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Exterior at Bodriggy Brewing
Photograph: Ben Moynihan

A local's guide to Abbotsford

Explore all the cafés, bars and attractions to be found in the leafy inner suburb of Abbotsford

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During isolation...

A lot of the great businesses in Abbotsford can't trade as normal at the moment, so be sure you support them however you can. Many offer takeaway or have online shops, and you can help them survive the strange times we are living in.

Abbotsford is a leafy pocket of bliss sandwiched between Collingwood, Richmond, Clifton Hill and the Yarra River. The suburb is relatively small (it’s less than two square kilometres in size) but boy, does it pack a lot into that space. In addition to streets lined with cute old miner’s cottages and terrace houses, Abbotsford is also home to the Abbotsford Convent, Dights Falls, Victoria Park stadium, the famous Skipping Girl Vinegar sign, Carlton Brewhouse and Collingwood Children’s Farm.

Fun fact: Abbotsford used to be part of the now-defunct City of Collingwood local government area, hence why it’s home to Collingwood Children’s Farm and Collingwood Station.

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What's Abbotsford known for?

It’s hard not to fall in love with Abbotsford. The suburb offers inner-city living and amenities while also letting you enjoy the Yarra River and its plentiful green spaces. While these days the suburb is filled with hip young things headed to brewery bars or walking along the Yarra trail, Abbotsford has an industrial history, which you can still see remnants of in the suburb’s back streets. 

Why do the locals love it?

We talked to Johanna Howe, one of the founders of Abbotsford-based ethical fashion label Caves Collect (read more about the label below), about what she likes about the suburb. “Personally I love that it has parklands and walks along the river, but then it’s so close to the city,” she says. “We often will go for walks around the area after work or on our lunch breaks. It’s got beautiful trails out the back of the convent along the river.”

How do I get to Abbotsford

The Hurstbridge or Mernda lines will pop you down in Abbotsford; alight at either Victoria Park or Collingwood Station. The number 12 or 109 trams also run along Abbotsford’s southern border, Victoria Street. If you’re a keen bean, it’s totally possible to walk there from the CBD as well (set aside 30 minutes or so).

What’s nearby?

Hop across Hoddle for more cool ex-industrial hangouts in Collingwood or cross Victoria Street for some of Melbourne’s best Vietnamese food in Richmond (the north side of Victoria is Abbotsford; the south, Richmond). And you’ll definitely want to cross the river for Yarra Bend Park and Studley House Boathouse in Kew.

Map of Abbotsford

If you only do one thing

Head to the Abbotsford Convent. The grounds alone are a fantastic place to spend a sunny afternoon reading a book, but the convent also regularly hosts creative workshops, art shows, music events, markets and more. It’s also home to Lentil as Anything where you can pay-what-you-feel for wholesome vegan meals (Lentil As Anything Abbotsford is currently closed but you can order Lentil Love Packs online).

Rice dish at Oneyada Thai Cafe
Rice dish at Oneyada Thai Cafe
Photograph: Parker Blain

Eat

Jinda Thai (7 Ferguson Street) is a family-run restaurant that’s been serving authentic Thai dishes since 2013. Sweet tooths are advised to order the popular crepe cake. 

For breakfast, Thai Style, head to Oneyada (239 Victoria Street). Just around the corner from Jinda, this café serves inventive Thai fusion breakfasts like kai toon tom yum (steamed egg custard with spinach with a tom yum broth).

At Kelso’s (271 Johnston Street) sandwiches are sexy. The diner practically cures hangovers with its chip butties and five-cheese toasties, but there are lots of lighter deli-style sangers available as well. 

It’s good vibes only at Lentil As Anything (1/3 St Heliers Street) where tasty, healthy vegan meals don’t cost the Earth – in fact, they only cost what you can afford. Order your meal then pay what you can. You can also offer your time here as a volunteer. Lentil As Anything Abbotsford is currently closed but you can order Lentil Love Packs online).

