Melbourne is famously known as Australia’s cultural hub, where everything, including the fashion, is a little more sophisticated. This vibe isn’t just confined to the boutique shopping strips, cool café scene and hidden laneway bars of the city. Head out to Melbourne’s coastline and you’ll discover a beach reminiscent of a summer in Europe, where locals are far too classy to do a stealth bikini change under their towel in the carpark.
You’ve probably seen photos of the Brighton Bathing Boxes, 82 distinctive multi-coloured beach huts lining the foreshore of one of Melbourne’s most exclusive neighbourhoods. They’re one of the most photographed spots in the city, but how do you get to them? Why are they there? And how can you get one? Read on to find out!
A Quick History of the Brighton Bathing Boxes
While most people visit them as a colourful photo opp in Melbourne, the Brighton Bathing Boxes do have a lot of history behind them. In fact, they were built more than 100 years ago when Australians were a little more modest and were used by women for privacy when changing into their swimwear.
While Bayside council has periodically built and sold new boxes in recent years, it is rare for existing boxes to hit the market. They are tightly held, often passed down through generations.
Brighton Bathing boxes can only be sold to locals living in the Bayside area, and there are strict rules outlining what the boxes can (and cannot) be used for.
Even today, the boxes don’t have running water or electricity, keeping with their 1800’s style.
Despite their lack of mod-cons, basic structures made from timber frames, weatherboard sidings and corrugated iron roofing and laws against camping in them, what the Brighton Bathing Boxes lack in amenities, they make up for in views.
From the beach you have incredible views of Port Phillip Bay and towards the Melbourne city skyline, which is only 13km away.
Put simply, today these colourful timber boxes are for storing fishing gear, deck chairs and sheltering from the sun on a scorching day at the beach.
That view comes with a price tag. A Brighton Bathing Box sold for well over $326,000 in 2017 to a local resident…. jaw-dropping, I know!
Each of the Brighton Bathing Boxes has its own unique characteristic.
The most popular, by far, has to be Box 2 which features the Australian Flag. You’ll find visitors – both local and international – queuing up for photos outside of it all day long.
My favourite is the Katsushika Hokusai-inspired blue-and-white wave box or the VW van declaring that ‘Life’s a Beach’ to all those that wander past.
There’s more. Boxing kangaroos (Australia’s unofficial sporting mascot), or a space invader; pastel painted gems, a tribute to the bathing boxes history, or vibrant colours that pop! You’ll want to walk the entire length of the beach to see each of them.
Can I swim at the Brighton Bathing Boxes?
Short answer: yes.
It’s a nice beach but personally I think there are nicer ones nearby, like Brighton Beach and Elwood Beach. It’s also pretty rocky, so be extra careful if there are rips and tides that push you towards them. You might go home with an unwanted reminder of your trip!
Please be smart and only swim between the red and yellow surf life-saving flags when the patrol is out! The beach is popular with tourists but not so much with swimmers, so if you have any problems in the water you may not have someone able to rescue you promptly.
Stick to the more popular beaches, like St Kilda, Brighton, and South Melbourne, and please always swim between the flags!
How to get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes
Want to take a photo with these colourful beauties? This is how you get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes:
How to get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes by car
The Brighton Bathing Boxes are located on the Esplanade in Middle Brighton, between Wellington Street and Dendy Street.
Put ‘Brighton Life Saving Club’ into your GPS or follow the Esplanade road around from St Kilda. When you spot the Brighton Savoy (hotel) on the corner of the Esplanade and Wellington St, you’ll know you need to turn your indicator on because it’s less than 250 metres. Pull into the car park and choose a spot but remember to buy a ticket because inspectors do check and will ticket you.
If you are coming from Brighton, the easiest landmark to spot is the Brighton Beach Gardens. It’s about another kilometre until the entrance for the Brighton Bathing Box car park, so look out for Dendy Street as a second landmark.
It’s important to know that bicycle lanes do run in front of the entrance to the car park. Be sure to give way to cyclists as you enter and exit the car park.
How to get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes by public transport
While travelling by car is the most convenient, you can get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes by train and with a little work.
The easiest way to get to get there is to take a train to Middle Brighton, on the Sandringham line. Though it doesn’t stop at the beach, it is closer to the Brighton Bathing Boxes than the Brighton Beach station. From the station, it’s about a 1.2km walk to the beach – or about 15minutes – and there are shops along the way to guide you as well as blue plaques with the beach boxes on them guiding your way.
If you miss the Middle Brighton stop or fancy a walk along the beach, you can also get to the Brighton Bathing Boxes from Brighton Station, also on the Sandringham Line. After arriving at the train station, take a right turn after exiting the station. Walk along the beach for 1.3 km and you’ll see the colourful boxes!
There aren’t really a lot of markers along this route to guide you, but follow the beach-side train will get your there and some beautiful beachside views for your troubles!
Use the Public Transport for Victoria (PTV) journey planner to plan your exact journey.
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