A Very Melbourne 31st Birthday

I’m a little weird about birthdays. Some years I let mine pass with nary a frill; others, I use it to justify any and all passing whims and indulge with zero guilt.

Last year, I turned 30 in Sydney to the tune of the former: I’d just returned from a few weeks of adventuring in Tasmania and settled into my new home at Bondi Beach, and so I felt good about having a low key birthday.

This year, I turned 31 in Melbourne and used it as an opportunity to cross a bunch of items of my Melbs to-do list. Here’s a run down of the various birthday adventures I crafted for myself in celebration of 31 years on this fine earth:

Melbourne birthday

Brunch at The Kettle Black

I’m a self-proclaimed non-foodie (aka I’m the worst), but if I’m going out to eat I vastly prefer grabbing brunch – 1). Because breakfast foods are the bomb diggity, and 2). PANCAKES. You know how I feel about pancakes. Though I’m often let down when I order pancakes in different countries because many don’t like to cook them fluffy, a la Americana.

Melbourne brunch

Melbourne brunch

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ordered the famous Hotcake at The Kettle Black, but certainly not a fluffy pancake bigger than my face. And prettier too, my god! It was almost too beautiful to dig into. With a light drizzling of maple syrup, generous serving of berries and nut bits, dollop of cream, and sprinkling of flower petals atop the hotcake, it was equal parts beautiful and scrumptious. I’m still not over it.

Melbourne street art
Street art outside of St. Ali

Coffee at St. Ali

They say St. Ali is an institution in Melbourne, i.e. one of the oldest coffee roasters and most renowned cafes in the city. My frolicking has very rarely taken me to South Melbourne, but since I was already in the ‘hood for brunch I figured I might as well stop by and see what the fuss is about.

Melbourne cafe

OH MY SWEET COFFEE LOVING JESUS I need to get back here stat! It’s such a beautiful space: wooden everything, high ceilings, a myriad of seating options. And it was easily one of the best cups of coffee I’ve enjoyed in Melbourne, which unfortunately I had to enjoy in a takeaway cup while en route to my next birthday adventure. I’m definitely planning to return with my laptop and a little working session in the very near future.

Paddleboarding at the Brighton Baths

I’d snagged a Groupon for a cheap stand-up paddleboarding session and admission to the Brighton Baths and, with glorious 89F sunny weather forecasted, figured it would make for an excellent birthday activity.

Stand up paddleboarding in Melbourne

It totally was. I was a bit of a chicken sh*t and mostly stayed on my knees or bum the whole time, but it was still a good workout trying to stabilize myself on the board while battling light winds. I paddled around the inside of the baths and soaked up the partial views of the Melbourne skyline from through the docks. Had I not la-de-da’d my way through the morning, I could have made it before the 2pm cutoff and gotten to paddle around outside of the baths – oops!

My ticket gave me free entrance to the sauna, but instead I opted to walk around the docks, lay down on one, and get my savsana on in the sun . Equally therapeutic, methinks!

Melbourne baths

Melbourne beaches

Burger at Grand Trailer Park Taverna

My original plan was to try the highly instagrammable ice cream at Scroll in nearby Windsor, but I was still too sugared out from the pancake to stomach more sweets (ever since my 10-month paleo stint back in 2012, I can’t really handle too much sugar at a time). It was about dinner time anyhow, so I gave into the burger craving I’ve been having more and more frequently and headed back into the city to cross the insane-looking burgers at Grand Trailer Park Taverna off my list. Part of the experience is the restaurant itself, complete with retro vibes and vintage caravan booths. Their spiked milkshakes are meant to be amazeballs, but my one-track mind led me to ordering just the Atomic burger – which had not just a beef patty, but also a cheese kransky (like a sausage), and some seriously delish BBQ sauce and truffle (!!) mayo. SO GOOD.

Melbourne burger

Bubble Bath in my Backyard

In my 5 months of house hopping in Melbourne, I’ve seen enough couches on front porches and bathtubs in backyards that it’s almost normal to me now. However, most houses I’ve seen with tubs have them there just for decoration or gardening purposes.

My current house in Brunswick East has a bathtub in the backyard that’s not only clean enough to use as a proper tub, but has also been placed in a dug-out hole in the ground – essentially it’s an infinity tub. I saw that on Day 1 and was like, ohhhh yeah that’s happening. And what better time to try it out than on my birthday, right?

Filling the tub was surprisingly easy: I just had to attach the long pool tubing to the laundry room sink and let the other end out into the tub. Then I lit a few candles, poured myself a modest glass of Shiraz, and relaxed to the sound of crickets and bats flying overhead.

Melbourne outdoor bathtub

And then, the icing on the birthday cake: I checked my phone while I was supposed to be relaxing (I know), and found out that I won a photo contest on Instagram that I hadn’t even realized I’d entered! (I must have just used the hashtag). My photo of Cape Woolamai won me a glamping experience, a free meal, and complimentary attraction tickets on Phillip Island, which I’d already booked another trip to for next week anyway. I’m looking forward to upgrading my upcoming trip there and seeing more of the island!

phillip island

Do you have any birthday traditions, or plans for this year’s? Do share!

Lindsay Buckley is the photographer and travel blogger behind Frugal Frolicker. She's a New Yorker currently based in Sydney, Australia, documenting outdoor travel experiences Down Under and beyond. Follow along with Lindsay's travel photography on Facebook and Instagram, and be sure to sign up for the monthly Frugal Frolicker newsletter!

Where in the World is This?