Recent months have seen many exciting developments in Victoria and its capital, Melbourne. In this feature, we look at what’s new in the state’s hospitality sector, the world-renowned events on the horizon, new visitor experiences and more.
The Australian state of Victoria and its capital city, Melbourne, have seen a fresh, new range of exciting experiences, stylish hotels, glamorous restaurants and sophisticated bars open in the last few months. These include the reopening of the bold Geelong Arts Centre and Melbourne’s iconic Studley Park Boathouse, new fun winery tours in the Bellarine, and the launch of the “Hypedomes” in the High Country (unique to Australia).
Below, we highlight some exciting things visitors and locals can experience now and look forward to over the coming months.
The Positive Impact Adventure tour by WAM!
Eco-adventure tour operator Wild Adventures Melbourne (WAM!) has launched the ‘The Positive Impact Adventure’ tour.
This fully guided day experience is aimed at small groups seeking an authentic outdoor adventure while gaining valuable skills and knowledge in areas such as wildlife and marine conservation, plastic waste action, mindfulness, regenerative farming and cultural awareness.
The full-day tour takes place on the Bellarine Peninsula, an area that has been cared for by the Wadawurrung people for millennia.
The experience features an indigenous ‘Welcome to Country’ and Smoking Ceremony, swimming with seals, boating to a deserted island and bushwalking at Victoria’s largest predator-free ecosystem.
Tasting farm-to-plate fresh produce is also on the menu. WAM! is one of Australia’s only Certified B-Corp tour operators.
Hop on, hop off wine tour: Hop It Bellarine.
Victoria food and wine tour specialist Hop It has launched a new winery itinerary that showcases the Bellarine Peninsula’s best producers and breathtaking views.
The Bellarine, just 90 minutes outside Melbourne, is a region renowned for its tranquil seaside villages and local produce, including wine – actually, back in the 1880s, the Bellarine was the largest grape-growing region in Victoria.
As with its two other tours in the Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula, guests on the Hop it Bellarine trip can choose their itineraries based on Hop It’s bus routes that traverse through the area.
Guests can simply hop on and hop off from one of the +10 stops included in the route, which will lead them straight into cellar doors – no need to drive- so wine tastings will taste even better!
Geelong Arts Centre re-opens
After more than four years of planning and construction, the performing arts venue Geelong Arts Centre reopened in August as Victoria’s newest and boldest cultural asset.
The venue, an hour away from Melbourne, is a great platform to attract the best music and theatre performances but also stay true to its local roots, connecting Victoria with multi-arts experiences and local talent and with people who share similar creative interests.
The facilities include The Story House, a 550-seat theatre that expands to 850 for ‘live gig’ events, and The Open House, a 250-seat venue that can open outdoors, including a giant door connecting to Little Malop Street Plaza and the outdoor dining on Little Malop Street.
BBC Earth Experience arrives in Melbourne
The immersive opportunity to travel around all seven continents is now available in Melbourne, which has become the second city to host this experience in the world.
Narrated by British broadcaster and biologist Sir David Attenborough, the experience features intriguing art audio-visual technology footage from the BBC Studios Natural History series, ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet’.
BBC Earth Experience is taking place at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre until the end of January 2024.
Meriton Suites Melbourne (opened in September)
Situated in King Street, a stone’s throw away from Melbourne’s most famous bars, restaurants and galleries, Meriton Suites offers 298 apartment-style luxury suites, each one with a residential-sized kitchen with all appliances.
With options ranging from studios to three-bedroom suites and also featuring two luxurious penthouse suites on the 56th floor, Meriton Suites is perfect for travellers who would like a little more space than a traditional hotel room when visiting a city.
Amenities include a heated guest pool, spa, sauna and fitness centre.
Mt Duneed Estate Luxury Pods, Torquay (opened in August)
Located a short 15-minute drive from Torquay, the gateway to Victoria’s scenic Great Ocean Road, these luxury pods are the newest addition to the iconic Geelong winery, Mt Duneed Estate.
The new eight luxury pods come with a king-sized bed, continental breakfast, and a bottle of Regional Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine, and five of the pods also feature an outdoor bath – perfect for a glass of wine while taking in the views of the vineyard.
Rydges Melbourne (reopened in July)
Nestled in the beating heart of Melbourne’s vibrant theatre district, Rydges Melbourne underwent an extensive transformation and reopened in July. Featuring three different accommodation types, including 310 king standard rooms, 35 suites and 25 apartments, Rydges Melbourne caters to every type of traveller.
With its signature ‘refreshingly local’ approach evident in its interior design, Rydges Melbourne also boasts an interactive fitness studio, a year-round heated Rooftop Pool located on level 23, and Bossley Bar & Restaurant, headed by executive head chef Paul Griffith.
Alpine Nature Experience Hypedomes, High Country (opened in June)
Victoria’s High Country – full of mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes – is the perfect region for those into adventure and relaxation. Its latest accommodation option is the Alpine Nature Experience Hypedomes – unique to Australia and sustainably built with simplicity and luxury in mind.
