Groups of diners sitting at Victoria's Terrace Bar.
Photograph: Supplied/Victoria

The best al fresco dining in Melbourne

No need to sacrifice a quality meal for a sunny spot: we've rounded up some of the best places that can offer both

Cjay AksoyLauren Dinse
Contributor: Lauren Dinse
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There’s something irresistible about dining or drinking outside, and catching up with friends while soaking up the fresh air and sunshine. While picnics fit the bill on warmer days, the hassle of flies, untimely gusts of wind and lugging blankets and baskets around aren’t always the most fun. So opt for a venue instead – one with a nice al fresco dining area fit with all the frills and no fuss. 

As the weather warms (or even if it doesn’t!), these al fresco dining spots let you enjoy the outdoors in comfort. 

Looking for other outdoor activities? Check out Melbourne's best beaches or Melbourne's secret gardens.

Al fresco dining in Melbourne

  • Wine bars
  • Melbourne
  • price 2 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

This bottle shop, bar and restaurant is an early fixture of Con Christopoulos’ culinary behemoth and a haven for CBD-based wine lovers. Snatch a table on the terrace to bask in the sunny Spring Street vibes, with a glass of your fave varietal and a special dish of the day. And if you're feeling a bit bougie, you can spoil yourself with oysters, caviar with blinis and grilled ox tongue with escargots. Oh, and it's a little known secret that the gnocchi pomodoro with mozzarella is one of the best in Melbourne.

  • Pubs
  • Richmond
Harlow
Harlow

When it comes to outdoor areas, Harlow doesn’t fall short. Not only is there a sizeable beer garden that spans two levels, but there's also a rooftop terrace if you’re really after that open air feeling. The menu matches the relaxed vibe, with all the pub classics featuring a slightly modern twist. Take your pick from a classic parma, or the Greek version topped with cherry tomatoes, fetta and oregano. The best part about this Richmond spot? All the outdoor areas are dog friendly. Tick!

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  • Melbourne

Rain, hail or shine, Siglo remains Melbourne’s most-loved terrace. With its European-style fitout overlooking Parliament House, sophisticated cocktail menu and offering of the finest cigars, it’s the kind of place you want to nab a spot and stay all night. And stay all night you can – the venue is open until 3am most nights.

 

  • Pizza
  • Richmond

The Lucas Group certainly know how to nail a brief, and the eternally buzzy and bodacious Baby is no exception. Open all day (and all week) long, the restaurant is a stalwart neighbourhood favourite in Richmond for intimate dinners, celebratory occasions, lively gatherings with friends and sundowner cocktails and snacks at happy hour. Pop in for a pizza and Peroni in the sun-drenched courtyard to make all your spring fantasies come true.

 

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  • Things to do
  • Kew

It's an iconic Melbourne landmark and the oldest boathouse on the Yarra River, and now, after an incredible transformation, Studley Park Boathouse is welcoming back visitors. Downstairs, the former kiosk is now the Pavilion bar, which opens onto a large outdoor waterfront deck – perfect for catching the summer rays. For elevated dining on the water’s edge, there's a new estaurant showcasing local and seasonal produce. Or visitors can grab a woodfired pizza from the pizzeria and scoops of gelato from a pop-up cart, then set up a blanket on the lush grass for a riverside picnic. The boathouse offers weekend breakfasts, a takeaway menu and "Row-sé" (see what they did there?) packages that include boat hire. What a day out!

 

  • Cocktail bars
  • Southbank

On the Arts Centre-side of Southbank, you'll notice a huge, floating cornucopia of Australian spirits, produce, and good times. This is Yarra Botanica, a pontoon bar tucked situated on the banks of the Yarra River. This grown-up floating venue combines the novelty of aquatic hotspots like Ponyfish Island and Arbory Afloat with a conscious approach to home-grown ingredients. 

 

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  • Fitzroy
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

In Melbourne’s fast-paced hospo scene, it’s easy to take for granted the local haunts we frequent over the years and have come to know and love. Bright, shiny openings dominate our feeds, and, especially in the food space, there’s always somewhere new and compelling to visit. But some places seem to maintain an indistinguishable allure, bolstered by their persistence to keep things fresh and their loyal patrons happy – and judging by Marquis of Lorne’s consistently packed-out capacity since its 2014 refurbishment, it’s one of them. Take a seat at the terrace tables outside on a Saturday or Sunday to bask in Fitzroy's vibrant ambience at its most happening. 

 

  • Middle Eastern
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Fans of Ottolenghi would do well to take note – in his cookbook Jerusalem, the renowned chef hailed the mastermind behind global Israeli pita empire Miznon, Eyal Shani, as “the voice of modern Israeli cuisine”. And that voice is now getting global reach – Melbourne’s Hardware Lane outpost has become Shani’s sixth Miznon, soon to be joined by a seventh in New York. It's a double-storied restaurant, but much of the action's downstairs where you can sit in the laneway and watch fast-paced Melbourne go by over your pita.

