Melbourne’s Sun-Worshipping Saint
By Alison Brick
I had heard what a great place St. Kilda was for backpackers in summer. Cheap. Great nightlife. Tons of other backpackers. A hot spot for Easter? It’s not exactly the first place that comes to mind for Easter egg hunts and solemn church services. But this beach suburb, southeast of Melbourne, is an unexpected Easter treat for kids, couples, and single backpackers.
It’s a long, rather thin stretch of sand that awaits the downtown refugee about fifteen minutes away by tram. If it weren’t off-season, the beach would be an entire attraction in itself. The autumn, although unseasonably sunny, brings people ashore in waves of their own – first
to the sand, then the lower esplanade and the bike path, then the grassy bank, further inland to the children’s playground and Coney Island-like Luna Park, to the upper esplanade filled with the Sunday market, lapping outwards and finally, to cafes and shopping.
The easy life of St. Kilda means there’s a vice for everyone. As an offshoot of Melbourne that has flip-flopped in public acceptance – from favor to disgust because of prostitution and drugs, back to favor once again – St. Kilda can be appreciated for both its turnaround and bi-polar population, successfully accommodating both backpackers at a pub and trendies at a high-brow cafe.
Take a seat and watch. See the ten-year-old girl struggling on her roller skates with her family following behind? See the uni boys spontaneously starting up a rugby match? See the eccentric, middle-aged man carefully smoothing a five-foot border in the sand around his towel? Don’t forget that it’s a beach town – water may turn frigid and kids may move indoors to swim in St. Kilda’s Sea Baths, but it’s always the season for people watching.
It’s accessible to everyone, even on a holiday. In the U.S., where the holiday weekend doesn’t stretch as far as in Australia (two days compared to four) stores are closed in honor of the holiday – guaranteed. In Australia, Good Friday seems to be the most revered day of the weekend when everything is shut, but Sunday is a normal day – good news for those using the day to worship the fine shopping and dining.
You almost forget it’s Easter. There are no Easter bonnets in sight, only baseball caps. No bounding bunnies, only squirming fish caught by fishermen off the pier. The only signs of a traditional holiday are the hot cross buns in the cake shop block on palm-lined Acland Road, and the literal signs in skywriting (“Jesus Lives,” “Jesus Saves,” “Jesus [heart] U”) that Australia seems to favor on special occasions. I almost thought we were witnessing a true Easter miracle when an eager boy recognized the spelling in the white trails overhead and happily yelled out, “There’s Jesus!”
Indulging in St. Kilda in order to forget Easter is hardly the point. As I squint from the sun glinting off the water, feel the rush of adrenaline from a ride on the wooden roller coaster, take a meditative sip of latte, I can see how it is a holiday. Nobody’s worrying about tomorrow being a Monday. Nobody’s thinking about house repairs or chores. It’s about family, friends, renewal and enjoying what’s important.
That makes a great Easter in St. Kilda.