A Guide to High Street Armadale, Melbourne
Those who live around Armadale tend not to venture too far – they have everything they need within walking distance. From quaint cafes and impressive restaurants to a thriving antiques trade, art galleries and shopping galore, it would be a shame to let the locals have all the fun.
I grew up just north of Armadale’s High Street, the Melbourne shopping precinct that dates back to the late 1800s. I used to have swimming lessons at Recreation gym before it turned into Goodlife, but I didn’t stick around long enough to reap the benefits when Pressed Juices opened next door. It doesn’t matter – all I cared about at that age was getting my hands in the glass jar of killer pythons on the front desk, a fair trade between my parents and I for my attendance.
Since then a flurry of high fashion stores have opened on the strip, popping up next to antique warehouses and shops that have been around for decades. It’s a comfortable mix of old and new, as evident in the ornate architecture that harks back to the post-war boom.
Things really started to happen in the area in 1879 when the first trains ran through the suburb, removing it from isolation and stimulating commercial and residential development in the process. Within a decade, High Street was home to boot makers, blacksmiths, tailors, milliners, grocers and more. The first tram came in 1910, cementing the strip as a shopping destination.
Fast forward over 100 years to last weekend when I spent a day re-discovering Armadale’s nooks and crannies thanks to Toorak Park, a luxury development on Orrong Road. I figured asking for a two-bedder with a view was a little bit cheeky, but I did manage to chat to some locals and put together this High Street and surrounds Guide to Armadale. Here are my top 10 reasons to visit the area.
1) Armadale Cafes
It’s incredible how many cafes can fit into such a small neighbourhood. Some of my favourites include Gardiner & Field, a converted corner milk bar in Armadale’s backstreets; Le Petit Prince, a French-inspired cafe that’s a poached egg’s throw away from High Street; The Lovebird, which is actually on High Street and run by a couple (their smashed avo is a cut above); Coin Laundry, a local favourite that has changed hands a few times but still serves up the goods and of course, Phillippa's, the bakery-cum-café that needs no introduction.
2) Armadale Restaurants
When coffee isn’t the most important part of your day and it’s time for an evening out, it’s hard to go past Armadale’s dining establishments. There’s Lona Pintxos Bar, the Southside’s answer to Naked for Satan; Zia Rina's Cucina for an unforgettable Italian meal cooked by a real nonna (the menu changes nightly); Barca Food & Wine, Lona Pintxos’ more refined older brother and Toorak Cellars & Wine Bar, which serves 20 wines by the glass complemented by the kind of snacky food that doesn’t require cooking (they don’t have a kitchen).
3) Australian Fashion
It's difficult to know where to begin when listing favourite fashion boutiques on High Street. Women have been shopping for dresses and men for suits since the 1800s. One thing I did notice and completely applaud is the celebration of Australian designers, from high-fashion brands such as Camilla and Marc, Carla Zampatti, Josh Goot and Scandlan & Theodore through to less exclusive brands with unique personalities.
Skin and Threads is an Aussie brand perfect for those who believe you can never have too many plain, quality wardrobe staples. RYDER is all about effortless style with lots of lace, leather, denim and flannel that will appeal to Gorman lovers (who also have a vibrant store on High Street). Megan Park is another local designer and every garment she stocks is thought up in house before being made by the same tailor from start to finish and Lorna Jane is an Australian sportswear label that celebrates health and style. It's always a bonus when shopping supports your country. Here's to patriotism.
4) Kings Arcade
It’s not just the shops that are of interest in the historic Kings Arcade, but the building itself. Mr. Frederick Philips built the Natural Trust-classified structure in 1893 before it was sold to Frederick King, a fruiterer, in 1915. It wasn’t until six years later that King turned the Arcade into a thoroughfare, linking High Street to Armadale station. Today it’s a thoroughfare worth lingering in with design, fashion and jewellery stores positioned beside a shoe repair shop under a stunning glass roof. Make sure you swing by my two favourites in the Arcade: Kakizaki (for delicate Korean and Japanese jewellery) and Mister Zimi (for clothing characterised by exotic patterns and bold colours). Head all the way through and check out the gorgeous stores out the back once you're finished inside.
