Areas and suburbs in Melbourne
As an expat choosing accommodation in Melbourne, the area and suburb in which one makes a home is often an important driving force in the way they live their lives. It becomes one's immediate community and the factor that can determine where children will receive an education, or what restaurants and shopping options are available most often.
When choosing housing in Melbourne, a good starting point is to consider the kind of lifestyle one is looking for: convenient city living, beachside sun and sand, family-oriented comfort or an alternative, lively area. In diverse Melbourne, this can be more useful than choosing from the usual ‘north, south, east or west’ city divisions – although locals are likely to favour their ‘side’ of the city and say it is undoubtedly the best.
City-dweller areas in Melbourne
Docklands is a very new suburb comprised of architecturally stunning apartment buildings that tend to be relatively expensive to rent or buy. This is primarily a suburb for young professional singles and couples; largely catering to the high-flying business types who work late in the Central Business District and need a home close by, complete with a gym and all mod cons on site. The area is within walking distance or a short tram trip to anywhere in the city centre and makes up for its slightly soulless steel-and-concrete style with some sensational water views and optimum convenience.
Port Melbourne is a fairly recently renovated suburb that offers inner-city bayside living for the executive set looking for class and convenience. One of the more expensive suburbs in Melbourne, it attracts a lot of young couples and singles who find that the apartment lifestyle affords a convenience that’s well worth the rental cost. Residents can walk or take easy public transport to almost anywhere in the city area, but there’s really no need – everything a person could possibly want is right here in Port Melbourne. If the thought of cocktails on the balcony while gazing over the water views on a summer evening is appealing, then the Port Melbourne lifestyle will be perfect.
Family-friendly areas in Melbourne
Although it lies only 4 miles (6km) from the city centre, Hawthorn has a distinctly refined suburban feel to it. It's a stunning leafy suburb with plenty of large Victorian homes and as it's a university suburb (hosting the main Swinburne University campus) it also has some less expensive housing and shopping options too. It's a clean-looking suburb, with some edgy elements void of any hint of grunge.
A leafy bayside town about 10 miles (16km) from the city, Sandringham has a relaxed, friendly, family feeling tempered by a touch of prestige. The houses are often gorgeous examples of fine old architecture and lavish layouts that the last century demanded. Expats don’t have to leave the suburb for great food, and the handy little shopping village looks like it’s been lifted from a country town. Plenty of fine schools are nearby, so it’s a good place to set up house for those who have school-aged children.
About 5 miles (8km) from the city centre, Coburg is a suburb with a lot to offer. Once upon a time, Coburg was shunned for being an industrial area, but now only light industry remains and it has become a popular suburb for professionals and families. Coburg boasts an impressive array of architecture, from Victorian and Edwardian houses through to trendy apartments, but the area is best known for its friendly multicultural vibe and collection of excellent Middle Eastern and European shops and restaurants. Housing and rental prices are affordable compared with many other suburbs this close to the city.
Beachside living in Melbourne
On any sunny summer’s evening in Williamstown it feels like everyone’s on holiday; the beachside park fills with locals and nearby residents, all out to make the most of the long days. This seaside suburb is just 20 to 30 minutes southwest of the city by train, but it feels like the urban sprawl has been left far behind.
Historic buildings and impressive old homes add to the ‘country town’ feel of Williamstown and also add to the housing costs, which are quite a bit higher than the average western suburbs home. The suburb has a great family atmosphere, but the cute cafés and eateries also make it a popular area with young professionals who want to live somewhere a bit removed from the city hubbub.
To get to Altona one needs to travel past kilometres of oil refineries, which is off-putting enough to have kept housing prices low in this area. But once past the ugly industrial areas, this seaside town has a lot to offer: a burgeoning café culture, a pretty beach suitable for swimming, and a family atmosphere. Altona is sometimes still looked upon as Williamstown’s ugly sister, but it has a character and an appeal all of its own and Altona residents tend to be a bit protective of their oft-overlooked suburb.
The favoured home of many Australian sporting celebrities and a few excellent private schools, Brighton is a crisp, clean, conservative and refined suburb. Brighton is a beachside area 8 miles (11km) southeast of the city centre, well served by public transport and exceptionally safe. House prices are hefty, whether renting or buying, but Brighton residents are generally all too happy to pay to live in what is often considered one of Melbourne’s best suburbs. Those looking for lively and funky won’t find it here – but for those seeking a chic and sophisticated beachside suburb with no surprises, Brighton is one of the best options in town.
Young and hip areas in Melbourne
Well suited for singles and couples, Brunswick is an edgy but unpretentious suburb with plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars. Situated just a few miles from the city centre, Brunswick residents tend to shun cars and opt for the convenience of tram travel. Brunswick is a hive of creativity and unconventionality, which means it's sometimes gritty but never boring.
For the convenience of city living but the friendliness of suburbia, Richmond is a hard suburb to beat. Parts of Richmond are walking distance to the Central Business District, and the whole suburb is well connected by public transport to anywhere. Richmond is a large suburb filled with fantastic eateries and shopping, and it attracts a variety of residents from young professionals and small funky families to tattooed and pierced students. Occasionally, expats will have to compromise and accept that cramped quarters and impossible parking are part and parcel to the convenience and lively living available in Richmond. Still, for those who want to be in the beating multicultural heart of Melbourne, there’s no better place.
Just over 4 miles (6km) west of the city, Yarraville is part country town, part cool urban corner. With a selection of outstanding restaurants, cafés and gift stores lining the tiny, narrow streets of the central shopping area, this is a place that attracts creative types and professionals looking for a safe but funky environment. With its art deco independent cinema and a wine bar worth repeat visits, it’s easy to fall for Yarraville. The small houses and impossible parking of the central parts of the town give way to more spacious homes on the fringes, and rent is sometimes steep but still falls far short of the prices attracted by suburbs this close to the city on the east.