Melbourne is consistently recognised as one of the world’s most liveable cities.  It’s where Australia keeps its coffee, its galleries and its headline sporting events. Plus, right on its doorstep, many of Victoria’s best natural attractions are only an hour or two away by car – think epic coastal drives, unique wildlife in the wild and incredible food and wine.

 Turning up to Federation Square is always an adventure. You never quite know what’s going to be going on among the weird, asymmetric and juttingly angular silver buildings that have become Melbourne’s go-to meeting place. One day it may be a beer festival, another it could be tennis on the big screen, with deckchairs provided to lounge in.

From the west, kayakers can be drifting down the Yarra River, past the grandstanding flame towers of the Crown Casino. To the east, scarf-clad sports fans can be making their way to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, the high temple for lovers of both cricket and Aussie Rules Football.

Heading south, the trams trundle over the river on their way past the Albert Park Formula One Circuit, which you can walk or pedal a hired bike around for 90 per cent of the year. They’re on their way to the beach – or perhaps the cafés, cake shops and legendary live music venues – of St Kilda.

Bathing Boxes on Brighton Beach

A fancy ride: hire a bike and cycle through St Kilda’s generous amenities

If this all seems highly agreeable, there’s a good reason for that. Melbourne is consistently rated in the Top 10 cities to live in globally by the Economist Intelligence Unit – claiming third spot in 2023. Much of this status is due to education, infrastructure and healthcare, but an awful lot of what makes the city so good to live in is what makes it so enjoyable to visit too.

Part of this is by design. Creativity is woven into the fabric of Melbourne life and is expressed in many ways. Big projects such as Federation Square play host to several museums and arts organisations, while the Royal Botanic Gardens just to the south of the city centre provide idyllic respite. They are also a marvellous place to get an insight into what life was like here before the city was founded.

Rose Street Artists’ Market in Melbourne

Arts and crafts: Rose Street Artists’ Market in the Fitzroy neighbourhood

The Aboriginal Heritage Walks are led by indigenous guides and focus on the traditional uses for the plants and trees en route. Mat rushes were used for weaving baskets and eel traps, melaleuca bark was painted on and river red gums were hollowed out to make canoes.

Modern day Melbourne’s residents are not exactly shy of repurposing things either. Head to the Rose Street Artists’ Market in the breezily hip Fitzroy neighbourhood, and one of the most notable trends is how Melburnian craftspeople have given things a new lease of life. This includes everything from Scrabble tiles made into cufflinks to scrap timber turned into cutesy picture frames.

This hints at the part of Melbourne’s liveability and likeability that is organic. The city centre has its grand shopping arcades, heritage markets and major cultural attractions, but what gives it its zest for life is the laneways.

Elsewhere, these small alleys would be used for storing bins. In Melbourne, they’ve opened up to any small shop, café or restaurant that wants to try out an idea. This leads to a wonderful mix of concepts from all over the world, and a top-quality dining scene that feels truly global.

 A night at Sezar (Armenian), can be followed by one at Pastuso (Peruvian), Movida (broadly Spanish), Aru (modern Australian with Asian flavours), Ilza (Japanese style) or Chin Chin (gleefully pan-Asian) – not to mention the incredible street art which makes Melbourne one of the street art capitals of the world. On any given day, locals and visitors can be found exploring the city’s labyrinth of laneways, streets, facades and venues, appreciating the many forms of contemporary urban art throughout the city.

ACDC lane

Sounds and the scenery to match: locals and tourists make full use of Melbourne’s diverse social scene

Just a stone’s throw from Melbourne, regional Victoria offers up a wealth of natural experiences. To swim under crystalline waterfalls, spot koalas in the wild, take a dip in open-air mineral springs or hike through leafy forests, you don’t need to travel far.

One of the best ways to explore is by jumping in the car and following one of the various touring routes which traverse the state. Don’t miss Phillip Island and its colony of little penguins waddling from the sea to their burrows every night of the year. On the Mornington Peninsula expect laid-back charm in the form of golden beaches, sophisticated seaside villages, boutique wineries and local produce stores. When it comes to national parks, there’s no shortage of diversity from the majestic rock faces, hiking trails and waterfalls of the Grampians to the untouched coastal wilderness of Wilsons Promontory.

Yering Farm Wines

Panorama and pinot noir: enjoy breathtaking views over a glass of fine wine

Renowned as one of the world’s most breathtaking routes – by car, plane or foot – the Great Ocean Road takes panoramic views to a new level. With cosmopolitan villages, surf beaches, lush rainforests, waterfalls and natural wonders dotted along the route, this coastal escape is endlessly inspiring.

The locals know they have some of the world’s greatest wine regions nearby, a globe-leading coffee scene and an embarrassment of dining riches. They also know festivals come along thick and fast, while public transport works marvellously and gorgeous natural sites are on the doorstep. It’s a good job. They are happy to share it…

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