5) Antiques & Treasures
Antique lovers and collectors will have an absolute field day in Armadale. It’s worth walking the length of High Street just to explore the incredible variety. Between Armadale Antique Centre, Graham Geddes and Fabrile you’ll find jewellery, Art Deco, furniture and interesting pieces from around the globe, but if you only have time for two antique stop offs, head to Capocchi and Malvern Antiques Market (technically in Armadale!).
Capocchi is a mammoth, 400sqm space that sources 90 per cent of their stock from France. Their collection spans from the late 1700s through to the 1970s and includes the most unique furniture, impressive lights and decorative features – from stuffed rabbits and mounted animal heads to nautical décor. Malvern Antique market is more of a treasure trove that requires a keen eye and some serious sifting. It’s all part of the fun. Make sure you get to the vintage prints and posters up the back.
6) Make your House a Home
Having just finished unpacking a stack of boxes post-move I’m finally at the decorating stage. It’s the main reason I felt like a kid in a candy store doing laps of High Street past homeware stores and galleries. Metro Gallery is an old favourite, stocking contemporary Australian and collectable Indigenous art. Their brochures always impress me when they arrive in the mail. Libby Edwards Gallery operates with a similar philosophy, while Letitia Morris Gallery and Vintage Posters Only specialise in original, vintage posters, such as Bernard Villemot’s Bally and Orangina works.
For those finishing touches, House of Orange is an Amsterdam design warehouse with pieces to give your place a Dutch feel, while Ferret & Ferret (968 High Street) will add bursts of colour to any space with vibrant vases, candlesticks, homewares and other treasures. There’s something for every style, too, from country chic (hello, Provincial Home Living) to industrial (warning: it’s easy to spend big at The Industrial Revolution).
7) Pamper Paradise
If it’s pampering you’re after, you’ve come to the right place. High Street is lined with beauty salons from affordable to luxury and many accept walk-ins. The best bargain on the street is the $40 manicure and pedicure from Dashing Nails. I’ve had mine for a week and people are still asking if it’s shellac. In Kings Arcade you’ll find Brow Theory, a brow bar dedicated to sculpting and shaping eyebrows using threading. Look for the pink and white striped sign and matching staff aprons. For a day spa package head to Calma Medi Spa. They offer everything from couples options, chill packages, de-stress rituals and even champagne and chocolates with your massage. If you’re keen to take some pampering home with you, there’s also an Aesop and Mecca Cosmetics on High Street.
8) Artisan Grocery Shopping
Although it’s tempting to eat out every night, it’s not always realistic. If you’re basing yourself in Armadale for a few days, head to Thomas Dux, a premium grocer with products to match. For wine, visit the helpful folk at Armadale Cellars. It’s also home to the best wine short courses in Melbourne, along with dinners and special events, all of which are listed on their website. If you like to try before you buy, The Tasting Table has three Enomatic wine dispensing machines with 24 drops available to taste. There’s nothing stopping you from trying them one glass at a time (except, perhaps, an RSA) with cheese and charcuterie to match. When your sweet tooth takes over, head to family-run biscuit heaven, Il Migiore.
9) Local Accommodation for all Budgets
Skip the local serviced apartments that are bland at best and opt to live like a local. For short stays, Espresso Apartments are immaculate and feature an open kitchen and, of course, complimentary use of an espresso machine. Ruabon on Trak is perfect for a family who wants to immerse themselves in the suburb for a week with its sun-filled interior and enclosed outdoor area complete with barbecue, while Clarendon House might look like a snug Victorian from the outside, but it’s fully equipped with modern facilities on the inside. For something larger, try Alison's in Armadale, a spacious and comfortable home with three large bedrooms and the perfect family room and outdoor area for entertaining.
If you’re on Airbnb – which I can highly recommend having used it in Australia, Italy and France – these are my picks for Armadale (plus if you’re an Airbnb virgin and use my referral link here, you’ll get $33 off your booking): this gorgeous modern cottage and this leafy one-bedroom apartment.
10) A Neighbourhood Shopping Strip only 7km from the CBD
It’s a cinch to get to and from Armadale by train, tram, bus or taxi. Once you’re there everything is walking distance, too. For those jumping on public transport, Public Transport Victoria’s Journey Planner website is an easy-to-use, invaluable resource. Armadale train station is less than 25 minutes by train from Flinders Street railways station, or 15 minutes if you beat the traffic by car. It’s also worth noting that the number 6 tram will take you up and down High Street until you can’t physically carry any more shopping bags.
If you think I’ve missed any Armadale hot spots, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section below!
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