On your next Australian holiday, make Melbourne the destination. David Bowden lists 10 activities that you can indulge in
AUSTRALIA'S second largest city, Melbourne, with its galleries, museums and theatres, is best known as the nation's cultural capital.
It is a city that also takes dining out and coffee seriously, and its narrow inner city laneways are mostly decorated with colourful artwork. Historic arcades provide connectivity between the main shopping thoroughfares.
Melbourne makes up for its often chilly winter by presenting major indoor exhibitions, plays and concerts, and in summer, outdoor activities, especially sporting events, dominate.
Here are 10 vibrant activities, locations and events that make Melbourne an essential destination to visit on your next Australian holiday.
The often maligned Yarra River flows through the centre of the city and there are several ways to discover its numerous attractions. GoBoat (www.goboatmelbourne.com.au), a relatively new mode of transportation, is all about the freedom of captaining your own boat. GoBoats are electric-powered and move at a graceful pace with comfortable seating for eight passengers. There is a central table and groups are encouraged to bring their own snacks and beverages on board. Instructions are straightforward and navigation is easy. The leisurely pace makes it perfect for photographing the city skyline, riverside sporting stadiums and gardens.
BRIGHT BEACH BUNGALOWS
While not well known for its beaches, there are expanses of golden sand fronting the refreshingly cool waters of Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay. A popular photographic venue is the Brighton Bathing Boxes (www.brightonbahingbox.org.au), which now comprises 96 brightly painted wooden sheds on the sands at Brighton Beach. These Victorian-era landmarks were designed for modest bathing, especially for women. They are owned by bayside residents and none are supplied with water or electricity. Visitors can arrive by train from the city to Brighton Beach Station on the Sandringham line.
Dining at altitude is a luxurious experience in Melbourne and the city's latest destination restaurant is Strato Restaurant and Sky Bar (www.skybarmelbourne.com.au) at the 140m-high summit of the Oakwood Premier Melbourne Hotel.
Here, people can elevate their taste buds in more ways than one, dining on an exciting menu that features contemporary Australian cuisine.
Enjoy dishes such as Jerusalem artichoke soup with shaved truffle and Wagyu Black Opal tenderloin (marbling five) from the restaurant's vantage point high above the city.
ON YA BIKE
Melbourne by Bike (www.melbournebybike.com) offers several bicycle touring itineraries around the city centre and into adjoining and culturally diverse suburbs.
Cyclists can discover the sights and gain local insights from owner/guide Murray Johnson and his energetic team.
User-friendly bicycles and helmets are provided and very little skill is required to navigate Melbourne's mostly flat inner city streets.
Electric bikes are also available for adventurers who want to head off with a map on a solo tour of the city's attractions.
There are various notable art galleries, with the National Gallery of Victoria (www.ngv.vic.gov.au) leading the charge. The gallery is located on several sites to bring blockbuster exhibitions to the city — like the recently concluded The Picasso Century exhibition — and showcases indigenous works and contemporary art at other times. The Ian Potter Centre, in the architecturally striking Federation Square, is a noted art space. Visit the gallery for displays by indigenous artists and
striking sculptures by celebrated Australian sculptor Ron Mueck. The Ron Mueck: Mass exhibition is on from now until Jan 15.
Artfully brewed coffee is taken very seriously in a city that rivals Vienna as the world's coffee capital. Take in the ambiance of a legendary laneway cafe or grab a coffee to go, but carefully study the variety of coffee before ordering local favourites like a flat white or skinny latte. Seek out iconic local coffee shops like Pellegrini's Espresso Bar, Market Lane, Seven Seeds and Code Black. New outlets, like Liminal at 161 Collins Street, are making their mark too. Join a coffee-charged walking tour of the city with Walk Melbourne (www.walkmelbourne.com.au). Guided walks in small groups depart every Thursday and Saturday at 10am and last three hours.
LANEWAYS AND ARCADES
The city centre's numerous narrow laneways dating back to the Victorian era were neglected and ignored for a long time. Over the past few decades, they have been revitalised as walking paths providing connectivity to the main network of streets. Artwork has enlivened them and brought new energy and life to the city and set a trend for other Australian cities to follow. Bars, cafes, clubs and small restaurants inject character too. There are also several historic arcades, including the Block and Royal Arcades, with smart retail outlets. Some of its laneways are named after famous Australian rockers like AC/DC Lane after AC/DC and Amphlett Lane after Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer ofthe Divinyls.
Movenpick Melbourne (www.movenpick.com) on Spencer is the most recent addition to the city's hotel inventory. Forming the 'podium' of Melbourne's iconic Premier Tower, the hotel's stylish 172 rooms and suites offer a memorable experience that blurs the lines between art and design. The works of some of Melbourne's best photographers are displayed in the hotel's public spaces. A not-to-miss experience is the daily 'chocolate hour'. The facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, hot tub and sauna plus a 24-hour gym.
Everyone loves a market for the fresh produce, the variety and the bargains. Melbourne doesn't disappoint with its most famous being the Queen Victoria Market. The South Melbourne Market (www.southmelbournemarket.com.au), dating back to 1867, is up there too, offering an enticing selection of fresh produce from seafood to fruit and vegetables, cheeses, cakes, bread and meats. It is very popular with the locals who shop here in the finest traditions of a European market. The market is open on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Guided market foodie tours are offered on the third Saturday of every month from 9.30am to 10.30am. The tour visits and samples the produce of the market's iconic French patisserie, chocolatier, fromagerie, oyster bar and Spanish bodega.
EUREKA, A SKYDECK
Melbourne Skydeck (www.melbourneskydeck.com.au) at Eureka Tower provides stunning elevated views of the city. The Edge suspends adventurous guests in a transparent glass cube that juts out from Melbourne Skydeck. Admire the view through the glass floor, 300m above the streets of Melbourne. Voyager Theatre provides an amazing voyage of discovery through Melbourne and Victoria using 8K video with 6D immersion. The site is open daily except on Monday and Tuesday from noon to 10pm at Riverside Quay, Southbank.
Visit Melbourne with Malaysia Airline Promo to enjoy special price reductions on flight tickets.