Finally the sun has returned to Melbourne and with it so too have the long hot days and balmy nights. Summer in the city might mean baking footpaths and sunburnt backpackers – but for those in the know the rising mercury is the perfect excuse to flock back to two of Melbourne’s top riverside bars. In Sydney you go to Circular Quay for your waterfront drinks – in Melbourne, you head to Riverland Bar and Pilgrim Bar.
These two riverfront gems have a long history serving drinks to the city’s summer crowds, be they locals, out-of-towners or tourists looking to rest their feet alongside a frosty drink. Although both bars boast central locations (you’ll find them hidden away at Federation Wharf, just below Federation Square), sinking a couple of drinks at these watering holes feels far removed from the bustling city just metres away.
Riverland Bar is one of the pioneers of Melbourne’s waterfront bar scene and still resides in the old Federation Wharf vaults that they transformed into a beer garden over ten years ago. With that sort of experience you can bet they have a dedicated crowd of regulars that return for the great drinks, consistently good meals and always-happy-to-see-you staff.
Over many years Riverland Bar has curated an extensive beer list, although these days you’re just as likely to catch someone kicking back with a refreshing glass of frosé. When it comes to dining the bar is only too happy to sort punters out with a mix of pub favourites and very “on-trend” meals. There are plenty of people Instagramming their poke bowl but just as many heartily digging into the bar’s Wagyu burger.
Just down from Riverland Bar you’ll find Pilgrim Bar, a feisty venue that has carved out its own niche on the wharf. The bar specialises in all things Australian, but don’t expect to see cork hats and Blooming Onions. Pilgrim Bar showcases Australian produce with an all-Aussie drinks list as well as a food menu that puts the spotlight on 63 ethical, local and independent Australian producers.
Pilgrim’s Antipodean menu means you could be eating wallaby carpaccio one moment and lemon myrtle panna cotta with Kakadu plum gel the next. Plus everything from the beer to the wine and the spirits is sourced from within Australia – the drinks menu even tells you exactly where your bevvy comes from.