St Kilda, Victoria
Luna Park in St Kilda
Some attributes
First Population:


Second Established:


Third Location:

6 km (4 mi) from Melbourne CBD

Other attributes
St Kilda is a suburb of Melbourne, 6 km south-east from Melbourne's Central Business District. Its Local Government Area is the City of Port Phillip. At the 2011 Census, St Kilda had a population of 17,795.

St Kilda was named after a schooner Lady of St Kilda (which moored at the main beach for much of 1841) by Charles La Trobe and the ship's master and early settler Lieutenant James Ross Lawrence.

During the Edwardian and Victorian eras, St Kilda became a favoured suburb of Melbourne's elite, and many palatial mansions were constructed along its hills and waterfront. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, St Kilda served a similar function for Melburnians as did Coney Island to the residents of New York City and its history draws an interesting parallel. Densely populated postwar St Kilda became Melbourne's red-light district, home to low-cost rooming houses. Since the late 1960s, St Kilda has become known for its culture of bohemianism and as home to many prominent artists, musicians and subcultures, including punks, LGBT and techno scene. While some of these groups still maintain a presence in St Kilda, in recent years the district has experienced rapid gentrification pushing many lower socio-economic groups out to other areas.

St Kilda is home to many of Melbourne's famous visitor attractions including Luna Park , the Esplanade Hotel, Acland Street and Fitzroy Street. It is home to St Kilda Beach, Melbourne's most famous beach, several renowned theatres and several of Melbourne's big events and festivals.


Before being officially named St Kilda in 1841 by Charles La Trobe, who was superintendent of the Port Phillip District of New South Wales, the area was known by several names, including 'Green Knoll' and 'The Village of Fareham'. It was named after the schooner the Lady of St Kilda, which was owned between 1834 and 1840 by Sir Thomas Acland. In 1840 Thomas Acland sold the vessel to Jonathan Cundy Pope of Plymouth who sailed for Port Phillip in Melbourne in February 1841. While there the vessel was moored at the main beach for most of that year, which was soon known as "the St. Kilda foreshore."

There was never a 'Saint' Kilda. The schooner "Lady of St. Kilda" was named in honor of Lady Grange, who was imprisoned on the island of Hirta, the largest island in the St Kilda archipelago, on the western edge of Scotland, by her husband in 1734–40. According to the United Nations World Conservation Monitoring Centre the name 'St Kilda' derives from Skildar, the Viking name for shields, reflecting the outline of the islands which resembled shields when viewed from the sea. Skildar was transcribed in error by Lucas Waghenaer in his 1592 charts without the trailing r and with a period after the S, creating S.Kilda. This was in turn assumed to stand for a saint by other map makers, creating the form that has been used for several centuries, St Kilda.


St kilda in 1864

St Kilda in 1884

Kulin people lived in Euroe Yroke (the area now known as St Kilda) for up to 30,000 years. Evidence has been found of shellfish middens and huts along Albert Park and Lake and axes which were most likely sharpened on the sandstone cliffs behind the main beach. Corroborees where held at the historic tree which still stands at St Kilda Junction, at the corner of Fitzroy Street and Queens Road. Much of the area north of present-day Fitzroy Street was swampland, part of the Yarra River Delta which comprised vast areas of wetlands and sparse vegetation.

The first European settler in St Kilda was Ben Baxter in around 1839. He was a settler from Melbourne on a grazing lease. In 1840, St Kilda was the home to Melbourne's first quarantine station for Scottish immigrants.

The area was officially named St Kilda in 1841. The first sale of Crown lands in St. Kilda took place on 7 December 1842. The first block was bought by James Ross Lawrence, who had been master of the Lady of St Kilda until 1842. Lawrence had now settled in Melbourne. His block was bounded by three unmade roads. One of these roads he named Acland Street after Thomas Acland, who had been his employer until 1840 but who had never been to Port Phillip District. The remaining two became Fitzroy Street and The Esplanade. (A plaque at the junction of Acland and Fitzroy Streets marks the site of the block.) By 1845, Lawrence had subdivided and sold the land on which he had built a cottage.The land on the sea-side of The Esplanade has continued to be Crown land.

Within a few years, St Kilda became a fashionable area for wealthy settlers and the indigenous peoples were driven out to surrounding areas. The high ground above the beach offered a cool fresh breeze during Melbourne's hot summer months.

St Kilda became a separate municipality on 24 April 1857, and in the same year, the railway line and railway station connected St Kilda to Melbourne city and a loop line to Windsor. These railway lines brought many visitors to St Kilda and increased patronage to the privately run sea baths, the jetty promenade and the St. Kilda Cup, cricket and bowling clubs were formed in 1855 and 1865. By the mid 1860s St. Kilda had about fifteen hotels including the George, formerly the Seaview (1857).

