24 hours and 2 places to stop: a whirlwind weekend in Melbourne

How to spend a weekend in this buzzing capital

Posted by Casey Warrener on Thursday, February 23, 2017

We often talk about getting out of the city, but you know what? Flying into one is just as fun. In fact if it's excitement you’re after – backstreet bars, multi-course meals, heart-melting music and mind-blowing art – you’re better off looking within metropolis than without its vibrant, ever-changing pulse, a rhythm elevated and elongated by the movement of inner mobs. In 24 to 48 hours you need to find out what gets your heart racing REAL quick, so we’ve put together a framework of practical advice, local insights, and of course, the places to rest your head and (briefly) kick up your feet. Ready to experience the best of Melbourne?

Getting there

The SkyBus from the airport is affordable and regularly scheduled. Similarly, the Starbus can be booked to ferry you between the terminal and your hotel. Cabbies and traffic are unpredictable, so we’d advise against this option. There’s no rail link to the airport as yet, but once you’re in the city the tram and train system is easy and widely accessible. Pick up a MYKI online or at any 7Eleven, and top it up with enough cash to last your stay (you’ll need around $7 a day). If you’re stuck or short on time, Uber is a good choice. And this is a very pro-cycling city, with plenty of wide footpaths and green spaces to make walking appealing, too.

In 24-hours

1. Sunrise croissants | 6am

It’s not everyday you’d line up for pastries pre-dawn, but you’re on an adventure to another city, so forget practicality. Lune Croissanterie operates a small takeaway window in the bayside suburb of Elwood, doling out its delicious, butter-laden creations just three days a week (Friday to Sunday). 60 hours of labour, four hours of service, a first light arrival and just minutes to tear apart and consume these tasty morsels. It seems crazy, right? But when you’re here for but a few short days, a little crazy can make for some great memories (and trust us, these wares are far from forgettable). Once you’ve got those gold and glazed puffs warm in your hands, enjoy them on the beach as the sun hikes up in the sky.

2. Bathing boxes and bicycles | 9am

While you’re already beachside (and since you’ve just eaten a pile of pain au chocolat and salted caramel cruffins) hire bikes and cycle along the coast to Brighton, where you’ll find those iconic bathing boxes lined up along pebbled shores. The distinct style of each shack invites scouting out your favourite design (and of course once you’ve decided, getting the perfect Insta-snap).

3. Bites and brews | Noon

Continue along the coast to Black Rock. This breezy neighbourhood is full of fellow cyclists, furry friends, first-rate coffee stops, eateries and bars. After your winding forty-five minute ride around the bay, you’ll have burned up brekkie and be ready for lunch. Lock up your wheels and kick back at True South, an Argentinean brewery and restaurant right across from the beach. Order from a menu of share plates and a selection of craft beers and ciders, and settle in for a leisurely meal. And if you can fit it in (we're sure you can), Davey Mac's around the corner does a mean licorice-flavoured ice cream.

4. Sensory stops | 3pm

Drop your bikes back at the shop and head to the hub. Following an outdoorsy morning, reflecting inside Melbourne’s temples to culture will be a welcome change of pace. The permanent exhibitions at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Ian Potter Centre are free, and you can lose yourself in their works for as many hours as you please. For Bowie fans, an archive of all things Ziggy can be consumed at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image from now until November 1 (bookings essential).

5. Raising the bar | 5pm

Melbourne is a maze of backstreet bars, which makes choosing a standout hard. But for a bevvy with a view, you have a couple of stellar options. At the bottom end of the city Ponyfish Island floats in the middle of the Yarra River (in between the South Bank promenade and Flinders Street Station), and at the top end of the city trendy hangout Rooftop Bar and Cinema can be accessed by climbing the Curtin House stairs (as an aside, on each of this Art Nouveau building’s six floors you can poke your head into über cool boutiques, galleries and restaurants). But the hands down best vistas would have to go to Fitzroy’s Naked in the Sky, where happily, Spanish-style tapas like whole baked Camembert with ciabatta will accompany your sundown cavas.

6. Neighbourhood chow | 7pm

It wouldn’t be a trip to Melbourne without eating your way through the day, and again, your dining options are vast. If you’re willing to travel a little further – catching the infamous 86 tram all the way to Northcote – Estelle by Scott Pickett and Estelle Bistro both promise an ever-changing menu of top-notch produce artfully interpreted, an eclectic wine list, and flannel-clad waiters who are attentive and knowledgable but without fussiness or pretention. Pickett also runs a double-hatted affair down the road in Collingwood, Saint Crispin, where you can indulge in five- to seven-courses floated out from the exposed kitchen without a hitch.

7. Night moves | 10pm

If you’ve chosen to venture to Northcote, Joe’s Shoe Store will have you rubbing shoulders with locals under dim lighting and amongst a bizarre mix of antiques (this is the type of venue that calls for a smokey scotch served neat). If you went all out for the tasting menu at Saint Crispin, you won’t want to travel too far and fortunately you won’t have to – slick joint Thomas Olive is right up the stairs. If, in your opinion, the dining options weren’t essential, we’d recommend a fun night at Bad Frankie instead. Celebrating the best of Australiana, the concept behind BF is brilliant in its simplicity. With a menu of jaffles that includes an ‘Anzac Bikkie’ and ‘Lamington’ sanga, flights of fine Aussie whiskeys, vodkas and gins, and cocktails inspired by suburbia (i.e. the ‘Sunday Roast Old Fashioned’ complete with a ‘mint jelly’ reduction), for a unique experience this is not-to-be-missed.

Where to stay?

Bang for your buck: Captain’s Retreat B&B

Just outside of the CBD in beachy Williamstown you’ll find Captain’s Retreat, a stunning urban B&B with a chequered history including being a nunnery and a brothel (not at the same time, of course). This charming Victorian home is walking distance from restaurants, shops and yachts, and boasts stunning views across Port Phillip Bay. We recommend enjoying Melbourne’s sparkling night-lights from the terrace, or helping yourself to a plate of cake for dessert before curling up by the fire. If you want to experience the city but relax away from the flurry, this is a great choice.

Alternative digs: Aberdeen House

On a classically wide and tree-lined North Fitzroy street and with the façade of a Victorian terrace, Aberdeen House has both the style and locale of an awesomely trendy retreat. If you’re a fan of Fitzroy’s handmade furniture precinct, you’ll appreciate the décor. Floor-to-ceiling glass captures Melbourne’s ever-changing skies, and there’s a spa bath to warm up when those southerlies are whipping outside. And when you’ve rugged up in your monochrome layers ready to explore, it's just a short walk to the fashionable grid of Brunswick, Gertrude, Johnston and Smith Streets.

Prefer the drama and glamour of a Sydney skyline? Why not check out these oh-so-fabulous stays in the premier state.