Local’s guide: Melbourne

Melbourne my nrma locals guide
Melbourne my nrma locals guide

It’s Australia’s southern capital of culture and sport. A sophisticated mix of art galleries, live music, cafes, laneway shopping and, of course, (Australian rules) football.

  • Visit the Fairy Trees in Fitzroy Gardens
  • Take a run around The Tan
  • Morning tea in the Hopetoun Tea Rooms
  • Dinner at Australia’s best restaurant
  • Stroll Flinders Lane for great shopping

The Boxing Day Test, the AFL Grand Final, the Melbourne Cup, The Australian Open – sport is life in this city of nearly 4.5 million people, but locals know that Melbourne is so much more. Take the 8.5 hour drive south from Sydney and you’ll find a sophisticated city rich in culture, the arts, designer fashion and world class dining. With fabulous parks and gardens, edgy shopping precincts and a cafe on almost every corner, the only thing Melbourne requires of you is time.

Where to eat

No visit to Melbourne would be complete without pasta at Pellegrini’s, high tea at The Windsor or beer with Chloe at Young & Jacksons. But that’s not all there is. Past the glossy cakes at Hopetoun Tea Rooms in Block Arcade you’ll find wine, coffee and gelato at Barbarella. There’s also a hole in the wall cafe around the corner (Switchboard), a gentleman’s outfitter and cafe (Captains of Industry) and locally roasted coffee (Brother Baba Budan). Further afield, for breakfast and lunch, try Proud Mary in Collingwood, Auction Rooms in North Melbourne, or sit by the river with a latte at Kanteen in South Yarra.

For distinguished Melbourne dining, try Supernormal, Cutler & Co. and the “best” restaurant in Australia, Attica, in Ripponlea. Or spend the wee hours in hidden laneway bars including The Croft Institute, Bar Americano and Eau De Vie. But don’t forget the pubs: The Tote in Collingwood for sticky carpets and dirty rock, The Lincoln in Carlton for gastropub flair, The Local Taphouse in East St Kilda for variety of beers or The Carlton in the city for weird decor and fun.

Where to play

Many big Melbourne attractions have a quirky locals’ alternative. Take an MCG tour or eat a pie at a VFL game in Victoria Park; picnic in the majestic Royal Botanic Gardens or visit the Fairies Tree at Fitzroy Gardens, ride the Scenic Railway at Luna Park or throw a towel on the beach at Half Moon Bay. See the latest blockbuster at the National Gallery of Victoria or peruse boutique curiosities at The Johnston Collection, take in a city view at Eureka Skydeck or see a film up high in the Rooftop Cinema; learn about the creepier aspects of our colonial past at Old Melbourne Gaol or ponder the exhibits at the Jewish Museum of Australia; shop for fresh produce at Queen Victoria Market or stroll around the South Melbourne Market.

Other favourite local pastimes include walking or running The Tan in South Yarra, watching the penguins at St Kilda Pier, taking a drive to Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges, catching a band at The Corner Hotel in Richmond or Cherry Bar in AC/DC Lane in the city, and eating Hobsons Bay fish and chips in Williamstown.

Where to shop

This buzzing metropolis has its share of big name brands such as Gucci and Ralph Lauren, not to mention destination shopping malls like Chadstone and Eastland. But locals know the most interesting retail adventures require inside knowledge and a little bit of legwork.

Find stylish Melbourne souvenirs at Melbournalia, or stroll around the Flinders Lane area for women’s fashion (Alpha 60, LIFE with BIRD, Kuwaii) and men’s (Incu, The Practical Man). Head to Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street and its surrounds for a mix of edgy fashion and unusual finds, including Saint Cloud (bikes), Cottage Industry (craft), Rose Chong (costumes) and Northside (great soul, jazz and funk vinyl records).

Melbourne is also known for vertical shopping outlets, from beads and art galleries at the Nicholas Building to men’s jewellery and records at Mitchell House and restaurants and hairdressing at Curtin House. For more mainstream shopping, try Melbourne Central (look out for the old shot tower and the Australiana clock on Level 2) and Emporium (stylish layout, great restaurants). Still hungry for more? Why not take a private walking shopping tour with Hidden Secrets, guided by locals who are really in the know.

Where to stay

As you’d expect, Melbourne has a huge range of accommodation types, from budget and boutique to art house and luxury. For an affordable option in the city’s waterfront hub, Travelodge Southbank offers comfortable accommodation by the Yarra River. The Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex, MCG and NGV are nearby, and the CBD is a short walk away. A knowledgeable concierge is also on hand to help you navigate the city.

On the other side of the river, Travelodge Docklands is conveniently located next to Southern Cross station and Etihad Stadium – perfect if you’re catching an AFL game, or in town for a concert. The 291 rooms offer a range of one and two bedroom configurations with kitchenettes, and there’s on site parking and 24 hour reception.

NRMA members can also save on car hire in Melbourne at SIXT with 15% off daily rental rates. 

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