Sydney’s cooler sidekick mixes high culture with grungy street life – all perfectly washed down with the best coffee Australia has to offer
AM If you’ve just flown into Australia, chances are you’ll be feeling the effects of jet lag. Fortunately, Melbourne is the unofficial coffee capital of the world. Start your day off on a mild note with a strong coffee and a ricotta cannoli from Lygon Street’s historic Brunetti café (think mosaic floors, pro baristas and displays heaving with cakes). Follow up with a browse through Readings’ beautiful bookstore across the road. It’s cracked a global award as bookstore of the year, and specialises in Australian works.
PM The Melbourne Museum is open seven days a week, so it’ll fit into any schedule. The striking post-modernist building turns the stuffy image of museums on its head – both externally and internally. The Forest Gallery (which includes a rainforest) recreates a living Melbournian forest biome, including the plants and critters that inhabit it naturally. Even the display of, um, stuffed animals is challenging (and beautiful): it features 750 creatures great and small, and explores how climate change is affecting them.
Worked up an appetite? Head back to Lygon Street to sample international and top Australian cheese and wine at Milk the Cow. Or have a bucket-list meal: Melbourne has more restaurants created by former contestants than you can throw a at. Just make sure to book weeks in advance at opentable.com.au.
AM Melbourne is proud of its street art (aka graffiti), and the best spot to take snaps to fire up your Instagram feed is the cobbled Hosier Lane. While away a couple of hours in the city’s old lanes, such as the ornate Block Place and Cathedral Arcade and the vibey Degraves Street, where you can stop for an injection of caffeine.
PM The city has a free tram service for the CBD, so you can hop on and off as you explore the zone. It takes in the highlights, with a recorded tour guide directing you. Get off at Federation Square, the city’s hub of arts and culture, then walk along the banks of the Yarra River and cross to Southbank to head up the 91-storey Eureka Tower for a 360-degree view of Melbourne. Round your day off with sundowners at Rooftop Bar in Curtin House. In winter, heaters keep you toasty; in summer, it transforms into a movie theatre in the sky.
HIT THE BEACH
AM Take a tram south to St Kilda and stroll along the beach (yes, Melbourne has these too!) to the pier to check out the black swans. If you’re lucky, you’ll also clock a penguin or two. Check out Luna Park, an amusement park that’s been operating since 1912. You needn’t commit to any gravity-defying rides – the charm of the park is enough to keep you entertained.
PM Kangaroos, koalas, dingoes and echidnas: you can’t really visit Australia without taking in its weird and wonderful creatures. Melbourne Zoo offers close-ups with kangaroos, and the “Australian Bush” exhibit offers a mini Aussie adventure without having to head to the outback. The zoo is spacious, provides its residents with authentic habitats and is committed to conservation, which we think wins it bragging rights. In summer, you can stay on after dark for Zoo Twilights – live music set in the glorious open-air gardens. In fact, with Melbourne being the live-music capital of the world, you should fit in a concert just for kicks. Gigs planned for the city at its many music venues in 2019 include Def Leppard, Shania Twain, Maroon 5, Eminem and Phil Collins.
FLY SAA flies daily to Perth from Johannesburg. From Perth, catch a connecting flight to Melbourne with code-share partner Virgin Australia.