Gone are the days when pubs only served up meat-centric meals. The Carringbush Hotel (228 Langridge Street) features a plant-based menu plus ethical ceramics and plates, no plastic straws and no packaged beer to save on waste. NB: The Carringbush Hotel is currently closed due to restrictions.

Abbotsford pizza fiends should direct themselves to Rita’s (239 Johnston Street) for rustic Italian pizze (gluten-free bases come with no extra charge, too).

Johanna Howe from Caves Collect also recommends Convent Bakery (1 St Heliers Street). The bakery produces beautiful woodfired loaves of bread using ovens that are more than 100 years old. There are also light meals available and occasional bread making classes.

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Interior at Bodriggy Brewing
Interior at Bodriggy Brewing
Photograph: Ben Moynihan

Drink

The huge beer hall that is Bodriggy Brewery (245 Johnston Street) offers not only frothies, but a considered cocktail menu and food that channels Central and South America.

If you’d prefer a smaller, cosier beer drinking experience, you can’t go past Moon Dog (17 Duke Street). The original Moon Dog in Abbotsford (it’s since expanded to massive space in Preston) is replete with comfy couches, lamps and an aesthetic that makes you feel you’re in your mate’s (incredibly beer-filled) shed.

At Dr Morse (274 Johnston Street) the physician’s orders are for caffeine in the morning, and alcohol at night. During the day locals smash coffees and toasties, while at night the bar entices you in with wine and cocktails. 

For a classic (and very satisfying) pub experience, check out the Retreat Hotel (226 Nicholson Street). This is a friendly, old school watering hole with cold beer, big meals and a dog-friendly courtyard.

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Coffee pour at AU79
Coffee pour at AU79
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Coffee

When Howe is looking for a coffee, she often goes to Cam’s Kiosk at the convent. While it sells coffee during the day, at night, it transforms into a bar. “The convent itself has so many amazing cafés – Cam’s bar is one that’s amazing,” says Howe. “It’s got really delicious food.” NB: Cam’s is currently closed due to restrictions, but is delivering soups, pastas, wine, cheese and more to selected suburbs.

Hidden in a largely residential part of Abbotsford, 8 Murray St (8 Murray Street – duh) has a gorgeous courtyard to enjoy a cuppa in.

Looking for brunch? Pop into AU79 (27-29 Nicholas St) for favourites like smashed avo, brekky burgers and even a brisket eggs benny. The café also makes breakfast in bed boxes that can be ordered for pick up or delivery.

Those who find themselves in need of a pick-me-up while trekking the Yarra Trail near Abbotsford’s eastern border can hop up the stairs to Kitty Burns (24 Acacia Place) – a bright and breezy space serving good coffee and café meals.

Three Bags Full (60 Nicholson Street) is a family-run café known for its inclusive menu (there’s plenty for coeliacs, vegetarians and vegans) and for being located inside the old Denton Hat Mills Factory.

You’ll find Loosie Grind (135 Nicholson Street) heaving with locals on a sunny weekend, all keen to get their daily coffee from this cute café.

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Outdoor green grass at The Abbotsford Convent
Outdoor green grass at The Abbotsford Convent
Photograph: Roberto Seba

Things to Do

Those new to Melbourne are often pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a real, working farm barely outside of the city’s CBD. Collingwood Children’s Farm (18 St Heliers Street) has been serving up slices of bucolic bliss to Melbourne families since 1979. The farm is located next to the Yarra River (those walking on the Yarra Trail often hear the odd baa or moo) and is home to cows, sheep, goats, horses, pigs, chickens, ducks, guinea pigs and three cats – Miso, Toki and Mash. Families can engage with everything from cow milking to guinea pig cuddling. The on-site Farm Café is well worth taking a pit stop at too, with much of the produce grown on the farm used in dishes.

