Discover Melbourne's cultural and culinary scene on this three day trip.
By Ellie Schneider
Roam through Melbourne's colourful laneways, enjoy cuisine from around the world and explore an arts scene to rival that of any Australian city. On your final day hit the road and head south for the beaches and boutique wineries of the Mornington Peninsula.
Start your trip to Melbourne in its pulsating city centre. A free City Circle tram runs throughout town, starting at Flinders Street Station, and takes in must-see attractions such as St Paul's Cathedral, Parliament House and the Royal Exhibition Building. Hop off the tram at Flagstaff Station and take a five minute stroll to Queen Victoria Market. The market has been a Melbourne landmark for more than a century and offers an incredible range of local and imported gourmet foods. Grab a coffee from Market Lane Coffee, in the Deli Hall, and a spinach and cheese borek from the Borek Shop. Hop back on the tram to Federation Square. This is Melbourne's cultural heart, home to cutting-edge art at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and an extensive range of Aboriginal works at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. Explore the galleries before sitting down to lunch at one of the many restaurants on nearby Flinders Lane – Chin Chin and Coda are both standouts.
Melbourne's city centre is threaded with cobbled laneways, where you could easily lose yourself over a few hours. In these 19th century arcades and alleyways reinvigorated with world-famous street art, you'll find hidden gems at every turn. Enter at Degraves Street, which is lined with cafés and coffee shops, then cross Collins Street to visit the exquisite, 1892-built Block Arcade. The arcade is full of old-world charm, from antique jewellery stores to traditional tailors and the treasured Hopetoun Tea Rooms. In the afternoon take a stroll around the Royal Botanic Gardens or join a tour to see the inner sanctum of the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). If you're visiting between March and September make sure you see a game of AFL (Australian rules football). For dinner head to Little Bourke Street and taste the flavours of Melbourne's Chinatown, or check out the vast dining hall at Cookie in Curtin House. Catch a live performance at Bennetts Lane, Australia's premier jazz venue, which hosts local and international musicians most nights.
Melbourne's style set has found a home in affluent South Yarra. Start your day at Two Birds One Stone, a popular breakfast spot serving dishes such as ricotta pancakes with fresh figs, marmalade syrup, pistachio cream and toasted sunflower seeds. Chapel Street splits the suburb at its centre and is lined with boutiques, including Alice McCall and Dinosaur Designs. Chapel Street continues into the neighbourhood of Prahran. Visit the bustling Prahran Market, renowned for its gourmet delis and specialty produce, and then walk down eclectic Greville Street. From here it’s a 15 minute cab ride (or 30 minutes by tram) to St Kilda beach, where you can stroll along the esplanade and historic St Kilda Pier, and enjoy a cake at one of Acland Street's famous patisseries.
From St Kilda it's a half hour tram ride back to the city centre. Visit Australia's oldest gallery, the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), which hosts a wide range of local and international artists, exhibitions and events. Or you may like to see Melbourne from a new perspective aboard a cruise along the Yarra River. Dine out in one of the city's diverse eating enclaves – try Vietnamese in Richmond, Italian along Carlton's Lygon Street or Spanish on Johnston Street in Fitzroy. Nearby Brunswick Street is a hive of activity, with ethnic eateries, pubs and rooftop bars. Sample the house-infused vodka at Naked in the Sky – the rooftop terrace crowning Naked for Satan – and enjoy some of the best city views.
Hire a car from Melbourne and drive just over an hour south to the Mornington Peninsula, home to bay and ocean beaches, wineries, orchards and acclaimed restaurants. At the town of Sorrento you can follow the stunning clifftop Millionaire’s Walk, an undulating 1.5 kilometre (0.9 mile) return track, which takes in breathtaking views across Port Phillip Bay. Afterwards visit Peninsula Hot Springs to take a dip in natural thermal springs, enjoy a Turkish steam bath (hammam) or book a spa treatment. For lunch make reservations at Ten Minutes by Tractor, which celebrates seasonal local produce with dishes such as seared kangaroo fillet and tail with sweet potato, pickled northern Queensland quandongs and pepperberry jus.
The Mornington Peninsula is home to more than 50 cellar doors, most of which specialise in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Try a carefully curated wine flight at small-batch winemaker Crittenden Estate, or blend your own bubbly with winemaker Michael Lee at Foxeys Hangout. The region is also well known for its premium craft breweries, such as Red Hill Brewery, Mornington Peninsula Brewery and True South. You can also sample the region's most delicious produce on a Wine Food Farmgate trail, choosing from a range of themed gourmet itineraries. Stay overnight in a luxury villa or take the easy drive back to Melbourne.