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August 3, 2012updated Dec 20, 2023

Insider City Picks from a Melbourne Native

By Pardhasaradhi Gonuguntla

Park Hyatt Hotel MelbournePireaus Blues in Brunswick, St FitzroySorrento on Mornington PenninsulaYarra Valley

Santa Fe, New Mexico – Reported by Katherine Jetter for Elite Traveler, the private jet lifestyle magazine

“I’ve been to cities that never close down
From New York to Rio and Old London Town
But no matter how far or how wide I roam
I still call Australia home”
-By Peter Allen

Melbourne is the cultural melting pot of Australia. Most of its residents, or at least their parents, are from elsewhere yet at the same time they are wholeheartedly, completely and utterly Australian. Take me, for example. I was born in Melbourne, Victoria on a beautiful autumn day (in March) to a Greek-Australian mother and a German father, which pretty much makes me a typical Melbournian. And as such, I, of course, feel that Melbourne, not Sydney, is the cultural and financial capital of Australia. We have the best museums, the best theater, the best botanical gardens, the best Chinatown, and without a doubt the best restaurants. And boy, do we love to eat. I’ll let Sydney have the best beaches. It’s only fair.

Upon your arrival to our cosmopolitan city, treat yourself by checking into the luxurious Park Hyatt Hotel. Located in the heart of Melbourne’s city center, this six-star hotel overlooks St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Fitzroy Gardens. From here, put on your walking shoes and head out for a day of exploration.

Start by meandering around the beautiful Royal Botanical Gardens. From there, jump on a tram. There is no better way to get around Melbourne than the tram! Sydney had trams once, but they sold out to modern transport. We are very proud of our trams and the character they add to the city. Jump off at Flinders Street Station, a cultural icon in Melbourne. Whenever locals meet in the city, they always meet under the clocks at Flinders. My uncle met his wife under the clock in Flinders on their first date. He said when he looked up to the check the time, one of the clocks was lit up red and the dials were spinning. It was a sign.

Take the bridge over to South Bank, a shopping and restaurant mecca along the Yarra River. Peruse the lovely shops or take a sunny stroll along the river banks. Before you know it, it’ll be lunch time. The best Yum Cha dumplings in Chinatown are at Shark Fin House on Little Bourke Street. Choose from a dazzling array of steaming dumplings as they pass by your table on trolleys. Complete your afternoon with some fine boutique shopping on Collins Street. After your disco nap, hit the town again for dinner and some nightlife.

Melbourne has the largest Greek population outside of Greece, which means we also have fabulous Greek food. My personal favorite traditional Greek restaurant is Pireaus Blues in Brunswick, St. Fitzroy. Their slow-cooked lemon lamb falls apart and melts in your mouth. If my grandparents were still alive, my Papou would have made you the best tiropita (filo pastry with feta and ricotta) you have ever tasted.

Crown Casino is where it’s at for nightlife. Dine at one of their many restaurants or try your hand at cards. The ultra-modern complex located right on the river opened in 1997 and is the largest casino in the southern hemisphere. Make sure to stop and take in the fireball display, which is put on every 30 minutes at the Gas Towers along the river.

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Okay, here’s my obligatory insider tip! The local hipsters head to a secret bar in Chinatown called Ginger Boy. If you can find your way through the alleys to the secret door, you will be rewarded with heavenly cocktails and delicious Thai fusion food. Just ask the cool people walking around how to get there.

If you have time to really explore Melbourne, I would recommend driving out to Sorrento on Mornington Peninsula. This coastal town with its beautiful beaches and great fish and chips shops is a weekend hot spot for Melbournians. Head down to the docks around five in the afternoon at Flinders when the fishing boats come in and you might be able to snag yourself a freshly caught lobster. I still remember the time my dad brought us one of these home for dinner. Freshly steamed on its way to shore, it was the most delectable lobster I’ve ever eaten. Grab some thick chips from the store and season with salt and brown vinegar. Heaven.

For a more refined weekend getaway, Yarra Valley is the top wine growing region in Victoria. Spend the night at Chateau Yering, a beautiful five-star boutique hotel and be sure to visit Yarra Yering vineyard.

About the author: Daughter to a Greek-Australian mother and German father, Katherine Jetter was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1983. Whilst always remaining Australian at heart, she grew up overseas in England, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Katherine has a BSc in Clinical Psychology and is a GIA Graduate Gemologist and Accredited Jewelry Designer.

Contact: Katherine Jetter, (646) 651-3233;;

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