My overall out-take of South Melbourne and neighbouring Port Melbourne, is that there’s not all that much going on of interest to an out-of-towner. As an example, Jack originally got a chef job at a restaurant South Melbourne, and they relied on office workers for footfall and weren’t busy enough to offer him full-time hours. It’s all a bit of a hodge-podge of port, industrial space and new apartments. That said, there’s some major highlights around Southbank in the form of the NGV and the Botanical Gardens, and no doubt some little treasures to be found for those who do bother to explore further afield.
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3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
NATIONAL GALERY VICTORIA | or the NGV, is a brilliant first-class art gallery directly opposite the Botanical Gardens. I was able to catch the excellent Warhol versus Wei Wei exhibition, which was perfectly curated to draw comparisons between the two famous artists for West and East. It’s on until 24th April 2016 if you read this and can make it to Melbourne in time – I went on one of their Friday Night Late sessions; then there is also live music, food and a bar.
Also check out: this strip is home to other venues including Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre Melbourne. Keep an eye out for festivals, such as Sugar Mountain which was hosted at the Victorian College of The Arts.
BOTANICAL GARDENS | Melbourne is home to a very impressive green space, running along the edge of the Yarra River and almost in the heart of the city. There’s plenty of walking tracks and lawns to chill out on, as well as my favourite spot the Kitchen Garden in the Ian Potter Children’s Garden.
Also check out: A Neutrino sculpture is on display outside the Melbourne Observatory to commemorate the opening of Observatory Gate.
ALBERT PARK | I was surprised by how much was going on in this neighbourhood, that I admit I had never even heard of! It feels a little like Lygon Street in Carlton: quite family orientated (there are lots of vets!) and safe, with money and plenty of mainstream shops taking up residence on the high street. I really like the tranquil Vincent Gardens and it’s a pretty area to while away an afternoon.
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
SHRINE OF REMEMBRANCE | at the south-west entrance to the Botanical Gardens is a grand War Memorial, originally paying tribute to Victorians that fought and died in WW1 and now all Australians that were lost in war. You can venture inside and pay respect to the 1000s of individual names hand-written in documenting books, as well as climb the steps for an impressive view of Melbourne city.
SOUTHBANK | this central stretch is really trying to stand out, and it attracts crowds of tourists regardless because of it’s proximity to the CBD and pleasant riverside setting. Trouble is, there’s just not all that much going on unless you specifically have tickets to one of the above mentioned venues. Avoid the over-priced cafes and Haagen-Das ice cream, and instead just enjoy an amble along the Yarra River.
Also check out: White Night is probably the best time of year to explore Southbank, when there are projections on and inside many key buildings from 7pm to 7am. I was a little disappointed by the 2016 exhibition, but I think that’s largely because we should have gone post 10pm to see things properly. We gave up and went home.
SOUTH MELBOURNE BEACH | the quality of the sand is certainly as good as St. Kilda. I couldn’t vouch for the sea as I didn’t go in it and probably wouldn’t this close to the working port. The beach was empty and the Life Saving Club was closed: this is very much a place to stroll along the promenade rather than laze in your swimmers.
Also check out: the chain Foxes Den is a good stop for a filling and healthy lunch.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
MELBOURNE STAR OBSERVATION WHEEL | I really feel for the Wheel: it just doesn’t stand a chance! I have no doubt the Melbourne government has something akin to the money-spinner that is the London Eye in mind when they commissioned this, but then why the hell did they construct it in such a no mans land?! Standing in the industrial semi-wasteland that is Melbourne’s Docklands, I can’t see why anyone would want to go for a whirl, especially at $35.
PORT MELBOURNE BEACH | if I’m not going to swim at South Melbourne, I’m certainly not hanging around this spot – with the Spirit of Tasmania and numerous other cruise ships chugging in and out! There are a lot of people who chose to live out this way, based on the number of tasteful new build flats, but I’d save yourself the extra legwork and just check out South Melbourne.
Also check out: Port Melbourne offer free boat tours, but tickets are limited and book out quickly.
CROWN CASINO | OK so I haven’t actually been here, but I can think of a million better places to spend your time in Melbourne. The drinking laws are so much more relaxed here than Sydney, and as such the bar scene continues to thrive. Who needs a soulless Casino with fancy-pants restaurants?
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
SOUTH MELBOURNE MARKET | described as the ‘quintessential village market’ I’m yet to make it to this local favourite, open on Wednesday then Friday through Sunday. They also offer cooking classes at the Neff Market Kitchen.
AND KNOW THIS: Australia’s iconic spread is still only manufactured at the Vegemite factory in Fisherman’s Bend, Port Melbourne.