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A wonderful way to wake up: A review of the W Melbourne

March 25, 2022
14 min read
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On a recent return to Australia after two years away from friends, family and my hometown of Adelaide, I spent a weekend in Melbourne to see how the city had changed during the pandemic. My hotel of choice? The W Melbourne, which officially opened in February 2021, before going through several openings and closures due to the pandemic.

Despite all that, it remained one of Australia's most-anticipated hotel openings in years, joining another W in Brisbane and preceding a mammoth sister property in Sydney, which is set to open later in 2022.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Like Melbourne itself, this iteration of the W brand provides a nice balance between high design, a sort of casual luxury and good, old-fashioned Aussie hospitality. Here are my impressions from my recent stay.

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Quick take

With 294 guest rooms and 29 suites, this outpost of the globally recognized W brand is an overdue addition to Melbourne's increasingly diverse hotel scene. Often considered Australia's cultural capital, Melbourne proudly celebrates art, music, fashion and nightlife in venues throughout the city. I just wish more of that local joie de vivre was on display at the hotel.

Designed by Australian architecture and interior design firm Hachem, rooms feel less like discotheques than at some other W properties — but the mostly restrained color palette of black tones balanced by grays and creams doesn't display many references to the city's character and favors sleekness over kitsch of any kind.

That doesn't mean there aren't eye-catching elements around the property. Case in point: A stunning installation above the reception desks by Melbourne artist Rus Kitchin highlights a profusion of Australian flora and fauna that shines through the otherwise cramped and uninspiring space.

The W concept won't be for everyone.

It seems to be designed for travelers looking to promptly start the party with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine on check-in, or who want to be close to the King Street bars and clubs with guest rooms perfect for hosting an after-party.

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During my stay, however, the clientele seemed to be seeking relaxation more than dancing until dawn, making some of the hotel's features more of a novelty than a necessity. This is one of Melbourne's more expensive weekend hotels, so couples or families looking for quiet romance or just relaxation may find more sensible choices elsewhere, rather than paying top dollar for the convenience of 24-hour room service, minibar cocktail-making amenities and being only a stumble away from late-night venues.

One pandemic-era note: Under the current government guidelines in the state of Victoria, in-house hotel guests are not required to wear masks in the property, regardless of vaccination status, though staff will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Capacity limits have been removed so venues can be filled to their maximum numbers.

Related: Your points and miles guide to Melbourne, Australia

Getting there

The W Melbourne is located on Flinders Lane in the southwest corner of the city's central business district (CBD). An Uber ride from Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport (MEL) costs between 45 and 55 Australian dollars ($33 to $40) and takes around 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

You can also catch the Skybus to the Southern Cross train station for AU$19.25 ($14) each way in around the same amount of time. You can then take a tram to the hotel; Melbourne has the world's largest tram network and trams are free within the CBD.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The location isn't the most picturesque part of the city — the so-called Paris end of Collins Street this is not. As the sun sets and office workers head home, you're more likely to find strip clubs and kebab shops than high-end boutiques in this corner of the CBD. It's convenient if you want to dance until dawn — but if you're an early riser, you might want to avoid nearby King Street, where the party will still be going long after the sun is up.

The hotel is an easy walk to the Bourke Street Mall and its fancy shops, Federation Square with its museums, the Melbourne Aquarium and across the Yarra to Crown Casino and the wealth of dining and nightlife venues in the Southbank district.

Booking details

Nightly midweek rates at the W Melbourne start from AU$352 ($259) in the coming months for the base level, 375-square-foot Cozy rooms, with prices rising sharply during weekends and special events.

I was staying over a weekend and booking on relatively short notice, so my two-night stay was an average of AU$417 ($306) per night for the base room.

(Screenshot from marriott.com)

As a Category 6 Marriott Bonvoy property, I could have redeemed 50,000 Bonvoy points for a standard award night, worth around $400 since TPG currently values Marriott Bonvoy points at 0.8 cents each. Using cash or points for my dates was roughly the same value, so I booked with cash.

I have mid-tier Gold elite status in the Bonvoy program thanks to The Platinum Card® from American Express and was upgraded from the Cozy room to the slightly larger and more expensive Fabulous room, which would have cost an additional AU$30 ($21) per night had I paid for it.

