Stay and play: a local’s guide to discovering Melbourne

When it’s the heart and soul of a destination you seek, it pays to get a local perspective.

By Chris Ashton, October 12 2022
Stay and play: a local’s guide to discovering Melbourne

Melbourne is a city made for regular visits. Whether travelling for leisure or a frequent pilgrim on business, there’s always something new or intriguing to discover, particularly if you crave a dose of artistic or culinary flair.

But while residents are well-versed in the city’s numerous charms and where to find them, visitors often miss out on its true gems.

With that in mind, a local’s perspective always helps.

Pearl Diver oyster and cocktail bar on Little Bourke St.. Visit Victoria
Pearl Diver oyster and cocktail bar on Little Bourke St.
Visit Victoria

Joanne Pereira is one such local. Born and raised in the city, she’s passionate about all things Melbourne, noting its diversity – the heady mix of cultures, neighbourhoods, and experiences – and thrilling events calendar as two of the many aspects to hold her attention.

Rocking live music, premier sport events, side-splitting festivals and internationally-renowned stage shows plucked from Broadway and the West End; Melbourne has it all. The luxury hotels are stellar too

'Rising: The Wilds' winter festival at Sidney Myer Music Bowl earlier this year.. Visit Victoria
'Rising: The Wilds' winter festival at Sidney Myer Music Bowl earlier this year.
Visit Victoria

“I also love how easy and quick it is to get around,” explains Pereira, adding you could enjoy “a really nice brunch in one of the hipster cafes in Collingwood and within half an hour be paddle boarding down Port Phillip Bay in Elwood.”

Mixing business with pleasure easy

Part of the Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) team, whose remit is securing conferences for the state, Pereira is in an ideal position to showcase the breadth of experiences around the Victorian capital, and encourage visitors to explore beyond the boardroom.

La Madonna bar and restaurant at Next Hotel Melbourne.
La Madonna bar and restaurant at Next Hotel Melbourne.

MCB’s recently-released digital guide – available for download at this link – is a prime example, with the interactive tool designed to help travellers dive deeper into the city’s offerings, from hidden bars and eateries to little-known museums and galleries.

Chancery Lane, an atmospheric eatery from Chef Scott Pickett (also behind venues at the new InterContinental Sorrento Mornington Peninsula); La Madonna restaurant and its whisky degustation space ‘The Barrel Room’ at Next Hotel; and modern Australian hotspot Society, just around the corner, are a few of the inclusions.

Pastuso cevicheria is a popular hangout on Melbourne's AC/DC Lane.
Pastuso cevicheria is a popular hangout on Melbourne's AC/DC Lane.

Adding to the mix, Pereira recommends the intoxicating Iberian-style tapas of Bar Lourinha, the intimate Embla Wine Bar, and Pastuso Peruvian, a lively cevicheria and pisco bar.

A free ticket to discovery

Visitors and Melburnians can take advantage of a handy free tram zone in the CBD, which covers key inner-city sights such as Fed Square and the fresh produce mecca of Queen Victoria Market, although exploring on foot is a worthy option too.

“Wander through Federation Square for a lovely view of Flinders Street and, if you’re lucky, experience a free live performance or activation,” suggests Pereira, while recommending a visit to its Koorie Heritage Trust to learn about the First Peoples of South East Australia as another must-do.

Fed Square, home to the Koorie Heritage Trust and ACMI.. Visit Victoria
Fed Square, home to the Koorie Heritage Trust and ACMI.
Visit Victoria

“If available, I’d recommend going on one of their tours to connect more deeply with Melbourne/Naarm (Aboriginal name for Melbourne) and understand how the Koorie people used to live on Naarm land. Once you’ve finished your tour you can have a delicious meal at First Nations restaurant Big Esso, located next to the trust.”

Those seeking a cultural fix will love the National Gallery of Victoria or the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), while the Arts Centre Melbourne is a top spot to catch a stage show.

Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria, known to locals as ‘the Tan’, is another must-visit if you want to spend time in the great outdoors, with the long-established 36-hectare site – founded in 1846 – home to a myriad of scenic walking trails, ponds and picnic spots.

Reconnect with nature in the Royal Botanical Garden Victoria.. Visit Victoria
Reconnect with nature in the Royal Botanical Garden Victoria.
Visit Victoria

“What I love the most is that within 1.5 hours you can be out in beautiful regional Victoria for your nature fix. My personal favourites are the Dandenong Ranges, if you’re a keen hiker or enjoy forests and quaint towns; and the Yarra Valley for a beautiful winery experience, and Anglesea for some unwinding time by the ocean.”

“If you’d prefer to stay and explore Melbourne by foot, bike (or by paddle boating in summer), I’d visit the suburbs down Port Phillip Bay via Melbourne’s Bay Trail,” Pereira adds.

Never a dull moment

The true beauty of Melbourne though, is there’s always something happening – every day of the week.

Whether it’s a small-scale gig or a larger event like Melbourne International Film Festival or Music Week, it’s almost guaranteed there’s something for your taste. And, sometimes, the most memorable ones are those you simply stumble upon.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 605

Hey Chris, I'm really surprised Joanne didn't mention Melbourne'sSpring Racing Carnival at Flemington racecourse starting on Saturday, October 29th (Derby Day), followed by Tuesday, November 1st (Melbourne Cup Day), then Thursday, November 3rd (Oaks Day) and, for those punters who are 'match fit', Saturday, November 5th (Stakes Day).  

Thanks for the extra recommendation. 

05 Apr 2012

Total posts 30

Melbourne does so much well. My best experience was going with a friend to the footy (AFL) on a Saty afternoon & then to the opera in the evening. In fact the heart of Melbourne is really the footy - & makes it a unique aspect of its social & community life. 


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Stay and play: a local’s guide to discovering Melbourne