Second Cities: Destinations to add onto a trip to Melbourne

Feb 22, 2020

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Editor’s note: Australia has been battling serious wildfires in and around the Melbourne area. For the latest, please check out our guide to what you need to know, and contact any hotels and tours before booking. 

Welcome to TPGs series, Second Cities. The series is designed to help you find smaller or less-popular-but-equally-amazing places to visit no more than a few hours by air or land from your original destination so you can maximize your itinerary.

Consistently ranked one of the most livable cities in the world, Melbourne is a big draw for tourists heading to Australia. A city that likes its coffee strong and music loud, trend-setting Melbourne offers vegan delicatessens, a craft beer theme park just for adults and a bar dedicated to celebrating female winemakers. But look a little further afield and you’ll find other Australian cities with art, history and cuisine worth a jaunt.

Related: Visiting Australia — is Sydney or Melbourne better?

Hobart

Capital of the island state of Tasmania, Hobart is a compact city where vintage charm coexists with the cutting edge. With pristine walking trails and wilderness areas on its doorstep, grand sandstone buildings that date back to the colonial era and a collection of boundary-pushing festivals that celebrate avant-garde ideas, Hobart offers a healthy dose of nature, history and bold contemporary art all in one place.

The city of Hobart and Mount Wellington. (Photo by Leisa Tyler/LightRocket/Getty Images)
The city of Hobart and Mount Wellington. (Photo by Leisa Tyler/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Getting there:

Hobart Airport (HBA) is an hour-and-15-minute flight from Melbourne Airport (MEL) on airlines like Qantas, Virgin or Jetstar. Build it into your itinerary with Melbourne as a multicity if you plan to fly Oneworld. If you’re not in a hurry, sail across the Bass Strait on the Spirit of Tasmania instead. It leaves from Station Pier in Port Melbourne in the evening and arrives at Tasmania’s Devonport Terminal the following morning. You can make the overnight journey in a reclining chair or private cabin and make use of the cinema, reading room, gaming lounge, children’s play area and multiple bar and dining options on board.

Read more: The best ways to use points and miles to fly from the U.S. to Australia

Where to stay:

Billing itself as a “storytelling hotel,” the luxury waterfront MACq 01 Hotel is more than just a place to rest your head for the night. It offers educational experiences about the intriguing histories of Tasmania, Hobart and the hotel site itself. If you’re a Best Western Rewards member, book into the four-star Best Western Hobart. A King Room with balcony runs from as little as 20,000 points per night, depending on when you book.

What to see and do:

Hobart’s wealth of sandstone buildings make this quiet city’s streetscapes reminiscent of another era, but Hobart is very much at the forefront of some of Australia’s most exciting creative movements.

Australia’s largest privately owned gallery and museum, the far-left-of-center MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) has kick-started historic Hobart into a bold, new era. Explore the mostly subterranean gallery’s mind-bending exhibits at your own pace, or book an Ultimate Winery Experience to binge on art followed by a behind-the-scenes winery tour and tasting at Moorilla.

The MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, In Hobart. (Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), In Hobart. (Photo by Auscape/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

If you’re visiting on a Saturday, a trip to the famous Salamanca Market is in order. Open for 47 years, this market has a wealth of Tasmanian producers and makers all in one place. Taste local honey, black truffles, artisan cheese and wood-fired bread. Pick up handmade ceramics to take home or listen to locals wax lyrical at the speakers’ corner.

Further reading: 10 reasons you should visit Australia 

Geelong

Once a powerhouse of industry, this often-overlooked port city southwest of Melbourne offers a laid-back slice of Australian coastal life. Geelong is all about morning beach walks, brunching in cafés that were once warehouses or shipping containers, exploring vintage shops and backstreet galleries, eating fish and chips on the waterfront and drinking beer in the afternoon sun. A distinct change of pace from Melbourne, the second largest city in the state of Victoria is a seaside getaway destination with much more to offer than water views.

Geelong on the coast of Victoria. (Photo by Tony Nguyen/Getty Images)
Geelong on the coast of Victoria. (Photo by Tony Nguyen/Getty Images)

Getting there:

Rent a car at Melbourne Airport, hit the highway and you’ll be in Geelong in just over an hour if you avoid the late-afternoon rush hour. Hertz, Enterprise, Thrifty, Budget, and Avis are represented at Melbourne Airport, so if you’re a member of rewards programs such as Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, book online in advance to use your points. Prefer the train? The V/Line train from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Geelong Station takes about an hour. Buy a Myki card from one of the ticket counters or vending machines and load funds onto the card to cover your journey.

