With the clock ticking Jack Bauer-style, Melbourne local CARLISLE ROGERS’ mission was simple: take us around his favourite haunts in just 24 hours. Beep… beep… beeeeeeeeeeeep.

Dawn comes pink to Melbourne’s skyline, a cacophony of spires and jagged rectangles conspiring to hold the sky up. The only places open this time of morning are the ones that never close. There is only one way to see Melbourne at dawn though… from a hot air balloon.


In the predawn hazy light, watching these great silk beasts inflate on the ground is a psychedelic experience. The waxing light plays off the voluptuous curves as they billow and undulate. Then, you take off from south of the city and drift as flames cough up into the balloon from your huge wicker basket. You’ll drift right over the heart of the city, dropping low over the old northern suburbs as the sun lifts clear of the glowing horizon. From up here, you can see the whole damned place, from the misty sea to the Dandenong Ranges. Really, there’s no better place to start out in this town.

The experience: http://www.balloonovermelbourne.com.au/[Balloon Flights Over Melbourne] offer flights for $310. Ph: (03) 9427 0088.


Give or take half an hour, it’s breakfast time. Catch a ride back down to Carlton for my favourite eatery in this whole gastronomical town. Don Vicenzo’s is on Brunswick St, one door north of Johnson St, on the west side of the street. It’s a small place framed with worn wooden windows and panelling.

A bar across the front windows means you can sit and contemplate bohemia while you toy with your eggs Benedict or delicious pancakes. I know, this isn’t some strange local fare that you can tell stories about later, it’s just the best breakfast this end of town. Oh, and if you’re going to be travelling around the country at some point, it’s probably better to avoid drinking the coffee here, otherwise you’ll realise how good it is and miss it the rest of the time.


Jump on an 86 tram headed south right outside the door, and catch a five minute ride down to the Melbourne Museum. You can’t miss it, with its huge cantilevered plane jutting through the gum trees (incidentally, come through this park after dark and you can hang out with the local wildlife; possums). Inside the museum, you’ll find a great array of exhibits both general and Australian-centric. I like the collection of stuffed Australian wildlife. They even have a thylacine here (Tasmanian Tiger), which some people believe isn’t actually extinct.

The experience: The Melbourne Museum is located next to the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, and admission is $6. Ph: (03) 8341 7777; or visit http://www.melbourne.museum.vic.gov.au.


How demanding is my stomach? Time for lunch me thinks. Jump back on a tram heading south from the museum and you’ll find yourself trundling into the central business district (CBD). Get off at Bourke and Elizabeth Sts and head north up Elizabeth to Little Bourke St. Here are all the photography and camping shops in the city, crowded into one city block, and Hardware Lane, halfway up Little Bourke, is chock full of Italian restaurants and small sandwich and soup shops.


Two avenues open up here. You can head out of town on a trip to Torquay, home to the world famous Bells Beach surfing beach, or you can stay in town and visit Victoria market.

Torquay is a beautiful, bucolic town which battled the arrival of a McDonald’s successfully for years, before finally succumbing to the magic of council planning. Coming into town, all of the surfwear factories offer factory-direct shopping, where you can get great deals on Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Roxy clothing, wetsuits and snowboarding gear, sometimes half price. Down the road into town are the beaches. Torquay beach is a sheltered grass and sand beach which offers a place to learn to surf on easy waves, and a relaxed atmosphere. Bells Beach, over the hill, is the site of the Rip Curl Pro every Easter weekend. It provides consistently big surf breaking over a rock reef; definitely not for beginners. When Bells is on, there are only a few better waves in the world (Lennox Head, far up the east coast past Sydney is something like one of the top seven waves in the world).

Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne lies somewhere between the sprawling Asian fish markets and a big flea market. The discerning traveller can pick up a pair of “ugg” boots, or big wool-lined boot slippers, stuffed Australian fauna and every other sort of tacky tourist fare that we all say is lame, but buy anyway.

