23 Feb 2018
Why drive, when you can leave the stress of the commute at home and catch the train or a coach into town for your Melbourne escape? Simply pull into Southern Cross Station and you’re just a few minutes away from check-in at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne [123 Collins Street] on board any eastbound Collins Street tram.
If you’ve got time for a pre-dinner drink, tucked away off Flinders Lane, not too far from the Grand Hyatt, is Tonka [20 Duckboard Place, just west of Exhibition Street]. 2013 Sommelier of the Year Travis Howe has assembled a wine list both uncomplicated and interesting, and a cocktail list featuring Indian-inspired – think Darjeeling Fizz, with gin, peach, black tea and citrus – and classic drinks adds to the array of options.
The Flinders Lane precinct is a hotspot for boutique Melbourne dining, with options including Tonka’s sister restaurant, Coda [Basement 141 Flinders Lane] offering French-Vietnamese tapas plates and The Meatball and Wine Bar [135 Flinders Lane] serving up, you guessed it, a huge variety of sumptuous meatballs paired with a generous Italian wine list. Note: The Meatball and Wine Bar do not accept reservations, however Coda has a strict reservation policy and Friday/Saturday nights require bookings up to three months in advance.
Ask your hotel reception staff to start your day with a (very) early wake-up call, then catch a cab to the Pullman On The Park hotel where your Global Ballooning pilot will meet you. Or you can arrange to be picked up. Meeting an hour before sunrise, the pilot will give you a briefing before driving you to your launch spot. You’ll be encouraged to play an active part in getting the balloons ready, before a one-hour flight over Melbourne at sunrise. Don’t forget to wear plenty of layers and make sure you have a full battery in your phone or camera to capture the view! After the balloon ride you’ll be transported back to the Pullman for a champagne breakfast.
Afterwards, wander back through Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens towards the city, enjoying the serenity of the majestic elm trees that line the footpaths or stepping back in time to explore Australia’s oldest building, Cooks’ Cottage [Fitzroy Gardens, Wellington Parade, East Melbourne]. After the early start you might like a wee lie down before taking to the streets for a spot of Melbourne shopping.
First thing’s first; refuelling your stomach before a retail therapy session. Perfectly positioned in Melbourne’s iconic GPO building is Ca de Vin [350 Bourke Street], a quaint Italian restaurant where you can stop for a simple coffee or a long, luxurious lunch.
From here, your shopping options are practically endless. Whether you’re on the hunt for the latest in men’s or women’s fashion, something for the home or a gift for someone special, the city overflows with retailers eager to please. Perhaps you’ll start your adventure at Myer Melbourne [314-336 Bourke Street] or neighbouring David Jones [310 Bourke Street] in the bustling Bourke Street Mall. Or, head to Melbourne’s retail haven, Emporium Melbourne [287 Lonsdale Street, but you can enter from Little Bourke Street] for three stories of unparalleled luxury and convenience.
Drop your new gear back off at the hotel, or slip into one of your new purchases for a night of deliciousness, Melbourne style. Taxi Kitchen [Federation Square, above Transport Public Bar], perched high on the Yarra River, is the perfect place for a drink before crossing the river for dinner at Hophaus Bier Bar Grill [midlevel on Southbank Promenade]. Serving up hearty German fare with a sufficiently-large matching beer list, it pairs a tasty meal with sweeping views of Melbourne’s skyline.
To see the city from its best angle, however, head behind Southbank Promenade and make a beeline to Eureka Skydeck [Riverside Quay, Southbank], the Southern Hemisphere’s highest public vantage point. Last entry is at 9:30pm, so hop in the elevator and climb to the 88th floor for an unforgettable vista.
Of course, if you’re after a finer, longer dinner, stroll up Russell Street and turn left on Artemis Lane, a pedestrian alleyway that leads to Meat Fish Wine [31 Artemis Lane]. With a menu of fresh, farm-to-table produce paired with an enviable selection of wines from regional Victoria and around the world, it’s somewhere you could easily spend three or four hours. Despite its fine menu and expansive wine list (including many rare varietals available by the glass), it doesn’t feel like an over-the-top, fancy restaurant, so settle in and enjoy the excellent service and friendly staff.
Take your time waking up this morning, because Melbourne’s outdoor paradise, the Royal Botanic Gardens [Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra], has been here since the 1840’s and will remain for a long time to come. Stretch your legs and take the scenic route past the Yarra River rowing clubs, Sidney Myer Music Bowl and Government House before arriving at Ornamental Lake. The Terrace Cafe & Tea Rooms [southeast side of Ornamental Lake, pedestrian access only] has a decent breakfast and early lunch menu, and comes with a relaxing atmosphere that will help while away the morning.
If you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous (and a little bit more romantic), take a 30-minute guided tour on the lake with Punt Tours Melbourne. Settle back in an elegant wooden boat as your professional punter regales you with the history and stories of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Alternatively, journey back in time and through the ancient lands of the indigenous Koolin nation with a guided Aboriginal Heritage Walk. Departing from the Royal Botanic Gardens’ Visitor Information Centre at 11am and running for 90 minutes, you’ll experience a smoking ceremony and learn about the traditional uses of plants for food, tools and medicine.
Make the most of Melbourne’s public transport system and head to the other side of town for a unique vantage point (not to mention some great drinks and tapas). From the Royal Botanic Gardens, hop on any tram heading north on St Kilda Road before alighting at Collins Street, and switching to the #11 tram running east/northbound.
As the tram rolls up Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, you’ll see an ever-changing line-up of eclectic retailers, bars and restaurants. Naked For Satan [285 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy], near the intersection of Johnston Street has a rooftop bar with beautiful views across the city skyline. The menu is filled with tasty pintxos (northern Spanish tapas) and a range of beverages, making it the perfect place to unwind as the sun makes its way to the horizon.
If you’re travelling home today, you can’t do it on an empty stomach. Blend in with the crowds of businessmen and women and make your way to Hardware Lane, for a serving of baked eggs or French toast at the perennial favourite, The Hardware Societe [120 Hardware Street].
To wrap up your weekend, indulge in a little pampering before heading back to the train station. Combining old-fashioned values with modern technologies and techniques, Miss Fox [285 Little Collins Street] is a haven for relaxation, rejuvenation and reinvention for the ladies, while for the guys Manhor [505 Little Collins Street] was created especially for the men of Melbourne to provide a complete grooming, styling and wellbeing experience. Just the kind of luxurious experience you’ll want to take back with you.
Then it’s back off to Southern Cross Station for the trip home. Bon voyage!
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For more information, visit ptv.vic.gov.au