Adrift in Melbourne

Robyn Annear

Adrift in Melbourne
Text Publishing Co
30 November 2021

Adrift in Melbourne

Robyn Annear

Melbourne’s streets have always been marvellous-but the proud facades of the nineteenth-century boom aren’t the half of it. What about the stories behind them?

The great corset scandal of Melbourne’s belle epoque; The heritage-listed toilets out the back of the Rialto; The exploits of the women who ran the brothels in Little Lonsdale Street; The reason George Mallaby starred in Homicide wearing a hat two sizes too small.

This book contains a series of walks created by Robyn Annear to showcase the hidden histories we might scurry past every day, the buildings now gone and the extraordinary characters who inhabited them.

Charming, erudite and frankly gossipy, Annear’s highly entertaining guide to Melbourne past and present need not be experienced on the move. But whether you enjoy it from a tram stop or an armchair, Adrift in Melbourne will inspire you to unleash your inner flâneur on the lurking surprises of this great city.


Quite frankly, reading anything written by Robyn Annear is a complete joy. She writes as if it’s just you and her chatting away, strolling through the streets of our wonderful city. I consider this book essential reading for anyone who loves Melbourne. It is the perfect antidote to the last two years. As she says in her introduction, in Melbourne – and in any place – things change all the time. Yet, the way I see it, nothing’s ever really gone.

This book contains seven walks around Melbourne’s CBD curated by Annear to showcase our hidden histories. So, banish your sorrow, pop this book into your bag and start the Grand Melbourne Tour. Walk One, titled ‘Waltz in Six Lessons’, tells the history of our finest buildings and the women who inhabited these places. Up until now I had not heard of Madame Brook, who was the first and last word in Melbourne chic in the 1900s. Walk Three – ‘More by Land Than Water’ – takes in Chinatown and its surrounds. Did you know that the backyard tea garden of the City Buffet Hotel at 225 Bourke Street once housed a pair of lions, an Indian bear, a cheetah, some monkeys and an aviary? Can you imagine, walking along the streets of Melbourne and hearing a lion roar? These animals were eventually given to the Zoological Association and thus the Melbourne Zoo began. The final walk – ‘Off the Grid’ – takes in the north of Melbourne, through the Queen Victoria Market (such a sad history) past the Stork Hotel (sorely missed) and up all the way to Eagle Alley (just off La Trobe) where the Tour finishes under a beautiful old oak tree.

This fantastic book gifts you the gossip held in our streets. Before you know it, you’ll be completely enchanted again by our city. And it’s all because you became friends with Robyn Annear. Lucky you.

Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager at Readings.

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