Who says the high street is dead? The trend toward urban super-size malls has been bucked in Melbourne, where discerning locals are still very much in love with their small, vibrant shopping strips, alive with a colourful and diverse range of traders.
Independent designers, shoe shops and dressmakers stand shoulder to shoulder with milliners and local jewellery-makers. Art galleries, record shops, health and eco stores, all share the sidewalk with gift shops, trendy hairdressers, homewares, fishmongers, funky florists and fruiterers, patissiers and artisan bakers. You'll find burger joints, bric-a-brac and boutiques lined up with cafes, restaurants, bars and wine merchants.
Shops come in all shapes and sizes, all standing in a row. Many are still housed in the same Victorian-era terraces, art deco milk bars and 1950s shop fronts that have always been home to local business.
Take a trip down memory lane with one of these favourite independent shopping strips.
High Street, Armadale
Gather inspired pieces for a special occasion on High Street Armadale. Shop one of Melbourne's best retail strips for designer clothes, beautiful bridal, homeware, gifts, galleries and antiques. Snap up something old at Armadale Antique Centre, something new at Obüs boutique and something blue from Bud the florist.
Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
In just one strip you'll find bars, restaurants, galleries, boutiques, vintage wares, costume hire and old-school pubs. Collect a coffee at De Clieu, eat with your eyes at Books for Cooks, touch local textiles at Spacecraft, be more beautiful at Aesop, admire candy coloured porcelain at mud, and dress to impress at NOM*D.
Smith Street, Fitzroy
Ride the #86 tram to Smith Street: a wonderland of factory outlets, local design and vintage. Shop adventure gear at macpac, dust the Danish chairs at Smith St Bazaar, check the walls at Collingwood Gallery, model Melbourne-made fashion at Lupa, and queue for a bánh mì with lunching locals at N. Lee Bakery.
Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
Check your wheels in for a tune up at Melbourne Bicycle Centre, grab a coffee and cannoli from Cavallini, drop into Southwood for locally made furniture and screen printed textiles, stroke Australian merino at Tooralie, snaffle smart gifts for little people at childplay, and if the heels fit at Cinori shoes, wear them.
High Street, Northcote
Roll down Rucker's Hill to Leonard Street, and i dream a highway, for Aussie design galore, then pull up at Penny Farthing Espresso for a light lunch. Pick over pre-loved gear at Scroungers, and recycled threads at Dear Gladys. Visit The Book Grocer for a ripper read and stop in at Local Shop for pretty gifts and exquisite Entwine blooms.
Chapel Street, South Yarra
Shop for frocks at Scanlan and Theodore, and find shoes to match at Wittner. Treat yourself to something sweet at Burch & Purchese. Try on something funky at LIFEwithBIRD and look fabulously feminine at Alannah Hill. Dig resin jewellery and homewares at Dinosaur Designs and touch up your makeup at KIT.
Bridge Road, Richmond
Walk the line of Bridge Road shops, for an A to Z of familiar fashion labels and local design. Comb clearance and outlet stores from Alberto Piazza and Bossini, to Country Road and David Lawrence. Shop Anthea Crawford, Sass & Bide, Metalicus, and Review. Get your quirk on at Gasoline Queen and Quick Brown Fox.
Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Sniff out the perfect scent at Klein's, go eco at The Greenstore and pick up a terrific tee at Tomorrow Never Knows. Find something frilly at Kinky Gerlinky, and something cool at Gorman. Shop for that difficult customer at FAT, scavenge second hand stuff at Hunter Gatherer and dig the crates at Polyester Records.
Acland Street, St Kilda
Try on the contemporary cut at Nique, and check the colourful threads at Kookai. Buy exotica at Ishka, gifts at Urban Attitude and beach chic at Fox Maiden. Browse the bookshelves at Readings, then take a break for cake at Monarch bakery. Grab a gelato before you chase down that tram.