Further decline

St Kilda's decline escalated after the Great Depression and it became the growing focus of many of Melbourne's social issues including crime, prostitution and drug abuse. Several cabaret venues emerged. Leo's Spaghetti bar and gelateria was opened for the Olympics in 1956 by an Italian migrant as one of Melbourne's first Italian restaurants and quickly became a Melbourne establishment.

St Kilda became one of the city's main areas of bohemianism as well as one of the larger gay and lesbian residential areas From 1965, Mirka Mora's Tolarno Hotel became the focus of many of the local artists.

In the early 1960s works to the Lower Esplanade turned it into a fast moving connection between Marine Parade and Beaconsfield Parade, creating a barrier to the beach. In 1968, the Palais de Danse, adjacent to the Palais was gutted by fire. The Palace nightclub was built in its place in 1971 (in 2007 this building was closed, gutted by fire and demolished).

In the late 1960s St Kilda Junction was rebuilt to create a Queens Way underpass connection to Dandenong Road and in the early 1970s St Kilda Road (formerly High Street) from the junction to Carlisle Street was widened by demolishing all the properties on the west side. The landmark Junction Hotel was lost, and High Street, once St Kilda's shopping centre, ceased to function as such. The widening also had the effect of creating a physical barrier between St Kilda's foreshore, civic area and eastern residential streets.

In 1981, the St Moritz ice rink was closed. Around 1984, it was destroyed by a spectacular fire.


In 1987, the St Kilda railway line was closed, rationalised and re-opened to become part of route 96, one of the first light rail lines in Melbourne, terminating in Acland Street.

St Kilda also experience increased gentrification during the 1990s, particularly popular with yuppies due to its proximity to the CBD. The increased cost of rentals led many long term residents to leave and removed much of the bohemian and artistic character of the area.

In 1991, the site formerly occupied by the St Moritz ice rink was reopened as the St Moritz hotel, which became the Novotel Bayside in 1993, then Novotel St Kilda in 1999.

Tim Costello, when the mayor of St Kilda, worked closely with local social welfare groups between 1993 and 1994 to help clean up the city's streets. Combined with the legalisation of prostitution, St Kilda's streets were becoming safer. However, violence is almost a daily hazard for an estimated 400 street workers in St Kilda (2004) with the notorious Greeves St coming under heavy police presence after hours.

In mid-1998, Becton, new owners of the Esplanade Hotel announced its plan to build a 125 metre, 38-storey tower behind the historic hotel. The plans were later scaled down due to resident concerns.

On 11 September 2003, the St Kilda icon, the 99 year old pier kiosk burned down in an arson attack. In a swift and overwhelming response to the loss, the government committed to its original plans using what remained of the original materials.

In 2004, Baymour Court, significant 1920s Spanish Mission flats and hotel stables were demolished despite the campaigning of the National Trust of Victoria and The Esplanade Alliance as part of the commencement of hi-rise Esplanade apartment building.

For the 2006 Commonwealth Games, St Kilda hosted an interpretive public artwork called, the Lady of St Kilda sculpture, a mock timber shipwreck. The installation proved to be extraordinarily popular with locals and tourists and it was left erected for many months afterward. However, the sculpture was subject to vandals disassembling parts of it as well as concern for children's safety on the high unprotected bow of the "ship" so the local council removed it in November 2006.

694px-Palais theatre st kilda

Palais theatre Melbourne

The area adjacent to the Palais Theatre known as the Triangle Site, including the Palace music venue is the subject of a major re-development, first proposed in 2005. The proposals stipulated the restoration of the Palais Theatre, but controversially many advocated the demolition of the Palace, one of the area's main live music venues. To save the Palace, a legal battle ensued. Ironically, the Palace burned down spectacularly during an arson attack, and fears were held for the Palais. The winning development in 2007 plans a series of lanes, promenades and walkways rambling through eating and drinking spaces, art installations, entertainment venues, retail outlets and open grassy spaces. Further controversy over the new development was caused when the tenants who vacated the Palais illegally removed its 80 year old chandeliers.

In 2006, plans went out for a foreshore re-development, which included promenade widening and saw the demolition of the bicentennial pavilion which marked the land end of the St Kilda pier.

In 2006, the proposed development of a skate park and concrete urban plaza over parkland on Fitzroy Street next to the primary school at Albert Park caused significant local controversy. The council received a large number of objections. Alternative sites along the foreshore were ignored by council and all of the mature trees on the site were removed before the plans were presented for consultation.

