1. Themes
  2. A to Z

South Yarra

(3141, 3 km SE, Stonnington City, Melbourne City)

South Yarra lies between Toorak and the Royal Botanic Gardens. Parts of South Yarra are similar to Toorak, but it has always been more socially diverse and also has much in common with Prahran. The low lying parts of South Yarra are characterised by small houses on narrow streets, while the central area around Chapel Street and Toorak Road has traditionally been a centre for manufacturing as well as shopping.

South Yarra is divided by Punt Road. When the municipal district of Prahran was proclaimed in 1855, it included those residents of South Yarra on the east side of Punt Road, while those on the west were included in the City of Melbourne. Besides forming a municipal boundary, the road itself became something of a barrier from the 1940s. Until 1939 Punt Road was a relatively quiet street, ending in a footbridge over the Yarra River and, as the name suggests, a punt. There was also a ferry for a while from Punt Road to Swanston Street. The Hoddle Bridge was opened in December 1938, connecting Punt Road and Hoddle Street and opening what rapidly became one of the busiest north-south routes in greater Melbourne.

The elevated parts of South Yarra underwent a process of development similar to that in neighbouring Toorak. Over time, the gardens of many mansions such as Airlie, Avoca and Como House were subdivided. Flats became fashionable in the 1920s, particularly on Punt Hill in the area overlooking the river. The density of development generally increased until the 1970s, when protests by residents helped limit the height of further blocks of flats. The area, with its quiet tree-lined streets, parks, views and proximity to the city, remained both popular and expensive.

The lower-lying parts of South Yarra were initially areas of working-class housing and factories. Since World War II many of the factories, particularly along Chapel Street, have been replaced by offices and shops. From the 1970s there was also a dramatic change in the surrounding streets of small houses. The area became fashionable, particularly with relatively affluent young couples and single people, and the process of gentrification transformed what was once a working-class area.

Sally Wilde

Malone, Betty, and L. Oscar Slater, Walking tour of South Yarra Central, Prendergast, Melbourne, 1988. Details
Slater, L. Oscar, Walking tour of South Yarra West, Prendergast, Melbourne, 1987. Details