Melbourne consistently tops international liveability rankings and is often considered the cooler, edgier and artier sibling to shiny, scenic Sydney. It’s at the forefront of fashion and state-of-the-art design, from exceptional restaurants and cafes influenced by the richly multicultural heritage of the city to elegant, contemporary accommodation (see the Langham).
No-nonsense, minimal chic is on display in its fitness centres, with warehouses utilised for spin classes (see Art of Cycling) and bouldering (Northside Boulders). Thanks to trams, trains, and lots of cycling lanes, it’s easy to get around and with the magnificent Yarra River and an abundance of beautiful gardens at its centre, it’s ideal for outdoor exercise.
Want to get your sweat on? Take a power vinyasa class at Move Yoga on Flinders Lane. The studio – a converted warehouse with strong Japanese and Nordic design influences – feels a world away from the busy street below. Move Yoga offers three levels of Power Flow at 30 degrees, as well as open level Hot Flow at 37 degrees. And if you’ve been hitting the gym too hard, give your fascia the deep release it deserves in an ambient Yin class. There are 28 sessions weekly and with all the essentials provided (mats, showers and towels), it’s great for travellers, too.
Typically for Melbourne, you’ll have to go into a couple of laneways and arcades to locate this culinary gem. Open on weekdays only, the focus of the Italian Deli-esque lunch spot is salads and sandwiches for the discerning, health-conscious CBD worker set. The meat and vegetarian salads on offer in Nick Jamieson and Brian Narciso’s menu are inspired and constantly rotating, but share in common fresh and local ingredients. Expect roasted enoki mushroom, cauliflower, ribboned zucchini, healthy grains, and New York, bodega-style sandwiches like the Reuben. Available for take-away or dine-in with a small extra charge.
Towering above Melbourne is Crown Metropol, a luxe hotel with sweeping views to the Dandenongs on a clear day. Book the Isika Overnight Retreat, a plush suite with direct access to the Isika day spa via a private staircase. Twenty-seven floors up, the day spa boasts an enticing menu of massages and treatments to get you feeling right, as well as a steam room, plunge pool, relaxation deck and gym. Enjoy the view from the infinity pool at twilight, and then head downstairs to an array of fine dining options on the banks of the Yarra River.
Located next to the Yarra River in Southbank, the Langham is an elegant, intimate and excellently resourced option for well-heeled travellers. The rooms and respectful staff hark back to a more genteel time where understated simplicity was underwritten by quality decor and fittings, rich fabrics and handcrafted wood furniture. It’s also a destination with one foot in the here and now. The well equipped gym, overlooking the city skyline, features state-of-the art resistance gear. The bright, light-filled atrium pool, oriental-influenced Chuan Spa, Yoga classes and Melba restaurant complete the picture.
Recently constructed in 2015 by the creators of Abbotsford’s climbing gym The Lactic Factory, Northside Boulders’ clean, stylish and expansive facilities play host to experienced and friendly coaches with a passion for bouldering. Featuring 4.5 metre high walls, inclined at range of angles varying from minor to completely horizontal, it’s a good entry point for beginner climbers and with plenty on offer for the experienced as well. Northside Boulders is located in the hip – dare we say hipster - suburb of Brunswick, easily accessible by tram, train, bike or car and and open late (10pm on weekdays and 8pm on weekends).
If you’re after some proper nature and a bit of a trek, head to Mount Dandenong and tackle the 1000 Steps Kokoda Track Memorial Walk. Climb stone steps through lush forest and bushland to One Tree Hill (somewhat of a misnomer – it’s full of trees) and picturesque views. The well-maintained 2.8km return track will take about an hour and you’ll need decent footwear, especially on a wet day. It’s a long way from the actual Kokoda Track, but after your 1000th step you’ll have a small appreciation for what the soldiers endured.
The iconic ‘Tan Track’ is deservedly Melbourne’s most beloved run. Sweeping the perimeter of the Royal botanic gardens, with the Yarra skirting its side, the 3.8 km trail passes by a swathe of iconic Melbourne sights, including Federation Square, the National Gallery of Victoria and the Shine of Remembrance. Originally a horse trail, it’s now a wide, beautifully maintained, largely gravel track marked out at 250-metre intervals and offers joggers and runners a virtually uninterrupted course (there is one crossing at Government House Drive). To begin your run, catch a tram down Swanston St and disembark a couple of stops after you pass over the Yarra river.
