“I absolutely love having visitors to Melbourne so that I can take them around and show off what a wonderful city it is that I live in. Whenever I need to plan a day out or in, I ask what type of experience the person is looking for. For example, adventurous, artsy, cultural, relaxing, party etc. I also do the same when I am just looking for something to do on my own.” These are the words of our best friend, Caitlyn, who has been living in Melbourne for years and years. She has given Grace + Alice a rundown of the best places and things to do while in one of the best cities in Australia – Melbourne!
Image by Go Melbourne
What are your top brunch spots?
There are a number of amazing cafes in Melbourne but here are three of my favourites:
Sandbar Beach Cafe, Middle Park – For brunch on the beach you can’t go past Sandbar. Sit back on the deck, overlook fabulous views of Port Phillip Bay and enjoy some delicious food.
Gardiner and Field, Armadale – For a suburban breakie break head to Gardiner and Field. They have a delicious home-blend coffee and a menu full of tasty meals.
Las Chicas, St Kilda – For brunch with a bang look no further than Las Chicas. This place has a bit of attitude and serves up fresh, local and sustainable produce.
What are your favourite places to eat?
Izakaya Den, Melbourne City – Tucked away down stairs and around the corner, this Japanese restaurant is amazing. It’s romantic for a date or makes a great start to a boozy night out.
The Breslin, Southbank – If you love having a meal down by the water then this is the place for you. I recommend the calamari salad – it is delicious!
I Carusi II, St Kilda – Just try it.
What are the best three spots to get sweet treats?
Chez Dre, South Melbourne – This little café serves some of the best French pastries and macaron’s around.
Brunetti’s (various locations) – Live a dolce vita and try a slice of torte from Brunetti’s.
Miss Marples Tea Room, Sassafras – Not just for some delicate Devonshire tea try a classic dessert like a ‘Sundae Best’ or ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’.
Image by Brunetti’s
What are your favourite bars in Melbourne?
Ponyfish Island, Southbank – There is nothing better than sipping on a G&T watching the sun go down in the middle of the Yarra River.
Seamstress Cocktail Bar, Melbourne City – This place is classy, cosy and they can shake up some mean cocktails. What more could you want?
Captain Baxter or Republica, St Kilda – If you are looking for a great beachfront location look no further than these two hotspots!
Where are the best shopping areas?
Chadstone – Chaddy has more than 500 stores – go here for the big retail brands. It has them all.
Melbourne Central – Wander the streets of Melbourne for quirky shops, clothing stores, homeware stores – just about anything really.
Chapel St – One of the most iconic streets to shop along when in Melbourne.
Image by Sarah Reid
If we want to be a tourist for the day what would you recommend?
Make sure you have good walking shoes on and start the day with a lap around The Tan Track (at the Royal Botanic Gardens) or a walk along the river, starting at Anderson St Bridge, making your way toward the city. If you are early enough to catch the hot air balloons flying over the city, it is a spectacular sight. Head back towards the Botanical Gardens and to The Lawson Grove Coffee Shop in South Yarra for breakfast. If you can, hold off on the coffee as at your next stop, it is a must.
I absolutely love the South Melbourne Market so that is the next destination. Start with a takeaway coffee from Padre Coffee to sip whilst you wander down the meat, seafood and deli aisle finishing at the Emerald Hill Deli on your right and Rita’s Coffee and Nut Shop on your left. Make sure you visit the Cheese Room at Emerald Hill Deli and if you time it right, you might get a try of their homemade gnocchi fresh for you to taste test.
When you have finished your coffee and have two hands free to shop, wander through the rest of the market, first looking through the homewares and clothing shops and then to the fresh fruit and veg. You will need a snack later in the afternoon so pick a few of your favourite picnic items, some fresh bread from the Sourdough Bakery and a nice bottle of wine from Swords Select.
Image by Go Melbourne
Melbourne city is special. Once you hit the fringe of the CBD on Flinders St / Spencer St (closest corner coming from the market), jump on the city circle tram. It is a free tourist tram and lets be honest, your legs probably need a rest by now. Take the tram east towards Spring St and enjoy the ride until you get around to Melbourne Central and the State Library. I love this building! You will definitely see a few randoms hanging out at the library but in fact you just need to accept that the CBD attracts all kinds of people. Enjoy the architecture of the building and a wander through the books if you please.
Afterwards you may want to head through Melbourne Central or to the new Emporium Shopping Mall for your retail fix before heading to the botanical gardens and enjoying that picnic lunch you bought earlier.
Settle down on the grass near the lake and enjoy a peaceful moment listening to the bird life and taking in the greenery. What amazes me is how you can go from being in the heart of a bustling city into the calm and serene botanical gardens in a matter of minutes. Spend as much time here as you would like to and if it is a nice warm sunny day, a nap on the grass is very pleasant.
Once you’ve freshened up at your hotel or done a bit more shopping I suggest you head into St Kilda for dinner and some drinks at about 7:00pm. Captain Baxter is a great choice for a meal and cocktail and has a great view of the bay. After your meal, if your feet can handle it after a big day of walking, wander down St Kilda Pier to visit the penguins. If you would rather jump straight into your night out you can either stay at Captain Baxter for a while and let the wine keep flowing or head up into St Kilda for a drink at Big Mouth. The large appeal of Melbourne is no matter where you go you will always have a great night out.
Image by Jessica Grant
What are your top ‘get out of town’ adventures from Melbourne?
Spend a day in the Yarra Valley. Make sure you go on a trip that includes a winery tour or two and a winery lunch. Gorgeous!
Portsea: Start with a BBQ lunch at one of the parks between Sorrento and Portsea. Allowing yourself enough time to digest, make your way to Portsea or Sorrento back beach for a swim. When you start to feel your throat dry up from thirst, make your way to the Portsea Hotel for a thirst quenching glass of sparkling wine and a meal to replenish your energy. Be sure to save room for Vulcano Gelato in Rye on the way home though!
The Great Ocean Road is an iconic tourist destination so I guess that has to be on the list. Drive down to Lorne for brunch and then make your way to Apollo Bay for a dip and lunch. If you are on a budget, I suggest grabbing some items from a market to have a picnic. Going any further is probably going to mean a very long day out but then again, who knows when you will be back.
What is the best ’do before you die’ experience you can have in Melbourne?
Run for the Kids charity run. Doing this run is only one opportunity every year where you can a) run through the Domain Tunnel, b) run over the Bolte Bridge, and c) contribute towards the annual Good Friday Appeal, all in the space of say, 2 hours with 35000 people. In 2014, Run for the Kids raised $1.9 million for the Royal Children’s Hospital as part of the Good Friday Appeal!!