In February 2008, the Port Phillip Council's approval of the proposed Triangle site development despite over 5,000 written objections (representing over a quarter of the population of St Kilda) caused an uproar in St Kilda which saw media attention across Victoria with local resident lobby groups including Save St Kilda and UnChain St Kilda banding thousands of residents together in protest and enlisting the help of celebrities including Dave Hughes, Magda Subzanski and Rachel Griffiths in their fight against the local council. The council had refused to allow a secret agreement between it, the developers and state government to be released which effectively allowed for the transfer of ownership of a large amount of crown land to private owners. As well as the outrage over the sale of public land, many residents believed that the state government and council should have funded the restoration of the heritage Palais themselves rather than pass the costs on to the developers who had proposed a larger development to recover their own costs.

In May 2008, the skate park development was stopped by the Supreme Court of Victoria, claiming that the council had acted inappropriately. A hearing was scheduled with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The mayor at the time, Janet Bolitho, was cited to have commented "the area would remain public open space – just maybe not green".

In December 2009, a new council elected to largely replace the councillors who approved the Triangle development voted almost unanimously to terminate the agreement with the developers, agreeing to pay them $5 million over a period of three years.[29]


Today, St Kilda is an area of sharp social contrast, with many homeless and other disadvantaged people living among the wealthy and fashionable who crowd its shops and cafes. The suburb is noted for its many itinerant backpackers, but also for its many long-term permanent residents.

For many years, St Kilda has had the highest population density in the Melbourne statistical area, and the highest for a metropolitan area outside of Sydney. This density is reflected in the built form, which consists primarily of strata titled units, apartments and flats, including a single Housing Commission of Victoria tower.

Despite migrationary trends, St Kilda retains a small number of ethnic groups although like much of inner Melbourne, the community is largely multicultural. There are restaurants and shops representing the cultures of Italy, Japan, China, India, France, Ireland, Vietnam, Thailand and also Egypt, as well as local and international cuisine. The suburb's previously large Jewish community has declined, but a large number of synagogues still function in the area, and the Jewish Museum of Australia is located in Alma Road. An Italian Australian community has also been present in St Kilda for over a century, and a prominent member is Ron Barassi. St Kilda has a large Irish population. A growing French community has established in the area, which is the home of the Alliance Francaise de Melbourne with several schools and art galleries. A small community from the former Soviet Union has also established itself in the nearby area and there are several shops of this community in the Carlisle Street area. While Melbourne's Indigenous Australian population is relatively low, St Kilda has one of the larger indigenous communities and there are several rooming houses identifying with indigenous people.


St Kilda has a unique artists culture, and is also home to many high profile local events.

 Theatre and cinema

St Kilda has three main theatres, each catering to a different niche use, all are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register. The National Theatre (formerly the Victory) on the corner Barkly and Carlisle Streets is a Beaux Arts styled performing arts venue built in 1920 which is home to the oldest ballet school in Australia (established 1939). The Palais Theatre is located on the Esplanade and was built in 1927 to the design of Henry White as a cinema (formerly Palais Pictures). It is now used as a live music and concert venue. The Astor Theatre on Chapel Street is a modern/art deco styled cinema built in 1935 to the design of Ray Morton Taylor. It features the largest screen in southern hemisphere and operates as an arthouse cinema with its own year long film festival and private functions

Places of worship

St Kilda is home to a large number of places of worship built over the years to serve primarily the Christian and Jewish faiths, although many of the churches have since been converted for other uses. The St Kilda Hebrew Congregation built between 1872 and 1880 in Charnwood Road was one of the earliest. The present building, diagonally opposite the original site (now a block of flats) but located in Charnwood Grove was consecrated on 13 March 1927.

The former Baptist Church, built in 1876 at 16 Crimea Street served as a masonic hall before being acquired by St Michael's Grammar School. The St Kilda Parish Mission Uniting Church, built in 1877 on the corner Chapel and Carlisle Streets is notable for its polychromatic brick and slate roof design. St Kilda Presbyterian Church, built in 1878 on the corner of Alma Road and Barkly Street was designed by Wilson & Beswicke architects. The Sacred Heart Church is a St Kilda landmark with its tall tower built on Grey Street in 1890 to the design of renowned colonial architect Reed in partnership with Henderson & Smart architects. The former St Kilda Uniting Church on the corner Fitzroy and Princes Streets became part of an apartment complex in the late 1990s. The Holy Trinity Church built between 1882 and 1889 on the corner of Brighton Road and Dickens Street is another church by Reed of Reed & Barnes. All Saints' Anglican Church, on the corner of Dandenong Road and Chapel Street, was designed by Nathaniel Billing with the foundation stone laid in 1858, becoming what is believed to be the largest Anglican parish church in the southern hemisphere, able to seat 1400 people, All Saints' is also known for its male choir which is the only parish church choir of its kind left in Australia. Other notable churches include the Christ Church Complex on the corner Acland Street and Church Square.

