Luxury Escapes Guide to Southbank

Vibrant Southbank is the beating heart of Melbourne. With a welcoming vibe, high-end restaurants and river views, even the locals keep coming back for more.

Balmy summer days bring out the best in Southbank – cheerful groups sip wine and drift along the Yarra in hired ‘GoBoats’, the iconic Arbory throws open the doors of its seasonal floating bar and Melburnians join tourists for leisurely strolls along the riverfront. It’s always busy but never overwhelming; the atmosphere is relaxed and open, inviting to newcomers and a perfect introduction to a city that thrives on great food and good times.

It’s true that there are plenty of chain restaurants on Southbank but you don’t have to search far to find an abundance of independent hidden gems. The melting pot of cuisines here is like Melbourne itself: multicultural and varied, offering everything from Asian fusion to contemporary Australian.

Commanding a huge stretch of Southbank, the iconic Crown casino is impossible to miss. Hordes of tourists congregate here to take a gamble in 24/7 gaming rooms, celebrating wins in high-end restaurants like Nobu and Neil Perry’s Rockpool Bar & Grill. After dark, Crown’s 14 bars and nightclubs come alive with a buzz of ‘what happens in Vegas…’

A dose of culture can be found amid the National Gallery of Victoria’s constantly evolving exhibitions, while Arts Centre Melbourne plays regular host to performances from The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Opera Australia.

Our tip: visit Southbank in the late afternoon, when the after-work crowd brings a great ambience to the area’s bars and restaurants.

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Things to see and do

Cruise the Yarra in style

Sure, a walk along the river is nice – but it’s hard not feel a little superior when you’re cruising by on a boat instead. From fine-dining dinner packages to educational history tours, there’s a Yarra cruise to suit everyone. If you prefer to be captain of your own ship, try a GoBoat. These self-drive Scandi-inspired picnic boats fit up to eight people and allow you to BYO food and drinks. Champagne, anyone?

Play mini golf with a twist at Holey Moley

Forget taking the kids – with 18 themed putting holes, a bar serving cocktails and a nostalgic ‘80s vibe, Holey Moley is mini golf for adults. Each hole reflects an element of popular culture, from The Simpsons to Game of Thrones, without a boring windmill in sight. Make an evening of it and stay for an espresso martini and pizza afterwards. If you do have children in tow, fear not: under 18s are welcome before 8pm.

Visit a special exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria

Popularly referred to as the NGV, the National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia. Two magnificent buildings host pieces from local and international artists, offering a vast treasury of over 70,000 works. Keep an eye on the website for the ever-changing special exhibitions, covering everything from fashion to music, architecture and dance. With many rooms free to visit, this is the ideal rainy-day activity to help you escape Melbourne’s famously temperamental weather.

Catch a show at Arts Centre Melbourne

The iconic Arts Centre spire has to be one of Melbourne’s most recognisable pieces of architecture, often drawing comparisons to the Eiffel Tower (albeit on a smaller scale). What can be found inside is just as impressive, with the Arts Centre proudly hosting regular shows from The Australian Ballet, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Melbourne Theatre Company and Opera Australia. Catching a show here after an early dinner along Southbank is a quintessentially Melbourne experience that’s not to be missed.

See the city from new heights at Eureka Skydeck

You haven’t really seen Melbourne until you’ve viewed it from the Eureka Skydeck. Towering an incredible 297 metres above the city streets, this is a majestic birds-eye experience. Handy telescopes are dotted around the viewing area, trained specifically on iconic sites such as the MCG, Shrine of Remembrance and Albert Park Lake, with views stretching as far as the Dandenong Ranges. Pay a little extra and experience The Edge, a glass cube that projects out from the building and takes your sky-high thrills to the next level. We recommend visiting just before sunset, so you can catch Melbourne by day and night.

Immerse yourself in something new at MCEC

Welcome to the home of Melbourne’s biggest expos. Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre hosts influential speakers, sporting events, concerts and more year-round. The schedule here is packed with exciting events, from food and wine shows (with plenty of free tastings, of course), to comedy shows, wellness festivals and live music. There’s even a Melbourne International Coffee Expo, celebrating the city’s favourite beans and brews.

Be awed by fire-eating street performers

Visit Southbank over the weekend or on a warm summer evening and you’ll spot crowds of people huddled around skilled performers along the riverfront. Catch fire eating, sword swallowing, and interactive magic tricks with a dose of humour thrown in for good measure. Drop a couple of dollars and watch human statues come alive or simply take a stroll to the soundtrack of cheerful buskers.

Top places to eat and drink

Ponyfish Island

Referring to themselves as ‘urban explorers’, the three founders of Ponyfish Island knew they couldn’t let a no-man’s land in the heart of the Yarra go unconquered. Surrounded by water on all sides, this unique bar floats under Southbank’s pedestrian bridge and is accessible only by stairs descending from above. The menu changes seasonally but always includes toasted sandwiches, nachos and share platters, best enjoyed with a round of drinks.

Arbory Bar & Eatery

As soon as 5pm hits, this all-day outdoor bar is flooded with city workers looking to loosen their shirt collars and enjoy a drink. Arbory is a true Melbourne institution, built on a disused Sandridge railway platform with Flinders Street Station on one side and the Yarra River on the other. In the summer, Arbory Afloat pops up, a floating extension of the bar with a pastel-perfect design inspired by the colour and fun of Miami. There’s even a pool, so pack your bathers!