But if you’re going to have a real Australian BBQ, then there is no better place to stock up. Fresh seafood stalls shoulder up, offering everything from prawns to crabs to sea urchins and fresh whole lobster. Meat vendors vie for business, calling out their prices in thick continental accents, “Lamb shanks, seven dollars a kilo!” And the sweetmeats hall is my favourite, full of stalls with smoked fish, shaved ham, more cheese than you can shake a stick at, antipasto, fresh baked bread, coffee, wine, pastries, dried fruit, etc…


A trip to St Kilda sounds in order on this jaunt, and as usual, all you have to do is jump on a tram to get there. The 96 is a good trip, although there are others; just check the tram network map when you get here.

There are two main strips in St Kilda, Fitzroy St and Acland St. The former is mainly a row of restaurants, good and bad. The famous Prince of Wales Hotel and Bandroom is here too. The Hotel is good for an afternoon drink (not as good as the Espy, but we’ll get to that), but the Bandroom upstairs is a great venue, booking most of the international acts that come through, particularly electronic ones, and hosting one of the sexiest house club nights in town on Saturday nights, OneLove.

Around the bend at the beach end of Fitzroy St is the Esplanade Hotel (or Espy). This is, in my mind, the ultimate place to sit with a beer or six and a few friends to while away the late afternoon (and if it’s winter, watch the sun go down over the water), with its huge windows and dark interior. The hotel also hosts a plethora of live local music every night across several stages.

Acland St is St Kilda’s more refined child. Her narrow stride is bisected by a tram line, and the sidewalks are colourful and tiled. Dozens of restaurants line this street, alongside bookshops and expensive gift shops. Along one side, a good collection of bakeries and continental patisseries dating back to the ’60s compete for business with huge window displays of cakes and other delights stacked head high. You really are spoiled for choice on Acland St when it comes to food.


I’m going to assume you solved the appetite problem in St Kilda, and move on to the drinking one. When it comes to bars and pubs, Melbourne is well-equipped. From Fitzroy’s bohemian joints like Bimbo Deluxe and Bar Open (on Brunswick St), to the James Squire brewery on Russell St in the city to Prahran’s dizzying array of drinking and eating holes, you won’t go thirsty. But say you want to drink and spend a lot of money, well you can’t go past the Crown Casino just south of the river. It’s a good night out, the place seems to go on forever, and time just drips away without any reference to the outside world. You won’t ever see clocks in a casino. It’s a bit sobering to be here at nine in the morning, watching pensioners who have been up all night on the poker machines, but at this time of night, it’s a hot place to be. Don’t forget your ID or they won’t let you in. The shopping here is all Armani and Cigar bars, so if you’re feeling like getting dressed up… this is a good place to do it.


This early, it’s worth getting out to see a live band, and the city’s best live venues are all fairly local. We mentioned The Prince Bandroom earlier, in St Kilda. In Richmond, the Corner Hotel books the best local and overseas acts most nights. It’s no nightclub, but it’s all about the music here. The Hi-Fi Bar and Ballroom on Swanston St in the city often has live acts booked.

And the Cherry Bar, up AC/DC lane in the city, is perhaps the most authentic rock and roll bar in the country. The bands that play here are full on, balls out rock ‘n’ roll, whether they are famous or not, and any bands in town will usually end up here after they play their own shows. The music is all old rock ‘n’ roll vinyl, and the people who come here look like a Metallica cum Cyndi Lauper revivalist coup.


Time for some nightclub action in Melbournetown. OneLove is great on a Saturday night in St Kilda. In the city, the acid house night at the Lounge upstairs on Swanston St is the oldest running club night in the country. This place has regular breaks nights as well. Brown Alley off King Street hosts a regular breaks night too on Saturdays (and when you stumble out in the wee hours, you’re right next to the city’s official centre for strip clubs and cheap “by the pitcher” pubs on King St). Seven Nightclub, between town and St Kilda is one of the hardest clubs to get into… you need to know somebody or dress just right for the house music inside. The King St nightclubs are much more accommodating for backpackers, and the locals call them meat markets… so take what you will from that one. They’re a good place to hook up with like-minded travellers.

And if you party like I do, you’ll probably find the sun coming up again soon as you stagger out of your selected fun spot, and you’ll realize that 24 hours in Melbourne isn’t nearly enough time to fit everything in… but it’s a good start.