This venue welcomes American Express

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  • Melbourne
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Farmer’s Daughters’ second farm-to-table restaurant, Victoria, is bringing life back to Fed Square. Overlooking the Yarra River (and fittingly, a few gum trees), the 250-seater mega restaurant is an ode to the region; its farmers, producers, makers and artisans. This spring, the team has joined forced with local gin legends Four Pillars for al fresco Sunday sessions along the riverside Terrace Bar, featuring seasonal shared grazing plates and bottomless cocktails. For more info on the menu and pricing, visit the website.

  • Seafood
  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

The décor at this Champagne-and-lobster bar is Millenial pink, with a giant neon claw on the wall. The vibe inside is much more fun hidden bar than French Champagne and expensive crustacean, and there's a sizeable terrace overlooking Bourke Street that seems like the place for bright young things to see and be seen. 

 

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  • Fitzroy

Naked for Satan is a dark and moody affair downstairs, yet one elevator ride away lies a rooftop bar area seemingly custom-made for good times. Known as Naked in the Sky, this part of Naked for Satan has cracking views of the CBD, a blockbuster wine, beer and spirit list, and a combination of indoor and outdoor seating.

  • Shopping
  • Grocers
  • Fitzroy

We dare you to gaze into Alimentari’s deli cabinet and resist buying something special to take home. Whether it’s a wedge cut from a wheel of Grana Padano cheese, thin slices of cured salumi or a handful of marinated peppers, you can be sure that every Italian delicacy is premium quality. Choose from an impressive selection of Italian wines to take home, or sit down in the small adjacent café and enjoy a glass with a bowl of pan-fried ricotta gnocchi. The terrace dining area on the street is abuzz with good vibes all year round.

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  • Italian
  • Fitzroy North

As the name suggests, Good Times is all about, well, a good time. There are cheap and cheerful pastas, carafes of wine and Negronis in spades – all at only $9 a pop. If on-street dining out front isn’t your thing, there’s a hidden gem of a welcoming courtyard out back where you’ll find Fitzroy locals getting their spaghetti fix on the reg.

  • Melbourne
  • price 1 of 4

Arbory Bar is about as ‘outdoor dining’ as it gets, given the whole venue is outside. The 150m-long venue along the Yarra River serves up Espresso Martinis and Aperol Spritzes on tap, making it the perfect place to sit back on a sunny day and have a sip on rotation. And don’t fret with Melbourne’s chaotic weather – the venue has plenty of undercover space to protect from the elements. 

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  • Fitzroy

Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street wouldn’t be the same without the Builders Arms Hotel. Built in 1853, the pub has lived many lives, and its most recent incarnation has fallen into the hands of chef and restaurateur Andrew McConnell. As one would expect, the food here is top notch, with the famous fish pie a menu mainstay best enjoyed in the lush green courtyard on a warm summer’s day.

  • Italian
  • Prahran

On your next wander down Prahran’s bohemian Greville Street, you might hear the faint beats of a DJ set pulsing out from where old pizza favourite Ladro once stood. While a margherita-slinging, beat-making ghost would be a very cool thing to see indeed, something much better awaits. Meet Rossi, a new Italian-inspired cocktail bar and restaurant, and the place to be at happy hour. If the sexy tunes don’t pull you in, the nostaglic Euro piazza-style seating will. 

 

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  • Italian
  • Carlton

If you’re after an outdoor dining experience that transports you to Italy, look no further. The Di Stasio clan’s pizzeria has moved into Little Italy, and down a long gravel path, you’ll find the impressive piazza fit with a 17th-century water fountain, pots and urns of blooming greenery. There are also plenty of tables and chairs to give you that buzzing European-style atmosphere. Be sure to sit outside, enjoy the sunshine and try the fior di latte soft serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt – and thank us later.

  • Brunswick East

Teta Mona is a homelike, welcoming place serving up traditional Lebanese dishes – and possibly some of the best falafel in the city. There are no frills about this lively little spot, and that’s the beauty of it. Whether you’re sitting inside or in the courtyard out back, the wooden tables and retro tablecloths give that ‘grandma’s house’ atmosphere. And just like a visit to grandma’s, you’re guaranteed to be well looked after.

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  • Fitzroy
  • price 1 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

In Marios, as in Mario times two, not Mario’s – Marios’, if anything – we have a lot to be grateful for. In 1986, when Fitzroy was but a dusty café nullius ruled by barbarous feudal lords and hangry megafauna (presumably), Marios’ opening as the first cafe on Brunswick Street would usher in not only the dawn of the suburb’s vibrant café culture but as goes the fable, the dawn of ‘all-day breakfast’ in a city now defined by it. On sunny days, the tables outside are some of the most coveted spots on the strip. 

More outdoor eating and drinking

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