Delve into the heart of Victoria, Australia, and discover new ways to experience enduring classics and uncover secret finds - By Eric Rosen
Want to know the latest happenings in the Australian state of Victoria? Travel writer Eric Rosen, our go-to expert on Melbourne and its surrounds, offers his insights into his favorite places to eat, shop and play every time he visits.
If you’re visiting Melbourne, it’s essential to eat at at least one Andrew McConnell restaurant. On my most recent visit, I went to the one that really helped put him on the culinary map: Cumulus Inc. You can experience a fun night out in the city and order amazing food like a whole lamb shank braised in wine with lentils and paired with fantastic local wines. You also can bet you’ll see someone famous — whether it’s a rugby star or musician.
On anyone’s first visit to Melbourne, I recommend taking a guided tour of Victoria Market. You’ll also want to visit Prahran Market, which is a big indoor food hall in a trendy neighborhood. I tried everything from fresh cheeses to yabby, which are little freshwater crayfish. Vendors have been there for generations, so it really feels like a cultural heritage point.
There’s a whole Chinatown that most people don’t know about until they visit Melbourne. Interestingly, it was established around the same time as the rest of California’s Chinatowns, during the Gold Rush in the 1850s. It’s right in the heart of town, lined by lanterns, and you can get delicious dim sum here.
Craving Coffee Culture
In Melbourne, you’ll walk three blocks and run into at least seven coffee places that you’ll want to try. I’ve never had as good foam art as I have in Melbourne. I think one barista even created a whole skyline in my flat white. Café culture in Melbourne is different than elsewhere because it plays into the dining scene a bit more — instead of grabbing a scone, you can have coffee with something artisanal like smoked fish on toast points.
The Fitzroy area is very cool with boho-chic art galleries, restaurants and boutiques. I really love The Rose St. Artists' Market, which has sections carved out for different designers and crafts people — you get the sense that you’re seeing things you can’t see anywhere else.
I also love the finds at Craft Victoria. It's such a cool little boutique hidden away on Flinders Lane. You can go in two days in a row and see completely different handmade items — one-of-a-kind wearables, ceramics, jewelry, etc.— which makes it feel like every visit is special.
The Nicholas Building on Swanston Street has evolved into a treasure trove of merchants. There's even a place called Buttonmania that has been selling antique buttons for over 70 years, and l’uccello is a vintage haberdashery that sells mid-century clothing, quilts and crafts.
The beauty of the Yarra Valley is that it’s well developed but still very relaxed. You can pop in at random and you will hit farmers markets any which way you turn. Eat everything from a wood-fired pizza to smoked sea-salt crusted almonds to a four-course, Relais & Châteaux gourmet experience at Chateau Yering.
In the Mornington Peninsula, it’s a little less developed so you have to do more searching. But where there is wine, great food follows quickly. Locally grown truffles are showing up in kitchens; cheesemakers are using the freshest ingredients; at Port Phillip Estate Winery, you’re dining while overlooking vineyards all the way down to the ocean.
The other treasure in the peninsula is the incredible array of outdoor experiences. I’ve ridden by horseback between wineries of the Mornington Peninsula, while in nearby Phillip Island, I took a boat into the water where baby seal pups were frolicking alongside us. It was truly amazing.
Ready To Go?
Start planning your own exploration of Victoria to discover your own favorite spots that will bring you back again and again.