Editor’s note: If you’re tackling the streets of Melbourne in person, be sure to read John’s Melbourne pub guide and list of top Melbourne outdoor cinemas; and Jodi’s notes on living a bohemian life in Melbourne.
Melbourne gets a bad wrap from the rest of Australia for the weather, but this summer is gearing up to be another (climate-change induced) long, hot and dry spell.
The city’s location on a bay means that evenings are often tempered by cooling breezes, so any opportunity to get outside is lapped up by locals and visitors. With weather this pleasant you must go outdoors. You have no choice. And with that in mind here are my top summer picks for things to do in Melbourne.
#1 Australian Open Tennis
Melbourne famously loves its sport, and it also loves to show off on the world stage, so the Australian Open is always popular. The competition plays out at the hottest time of the year (Jan 19 – Feb 1, 2009), making it an endurance event as well as a typical tennis tournament. While last year saw players endure court temperatures in excess of 50C (122F), new rules mean they will be allowed to retreat to the locker rooms if things get fiery. Personally, I think it’s a cop out. I’m all for seeing these people made to earn their millions in tough match conditions.
As long as I can watch from home with the air-con on and a Long Island Iced Tea, I’m fine.
#2 Big Day Out & Laneway Festival
The Big Day Out is a touring music festival that takes place in major cities in Australia and New Zealand. This year, tickets to the Melbourne event (Jan 26) sold out in just minutes, so unless you got lucky, or can scrape together an eBay bid (currently A$200 but rising fast), you might have to set up a folding chair outside the fence of this year’s venue, Flemington Racecourse.
This year’s handy line up includes Neil Young, Arctic Monkeys, The Prodigy, My Morning Jacket, TV on the Radio, and DJs I’ve never heard of. It’s likely to go off like a frog in a sock.
Way smaller and far groovier is the new-ish St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, which also tours a few Australian cities. Taking place in a Melbourne city laneway and assorted nearby venues, the day-long festival (on February 1) features some great acts, including Stereo Lab, Girl Talk, and Jay Retard.
#3 Queen Victoria Night Market
On Wednesday nights through summer, the Queen Victoria Market goes all Asian with the Night Market. Hawker stalls, fresh food, licensed bars, locally made gifts and tacky tourist tat vie for the attention of the tens of thousands of people who visit this weekly event. The live performances and the friendly vibe make this a great summer outing, especially after Christmas when the gift-panic has passed. The market runs from 5.30 – 10pm.
#4 Australia Day
Australia Day (26 January) may be a day of national pride celebrating the ‘discovery’ of Australia by British explorers, but to most of us locals, it’s the laziest day of the year. Flame up the barbeque and chill the drinks. It’s an open invitation, and it goes all day. Bring your own.
While it’s the same right across the country, Melbourne has a couple of unique ways of celebrating. A picnic on the banks of the Yarra River is a great way to do nothing in the great outdoors. Also, with an international cricket match being played in Adelaide, they’re always broadcast on the TV. Sip on a beer from one of Melbourne’s great microbrews (Three Ravens, Emerald Hill or – my favourite – Mountain Goat). Doesn’t get much better than that.
#5 Tai Chi at Fed Square
While it’s not especially – or even exclusive to – summer, and not traditionally ‘Melbourne’, the free Tai Chi sessions at Federation Square every Tuesday morning are still a great highlight of city life. Starting at 7.30am and lasting one hour, these expert-led sessions are a great way to get the mind and body moving in harmony. Set yourself up for a day of sightseeing with this ancient Chinese art, regarded by those in the know as “the physiotherapy of Traditional Chinese Medicine”.
If you need a place to stay, check out Hotels in Melbourne on Planetware.com.