St Kilda rocks for big and little kids
It's a big weekend for my three-year-old son. Our family trip from Sydney to Melbourne marks his first flight but already he's nonplussed.
"Are we home now?" he asks when we arrive at Tullamarine Airport.
"No mate, we're in Melbourne," I tell him.
Fortunately, staying in St Kilda will be anything but boring, even for a toddler. While my wife and I survey the restaurants, cafes and bars, Max spots his first tram.
"Daddy, what is that?"
"It's a tram. It's like a train but it travels down the middle of the road."
Ting, ting. He's hooked. It's like Thomas the Tank Engine rolling past every 10 minutes.
We climb aboard the first of many rides on the number 16 tram and Max is in heaven. Wide-eyed, he takes in St Kilda's diverse street life, the locals, the backpackers and tourists like ourselves, who are absorbing Melbourne's bohemian, bayside suburb.
My previous visits to St Kilda have always revolved around live music and eating but this stay is less rock and more rolling with my son's need to burn off plenty of energy.
Staying at the stylish Urban Hotel on Fitzroy Street means eating is always on our radar while being a stroll away from boutique shops, the beach and parks.
It's the start of winter and, fortunately for us, St Kilda sparkles in the soft sunshine, which is perfect for a ramble along the cake shops and cafes of Acland Street.
We meet up with friends we haven't seen for some time and go on a mini "cake crawl", which later morphs into an early lunch further down the street.
As we chat and eat, Max plays games on our iPhone in between eyeing off a bedazzling array of European tarts, cakes and pastries artfully displayed in the window.
Sugared up and caffeinated, it's time to walk off our indulgence and take in a few landmarks.
First up is Luna Park, and no sooner have we passed through manic Mr Moon's giant mouth when Max sights on old tram.
Here we go again. He pretends to be a tram driver and enjoys himself steering an imaginary service past the crowd to a destination of his choosing.
We head across to the beach and go for a leisurely walk along the palm-fringed foreshore, taking in the sea baths before meandering along St Kilda Pier with its sweeping views looking back to Melbourne's CBD. It's lovely. Small wonder Paul Kelly used it in his video for From St Kilda to Kings Cross.
The weekend's highlight for Max comes at the St Kilda Adventure Playground off Neptune Street. It's a funky, urban playing area crammed with cubbies, trampolines, a go-kart path, a sandpit, slides, a flying fox and a pirate ship.
I'm almost dizzy taking it all in but the kids are loving it and Max is having a ball doing laps up and back in a go-kart. Best of all, it's free.
Later, we head across to Catani Gardens next to the foreshore for more play time in the park. We savour a lovely moment and take in a salmon-hued sunset casting a beautiful light across Port Phillip Bay.
As we head back to our hotel after a busy day, Max turns to us slightly confused and asks: "Mummy, daddy, is this our different home? I like our different home."
STAYING THERE: Hotel Urban on Fitzroy Street is offering a winter warmer package with an overnight stay for $174 including a chocolate platter, bottle of red wine and complimentary access to the St Kilda Sea Baths (valid for stays between June 1 - August 31).
PLAYING THERE: St Kilda Adventure Playground opens from 11am and is free of charge. For details go to www.portphillip.vic.gov.au.
For Catani Gardens (on Beaconsfield Parade), check out stkildamelbourne.com.au.
The writer travelled as a guest of St Kilda Tourism Association