If it’s the bay you’re heading for, then St Kilda is the obvious destination. The former seaside resort has an air of shabby gentility, which enhances its current schizophrenic reputation as a sophisticated yet seedy suburb with a raging nightlife. Running from St Kilda Road down to the Esplanade, Fitzroy Street is Melbourne’s red-light district – usually pretty tame, though late at night not a comfortable place for women alone – and epitomizes this split personality, since it’s lined with dozens of cafés and bars. On weekend nights these and others throughout St Kilda are filled to overflowing with a style-conscious but fun crowd. During the day there’s a very different feel, especially on Acland Street, with its wonderful continental cake shops and bakeries. On Sunday, the Esplanade Arts and Craft Market lines the waterfront on Upper Esplanade. Going there is part of the ritual that includes taking a look at the beach, feeding your face, ambling into a few shops and listening to a busker.
The beachfront is a popular weekend promenade year-round, with separate cycling and walking paths stretching down to Elwood and Brighton, and a long pier. Near the base of the pier is the botched redevelopment of a historic site, the St Kilda Sea Baths, which dates back to 1931, a mix of shopping complex and fitness centre with a kitsch Moorish twist.