – the chic alternative to Daiso – and its array of simple Japanese products.

At the other end of the scale, the Blender Night Markets are the centrepiece of a new arts precinct. Now in its fifth year, the collective features a huge range of locally made crafts, food, and fashion, as well as live music and one-off performances.

Library on the Dock takes full advantage of its positioning on the water offering glittering views of the surrounding area. Inside the zero-carbon-footprint building is a multipurpose wonderland. Alongside the modern library features such as free wi-fi, meeting rooms, and a cafe, the building features music studios, 3D printers and even table tennis.

Feel like having a barbeque in the area but all the stations are full? No problem. Take to the water on an Aqua Donut. A circular vessel with a gas-bottle barbeque in its centre, the Aqua Donut can seat 10 friends and features LED lights and a shade umbrella. Cutlery, plates, and barbeque are all supplied, you just need to bring food and drinks.

Dialogue in the Dark is a social enterprise located on Star Crescent, Docklands, and is run in partnership with Guide Dogs Australia. Guests are lead through pitch-black spaces designed to sound like Melbourne, allowing everyday experiences to take on new meaning. It’s as much art as it is an educational experience.

While Blender Studios is bringing its night markets to a whole wing of District Docklands every Friday this summer, it will also offer tours of its studio on Wharf Street. And Hoyts Cinema will soon be opening eight screens, while the team that brought you mini-golf and cocktail hybrid Holey Moley are working on a new leisure offering.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with District Docklands.