Sidney Myer Music Bowl
Set in the Kings Domain gardens, the iconic Sidney Myer Music Bowl is a massive grassy amphitheatre leading down to a stage, above which fl oats a soaring, tent-like roof. Much-loved by Melburnians for its annual Christmas extravaganza, Carols by Candlelight, it also hosts numerous other summertime events, including free concerts by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Just fabulous for a champagne picnic on a starry summer’s eve. Linlithgow Ave, Kings Domain; (03) 9281 8000.
Bordered by the curve of the Yarra and the bitumen of St Kilda Road is a series of public gardens, including Kings Domain and the Royal Botanic Gardens. In Kings Domain is the Sidney Myer Music Bowl (see previous entry) and the imposing Shrine of Remembrance. Deep within the shrine stands a statue of two soldiers, representing the generations of Australians who have fought in various wars around the world. You access the shrine from the chambers below, through the visitor centre. From the balcony at the top there are views straight down St Kilda Road. The shrine is the centre for ANZAC Day commemorations. Birdwood Ave, South Yarra; (03) 9661 8100; open 10am–5pm daily; admission free.
To the east of the shrine is La Trobe’s Cottage, a prefabricated house built in England and brought to Australia for the residence of Victoria’s first lieutenant governor. Tours of this structure and magnificent Government House, located nearby but hidden behind a tangle of vegetation, run from here on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tour bookings (03) 8663 7260.
Directly opposite the shrine, across Birdwood Avenue, is Observatory Gate, behind which are the renowned Royal Botanic Gardens. Inside the gate is a cafe and the Old Melbourne Observatory. The visitor centre here has information on walks and activities in the gardens, including night tours at the observatory and the Aboriginal Heritage Walk (see Walks and tours, p. 137) . The Children’s Garden, open from Wednesday to Sunday (daily during school holidays), was created as a fun and interactive space for kids, with a program of hands-on activities. In summer the botanic gardens also host Moonlight Cinema; programs are available around town, and the films on offer range from new releases to the classics.
If you are after a riverfront picnic spot, look just outside the botanic gardens across Alexandra Avenue. Free gas barbecues dot the Yarra bank from Swan Street Bridge to Anderson Street.
Melbourne and Olympic parks
Between the city and the suburbs of Richmond and Abbotsford are Melbourne’s biggest sporting venues, scattered on either side of the rail yards like giant resting UFOs. The two major ones are the MCG (p. 134) and Melbourne Park , incorporating the Rod Laver and Hisense arenas, and home of the Australian Open and big-ticket concerts. Heading towards Richmond, Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in the Olympic Park precinct is the home of Melbourne Rebels (Rugby Union), Melbourne Storm (Rugby League) and Melbourne Victory (soccer). Olympic Blvd; (03) 9286 1600.