Melbourne, that bobby-dazzler between the Yarra River and the
deep blue sea, hides its many brilliant lights under a bushel. Vibrant and creative, it’s all about food, fashion, culture and design, but many of its delights are secreted away down little lanes, unmarked entrances and hidden basements. Probe deep, and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.
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Coffee is to Melbourne what its star son Chris Hemsworth is to Thor – essential – so kickstart your day at java specialists Seven Seeds where the seasonal beans are roasted on site. Then potter over to epicurean heaven Queen Victoria Market groaning with breads and cheeses, plus heady spice mixes at Gewurzhaus fine chocolates at Koko Black and Market Lane Coffee in case you need another cuppa. There’s some fab fashion to be found too, especially Collective Closets a female-run business stocking ethically made clothing by local designers.
scenic yarra riverside
You’re in central Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone, so hop on and off a tram as often as you like. At Flinders St Station, dash up to Rentabike on the banks of the Yarra River. Grab some wheels, a helmet and bike lock and decide how energetic you’re feeling. Your destination is Yarra Bend Park a slice of Aussie bush in Melbourne’s north, but there are two ways to get there. If you fancy the hour-long scenic route, you can cycle along the Yarra Trail following the river. Or if you want to halve the time, head east along Flinders St, past Fitzroy Gardens and on to meet the river at Abbotsford, then follow it to Yarra Bend Park.
galleries and boutiques
Once you’ve reached the park, rest and refuel at the restored Edwardian-era Studley Park Boathouse because there’s more pedalling to come. Cycle back towards the city to Collingwood Yards a sprawling creative precinct, home to artists’ studios, galleries and boutiques.
Shop for hit threads
Hope St Radio is onsite for bevs, bites and tunes. On you go to The Standard Store hip men’s and women’s threads, Crumpler bags and backpacks, and Third Drawer Down funky homewares, then return your wheels to Rentabike before heading back to the hotel for a dip in the pool before dinner.
One of the hottest tables in town is Aru where Chef Khanh Nguyen draws on his Vietnamese heritage and primal cooking techniques like smoking, fermenting, curing and coal-firing to shape a delectable menu of Oz-Asian snacks and sharing dishes. Standouts include the duck sausage sanga, a ritzy riff on the classic Aussie sausage sandwich, and the banh mi-flavoured pâté en croute. With the night still young, skip up to the rooftop bar at Farmer’s Daughters a mini oasis among the glassy city towers. It’s an ideal spot to enjoy an East Gippsland chardonnay or Beekeeper’s Sour for a nightcap. Kicking on? The Toff in Town is ace for late-night imbibing, live music and DJ sets.