By Nick Duxbury
Vegemite, the thick, black, yeast-based spread, was invented in Melbourne — but don’t hold that against a city that has become the cultural heart of Australia. If Melbourne’s art scene doesn’t draw you there, then world-leading sporting events, pioneering brunches and fine wineries should.
Melbourne’s reputation as a cultural destination might be based on attractions such as the National Gallery of Victoria, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image and the annual Melbourne Festival, but it is the city’s vibrant subcultures that define the creative fabric of its day-to-day life.
Street art adorns Melbourne’s lanes and cobbled back streets, and body art is big: tattoo parlours such as Chapel Tattoo and The Black Mark have a steady stream of customers (the latter keeps its location secret and only takes bookings by email). There are soapboxes in the parks to encourage spontaneous expression, and the city has an established network of poetry events.
Brunch like you mean it
Melbourne is the spiritual home of the Instagram-friendly brunch. The city’s hip eateries were the first to draw ferns in flat whites and even serve coffee in avocado skins — the infamous “avolatte”. Today, the likes of The Kettle Black and Grain Store continue to lead the way with myriad colourful fusions and audacious deconstructions.
Enjoy live sport
Melbourne beat the rest of the world to be crowned SportBusiness Ultimate Sport City of the Decade in 2016 — and there is certainly plenty going on. Venues include the Rod Laver Arena, home to the Australian Open tennis tournament each January, and the beloved MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). Besides international cricket, the 100,000-capacity stadium hosts the country’s favourite contact sport, Australian rules football.
For horseracing fans, the prestigious Melbourne Cup race runs at Flemington Racecourse on the first Tuesday in November, and the Australian Formula One Grand Prix takes place at the Albert Park track.
Property prices down under
A government clampdown on interest-only mortgages appears to have halted an era of rampant price growth, in which Melbourne house prices have doubled since 2009. Property consultancy CoreLogic says prices in the city dipped in December for the second successive month — by 0.2 per cent — and are likely to continue to “soften” throughout 2018.
With more than 10,000 apartments completed in the city centre last year (double the previous year), this shift could spell opportunity for investors, who could also benefit from Australia’s “negative gearing” regime. This allows owners to claim losses from an investment property as a tax deduction.
Fresh off the vine
On Melbourne’s doorstep are ancient rainforests, rugged surfing beaches and volcanic plains. This mix of geography and micro climates provides ideal conditions for exceptional winemaking. City dwellers can enjoy unique varieties of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Pinot Noir from five diverse wine regions: the Yarra Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Geelong, Macedon and Sunbury.
The Yarra Valley region alone has more than 70 wineries within an hour’s drive of Melbourne — including Australia’s premier producers of sparkling wine at Domaine Chandon.
Photographs: Getty Images/iStockphoto; Fotofritz/Dreamstime.com; Getty Images; Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images