This article first appeared in the WSOP 2012 special issue of World Gaming magazine.
With long sunny days, glorious sunsets and cool, star-filled nights, Melbourne in summer is one of the most idyllic places on the planet. WGM takes a look at what the “culture capital of Australia” has to offer.
A busy, bustling city whose inhabitants are always on the go, Melbournians have a culture of “doing”, not sitting back and watching the world go by. Last year Melbourne was officially judged “the world’s most liveable city” and it’s easy to see why. Should you be fortunate enough to find yourself in Melbourne during January you will find plenty to occupy your time.
Melbourne is particularly family-friendly with sights like the Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens all within walking distance of the city center. While Melbourne has a reputation for having “four seasons in one day” January is the height of the Aussie summer and the sunniest month of the year. The sun rises just after 6am and doesn’t set until nearly 9pm, blazing away for around 450 hours of the month, so don’t forget the sunscreen!
Cafés, bars and restaurants
Australia, very much like the US, is a multicultural country. It is often said Melbourne has the second-highest population of Greeks of any city outside Athens. The city has large Chinese, Italian and Vietnamese communities and people from Europe, Asia, Africa and South America have all settled in Melbourne and live in harmony. Over one third of Melbournians were born outside Australia. One of the best things this brings is incredible diversity to Melbourne’s food and drinking culture.
The Crown Entertainment Complex is the epicenter of these culinary delights. You can enjoy silver service or dine à la carte by the Yarra river, sipping a glass of good Australian Chardonnay or Shiraz. For a more in-depth look at Crown’s fine dining options read our “Savor the moment” feature on page 50.
For those looking to sample the nightlife Crown also offers a great selection of bars such as the luxurious “ultra-lounge” Club 23, adjacent to the Mahogany Room on level three of Crown Towers. Offering a mix of food, finely crafted cocktails and gaming tables in a comfortable plush setting offset with a stunning backdrop of Melbourne, this is a stylish night out for those wanting to live it up.
Sample a pint of Naked Ale at Melbourne’s oldest and most iconic hotel, Young and Jackson, located on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street in central Melbourne, just a few minutes stroll from Crown. Home to Chloé, a famous nude painting by French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre, this beautifully restored building is a Melbourne institution and a comfortable blend of boutique bar and classic pub.
Melbourne’s many alleyways hide some world-class bars and eateries and those willing to venture off the beaten track will find themselves rewarded with a diverse selection of watering holes. You will be amazed at how competitive the prices are and it is worth remembering there is no 18 percent standard tipping in Australia. There is no obligation to tip at all, but every waiter will gladly accept a little something if they have been particularly helpful.
Melbournians will argue until they are blue in the face that they live in the sporting capital of the world. A former Olympic City playing host to the Games of the XVI Olympiad in 1956, Melbourne also boasts the Australian Open Grand Slam Tennis Tournament as a popular attraction, bringing in thousands of visitors every January.
The highlight of the summer, the Australian Open is an event you should make every effort to attend. The world’s best tennis players will be displaying their talents under sunny, blue skies and poker players from all over the world regularly head “down under” to catch both the Aussie Millions and the Australian Open. Motor sport fanatics may wish to extend their trip to include the opening leg of the Formula 1 Season, the Melbourne Grand Prix, which runs during March and Melbourne also hosts a leg of the Moto GP.
Melbourne is home to no less than four worldclass sporting stadiums. At this time of the year there is plenty of international cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Melbourne also hosts soccer, rugby, rugby league and is also home of Australia’s greatest thoroughbred horserace, the Melbourne Cup, known as “the race that stops the nation”. The Melbourne Cup runs during November but you can still enjoy some of the world’s best thoroughbred racing at one of Melbourne’s four renowned racetracks.
Melbourne is also home to the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground, more usually called the “MCG” or just “the G”. Undisputedly Australia’s most famous sporting stadium, the MCG has a capacity of 100,018 people and sees enormous crowds watching the cricket during January’s hot summer nights.
If you like to swing a golf club you won’t be disappointed. The last couple of years have seen plenty of rainfall so the courses are in stunning condition. Boasting deep lush fairways, powderfilled bunkers and billiard table greens you couldn’t ask for more. Make a few enquiries around the poker room and other players looking to head out for a round will bombard you with offers.
Within driving distance
There are a host of sights for those willing to travel outside the confines of the city and it is worth hiring a car to see the fantastic attractions throughout the state of Victoria. Make sure you drive on the right side of the road – that’s the left side by the way!
Yarra Valley wineries: Less than an hour’s drive from the center of Melbourne are some of the best vineyards in the country. Rolling green hills, cafés, bars, restaurants, bed and breakfast accommodation – it’s all there at your fingertips. The only problem may be the fact you will be in no condition to drive back after sampling the Pinot Noirs and the local cooler climate Shirazes. Consider an organized tour to avoid driving duties.
Mornington Peninsula and Phillip Island: Head down south to discover some of the best beaches and golf courses you will find anywhere in the world. This coastal haven also boasts some good wineries. Those wanting to get closer to the native wildlife should check out nearby Phillip Island, home of the Koala Conservation Center and the famous Fairy Penguin Parade. Also home to wallabies, kangaroos and Australia’s largest fur seal colony, Phillip Island’s close proximity to Melbourne means this is all just a day trip away.
Great Ocean Road: The Great Ocean road is west of the city and runs for 150 miles over some of the most breathtaking coastal scenery you will ever see. The winding road takes in sheer white cliffs and stunning beaches and is also home to a popular tourist attraction, the Twelve Apostles. This dramatic natural rock formation, formed by the crashing waves that wash the craggy shoreline of western Victoria, is an enduring symbol of natural power and beauty. Those wishing to explore the surf more closely should visit surfing hotspot Bells Beach, considered by many as the greatest surf beach outside Hawaii.
You can do this trip in a single day or in a more relaxed two or three. There are a host of wonderful places to stay and it is possible to organize a tour if you don’t fancy driving yourself.
Just a short flight away
Sydney: There is great debate over which is the best city in Australia. Sydney is the largest with 4.4 millions residents but Melbourne has 4 million and is closing the gap every year. While Melbourne is a city with a lot of things happening Sydney is home to many of Australia’s iconic landmarks and is simply breathtaking. This big and bustling international city never sleeps and has an electric atmosphere. The city is wrapped around one of the most magnificent harbors in the world, giving Sydney its “Harbor City” nickname. There is excellent top-end shopping and dining and if you like the big city atmosphere this is the place to visit. The world-class beaches are also a must-see.
Queensland: Home of the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, the state of Queensland is Australia’s tropical wonderland. With incredible beaches and wildlife, Queensland is perfect for those who want to sink their teeth into the outdoor culture. You will find the locals warm and welcoming. This is where most Australians go for their holidays so there is plenty to do, but Queensland is also perfect if sitting by a beach doing nothing is your idea of a perfect holiday.
The Red Center: When you hear people talking about the outback this is what they are referring to. The middle of Australia is a red desert with a host of incredible things to see. Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock), the Olgas and Kings Canyon are all natural wonders that will leave you breathless. Local indigenous art and culture from one of the oldest civilizations on the planet is also on display.
The Northern Territory: The home of outback Australia. Darwin and Alice Springs are its two major cities, but with populations of 130,000 and 30,000 respectively they are hardly bustling metropolises! The Northern Territory is where you will find the world-famous Kakadu National Park. At over 7,500 square miles, Kakadu is nearly half the size of Switzerland, and is home to an amazing array of flora, fauna and natural beauty. Go fishing or maybe meet one of our world famous crocodiles, but don’t get too close or you might find yourself heading home with some teeth marks as a souvenir!