Just across the way, the Abbotsford Convent (1 St Heliers Street) offers history, art and more. The Sisters of the Good Shepherd founded the convent in 1863 and was the largest charitable institution in the southern hemisphere by 1901. Many found succour at the convent during its history – though it's important to also acknowledge those who suffered here as a result of the Magdalene Laundries.

These days it’s Australia’s largest multi-arts precinct in Australia, housing 120 studios, galleries, a school and even a radio station. The buildings themself are also impressive to gawk at, an endeavour best achieved while strolling through the convent’s lush gardens. 

While in the area, pop down the river to the Main Yarra Trail, for one of Melbourne’s most picturesque walks. The trail is 38km in total, but a fair stretch of its winds through Abbotsford. Start at Gipps Street Bridge and follow it until it meets Merri Creek.

While not technically in Abbotsford (though not far from it), Howe points out that Studley Park Boathouse (1 Boathouse Rd, Kew) is just across the river from the Convent. The Boathouse is a great destination for lunch – or for the adventurous to hire a canoe, kayak or rowboat for a day out on the river.

Waterfalls? In Melbourne? Sort of! Dights Falls (112a Trenerry Crescent) is a weir at the northern end of Abbotsford’s section of the Main Yarra Trail that makes for a favourite day out in nature, while never having to leave the city. Before Australia was colonised, the reserve served as a meeting place and river crossing for the Wurundjeri people. John Dight came along in 1841, built a flour mill next to the river, and put the weir on the existing basalt boulders to turn the mill’s water wheel – hence why it’s now called Dights Falls. The falls are popular with kayakers and picnickers.

Finally, Abbotsford is a primo destination for those who love beer, with the Carlton Brewhouse (24 Thompson Street) located toward the suburb’s western border. Around 150,000 litres of beer flow through this building daily, with the general public able to take tours of the brewery. As locals can attest, on some days you can smell the brewery before you see it, with the industrial-scale brewing process occasionally adding a yeasty perfume to the streets of Abbotsford (and Richmond).

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A model with curly hair wearing a short sleeved shirt with a decorative neckline,, and highwaisted pants with a belt
A model with curly hair wearing a short sleeved shirt with a decorative neckline,, and highwaisted pants with a belt
Photograph: Peter Ryle

Shopping

Ethical fashion label Caves Collect is based inside of the Abbotsford Convent, where the team create elegant and functional ready-to-wear garments for women. It was founded by Johanna Howe and Sarah Russell in 2014, and the duo originally made everything themselves in-house until demand necessitated they outsourced some of the labour (though every piece is still made in Melbourne). “We’re very passionate about supporting the local garment manufacturing industry and keeping work here,” says Howe. NB: Caves Collect is currently operating online only due to restrictions. 

If you’re new to Melbourne you might not realise that independent liquor merchants McCoppins (501 Victoria Street) have actually been around since 1978. The brand started life as a wine bar and customers can still expect a curated range of wine, as well as top-shelf spirits and beers from across the world (and from just around the corner). 

Print Safari is an Abbotsford print studio also based out of the Abbotsford Convent. The business is known for selling colourful printed garments but have also started selling cute face masks and DIY lino printing kits (as the team can't run their normal printing workshops under current restrictions).

All op shops have their quirks – if you’re looking for some preloved furniture, Salvos Abbotsford (81 Victoria Crescent) is a good option. There’s also a good range of clothing and books on offer. NB: Salvos Abbotsford is currently closed due to restrictions. Do not leave donations outside the store.

If you're serious about your tea, take a peek inside Tea Tonic (45 Russell Street). The business was started in 1998 by Lisa Hilbert who had a vision to “raise the bar with premium, unprocessed teas made from organic ingredients.” The store stocks more than 30 blends, plus some pretty nifty teaware.

If you can’t find what you’re looking for at Minh Phat Asian Supermarket (2-8 Nicholson Street), it probably doesn’t exist. This is one of Melbourne’s top Asian grocery stores, boasting a 12,000-strong product range from across the continent.

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