If you want to discover what the cool kids are up to these days, spend some time in Darebin, where the bars, cafes and shopping are beyond compare.
It was always going to happen. A couple of decades ago the tribe of people now referred to as hipsters wouldn’t have travelled this far north of Melbourne’s CBD. But since its boundaries actually begin just 4km away, there was never a chance that Darebin’s suburbs would go unnoticed for very long.
Starting at Northcote and spreading out to Reservoir and Macleod, the City of Darebin contains some of Melbourne’s hottest pockets. Plus, it’s situated on one of the city’s only hills, giving parts of Northcote some of the best views in the metropolitan area. There’s a good reason anyone keen to watch the fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but would prefer not to try their luck on the banks of the Yarra, heads to Ruckers Hill.
During the day, you could find yourself strolling with others along High Street, gazing into the windows of cute boutiques, or filling up a bag of goodies and heading to somewhere like All Nations Park, with its playgrounds and public art, for an impromptu picnic. Don’t forget to drop into Preston Market, where you can stock up on fresh produce or buy the work of emerging designers at PAM Lane.
While everyone assumes the main obsession around here is brunch and where to find the best one — for the record, Code Black Coffee and Pearl Oyster Espresso are hard to beat — there’s also a strong cultural element. Hidden away off the main street in Thornbury is the Islamic Museum of Australia, a small but beautiful, and thoroughly informative, institution whose charter is to foster understanding and awareness between diverse communities. In Preston, view an array of performances in different styles at the Darebin Arts & Entertainment Centre, or head to Palace Westgarth, at the bottom of the Northcote hill, to watch an arthouse or independent movie.
When all is said and done, though, where Darebin really excels is in the social realm. These are suburbs where people come together to catch up. They gather at cafes for coffee (or golden lattes), make bookings for dinners — both casual and to celebrate special occasions — or come together at bars and microbreweries to catch up over a drink. Food trucks have made their mark, and now venues like Welcome to Thornbury and The Food Truck Park combine permanent bars with beer gardens and food from a revolving stream of vendors.
This is also where some of Australia’s brightest musical talents live and create. They collaborate, record in local studios and start their own mini festivals to take their music to the people. But in the evening, they — as well as their contemporaries from interstate and overseas — can be found playing in some of Darebin’s excellent venues. From the fading grandeur of Thornbury Theatre to the always-busy band room at the Northcote Social Club, these are some of the city’s most intimate and interesting venues. You may not see a chart topper, but you could definitely be watching the next big thing.