The new Hypedomes can fit up to four people and are fitted with cosy bedding, a warm wood-fire heater, hand washing facilities and towels, and a solar-powered battery and USB port to recharge phones. Outside of the Hypedomes, guests can enjoy the clear skies and gaze at the stars in this unique snowy setting.
Adina Apartment Hotel Pentridge Melbourne (opened in May)
This new apartment hotel accommodation is located in Melbourne’s latest entertainment precinct (and former prison), Pentridge – just 20 minutes north of Melbourne’s CBD.
The new accommodation features 106 spacious guest rooms, including studios and one and 2-bedroom apartments; North & Common restaurant, serving up contemporary cuisine with a nod to local ingredients and flavours; and Olivine wine bar, offering a wide selection of wines and craft cocktails.
Adina Apartment Hotel Pentridge Melbourne is located in just the right place for visitors who wish to soak up the local culture, eateries, parks and modern art galleries of Melbourne’s newest and revamped district.
Dorsett Melbourne (opened in April)
Australia’s newest Dorsett Hotel opened in Melbourne in April this year. Located in West Side Place, at the southern end of Melbourne CBD, the new property boasts 316 rooms (some pet friendly) featuring modern touches reflecting true Melbourne style – and designed by award-winning architects Cottee Parker.
Other facilities include two onsite bars, an all-day dining restaurant, a club lounge and leisure facilities such as a spa, sauna, indoor pool, gym and wellness room.
Dorsett Melbourne is within the free city tram network of the CBD, with Marvel Stadium, Flagstaff Gardens and Queen Victoria Market just a short walk away.
Melbourne’s Top Restaurants at The Age Good Food Guide 2024
The annual The Age Good Food Guide awards celebrate the best of Victorian hospitality and highlight the coveted hats, ranked from one to three – which are recognised as the industry’s top food and beverage places.
The new guide celebrates 149 hats. Three restaurants have received the maximum three hats: nature-based high-end dining Brae (Birregurra); Japanese fine dining Minamishima (Melbourne); and intimate dining experience Amaru (Melbourne) – the latter scored a third hat for the first time.
There were 30 restaurants awarded two hats, and 116 restaurants received one hat. Two of the latest openings – South Yarra’s Yugen Omakase (November 2022) and Reine & La Rue, located in the old Melbourne Stock Exchange (August 2023) both made their debut on the 2024 guide.
Maestro, Geelong (opened in September)
Recently opened in Geelong – Victoria’s second largest city – Maestro highlights local produce from Golden Plains, Otway’s, Moorabool Valle, and the Bellarine Peninsula, created by professional chefs.
As Geelong’s newest dining experience, Maestro offers a range of delicious produce from both land and sea, including house-made seafood pasta to in-house dry-aged meats. The restaurant creates an intimate dining experience with elegance and charisma.
Reine and La Rue, Melbourne (opened in August)
Melbourne’s heritage-listed neo-gothic old Stock Exchange building has been transformed into an elegant European-inspired restaurant, complete with a ritzy speakeasy bar.
The main dining room of Reine and La Rue is as theatrical as it is majestic, with high vaulted ceilings, sandstone arches and stained glass windows.
From small bites and entrées to wood-fired meats, an oyster bar and an extensive wine list, the menu has been carefully curated to pay homage to the French classics, with an Australian twist – championing Victoria’s finest produce.
Grainery Lane, Ballarat (opened in August)
Named after the grains used to make the spirit, Grainery Lane has opened its doors, located in one of Ballarat’s historic grain houses.
The one-of-a-kind saloon-style bar brings back the glitz and glamour of the city’s gold rush era – think Peaky Blinders meets The Great Gatsby.
The bar is a one-of-a-kind saloon style with facilities such as the hidden 60-seat bar, which sits behind a secret wall to reflect the early 1920s prohibition era, and the furniture aims to give guests a reminiscent feeling of being in the 1880s.
There are also regular ‘make your own gin’ workshops that take place for guests to create their own mix and flavours.
Studley Park Boathouse, Melbourne (reopened in August)
The iconic Studley Park Boathouse – the oldest public boathouse on the Yarra River – recently reopened following a $5.8 million renovation. Melbourne’s original boathouse is the city’s newest drinking and dining destination.
The light-filled Conservatory dining room offers stellar Yarra River and parkland views through floor-to-ceiling windows, which lets the natural surroundings take centre stage. Downstairs, the former kiosk is now the Pavilion bar, which opens onto a large outdoor dining area.
Studley Park Boathouse will not disappoint visitors and provides a truly authentic Melbourne experience.
Johnny Vince and Sam’s Ristorante, Melbourne (opened in July)
The new Italian restaurant from internet-famous comedy trio Sooshi Mango has recently opened in Melbourne’s trendy Carlton, serving up unfussy meals in a setting created to resemble an Italian-Australian suburban home of the 70s.
