Emirates’ Dean Cleaver takes us around the best bars and secret spots in Victoria

Dean Cleaver, Regional Manager for Victoria at Emirates

Dean Cleaver, Emirates

What makes Melbourne so special?

For me, it’s the brilliant atmosphere whenever there’s a big event on.

From the live sites at Federation Square for the Grand Prix and the Australian Open, to the ease of getting to all the major venues, the incredible party atmosphere of the Spring Racing Carnival and the fact that the city has a Bank holiday for the Melbourne Cup. And if you’re not into sport, check out the Comedy Festival, the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, or the Melbourne Arts Festival…there’s always something on pretty much all year round.

Cutler & Co, Melbourne

Cutler & Co

What is your favourite place to eat in Melbourne?

This is a terrible question to ask any Melburnian! If I want fine dining, I love Cutler and Co; if I’m after a late night refuel, Mamasita is Melbourne’s best Mexican and serves tacos into the small hours; if it’s Asian, I’d go for Chin Chin for its fiery, fresh flavours; and if I’m after something cheap and cheerful, I’d head to Victoria St Richmond and restore my health with a big bowl of Vietnamese pho for about $7. If I’m after a drink, I can’t go past Siglo, overlooking the Parliament buildings, or the Rooftop Bar – well worth the five flights of stairs for its funky, retro feel and urban rooftop view.

Twelve Apostles, Victoria

Twelve Apostles

What shouldn’t we miss?

I would still have to say the Twelve Apostles. They really are spectacular, and even more so when you take a helicopter flight over them and see them from the air. It gives you a perfect understanding of the rugged nature of the coastline, and the power of the ocean. Make sure you take the time to visit Loch Ard Gorge, just 5 minutes further down the road, where you can get down onto the beach and dip your toes in the ocean – it’s a beautiful spot.

So, if you only have three days to enjoy the best of Victoria, where should you go?

If you only have three days in Victoria, make sure you spend one of them in Melbourne itself

Do a Hidden Secrets tour in the morning to get a feeling for what we love about the city, the laneways and arcades that you need someone to show you – then head out of town to one of the great precincts like Fitzroy or St Kilda and indulge at  one of Melbourne’s fantastic restaurants

Early the next morning hit the Great Ocean Road, and overnight at the Great Ocean Ecolodge, to experience the amazing hospitality and wildlife at this conservation centre. You won’t believe how close you will get to koalas and kangaroos in the wild at this beautiful spot.

Then tear yourself away early to get to the stunning Twelve Apostles before the crowds, and take a helicopter flight over the rock stacks for an experience you will never forget. Continue on past Warrnambool (stop in to look for whales if it’s the season) and explore Tower Hill, another wildlife wonderland in an extinct volcano. Overnight at The Royal Mail in Dunkeld, indulging in their degustation menu – make sure you book in advance, it is full every night – and wake up to explore the Grampians in all their glory. It’s then only 3.5 hours back to Melbourne.

Go on, spill a travel secret about Melbourne that we don’t already know.

This won’t stay a secret for long, but the new precinct around Melbourne’s Hamer Hall – the city’s premiere concert venue – will be a fantastic drawcard for music and food lovers. It’s the home of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and is situated right on the Yarra River, looking towards Flinders St Station and Federation Square, with stunning city views. The restaurants are about to open and will be world-class – a mix of cuisines, but something for everyone.

For more local tips on great journeys through Victoria, visit travelmail.co.uk/melbourne 

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