Related: Beginner's guide to Marriott Bonvoy

Standout features

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
  • The most comfortable hotel bed I've ever slept in with a super soft mattress, high-quality linens and pillows plump enough to properly support my neck and head.
  • A careful balance of moodily lit spaces with splashes of color throughout the property, including references to indigenous flora and fauna like the fairy wren.
  • The basement speakeasy, Curious, serves cocktails grouped together under the themes of three Melbourne obsessions: coffee, fashion and art.

Drawbacks

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)
  • The blink-and-you'll-miss-it entrance and cramped, awkward lobby are missed opportunities for a luxury brand in a new building and make for an underwhelming start to the guest experience.
  • Saturday night room rates are expensive for Melbourne. Midweek rates are around AU$350 ($250) while prices jump upwards of AU$550 on weekends.
  • Even on weekends, the 14th-floor pool saw more toddlers in floaties than celebrities popping bottles, and the pool bar feels like an afterthought, with a few cafe tables scattered randomly around the exposed space. It seemed less like a swanky day club than a community swimming pool.
  • The Aussie breakfast classic, avocado on toast, was drowning in unnecessary, creamy sauces that weren't even mentioned on the menu.

The vibe

As Melbourne's nightclubs continue to recover from "Footloose"-style bans on dancing, singing and even drinking, the W Melbourne might not draw the partying crowds other W hotels often garner.

During my stay, the guest registry seemed to include a mix of couples out for a night of romance away from the kids and also a fair number of families with small children. I also caught sight of a bridal party preparing for the big day. In general, the tone was unusually restrained; basically, it seemed like folks were just happy to be out of the house.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

I did catch a palpable sense of excitement checking in on Friday afternoon. There were grins and a few sly remarks from the laid-back Aussie guests as we boarded elevators up to our respective floors. Whether it was kids begging to go straight to the pool or couples ready to order room service and perhaps investigate the minibar intimacy kits, everyone was eager for a proper break, even in their home city, after so many lockdowns.

The room

I was nervous opening the door to my first-ever W guest room. Traveling alone and looking for a comfortable sleep in between work stints meant I didn't need a disco ball light fixture or the hash-tagged pillows some of the brand's flashier franchises tout.

Stepping inside, though, I found myself in a spacious room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a relatively muted grayscale color scheme, and just a few grin-inducing, cheeky touches such as wall-paneling peeled back like a newspaper being opened (a nod to the street-level news kiosks Melbourne is known for).

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

As I usually spend at least 50 nights a year in hotels around the world, I can confidently say the bed was the most comfortable hotel bed I have ever slept in. (Though maybe that was partly the jet lag of having traveled from Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, the day before.)

The combination of a cloud-like mattress, 300 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, plump pillows and dark and quiet conditions made it difficult to get out of bed each morning.

Less enticing was the mysterious fur hat set atop the bed: I still don't know what this was supposed to be used for and doubt it had been cleaned between guests. The minibar listed it as a fascinator guests could take home for the pricey sum of $299. I can only imagine how it's been used after too many cocktails before being tossed on the floor.

The standout feature of the room was a dramatic, perforated metal fixture, also inspired by the city's curbside kiosks. It opened up into a wardrobe, while its reverse side shielded the bathroom's freestanding sink and vanity. The artwork of a female face spray-painted onto the metal grating reminded me of my favorite record label, the disco-inspired Glitterbox; she was just the sort of memorable club kid you'd love to meet on the dance floor of a nearby nightclub like The Toff in Town or Brown Alley.

The comprehensive minibar, a W signature, was stocked with full bottles of spirits as well as a sturdy black cocktail shaker, a strainer and glasses ready for an impromptu after-party. Also for sale were "intimacy kits," with everything couples might need for an amorous night together, plus "recovery kits" with painkillers and hydration tablets for morning hangovers.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The bathroom featured a wet room with both the shower and bathtub, plus Momo toiletries in small bottles. Graffiti scrawled on the back, mirrored wall gave the space a faux-gritty feel, and I appreciated the reference to Melbourne's Instagrammable (and likewise graffitied) laneways.

The separate room for the toilet was the only private space with a door you could close to be alone.

Food and drink

The W Melbourne has a range of food and beverage outlets that keep confusing hours.