Named after the iconic characters created by the trio, some of the menu highlights include Neapolitan pizzas, arancini, spaghetti and meatballs and sugo-drenched gnocchi.
Drinks have been curated to include an impressive wine list, Di Francesco’s signature Margaritas, as well as concoctions such as a tiramisu-inspired cocktail, all pairing excellently with their traditional Italian meals.
Maho Magic Bar, Melbourne (opened in September)
Ready to transport guests into a neon-lit Tokyo night of joy, laughter, cocktails and lasting memories, Maho Magic Bar offers a show where all senses will be stimulated.
Guests will experience Japan’s most prestigious magicians performing exclusive magic shows at their tables – an unforgettable treat not to miss in Melbourne.
Black Kite Commune, Melbourne (opened in May)
Seeking to create a 70s bar meets French bistro mood, Black Kite Commune is inspired by 20th-century supper clubs.
The cocktail menu has a rich symphony of diverse flavours, while the food menu shifts between pre-dining snacks and late-night bites.
Guests have the chance to have the dining experience at high tables, sitting by the golden backlit bar, or upstairs in the black leather banquettes.
Olivine Wine Bar (Opened in May)
Olivine Wine Bar, located in Melbourne’s northern Coburg suburb, is nestled in an old citadel-like space built of hand-carved bluestone 170 years ago.
Visitors can find their seat in one of the luxurious, dimly lit booths before browsing the extensive ‘book of wine’ featuring over 500 wines.
This storybook-like wine list has been put together by sommelier Liinaa Berry and is complete with anecdotes and illustrations. There is also a walk-in cellar door for those keen to further explore.
Indulge in an exquisite plates menu, featuring the finest seasonal ingredients and flavours.
Beverly Rooftop (Opened in April)
Located in bustling South Yarra, Beverly offers escapism from the day to day. This rooftop spot is located above the hustle and bustle of Melbourne while offering spectacular panoramic views of the city.
A flawless drink and dine experience expands across indoor and outdoor lounges, bars and intimate table settings. From lunches and casual catch-ups to sunset cocktails and late-night drinks, these equally work together in a space that will take guests through the day.
Fashionable South Yarra is one of Melbourne’s most affluent neighbourhoods, located directly across the river from the CBD.
Melbourne Cup Carnival
(4th, 7th, 9th and 11th November 2023)
One of the world’s most prestigious horse races, the Melbourne Cup Carnival is a glamorous event that combines sport, entertainment, fashion and food – all taking place at Flemington Racecourse (3,200m) in Melbourne.
The four-day event features Penfolds Victoria Derby Day on 4 November (the curtain raiser to the Melbourne Cup Carnival, a day that is synonymous with stylish black and white attire); Lexus Melbourne Cup Day on 7 November (the famous day featuring several races across varying distances); Kennedy Oaks Day on 9 November (a colourful day full of fashion, food and equine races); and TAB Champions Stakes Day on 11 November (the relaxed and much-loved final day of Carnival, ideal for families).
Boxing Day Ashes Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
(26th December 2023)
Visitors can celebrate the start of Australian summer with the Ashes in Melbourne. The series takes place over several weeks and includes five riveting matches. One of the most iconic ones is the Boxing Day Test on 26 December, which takes place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
The Boxing Day Test brings together Australia’s best batters, bowlers and all-rounders to compete against talented touring international teams, including England, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, South Africa, New Zealand and the West Indies.
The iconic MCG is home to Aussie cricket and the Australian Football League and the site of the 1956 Olympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
(14th – 28th January 2024)
Australia’s most loved sporting event, the Australian Open, will take place in Melbourne from 14-28 January 2024. For the first time in history, the Australian Open will become a 15-day event instead of the typical two-week tournament, which is the first of four Grand Slams in the annual tennis calendar.
The decision to extend the games by one extra day is to accommodate heat delays and late matches. The Australian Open hosts matches for players competing for the titles in men’s and women’s singles, doubles, mixed-double, legends, junior and wheelchair.
F1 Australian Grand Prix 2024
(21st – 24th March 2024)
A jam-packed event with an uproar of screams from passionate crowds will await in the F1 Australian Grand Prix – one of Melbourne’s key events taking place in March.
The four-day event will see qualifier and racing events on the Albert Park Grand Prix circuit, a semi-permanent track which was upgraded last year to deliver more high-speed action.
Guests can be a part of the story from start to finish in this highly anticipated motorsports event.
Victoria is roughly the size of the British Isles. The compact state features a wealth of diverse regions and attractions that are easily reached from its lively capital, Melbourne (Naarm): from pristine beaches and national parks teeming with wildlife to sweeping coastlines and one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives, the Great Ocean Road – plus superb wineries and dining options.
For more information on much of the above, along with more things to do and see in the state, visit https://www.visitmelbourne.com/.
Read more travel guides and news features here.