Running right through the heart of Melbourne, the Yarra (meaning ‘ever flowing’) is the central vein of the city that we often tend to neglect. Whether it’s because we’re too busy crossing it to enjoy it – or perhaps we’re just a little embarrassed – we often forget that this snaking, murky river is the bloodline of our city. So grab a helmet or simply amble along the riverside with an itinerary that’s sure to help you get in touch with the Yarra.
First things first: take a bike (or put on your walking shoes) and get to the Yarra. Follow the river around from Abbotsford, connect to its banks from South Yarra, or catch the train into Flinders Street to hop onto the trail. If you don’t have your own two-wheeler you can borrow one from Rentabike, located just beneath Fed Square.
Helmet on, the river breeze on your face, it’s time to pedal along the well-trodden Capital City Trail in pursuit of breakfast. The perfect riders’ pit stop, Kanteen is nestled right along the river in Como Reserve, about four kilometres from the city. Choose a seat either outdoors or inside and indulge in a well-deserved coffee and something to eat. The inventive menu makes it a difficult decision, but it’s hard to go past the black sticky rice or the Spanish baked eggs with goat’s cheese and chorizo.
If you feel like working off that breakfast, get back on your bike and leisurely continue down the Capital City Trail towards Burnley. Either do a loop around the university campus or, if you’re really keen, continue all the way up to Abbotsford Convent (in which case, a snack from the Convent Bakery may well be necessary).
Heading back southside, with legs a little weary, drop into the corner store/café, Lawson Grove Shop. Just a slight detour from the cycling track, Lawson Grove is akin to a friendly neighbour inviting you in for tea. Stop by and grab a takeaway salad or frittata for lunch, or try one of their delectable homemade cakes and make for the Royal Botanic Gardens. Find a nice patch of grass to read a book, watch the perpetual stream of runners doing laps of the Tan, or grab a spot right up on the riverbank and take in a serene view of the city.
Rested and refuelled, head back into the city for an afternoon of art. Ditch the bike (either return it or lock it up) and spend a couple of hours pondering over the illusory photographs of Thomas Demand at the National Gallery of Victoria or mesmerising paintings of Radiance: The Neo-Impressionists. Across the road at Federation Square, the NGV Australia: Ian Potter Centre is exhibiting the incredible photographs of Jeff Wall until March 17.
If all this physical activity and intellectual exertion has left you starving for a feed, head down to the only thing Mediterranean about the Yarra — Shed 5. Head chef Vas Donoudis has created a modern Greek menu that is alluring, mouth-watering and anything but cliché. The selection of starters such as olives, saganaki, dips and seafood is enough to get excited about, but after all that cycling, the slow roasted lamb neck or Bannockburn half-chicken might be more appropriate. The dessert menu is also not to be ignored – if you can fit it in.
Once you’ve pulled yourself out of your feta coma, stroll back up to Southbank and finish the night off with the quintessential Yarra activity – a drink at Ponyfish Island. Located under the Yarra Pedestrian Bridge, Ponyfish is the closest you can get to the water’s edge and is a favourite for those either starting or finishing up their night. Try to get a bar stool right up against the river and watch the city lights reflect off that mysterious brown body of water that is the Yarra.
150 Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra
(03) 9827 0488
Mon to Sat 7am–4pm
Lawson Grove Shop
1 Lawson Grove, South Yarra
(03) 9866 3640
Mon to Fri 7.30am–5.30pm
Sat & Sun 8am–6pm
180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
(03) 8620 2222
Mon, Wed to Sun 10am–5pm
NGV Australia: Ian Potter Centre
Federation Square, Melbourne
(03) 8620 2222
Tues to Sun 10am–5pm
37 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf
(03) 9686 1122
Wed to Sat noon–4pm, 6pm–11.30pm
Yarra Pedestrian Bridge, Southbank
0426 501 857