Rockpool Bar & Grill

Experience Neil Perry’s multi-award-winning steakhouse with a twist at Rockpool Bar & Grill. An impressive dining room is complemented by a dramatic open kitchen and woodfire grill, offering an unforgettable dining experience. Guests can expect the finest cuts of beef, including grass fed, grain fed and David Blackmore’s Pure Blood Wagyu, with all beef dry-aged onsite. Seafood is treated with just as much reverence here, signified by the purpose-built ‘fish room’ and a menu that includes woodfire-grilled octopus and whole southern rock lobster.


Let an authentic teppanyaki experience take you on an incredible taste journey at Koko. Internationally renowned designer Tony Chi has created a space that brings the tranquil surrounds of a Japanese water garden to Southbank. Delicate sushi and sashimi are prepared by dedicated chefs on ‘teppan’ steel hotplates before your very eyes, while an impressive saké bar offers the city’s best range of aged and exclusive sake from Japan and Australia.

Bistro Guillaume

Let this charming bistro transport you all the way to France, right here on the banks of the Yarra River. Enjoy a menu of French classics as you watch the world go by with views of Southbank through floor-to-ceiling windows. Expect duck confit, steak, Paris mash and French onion soup, or select the ‘plat du jour’. Champagne Sundays are an indulgent affair, showcasing Guillaume Brahimi’s signature dishes with flowing Moët & Chandon.

The Boatbuilders Yard

Follow the Yarra south from Southbank and you’ll stumble across The Boatbuilders Yard. Technically classed as South Wharf, it’s just a five-minute stroll along the river from Crown. This is a relaxed indoor-outdoor space with river views and a vibrant, fresh menu that takes you from breakfast through to dinner. If it’s just a drink you’re after, try the refreshing South Wharf #6 with gin, apricot, lime and a cherry lollipop.


Another South Wharf gem, BangPop is Melbourne’s self-proclaimed coolest Thai restaurant – and we won’t disagree. The emphasis here is on fun and fresh flavours with refined salads, curries and hawker-influenced dishes the order of the day. Those who have a couple of hours to spare can try the Thai cooking class, teaching the art of green papaya salad and pad Thai. If you’d rather not get your hands dirty, simply sit back and relax with river views and traditional dishes like ‘crying tiger’ grilled beef, Thai caramelised pork and banana blossom chicken.

Saké Restaurant and Bar

Savour Japanese with a twist at Saké, a unique restaurant that utilises the freshest ingredients to create a dynamic culinary experience in the heart of Melbourne. Signature dishes not to be missed include the Hiramasa kingfish with coriander-infused sweet ponzu and jalapeno kosho, and the popcorn shrimp with yuzu chilli mayonnaise. Pair it all with a saké-infused cocktail or opt for the chef’s seven-course omakase tasting menu with matched drinks.

D.O.C Pizza & Mozzarella Bar

Visit a place that refers to itself as a ‘Mozzarella Bar’ and you instantly know you’re in safe hands. Need more proof? D.O.C is a certification given by the Italian government to ensure quality and authenticity of its cheese and wine, so this place takes its cheese and pizza very seriously. Pizza toppings here include wild mushrooms, San Daniele prosciutto and tiger prawns, but the simple Pizza D.O.C, with its fresh DOP buffalo mozzarella takes the crown for spectacular simplicity.

Lux moments

Feast for the senses at Nobu

Instantly recognisable and world renowned, Nobu attracts the rich and the famous to its restaurants across the globe, including New York, London, Las Vegas and – conveniently – Southbank. Savour the exquisite new-style Japanese cuisine of Nobu Matsuhisa, expertly prepared by Melbourne Head Chef Joshua Bedell. Highly skilled, knife-wielding chefs plate up the finest sushi before your very eyes in a true feast for the senses. Inspired by its riverside location and Japanese heritage, Nobu’s interior is an elegant spectacle of river stones suspended in mid-air, cherry blossom and burnished woods, all adding to a truly refined dining experience.

Degustation dining at Eureka 89

Located on the top floor of the Eureka Tower, this is a truly memorable dining experience. Select from a five or seven-course degustation menu, with the option of adding matched wines to each dish. Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase exceptional views of Melbourne, while the menu is a celebration of fine Australian cuisine. Think Hiramasa kingfish with sweet ginger, Gippsland beef with roasted cos and caramelised yoghurt and Western Australia marron with tamarind and miso. Window tables are reserved for dining guests, but the lounge bar area still offers incredible views if you’re just after a drink.

Relax and unwind at Chuan Spa

From the moment you enter The Langham’s grand lobby, adorned in marble and boasting a spectacular water fountain, you know you’ve arrived somewhere truly exceptional. A treatment at Chuan Spa here is an unmissable indulgence that helps to harmonise body, spirit and mind. The extensive menu uses Australian-made Chuan products and includes European-origin therapies and traditional Chinese medicine. The Discover Chuan package combines a herbal salt scrub with a massage and facial of your choice and will leave you with a feeling of floating on air. Enhance your experience with complimentary access to the Tri-Bathing Ritual — inspired by the philosophy of free-flowing water, the ritual includes a swimming pool, saltwater Jacuzzi with Southbank views, heated sauna and ‘river stone snail shower’ with a 12-jet design to stimulate individual muscle groups.

Tailor your escape to Southbank

Immerse yourself in Southbank with Luxury Escapes’ hand-picked Experiences. We’ve curated a selection of cultural activities, adrenaline thrills, food adventures and luxury add-ons to help you discover your destination. These Experiences are bookable when you purchase your next escape. Simply select your travel dates and number of travellers for any package, and opt to tailor your escape by selecting the available Experiences.

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