Melbourne's laneways: Gladly off the grid

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26 July 2008
  • Hell’s KitchenCentre Place is lined with buzzing cafes, tiny eateries and eclectic shopsMistySt Jerome’s

Unplanned, but by no means unloved, Melbourne’s laneways continue to captivate.

They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are elegant, enclosed, not a bluestone out of place; others are inked with graffiti, exposed to summer haze and, to be frank, a wee bit whiffy. No matter the condition, Melbourne’s lively laneways have evolved into one of the city’s most distinctive tourist attractions.

The lanes cropped up organically. Melbourne’s surveyor Robert Hoddle made no allowances for them in 1837. However, when gold was discovered in Victoria 14 years later, the CBD swelled from 29,000 to 125,000 in 10 years. Access to deliveries and services became more important and, by 1856, the CBD was home to 80 named lanes and 112 unnamed rights of way.

Towards the end of the 19th century, lawless lanes were weighed down by prostitution, opium and gambling. Today, many have been gentrified, although a few in the vicinity of Little Bourke Street’s Chinatown retain a down-at-heel charm. The best time to explore is morning peak-hour when the office-bound shoot out of Flinders Street Station, charging north up the uncomplicated splendour of Degraves Street.

Stay

Adelphi Hotel
187 Flinders Lane.

Shop

East Of India
7 Degraves Street.
+61 439 631 699.

Rancho Notorious
6 Caledonian Lane.

Eat & Drink

Degraves Espresso Bar
23-25 Degraves Street.
+61 3 9654 1245.

Ezard
187 Flinders Lane.
+61 3 9639 6811.

Flower Drum
17 Market Lane.
+61 3 9662 3655.

Gingerboy
27-29 Crossley Street.
+61 3 9662 4200.

Hell’s Kitchen
20A Centre Place.
+61 3 9654 5755.

Meyers Place Bar
20 Meyers Place.
+61 3 9650 8609.

Misty
3-5 Hosier Lane.
+61 3 9663 9202.

MoVida
1 Hosier Lane.
+61 3 9663 3038.

Section 8
27 Tattersalls Lane.
+61 430 291 588.

St Jerome’s
7 Caledonian Lane.

Supper Inn
15 Celestial Avenue.
+61 3 9663 4759.

See & Do

Hosier Lane is Melbourne’s stencil and street art playground. Messages on walls range from the politically absurdist (“This little stencil is a slow handclap for the tabloid Tories”) to the whimsically wonderful (a signboard labelled “What makes you smile?” invites contributions from passers-by; penguins and pirates have also been noted). Art galleries don’t come any more public.

The City of Melbourne annually commissions artists to tart up drab lanes into something far more agreeable. In the past, ringing public telephones have been mounted on upper reaches of laneway walls, soapy bubbles have spilled out of drains and a four-metre statue of Robert Hoddle was erected in a dead-end lane.

774 PodTours

Walk to Art


Source: Qantas The Australian Way April 2007
Updated: July 2008

Michael Blayney

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  • Perhaps the best Melbourne laneway coffee experience appears to have missed the list: Brother Bubba Budan. Stop by on a Satuday afternoon for a "cupping", where you can taste coffees from all over the world, including (if you are lucky)Kopi Luwak, the world's most expensive beans.

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