Thinking of Moving to LA from Australia? Here are a Melburnian’s top five neighborhood picks in Los Angeles! If you’re an Australian planning a move to LA, there are some pivotal decisions you’ll need to make ahead of time.
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Firstly, what will your rehearsed reaction be when you see a celebrity for the first time? Will you stay true to your cultural stereotype, remaining calm and understated or will you let all your excitement show and ask for a selfie, just to prove to any haters back home that the move was clearly worth it?
Once that is settled, you’ll need to think about where to live. This choice will be in part guided by where your place of work is located and your tolerance for traffic. Despite the notoriously challenging commute times and unreliable public transport in LA, there are still a plethora of living options available.
The cities within LA are as diverse and varied as the US itself and within those cities, you’ll find unique neighborhoods and niche communities that are bound to match your specific brand of wandering soul. As a Melburnian, I tend to gravitate towards walkability, a cosmopolitan vibe, and good coffee! These are my top five picks.
Los Angeles Neighborhood Recommendation #1: The Westside: Venice
Unless you’ve never owned a TV or watched a movie made in the 90s, you’ve probably heard of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica or seen images of people rollerblading down Venice Beach. The Westside is the “quintessential” Los Angeles that most foreigners are thinking of when they refer to LA.
It’s also the priciest region, so if you can afford your pick of these towns, congratulations! If you’re moving here for the entertainment industry, most of the action will be around this part, so even if you have to share bunk-beds with a roommate in a densely packed apartment or live in a less desirable city, it’s best to stick to this area to avoid spending half your day sitting in traffic.
My favourite spot in this region is Venice.
If you enjoy being close to the beach and also an array of cafes/restaurants, bars, and shops to spread your time between, then Venice provides the perfect combination of these. The main strip for brunch spots and shopping is Abbot Kinney Boulevard where you’ll be mingling with cashed-up creatives and perusing higher-end chain boutiques. If you want a more organic environment, head to the beach, which has retained its rugged and “anything goes” mentality.
Here you will find anything from surfers and yuppies strolling down the boardwalk to tourists and homeless encampments. With a similar dynamic to St Kilda or Byron Bay, you’ll enjoy living here if you find these class fusions invigorating or want to have an amplified Californian cultural experience!
For the best coffee, hit up Aussie-owned Bluestone Lane on Rose Avenue (another bustling strip), or Menotti’s, which is right on the beachfront.
Average rent for a 1-bedroom: $2,695 per month
LA Neighborhood #2: South Bay: Manhattan Beach
Head down the coast for 15 kilometers and you’ll arrive at Manhattan Beach, which is my personal favorite for actually spending a day at the beach.
The main parking lot is next to shops and restaurants, so once you park, you can hang out at the beach, ride your bike or walk along the boardwalk and then head up to the restaurants for a bite to eat. The retail tends to be more recognizable US chains, with a few one-of-a-kind boutiques – making it a great place for the newly relocated to explore.
The town of Manhattan Beach (as well as the neighboring towns of Hermosa and Redondo Beaches) is great for families as they have great public schools and other exciting amenities for children (like the beach). While they all provide a seaside familiarity if you’re from coastal Australia, Manhattan Beach is still my favorite due to its translucent energy, a wide selection of eateries, and strollable downtown.
Australian equivalents are Brighton or Unley.
For best coffee try New Zealand-owned Two Guns Espresso in Manhattan Beach or The Boy and Bear Coffee Roastery in Redondo Beach.
Average Rent for a 1-bedroom: $2295 per month
Recommendation for Central-ish LA: Studio City
While Studio City is still considered to be on the Westside, it’s on the border of “Central LA” which makes it convenient if you have to commute to Hollywood, Burbank, and downtown LA. Studio city is more suburban and a tad more sterile than Venice or Santa Monica but still has an energizing and creative atmosphere. Its downtown strip is located on Ventura Boulevard and features a nice mix of established chains and one-of-a-kind boutiques, as well as another Bluestone Lane, which I previously mentioned. Bluestone Lane is an Australian-owned coffee shop chain that originated in NYC and has since made its way to many major cities in the US.
