As the song goes, you can “get your kicks on Route 66”, but Melbourne’s trams offer more kicks than you’d think possible, all courtesy of your myki card!
Melburnians are fiercely proud of their trams, and so they should be. While other cities ripped up their tracks in the sixties, trams have operated continuously in Melbourne since 1884.
As a former, car-less Melburnian, I can vouch that trams are a sensational way of getting to the super-shopping precincts on the Chapel Street line, the hipster-dominated vistas of Brunswick Street and the cool attractions of St Kilda Beach.
But without local know-how it’s hard to figure out which route to take. So here’s the low-down on the coolest tram trips in Melbourne.
we have this tram in melbourne called the city circle tram and it has a recording of melbourne’s history playing pic.twitter.com/uvQFr0FrpB
— Sarah (@itsachipndip) February 15, 2015
Route 35 – City Circle
Let’s start with an easy one: the City Circle is an old-school wooden tram that’s free and takes you in a loop from Parliament House down Flinders Street to Docklands and back up to the amazing Carlton Gardens. Stand out sights are Parliament itself, the backdrop for countless wedding photos, and Flinders Street Station – a people watcher’s paradise, with Federation Square and Young & Jackson’s pub across the road. The cool, relatively new precinct of Docklands is perfect for a seafood lunch by the water.
Route 96 – St Kilda
St Kilda is an amazing place to live if you’re a musician, an artist, or a bohemian of any type. With Luna Park and the beach at its centre, there’s always something to do, and the slightly sleazy underbelly of St Kilda is still there if you want to do a bit of exploring. Hotels like The Esplanade – a national live music treasure – and the Prince of Wales on Fitzroy Street are must-sees; as are the cafes and bars on Acland Street, where music industry people sip their short blacks and check out each other’s Ferraris.
Route 86 – Smith Street
Taking you north to Collingwood, the 86 tram is legendary, the only tram to have an album written about its colourful passengers. Heading up Smith Street, known for its slightly louche atmosphere, the 86 takes you near the gay venues of Smith and Peel Streets, and the Copacabana, home of Latin dance. There’s an eclectic mix of cafes, bars and the odd second-hand store. At the city end you’ll find art galleries and studios hidden away in the side streets.
Route 11 – Brunswick Street
The heart of the tiny suburb of Fitzroy, Brunswick Street runs parallel to Smith Street, both geographically and culturally. It’s like Smith Street, if Smith Street had a job in graphic design and a hundred dollar haircut; a bohemian paradise where Melbourne’s first hipsters were spotted a decade ago. The 11 tram stops at the junction of Johnston and Brunswick Streets, where you’ll find the highest density of pubs, cafes and restaurants in Melbourne. Don’t forget to visit Mario’s, Fitzroy’s iconic café, its front window offers one of the best places to view the street at night.
Route 78 – Chapel Street (Sth Yarra/Prahran)
Unlike the other trams which you can catch from the CBD, the 78 leaves from Victoria Street and heads south through Richmond, cutting through the Bridge Road shopping precinct then over the hill and down to Melbourne’s upmarket entertainment centres of South Yarra and Prahran. Here you’ll find clubbing and dining, and a fashionista’s paradise in the heart of the fashion district. Get off at Toorak Road or Commercial Road and you’ll be maxing out those cards sooner than you can say, “Do you have this Jimmy Choo in fuchsia?”
Route 1 – Lygon Street and the University of Melbourne
Route 1 opens up two separate areas. Starting from the CBD, it travels up Swanston Street to Melbourne University, almost a city in itself, with its cheap eateries, student hang outs and university buildings. Stroll around the green squares fringed with cafes, or down the venerable cloisters of the old law building. Just past the university, the tram takes a sharp right into Lygon Street, home of Melbourne’s Italian community. Spruikers compete to lure you into a dozen restaurants that line the street, with varying prices (check the menu first!). While you’re there, visit Readings bookstore, then cross the street to catch a film at the Nova Cinema complex.
Melbourne’s trams are a fun way to see the city and an experience you can’t get anywhere else in Australia. Pick a route, get on board and enjoy the ride!
(Feature image: David Maciulaitis. Slider image: David Maciulaitis. Cheap flights to Melbourne image by Jorge Láscar.)