What to do in Melbourne in just 24 hours
WHAT can you do in Melbourne in 23 hours? Quite a lot actually as I found out on a recent, flying visit to the Victorian capital with my 17 year-old-daughter.
Despite our brief time on the ground, we managed to squeeze in plenty of quintessential Melbourne experiences and even time for relaxation. Here's how we did it.
We managed to save a chunk of airport time by flying to Melbourne from Wollongong, using new direct services offered by JetGo Australia, which services regional hubs throughout NSW, Victoria and QLD, including direct flights from Brisbane to Wollongong. Instead of airport congestion, queues and the usual craziness of Sydney Airport, we breezed onto our plush, 37-seat private-jet-looking plane in Wollongong, parking just a two-minute walk away, and landed 80 minutes later at Melbourne's Essendon Fields Airport, which is the city's main airport until Tullamarine Airport, 7km away, took over duties in 1970.
And just a 10-minute walk away is the deluxe, new hotel, Hyatt Place Melbourne-Essendon Fields, the first branded Hyatt Place property in Australia. This plush, hip-cool oasis in Melbourne's north-western suburbs, half way between Tullamarine Airport and the city, was our base for the night. The 166-room hotel offers oversized guest rooms and premium bedding, cosy lounges, flatscreen televisions and deluxe bathroom amenities in every room. We were lucky enough to score a room on the seventh floor, the highest level, which boasted views over the twinkling lights of the city and surrounding suburbs as well as the take-offs and landings of Essendon Fields Airport 400m away.
After checking in early evening, we hit the hotel's surprisingly large 24-hour gym before enjoying a quick bite in Mr McCracken's restaurant, an eclectic, industrial-themed eatery off the hotel foyer. After some palate-pleasing artisan produce, we foraged some television shows in our room before calling it a night.
Every guest at Hyatt Place Melbourne-Essendon Fields receives a free full breakfast in the hotel's ground-floor Gallery Kitchen. So, after fuelling our energy levels we walked 10 minutes to the nearby tram stop for the fun, one-hour tram trip to the city, enjoying Melbourne's signature form of transport. In the city, my teenage, shopping-crazed daughter went to town - literally - roaming through the city's renowned department stores, boutiques, arcades and alleyways in search of bargains, with her arms quickly filling with bags.
A pit stop was made for lunch at Melbourne's much-loved Pellegrini's espresso bar in Bourke St. This Italian equivalent of a classic 1950s diner has been a local, well-loved institution for 64 years, serving hearty and honest Italian comfort food like spaghetti bolognese as well as alluring slabs of cake and authentic, wake-up-the-dead coffee.
There was time afterwards for my daughter to feed her SnapChat with images of Melbourne landmarks plus more shopping time and a tea break in an alleyway café before we boarded the tram for the hour-long tram trip back to the hotel to collect our bags and walk back to the nearby terminal for our late afternoon flight with JetGo back to Wollongong.
When was the last time you left your seat on an aeroplane on arrival at your destination, collected your checked luggage and were in your car, driving home, all within five minutes? That was our welcome reality after landing in Wollongong.
Our lightning, 23-hour stay in Melbourne was so packed with so many fun vignettes that we felt it had lasted for days, but with limited time and budget, we had enjoyed our little fill of Melbourne's vibrant culture, creating beautiful family memories along the way.
Room rates at Hyatt Place Melbourne-Essendon Fields start at $175 a night, including breakfast. www.melbourneessendonfields.place.hyatt.com
JetGo has flights from Wollongong to Melbourne from $155 one way and from Brisbane to Wollongong from $186. www.jetgo.com