Given I’m a Victorian immigrant, I naturally have a lot of interstate family and friends that come and visit me in Melbourne, all whom enjoy cashing in the free inner-city accommodation. Generally I love having house guests (aside from giving up my bathroom and moving into my husband’s. That I don’t love so much). But as much as I enjoy showing off Melbourne as though it’s my new Aston Martin, I dislike the pressure of having to be a tour guide that’s fluent in Lonely Planet’s Guide to Melbourne.
Especially when you ask said interstate guests what they’d like to do and the only response you get is, “I don’t know, surprise me,” implying that you know them so well that you can create a custom-built holiday that’s going to blow their stockings off. All while knowing that if they don’t have a great time you’ll hear about it for the next decade.
After spending a week on our air mattress, our latest guests, my parents, have just gone home and I again felt the acute pressure of ensuring they had a memorable weekend. This was coupled with the task of convincing them that their youngest (and most precious!) daughter is loving life in Melbourne, which may as well be Madagascar to them.
However, I’m confident that I ended up planning a weekend full of activity that, perhaps foolishly believe, they’ll still be talking about in 10 years’ time.
I’ve decided to spare everyone else with interstater parents from the planning pain and share seven things that proved as much of a hit with the parentals as Taylor Swift springing a surprise concert on a stadium full of teenage girls:
1. Port Phillip Estate
This Mornington Peninsula cellar door is my go-to for all visitors, not necessarily those over the age of 60. How can you go wrong with a beautiful three-course lunch (for only $38, holy goose!), wine tasting, a drive through the leafy Mornington Peninsula and an automatic wooden door? Then throw in some amazing panoramic views to boot. Mum was also quite happy with the fact that the building appeared bushfire proof, which is super important too! Wait, what!! Oh Mum.
Port Phillip Estate | 263 Red Hill Road, Red Hill South, Victoria
Phone: (03) 5989 4444
2. The Colonial TramCar Restaurant
So I can’t take credit for organising this (Liz, my second auntie, do a little bow because this one’s all on you). Mum and Dad had a two-hour lunch on the tramcar when they were visiting Melbourne back in February last year (I was in Bali at the time, most likely by the resort pool at the W). But ever since, they’ve been talking (like non-stop!) about the amazing time they had, with these amazing dips for entrée and the fact that the tram did a little turn and dropped them off on the right side of the track, which was just AMAZING!
I’m pretty sure everything I organise from here forward will come second to the Tram Car Restaurant. So, my advice is get in first and reap the credit. Damn you Liz for beating me to it!
The Colonial TramCar Restaurant | Departs Tramstop 125, corner of Normanby Road and Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9695 4000
3. High tea at The Hotel Windsor
I would have listed the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in this slot but let’s be honest, who’s organised enough to book three months in advance? Not I. Besides, with all its old-worldly charm and delectable pastries, high tea at The Hotel Windsor is also pretty special. This was particularly a hit with Mum, who was sold at the words ‘Earl Grey’.
The Hotel Windsor | 111 Spring Street, Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9633 6004
4. Dinner at Morris Jones
Head to Chapel Street in Windsor for a serve of food theatre that’s guaranteed to impress. Whether it’s a shot of raw beef or popping prawn popcorn, Morris Jones is a blend of good food, entertainment and Dad-safe food options such as steak. The comfortable chairs are also a winner.
Morris Jones | 163 Chapel Street, Windsor, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9533 2055
5. Dinner at Graze Bar
A little more on the hipster side, Graze Bar is another good dinner alternative in the same area. With a fun atmosphere, the bearded waiters do a fabulous job of making everyone feel welcome. Plus, more importantly, the food is great; super fresh as if Mum made it herself and lots of meat options for Dads like mine who believe dinner isn’t dinner if it doesn’t consist of meat and three veg. I aggressively suggest choosing the grazing platter, or the deconstructed lemon tart (pictured below), which is part Picasso, part delicious.
Graze Bar | 69 High Street, Prahran, Victoria
Phone: 0402 920 565
6. Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
When it comes to impressing the parentals, the Royal Botanic Gardens are as reliable as a well-worn pair of ugg boots. This leafy oasis is a stone’s throw from the city, and has easy terrain to casually stroll about. Finish up with a picnic by the lake.
Royal Botanic Gardens | Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra, Victoria
7. Como House and The Stables
“What a lovely garden,” was said more than once by Mum when visiting this 169-year-old historic mansion in South Yarra.
Despite being on only a fraction of its original land size, this period home, originally built by one of the country’s wealthiest pioneer families, is no less impressive.
Organise a tour of the aristocratic house, and after strolling through the indeed ‘lovely’ period gardens, head over to The Stables of Como for afternoon tea. Just don’t get there late in the day, otherwise you’ll be scraping the bottom of the cake tin with only lamingtons and biscuits left by the scone-eating masses.
Como House and The Stables | Corner Williams Road and Lechlade Avenue, South Yarra, Victoria
Phone: 0407 873 967
Any other parent-friendly activities to do in Melbourne, please share below!