The hotel's ground-floor restaurant, Lollo, is headed up by nearby Coda's Adam D'Sylva, and currently serves a la carte breakfasts on weekends only; lunch on weekends only; and dinner from Tuesday through Sunday. I assume this is because of reduced demand as the property slowly increases occupancy, but it was bothersome to have to check whether it would be open for one meal versus another.

My first morning, I went for a Melbourne staple: smashed avocado on rye toast with goat cheese ($18), expecting to tuck into a typically fanciful Aussie breakfast plate. When it arrived, however, I was disappointed to find it swimming in creamy pink and white sauces, neither of which added anything to the dish beyond drowning out the other flavors with their similarly heavy cream taste.

At least the coffee was up to scratch.

Dinner at Lollo was a more successful affair. My cousin joined me for a long-overdue catch-up and we shared a perfectly cooked and seasoned rib-eye steak ($62) and a special of cheesy gnocchi ($21).

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Warabi is the hotel's high-end Japanese omakase restaurant on the ground level with a set menu for dinner starting at AU$245 ($180) per person for food only. With just 29 seats surrounding a single live cooking station, it was an intriguing concept, but beyond my budget.

The basement speakeasy, Curious, is hidden behind an unmarked door on Market Street. A dramatic canopy of timber beams adorns the ceiling and the cocktail menu celebrates Melbourne's famous art scene, coffee and fashion.

I won't spoil the surprise but recommend the Smoke On The Runway from the fashion menu ($18) — get the camera ready for its arrival. Bookings are essential even for in-house guests since the bar gets busy.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

For my final service, I ordered the Skip the Sugar set menu via room service for AU$36 ($26), which included a cup of crudites with charcoal hummus and a tomato-avocado tartine. The latter was thankfully free of the previous day's sauces, and overall a far more satisfying offering.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Amenities and service

The hotel's 14th floor houses the hotel's FIT gym and WET pool. I was expecting Nikki Beach-style party scenes at the pool, especially on weekends, but the DJ booth was empty and children splashed around excitedly, making enough noise to drown out the soft soundtrack playing over the speakers.

Given the W's traditional focus on drinking and frivolity (each morning I saw empty glasses and bottles strewn around the pool area), I was surprised to see the pool remained opened and unsupervised throughout the night. This seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen.

Given its location and views through the windows, this pool area could have been a stunner; instead, it just felt staid and standard. The handful of cafe tables at the pool bar didn't feel inviting, and other guests seemed to feel the same, since no one sat there during my visits.

The spacious gym contained new weight and cardio equipment and boasted the same dramatic views of the city skyline as the pool.

The staff I encountered around the property were enthusiastic and seemed genuinely happy to finally be helping real, live guests after the hotel's complicated opening, closing and reopening drama.

That said, the front desk agents did struggle to process a gaggle of guests all arriving at the 3 p.m. check-in time because of how cramped and awkwardly shaped the lobby was and how little seating was available for guests or space for their luggage.

Out and about

The W Melbourne is located near what is usually considered the "less desirable" end of Collins Street near King Street, where there are plenty of nightclubs, late-night bars and even strip clubs. Here, police keep a close eye on revelers late into the night.

For a more upscale evening, head directly across the Yarra River to Southbank where you'll find plenty of buzzy restaurants and bars on the waterfront with great views of the CBD. For a cheap and cheerful Vietnamese banh mi on the go, one of my favorite takeaway spots is N. Lee Bakery at 422 Collins Street.

Checking out

With the city's proud history of excellent cuisine, exciting nightlife, classic art and avant-garde fashion, Melbourne is a natural fit for the W brand.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

That said, while the hotel's location is convenient for nighttime entertainment and sunrise takeaway orders, it is probably at the wrong end of Collins Street for a place trying to establish itself as a luxury lifestyle landmark.

The Living Room lobby is not somewhere to linger due to the lack of space. However, the mix of dark tones and color in the guest rooms is sophisticated and inviting.

For now, the guests seem to be mostly families enjoying the pool and exhausted parents looking for a proper night's sleep in those fantastic beds. Nonetheless, this still felt like an excellent addition to Melbourne's hotel scene, and one where I'd stay again.

Featured image by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
5XEarn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 80,000 Points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees