36 Hours in Melbourne – The New York Times

Though Melbourne is a sprawling urban center, it’s easier than you think to get a taste of the Australian bushland on the bucolic Main Yarra Trail, which winds for more than 20 miles along the tranquil Yarra River. Rent a bike that can handle very moderate hills; Freddy’s Bike Tours & Rentals has road bikes for 30 Australian dollars per half day. Then, starting in the city center, pedal past the 19th-century boathouses in Alexandra Gardens (still in use by weekend rowers) and follow the trail as it loops through South Yarra, finishing at the Abbotsford Convent, now a creative space with artist studios, cafes and a monthly farmers market. The ride is well-marked and mostly flat, with plenty of shade provided by gum trees and lovely views of the river. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a platypus frolicking in the Yarra.

After your ride, spend an afternoon at the farm. Next to the convent, the Collingwood Children’s Farm (adults 12 dollars, children 7 dollars) is a 40-year-old nonprofit institution that’s home to a menagerie of animals (Berkshire pigs, Anglo Nubian goats, to mention a few) on just under 10 acres of pastureland. Children can get up close and personal with the animals by joining farmers on the twice-daily feed walks, brushing the cows or petting the resident guinea pigs. Afterward, sit down to a leisurely breakfast at the Farm Café, a breezy, flower-filled restaurant with a farm-to-table menu featuring grilled South Australian sardines with ricotta, olives and heirloom tomatoes on toast (21 dollars) and slow-cooked beef meatballs with house-made labne and tabbouleh (21 dollars). The view of the cows and chickens says it all about Melbourne — this really is the good life.

Once a criminal haunt in the 1930s, Fitzroy is now one of the city’s most fashionable corners. It is also conveniently located: Several tram lines offer easy access to the central business district, South Melbourne and St. Kilda. There are plenty of converted loft apartments and former worker cottages available on Airbnb for around 100 to 150 Australian dollars a night.

Is it a hotel or a gallery, or both? The Olsen Hotel (637-641 Chapel Street, South Yarra, artserieshotels.com.au/olsen/), a 224-room property in South Yarra, is dedicated to the 91-year-old landscape artist, John Olsen, one of Australia’s most accomplished painters, with his works scattered throughout. Doubles from 185 dollars a night.

Set above Matilda, United Places Botanic Gardens (157 Domain Road, South Yarra; unitedplaces.com.au) is a rarity in Melbourne — an upscale, 12-suite boutique hotel with designer touches, including custom-made brass lighting, locally made ceramics and artworks, and furnishings by the Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola. Doubles from 650 dollars a night.

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