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FOOD & DRINK

The Ten Best Waterside Bars in Melbourne

Summer calls for spritzes by St Kilda Beach and a few cold ones on the banks of the Yarra.
By Ellen Seah and Concrete Playground
January 08, 2018
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The Ten Best Waterside Bars in Melbourne

Summer calls for spritzes by St Kilda Beach and a few cold ones on the banks of the Yarra.
By Ellen Seah and Concrete Playground
January 08, 2018
  shares

THE TEN BEST WATERSIDE BARS IN MELBOURNE

Summer calls for spritzes by St Kilda Beach and a few cold ones on the banks of the Yarra.

It's summer in Melbourne — and you would pity the fool who wasted these glorious days. While in winter we may huddle in dark corners, cradling a glass of wine and some form of hot comfort food, summer nights are about seasides and sunsets, cocktails and cool breezes. Whether you want to sip a spritz next to the beach or get into a bottle of something crisp on the banks of the Yarra, here are the best waterside bars to grab a cold one and settle in for a splendid summer afternoon or evening. 

  • 10

    Although it’s undeniably an irreplaceable part of Melbourne’s landscape, anyone who’s lived in Melbourne long enough to giggle at the Melbourne Star will admit the Yarra River is not our best looking stream. But perched at Arbory’s timber benches, punchy cocktail or local beer in hand, our humble waterway looks a million bucks. After opening in 2013, this has quickly become one of the city’s go-to bars — whether you’re trying to impress out-of-towners or just want to have a drink before you catch your train from Flinders Street. Plus, in summer, the bar extends onto the actual river with Arbory Afloat

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  • 9
    Sebastian Beach Grill & Bar

    In late 2018, Melbourne’s southwest scored the perfect balmy weather venue in Sebastian, a new Spanish restaurant right on Williamstown Beach. Acclaimed design studio Ewert Leaf transformed the heritage-listed seaside space into a Hamptons-style vision of white, blue and oak befitting of the waves lapping at the shore just beyond it. The venue has space for 250, complete with dining room, bistro and a sprawling shaded deck that is literally on the beach.

    The all-day menu is available from noon, with lots of snacks, small and large dishes cooked over the charcoal grill and cold smoker. Snack on pinxtos like fried mussels and pork croquettes, or dive into some sardines, house-made sausage or a whole flounder. Meats and fish are cured in-house, too, which you can get into with the kitchen’s signature charcuterie board. Patatas bravas make an appearance, thankfully, and Spanish wine, vermouth and sangria on tap will really top off your post-swim feast.
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  • 8
    Pontoon

    Pontoon is the sprawling beachfront bar downstairs from fine diner Stokehouse. Unlike the restaurant upstairs, the menu here is casual and over the counter (think of the kind of food you can eat while standing with a drink in the other hand), and puts a four-metre grill to good use. Expect a lot of seafood, wood-fired pizzas, and noms like the wood-roasted beef brisket toastie. The epic 18-metre-long bar will house a strong wine list, 18 beer taps and of course, cocktails.

    Peppered with the furniture and trimmings of local Melbourne designers, the interior has been designed by George Livissianis (the design dynamo behind recent Sydney renos of The Dolphin Hotel, The Apollo and Cho Cho San). It has a casual layout and a mixture of warm, natural materials (think wood, leather and cane) offset by concrete and brick.

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  • 7
    Ponyfish Island

    If your proximity to water is going to be proportional to your nighttime enjoyment, Ponyfish Island is your bar. Built directly on the Yarra under one of Melbourne’s busiest pedestrian bridges, this brightly themed bar creates an endearing alcove away from the flurry of the city above. Besides from the best view of the city’s skyline, you can eat up some cheese plates, nachos and toasties alongside a cold beer or cocktail.

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  • 6

    The Boatbuilders Yard is always busy because it has some of the best outdoor seating in Melbourne. Tables and deck chairs are cleverly placed along the Yarra and an openair indoor-outdoor seating plan means it’s one of the best places to have a summer tipple. Drinks are a mix of sparkling, whites, reds, spirits and frothies. Peckish drinkers can devour a beer-friendly menu of pizzas, burgers, salads or charcuterie boards. 

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  • 5
    The Baths Middle Brighton

    For the romantic bon vivants amongst us, it doesn’t get much better than eating a seafood platter looking out across the sea as the sun sets. So it’s surprising, perhaps, that there are very few places in Melbourne that offer stunning floor-to-ceiling vistas and food of a similarly high calibre. Hence, The Baths at Middle Brighton is something of a little-known gem. The art deco building and the panoramic bay views it affords have been used as inspiration to transform the space; the materials and colours used were all picked to reflect and complement the beautiful surroundings.

    You can come not only for dinner with a view, but also for breakfast, a coffee, or perhaps a drink on the deck as the sun goes down across the water. In summer, the bar is doing $10 Aperol spritzes from 12–8pm on weekends.

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  • 4

    Hamer Hall’s all-day Italian cantina is the perfect spot to get your carbs and cold ones in one gloriously unpretentious sitting. Located above the madness of the pedestrian stream, Fatto looks out over the Yarra. Its drinks menu tailored around quintessential Italian drinks, so expect lots of spritzes and Italian wines, from Tuscany to Alto Adige and Puglia to Piedmont. Plus, happy hour runs from 4–6pm every day of the week, making it just $9 for classic Italian cocktails, $7 for wine and $5 for beer.

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  • 3
    The Boathouse

    Sitting along the Maribyrnong River, The Boathouse is a local institution. Unpretentious wooden tables, outdoor chairs and shady hanging trees make The Boathouse one of the best places for a summer drink in Melbourne’s northwest. The menu is simple, filled with pizzas and burgers, and a brief selection of beers and $10 glasses of Victorian wine.

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  • 2

    Six years after initially opening its doors, and nearly six months after closing for renovations, Captain Baxter is back slinging lunch, dinner and drinks at the St Kilda Sea Baths. Everything about the beachside restaurant and bar has had a facelift, from the menu to the decor — and with the latter taking inspiration from 20s-style tropical beach bungalows, it’s vying to become your next summer hangout. Inside, Captain Baxter is lighter and brighter. Thanks to a new retractable roof, on a sunny day, the venue means that literally. And, it wouldn’t be a beachside spot without cocktails, such as the Pampelle Spritz or the Captains Rum Punch. A small wine list is also available, focusing on quality over quantity.

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  • 1

    The circular bar at Waterslide glows, but it’s the open deck that affords views of the Yarra below. The Southbank bar is pretty luxe — it has reflective black tiles, pale carpet and an impressive drinks pyramid. But you’re going here for the views and a drink on the deck. Head in on Tuesday nights for tw0-for-one cocktails, or $4 wines and pots from 4–7pm on Fridays. 

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