Where to stay:

Book into the industrial-style Devlin Apartments to enjoy a luxe stay in a striking heritage building that was once a schoolhouse. If you prefer to stay right on the beach, try Novotel Geelong (you’ll be able to book a room using points if you’re a Le Club AccorHotels member). If you’re a Best Western Rewards member, book into the four-star Best Western Geelong Motor Inn and Serviced Apartments. Only a few blocks from the shore, a Queen Room at this clean, comfortable motor inn can be booked for 16,000 points per night, with a Queen Balcony Room on offer for 20,000 points, depending on your travel dates.

What to see and do:

A stroll along the Geelong waterfront is full of surprises. From surf lifesavers to sea captains, more than 100 local characters are depicted on painted sculptures that line the shore. Meet them as you wander the scenic waterfront that’s frequented by everyone from dog walkers to skateboarders and picnicking families. If the sun is shining, a dip in the enclosed sea baths is a must.

Beer lovers should fit in a visit to Little Creatures Brewery, housed in a former woolen mill. Learn about the brewing process on a tour, hit the canteen for some pizza and work your way through a tasting paddle in the cozy White Rabbit Barrel Hall. At night you might even catch a DJ set or a movie projected in the lane.

Little Creatures Brewery. (Photo by Orien Harvey/Getty Images)
Little Creatures Brewery. (Photo by Orien Harvey/Getty Images)

Forget the mass-produced souvenirs; shopping for keepsakes is much more fun at Geelong Vintage Market. Home to all things vintage, retro, antique, and pre-loved, you’ll find one-of-a-kind ’70s kaftans, rare vinyl records, mid-century prints and much more.

By night, treat yourself to an unforgettable dinner at Igni, which draws diners from Melbourne and beyond. An intimate, degustation restaurant hidden in the backstreets of Geelong, Igni’s minimalist approach to dining (there’s no official menu) has earned it high praise from diners and food critics. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance; a seat at Igni is the hottest ticket in town.

Adelaide

Home to pretty parks and leafy gardens, a flourishing arts and culture scene, and a growing collection of top-notch bars, there’s plenty to see and do in Adelaide (minus the tourist crowds). Located within striking distance of several well-known wine regions and long-established agricultural regions, Adelaide is one of the best places in Australia to eat and drink. From enjoying a glass of McLaren Vale shiraz at a little wine bar, to snacking on Kangaroo Island olives at a bistro, to feasting on free-range pork from the Barossa Valley at a fine-dining restaurant, Adelaide’s unpretentious food and wine scene is a highlight.

Adelaide
Adelaide’s City Centre. (Photo by James ONeil/Getty Images)

Getting there:

Adelaide Airport (ADL) is an hour-and-15-minute flight from Melbourne Airport (MEL) on airlines like Qantas, Virgin or Jetstar. Build it into your itinerary with Melbourne as a multicity if you plan to fly Oneworld. If you’re a fan of rail travel, ride the Overland to take in Australia’s rugged landscapes on the day journey from Melbourne to Adelaide. Book into Red Premium class for comfortable reclining seats with more leg room, generous luggage allowance and in-seat breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and refreshments.

Read more: TPG Readers’ Best Tips for Flying Around Australia

Where to stay:

Book into the Intercontinental Adelaide to enjoy five-star service with river views. A King Superior room will set you back 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night. If you’re a Hilton Honors member, book a King Hilton Deluxe Plus room at the Hilton Adelaide for 121,000 points per night. If you’re a member of the Le Club AccorHotels program and feel like treating yourself to a luxury stay, The Playford is a five-star, award-winning boutique hotel with a distinct Art Nouveau feel.

What to see and do:

If you like to get to know a city through its food, make a beeline for Adelaide Central Market. Established by a ragtag collective of market gardeners in 1869, Adelaide Central Market is one of the largest covered fresh produce markets in the Southern Hemisphere and the ideal place to get in touch with South Australian food producers. After more than 150 years, this food hub is as busy as ever, yet hasn’t forgotten its roots. Be sure to stop in at Lucia’s Pizza & Spaghetti Bar. In the market since 1957, this popular spot is credited with bringing southern Italian cuisine to the city.

A cafe in the Central Market of Adelaide. (Photo by Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
A cafe in the Central Market of Adelaide. (Photo by Education Images/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Hoping to see a kangaroo? An SUV day-tour run by Aboriginal Cultural Tours is your best bet. After being picked up in Adelaide, you’ll head out to Red Banks Conservation Park, a tract of bushland home to native Australian wildlife like kangaroos, echidnas and wombats, as well as rare prehistoric fossils.

Related: The best way to help Australia during the bushfires? Visit. 

Can’t spare a day out of the city? As the first Australian art museum to acquire a work by an Aboriginal artist, the Art Gallery of South Australia is a great place to view Indigenous art from all around Australia. The gallery store is also a top spot to buy souvenirs crafted by local South Australian makers and artists.

Featured photo of Melbourne by Keiran Stone/Getty Images.

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