Events and festivals

Melbourne marathon st kilda 2

Melbourne Marathon at Fitzroy Street, St Kilda

St Kilda has run Melbourne's first major arts and crafts market which has been run on the Esplanade every Sunday since the 1980s. It has been rivalled in Melbourne in recent years by the Southbank art and craft market on Southbank promenade.

St Kilda is also home to many major annual events. The largest of these is the St Kilda Festival, which since 1980 has grown over recent years and now attracts over half a million young people to the area each year. St Kilda also hosts the annual gay Pride March, which starts at Lakeside Drive and heads down Fitzroy Street to the Catani Gardens. St Kilda is also home to the many venues of the Melbourne Underground Film Festival. Until 2009, St Kilda was home to the Community Cup festival which celebrates grassroots Australian rules football having attracted record attendances of up to 23,000 and raising money for local charity the Sacred Heart Mission. A similar annual celebrity cricket match known as Batting for the Battlers is played at the Peanut Farm opposite Luna Park and attracts a crowd of up to 2,000. Other local events include the St Kilda Film Festival and St Kilda Writers Festival.


St Kilda has a vibrant local music scene that has produced many Australian live music acts. One of the more famous of these is legendary rock band Hunters & Collectors and its front-man Mark Seymour. Members of The Birthday Party lived here in the late 1970s, when they were known under their previous name of The Boys Next Door. As have Paul Kelly, Tex Perkins, Fred Negro, Rowland S. Howard and dozens of other independent musicians. For all things related to the seedier and funnier sides of St Kilda music scene see Fred Negro's 'Pub Strip'. Prominent local music venues include the Palace, (closing soon due to redevelopment unless the High Court says otherwise) the Palais theatre for larger concerts, the Esplanade Hotel, the Prince of Wales Hotel for larger gigs and DJ's (and backpackers), The George Public Bar on Saturday afternoons, the St Kilda Bowls Club, and The Greyhound – which picked up the local crowd, local bands, local bar staff and sticky carpet when The Esplanade Hotel (The Espy) kicked them out after 'suburbification' in the early noughties. The Greyhound has been undergoing a multi-million dollar redevelopment since 2008 which has seen live music make way for a predominantly Gay & Lesbian clientele, building upon the successful Saturday night drag shows that have been running at the venue for over 15 years. Men At Work started in St Kilda as a unnamed group.


St Kilda has very strong traditional links with Australian Football. The name St Kilda features in the national Australian Football League with the St Kilda Football Club, known as the Saints. The team retains the name of its former home but has not actually played home games in St Kilda since 1964. The St Kilda area played a large role in the development of Australian Football. The St Kilda City Football Club of the Southern Football League is based at the Peanut Farm. St Kilda also has Women's Australian rules football team, the St Kilda Sharks, who won back-to-back Victorian Women's Football League titles in 1998&99. Albert Park and Lake reserve has a number of ovals which are home to Australian rules football clubs. These include the historic Junction Oval which has in the past been a prominent VFL/AFL venue and more recently a training facility for the Melbourne Football Club. Several amateur VAFA clubs also use the park for their home grounds including the Collegians Football Club (Harry Trott Oval), Powerhouse Football Club (Ross Gregory Oval) and Old Melburnians (Junction Oval) are based in the St Kilda section of Albert Park. The Community Cup was a popular community Australian rules event which was run for 14 years by the local Sacred Heart Mission which up until 2007 had drawn crowds of up to 23,000 spectators.

St Kilda also has a strong cricket presence. The Junction Oval is home to the St Kilda Cricket Club and occasionally the Victorian Bushrangers Cricket Club and was made famous as the debut venue of cricket great Shane Warne. St Kilda has a wide range of other minor sports including the Collegians-X hockey club, the St Kilda baseball club, an ultimate disc club and several social soccer clubs.

St Kilda has a vibrant and popular Lawn Bowls scene which attracts younger players and has been popularised in film and television. The St Kilda Lawn Bowls Club on Fitzroy Street has a long history and retains its heritage clubhouse building as well as hosts many community events.

Many of the open water events of the 2007 World Aquatics Championships were held at St Kilda beach. The 2006 Commonwealth Games triathlon and cycling time trials were held along the foreshore, and the marathon passed through some of St Kilda's main streets. The annual Melbourne Marathon also passes through St Kilda. St Kilda Beach is regularly used for state and international beach volleyball tournaments.

Recreation and leisure

Recreation on St Kilda beaches includes most watersports, including windsurfing, sailing, kitesurfing, rollerblading, beach volleyball, jetskiing, waterskiing and sunbathing. A skate park for the Fitzroy street end of Albert Park is in the planning stages.