I lived in Melbourne for 7 years as a child and it’s a place I love coming back to, but most of my visits in recent years have been centred around eating and catching up with friends. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, on my latest trip I decided to pursue my aim of being a tourist in my own city (well, in this case my second city).
Where to Stay:
We landed quite late at night, so it was really convenient for us to stay at the Vibe Savoy on Little Collins street. It’s literally across the road from Southern Cross station, so it’s particularly handy if you have an early or late flight (the airport shuttle leaves from here several times an hour).
But despite its close proximity to the train station, we didn’t find the Vibe noisy at all. The entrance is on Little Collins, so you’re not walking straight out onto a busy road. The hotel is housed in a stunning old art deco building, which is beautifully maintained.
The hotel features 163 rooms, which are big enough to easily fit a queen size bed, chair and desk. The rooms themselves are full of character, with ornate ceiling roses and cornices, plush carpet, black and white subway tiles in the bathrooms and draping sunblock curtains. The bed was really comfortable, and was directly in front of the TV, discreetly hidden behind a large mirrored cabinet.
There’s also a small restaurant and bar on site, as well as 24 hour room service if you don’t want to leave your room. The lobby is really lovely, and it was a nice, clean, cool space to come back to after a busy morning sightseeing.
Overall, we loved our stay here, and would definitely stay again, especially for the great price we got online.
St Jeromes, the Hotel
Melbourne is known for its innovative, quirky and cool establishments, and St Jerome’s is all three (and more). They’ve taken an otherwise boring and barren rooftop above Melbourne Central and turned it into a campsite featuring 20 luxury tents. But this is definitely not your ordinary camp ground. This is the kind of camping where instead of sleeping on a dodgy air mattress, you get a quality queen size bed; instead of cooking damper in a fire, they bring you gourmet cupcakes; and instead of drinking billy tea, they mix you up a delicious cocktail. Oh, and it all gets delivered to your tent. Now that is my kind of camping!
We arrived at St Jerome’s in the afternoon, and within minutes, we were settled in. There was no fighting to find the best spot, no battling to set up the tent, and no blowing up the air mattress. Instead, we sat lazing in the sun on our little deck outside the entrance of the tent until our cupcakes and our esky full of craft beers and cider arrived.
Next on the agenda were cocktails, followed by games at the on site General Store (where I took out the Connect Four championship of the century). And this was where we discovered that what St Jerome’s does have in common with other camp grounds is that there is a sense of community. While at other hotels you can stay and then leave without so much as sighting another guest, at St Jerome’s, everyone chats and plays games in the communal areas, or says hello as they’re passing one another’s tents.
The tents themselves are big enough to swing the proverbial cat without touching the sides of the tent. They’re roomy enough to fit two people, a queen size bed, bedside tables, a chair and table and whatever luggage you bring with you. They’re carpeted, cosy and comfortable and even have air conditioning/heating!
The property itself is green and neat and has a really great atmosphere, with the tents lined up in four rows, each with its own little deck.
The view of the surrounding buildings is particularly spectacular at night and the noise from the traffic didn’t really bother us, although they do provide earplugs just in case!
There are mobile onsite bathrooms which are heated and have skylights and are the poshest portaloos I’ve ever seen.
Apart from all the stuff I’ve already mentioned, a stay at St Jerome’s also includes burgers delivered to your tent, a breakfast hamper (which we couldn’t even finish), ice creams and coupons to use at the nearby bowling centre and Mexican restaurant. The only downside to staying at St Jerome’s is that it’s going to be tough going back to ‘normal’ camping.
Things to Do:
The MCG has been the much loved icon of Melbourne since 1853, less than 20 years after the founding of the city.
Our tour guide John, who had clearly been there for a fair few of those years, took great delight in taking us behind the scenes and regaling us with stories about the great ground’s history and visiting teams.
The tour took us from the bowels of the ‘G’ to the very top tiers, as well as everything in between. We even got to stand on the ground while a Sheffield Shield match was going on.
One of the highlights for me was seeing the corporate boxes. Apparently there’s about 120 of them, and they only cost about $100,000 each per year. One of the boxes was decked out with Elvis memorabilia, which was a little unexpected.
We also got to see where the coaches and commentators sit during AFL matches, as well as the races and emergency benches, which I’ve only ever seen on TV. We also walked into part of the famous Long room, which John told us is one of only three in the world.
The tour finished at the entrance to the National Sports Museum, which features several different sections including AFL, cricket, the Olympics and the history of the MCG itself.
The exhibits are very interactive, especially in the Game On sports gallery where you can try your hand at archery, cycling, goal kicking, handballing and goalie reflexes (we tried most of these and even though I lost count, I’m pretty sure I won).
We decided to visit the Eureka Skydeck at night so we could take in all the city lights. The Skydeck, which is in Southbank, is 88 floors up and apparently has the fastest elevator trip in the Southern Hemisphere (I’d believe it). The views were quite breathtaking, and we could see all the major landmarks of Melbourne lit up.
There’s also an outdoor viewing deck which got us even closer to the action, and even though it was seriously windy and quite freezing, the views were worth it!
We also got a ticket to the Edge, which at the time I didn’t know is the world’s only moving glass structure of its type. Basically, you stand in a darkened glass cube while it extends from the building (complete with dramatic sound effects). When it stops, the box lights up and the panels all around you become transparent, including the floor. It took quite a while for me to actually let go of the railing and trust that I wasn’t going to plummet to my death, but once I got past that, it was a really thrilling experience to be able to look straight down almost 300 metres.
Since I damaged my ear scuba diving, aquariums are about as close to being under water as I can get. I really enjoyed the Melbourne aquarium, and I’d definitely take the kids back there as it’s really geared toward education and conservation.
There’s heaps to see, including touch pools, a huge oceanarium, coral atolls and a re-created rainforest, complete with a realistic forest floor.
A highlight for me was the seahorse pier, which is apparently the largest collection of seahorse and seadragon species in the world, and they are just so cute!
The other highlight (and a surprise to me) was that the aquarium has its own penguin playground, complete with snow-covered ice. The King Penguins stand around in pairs, mimicking each other, while the smaller Gentoo penguins dive in and out of the water.
We spent the morning at Prahran markets, which is about a 15 minute drive from the city. Prahran is Melbourne’s oldest fresh food market and is famous for its fresh produce. If you can eat it, you can find it here, including heirloom produce, cheeses, small goods, artisan products, certified organic fruit and veg, as well as some fantastic coffee and nutella doughnuts. We literally ate our way around this place for hours!
Notes: No matter what season you visit Melbourne, the only advice I can give is to pack for any weather because you’re likely to get all four seasons in one hour!