This particular location has become my go-to when I’m craving an Australian style brunch and flat white, along with some people watching. Studio City is also less expensive than the beachy areas of the Westside and has solid public school options, making it another great spot for families. I would compare it to Elsternwick or Camberwell.
Average rent for a 1-bedroom: $1995 per month
Eastside LA Recommendation: Highland Park
The Eastside region of LA has many newly sought-after neighborhoods and if you don’t need access to the west, you can definitely find something suitable.
Highland Park is my pick with great options for eating, shopping, and walking along both York Boulevard and Figueroa Street. And because parts of it are still mid-gentrification, you can find reasonably priced housing options.
There is a large hipster population in Highland Park, so make sure to edit out all vernaculars of established bands or multinational companies before moving here. As a non-hipster myself, I still like to hang out there for date night because it has an eclectic mix of hole-in-the-wall eateries, artisanal stores that “only sell one thing”, cart food on the weekends, as well as funky cocktail lounges and bars.
Highland Park also features an LA Metro train station which is a pretty nifty transit system that’s similar to the NYC subways or trams in Melbourne and Adelaide. As a general rule, you shouldn’t rely on public transportation in LA, but if you happen to be living in Highland Park for instance, and working in downtown LA, the metro system would be very convenient.
Similar Australian cities are Fitzroy or Marrickville. For good coffee, check out Café de Leche or Kindness & Mischief Coffee.
Average rent for a 1-bedroom: $1795 per month
Living in Pasadena
If you no longer have the patience for densely packed urban areas and need generously-sized parking spots in order to get kids out of their car seats, Pasadena is a great place to live!
It’s also a good transition if you’ve become accustomed to the vibrancy of urban areas and still enjoy a bit of “age-appropriate” nightlife. Since I was already in nesting mode when making the move to Southern CA, this area made the most sense for my family.
My husband and I can both work remotely so don’t have to worry about peak hour traffic and wouldn’t have considered it if we needed to head west on a regular basis. There are many people in Pasadena however who work in downtown LA and Burbank and find the commuting times manageable. According to Visit Pasadena’s restaurant directory, Pasadena has more than 600 restaurants (more per capita than NYC), so definitely a selling point if you’re a foodie! It also has some walkable areas, like Colorado Boulevard in Old Town and Lake Avenue near Caltech.
The only downside to living this far from the ocean is that it can get very hot in the summer with very little breezy reprieve. You will definitely need some kind of air conditioning unit, and if you’re looking at apartment complexes, try getting one with a pool. You’ll find this to be the case in most towns on the east side. Pasadena reminds me mostly of Toorak and Surrey Hills.
For good coffee, check out Lavender & Honey and Rosebud Coffee.
Average rent for a 1-bedroom: $1895 per month
Moving to Los Angeles, a summary from Australia
I’ve only touched on a mere sprinkling of the myriad neighborhoods across LA and you might need to move around a bit before you find “your people”.
I recommend finding a short-term rental first so you can check out a few neighborhoods before making a long-term decision, plus check potential travel times throughout different times of the day. What might say 20 minutes on Google Maps at 5 am, will likely double or triple during peak hour.
But the best part about LA is that you will eventually find a community and living situation that suits your personality and commuting preferences – even if it takes several Zillow searches to get there.
Another bonus for Australians is that regardless of where you choose to live, you’ll still be driving distance from the Pacific Ocean.
So whenever you feel homesick, just click your heels three times and within 30-90 minutes, you can find yourself standing on the beach, breathing in a familiar sea air while holding an Australian-quality flat white.
Great insights and a very accurate Australian perspective , coffee intel very much appreciated?
Such a wealth of in-depth and insightful information. Great article for Aussies who find LA overwhelming and confusing when seeking a suitable place to live.
I love the comparisons to our home towns and can never have enough coffee tips. Thank you.