To put it mildly, the humble Australian food court has long been a challenging space for vegans. Not any more. Located in the surprisingly pleasant Emporium food court, Supercharger is an oasis of nutritious, filling, 100% vegan food. Choose from the nutritionist designed, ready-to-go meals or, if you’re feeling more creative, build your own. Pick two bases (mashed roots, quinoa, rice, spinach) and sufficient sides (tofu in broth, braised mushrooms, eggplant dhal, seasonal greens, and fermented vegetables) to sate your hunger before heading back into the throng of shoppers and city workers.
CrossFit South Wharf
The newly opened CrossFit South Wharf offers a state-of-the-art 450m2 training facility, replete with Olympic lifting platform, a solid range of equipment, and on-site allied health professionals to handle your injury, rehab and nutritional needs. After your workout, recover in the sensory deprivation tank and then read the paper over coffee or a smoothie from the organic café. Travelling CrossFitters can arrange a casual pass, but classes are busy so be sure to book in advance.
The Art of Cycling
Based in Yarraville, this state-of-art cycling studio offers spin classes within an exposed brick, partitioned West Melbourne warehouse. And being Melbourne where coffee is never far away, there’s a cafe attached. All of this makes it feel more like an art studio than a gym... until you start sweating on the Wattbikes – excellent gear that provides accurate performance data and technical feedback through constant power measurements via the chain and cranks. They’re also designed to feel like you’re on an actual bike. Classes cap out at around 40 people with an instructor on a raised platform up front. Beginners are encouraged and cycling regulars will be challenged in their “sufferfest” classes.
Fitzroy Gardens Route
The Fitzroy Gardens jogging route is a verdant escape from the Melbourne CBD. This 2.7km route takes in a range of historical landmarks, including Parliament House and Captain Cook’s childhood home. That’s right: the childhood home of the British explorer who first recorded European contact with the Australian east coast as an adult. (The entire cottage was transported from England to Fitzroy Gardens for Melbournians’ viewing pleasure.) Expect the occasional hill, but an otherwise gentle jog, full of leafy foliage: huge elms, lush ferns, quiet ponds, bamboo jungles. It’s easily accessible from the city and a good option on a warm day.
Looking for a paleo option in Richmond? This intimate and stylish cafe, with an industrial fit-out, is located in a restored heritage studio and open seven days a week for hunter-gatherer twists on familiar breakfast standards, like chilli eggs on paleo toast. Executive chef Brett Tait’s “I’m a Fun-Ghi” (geddit?) dish is a standout: an omelette with three types of wild mushrooms, thyme, balsamic reduction and white truffle oil. You can also construct your own eggs and side combos if you’re feeling choosy. Drinks-wise, you’ll find kombucha, soy chai, coconut water and cold-pressed Supergreens.
Rowing The Yarra
The Yarra River stretches 242 km from its beginnings in the Yarra Ranges National Park and conclusion at Port Phillip Bay. Flowing through the centre and roughly dividing the city into two camps, north and south, it’s a familiar, beloved and culturally influential part of Melbourne. It’s also staggeringly beautiful to row, particularly at dawn or dusk. A number of rowing clubs dot its length (mostly around the CBD, Richmond and Hawthorn) and offer lessons from beginners to masters level. If you’d prefer to bring your own gear, Yarra Parks regulate the river and provide guidance on their website for the many safe launch and entry points
CBD Riverside Route
This track wends along the Yarra River on the southern edge of the Melbourne CBD. Starting at Federation Square, head west along the river. Pass the Melbourne Aquarium and cross the water at Seafarer’s Bridge to the Polly Woodside and Melbourne Convention Centre (known only to locals as Jeff’s Shed after the former Victorian Premier, Jeff Kennett). The return leg takes in Crown Casino and the lively Southbank Promenade. After you’re done, stop off for a refreshment at Ponyfish Island, a floating café and bar in the middle of the river (enter from the Southbank pedestrian bridge).
Laneway Greens go for a reliable and honest consideration of nutritional values, seasonal conditions and classic recipes. They're all about top shelf ingredients, intelligently paired, thoughtfully dressed. The result is the feeling that the owners have picked, peeled and tasted the recipes many times over and found winners that marry taste-bud friendly with bodily well-being. Takeaway is available, but you’ll be tempted to dine-in and enjoy the minimal, head-turning fit-out.