Southbank is Melbourne’s premier culture destination. In Southbank, you will find the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Recital Centre, Arts Centre Melbourne, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, and more. It’s also home to some of the city’s finest restaurants, and the mecca that is Crown Melbourne. Here’s the 10 best things to do in Melbourne’s Southbank neighbourhood.
Crown Melbourne is a one-stop destination. As the largest casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere, there’s something for everyone to do at Crown Melbourne. Firstly, Crown Towers is the go-to accommodation option for celebrities visiting Melbourne. There’s also the casino, a cinema, a spa, Kingpin bowling, Playtime arcade games, live theatre, concerts, nightclubs, bars, and 29 restaurants. Furthermore, Crown Melbourne is home to luxurious clothing boutiques, including Hugo Boss, Louis Vuitton, and Burberry. The whole family will enjoy the Crown experience.
The Eureka Tower is Australia’s second tallest building; measuring 297.3 metres (975 ft). Its observation deck on the 88th floor is coincidentally called Eureka Skydeck 88. It’s the highest public vantage point in any building in the Southern Hemisphere. Open daily, this is the best Melbourne viewpoint, as it offers 360° views and 30 viewfinders. There’s also the glass cube called The Edge, where you can step out over Melbourne, as well as Vertigo, a green screen installation that gives the illusion you’ve fallen off the building and are holding on for your life!
Opening in 2009, Melbourne Recital Centre is an award-winning building in the Melbourne Arts Precinct. It hosts up to 450 concerts and events annually. The musical genres performed regularly at Melbourne Recital Centre include classical, jazz, cabaret, rock, and world music. There are two performance spaces at the centre, including the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall, which is a 1000-seat auditorium with premier acoustics. There’s also the intimate 150-seat Salon.
Founded in 1861, the National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest, biggest, and most visited art museum. Nearly three million people visit the gallery annually, which offers both free and paid exhibitions. NGV International is in Southbank, while The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia is located in Federation Square. Together, the NGV Collection includes over 70,000 pieces of art, spanning thousands of years. NGV International Art collection includes work from Rembrandt, Picasso, and René Magritte.
Make the most of Southbank’s location directly on Melbourne’s Yarra River by taking one of Melbourne River Cruises’ sightseeing tours. They have options to go down river towards the port and Docklands; up river to the gardens; a combination of both tours; a Williamstown ferry; and a summer twilight cruise. Melbourne River Cruises also manages the Spirit of Melbourne Cruising Restaurant, which offers a floating dinner service along the Yarra River.
Southgate is Southbank’s premier restaurant, shopping, and entertainment destination. Some of its top restaurants include BearBrass and Bluetrain for modern Australian fare; P.J. O’Brien’s Irish Pub; and The Deck for modern European cuisine and the best views. There’s also a food court, for when you simply want a quick bite to eat. Southgate is home to various boutiques too, for both clothes and gift shopping.
Arts Centre Melbourne is a performing arts centre with a complex of theatres and concert halls. It’s Australia’s largest and busiest performing arts centre, and its venues include State Theatre, Hamer Hall, Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Playhouse, and Fairfax Studio. Every year, Arts Centre Melbourne hosts more than 4,000 performances, and three million people. Its flagship resident companies include The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Theatre Company, Opera Australia, and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
One of Melbourne’s most unique bars is undoubtedly Ponyfish Island. Named after the mysterious creature apparently swimming in the Yarra River (Melbourne’s answer to the Loch Ness Monster), Ponyfish Island is a floating bar and restaurant. Access is via a single stairwell from the pedestrian bridge connecting Southbank to Flinders Street Station. Ponyfish Island serves classic breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes, as well as sharing platters.
Southbank is home to some of Melbourne’s top fine dining restaurants. The Atlantic in Crown Towers Melbourne is one of them. Led by Executive Chef Nick Mahlook, The Atlantic specialises in seafood. Visit The Atlantic to sample “some of the finest seafood Australia’s waters have to offer.” Alternative restaurants in Crown Towers Melbourne include the award-winning Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, and Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple, and Rosetta Ristorante.
Another architecturally-interesting destination to explore within Melbourne’s Art Precinct is the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. It is Australia’s flagship contemporary art space, and displays exhibitions from both national and international artists. The current exhibition is Unfinished Business: Perspectives on art and feminism. Admission to the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art is always free.