How Hollywood Does Melbourne, Australia

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Chris Hemsworth isn’t the only hunk who loves the capital of Victoria and its surrounding weekend getaways.

If Margot Robbie and the Hemsworth brothers have taught us anything about Australia, it’s that basically everyone who comes from the giant island nation is attractive, a blanket statement backed up by other local sons and daughters including Cate Blanchett, Ruby Rose, Eric Bana, Nicole Kidman, Emilie de Ravin, Abbey Lee, Isabel Lucas, Andreja Pejic and musicians Flea, Keith Urban and Kylie and Dannii Minogue.

Indeed, Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, is where many of these famous faces got their starts, and it’s still a place that draws a fair number back, as well as non-Aussies for visits. The fashionable annual Melbourne Cup horse races attract celebrities from Paris Jackson, Solange and Gigi Hadid to supermodels Lara Stone and Kate Upton and even Snoop Dogg, while the yearly Australian Open tournament brings the tennis glitterati for its intense matches — think Will Ferrell to Will Smith. (Both Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova dined at Nobu when in town.) 

There are a few celebrity-friendly boltholes that provide king-sized beds and hospitality fit for a star. Pink and Lady Gaga have both overnighted at the elegant Park Hyatt Melbourne, while Ed Sheeran, One Direction and Kylie Minogue have stayed in the Crown complex and Kim Kardashian and the rest of her clan once rented out an entire floor of The Langham, Melbourne. Newer to the scene is QT Melbourne, an industrial-meets-creative boutique property that shines in a city all about art. The well-appointed rooms feature plenty of color and QT’s signature (read: dreamy) gel beds, while the eclectic decor throughout the mouthwatering restaurant and rich public spaces attracts a crowd of aesthetes. A walk through the CBD’s famed laneways, if only for the iconic street art, should be a non-negotiable (the hotel can arrange tours, or try Walk Melbourne).

Parked in a hyper-walkable part of the CBD, it’s a gateway to the world-renowned culinary scene Melbourne is so famous for, namely the prime eats on Flinders Lane. “I’ve got to say Flinders Lane is pretty special,” says Chris Hemsworth. “There’s a whole lot of bars and nightlife and restaurants there, which remind me a bit of New York, you know, the eclectic diversity that’s there.” Asian food is known as Melbourne’s specialty. One in particular Hemsworth likes, even though he’s not vegan, is the plant-based Matcha Mylkbar. Others that score high marks over and over include the Pan-Asian restaurant Chin Chin, Asia-meets-Europe basement eatery Coda, old-school Italian Cecconi’s, dumpling-dishing diner Supernormal, by acclaimed celeb chef Andrew McConnell, and his beloved Cumulus Inc (also check out Cumulus Up), which does everything from oysters to anchovies to lamb in ways that will knock your socks off. Foodies are even known to bounce around between these hot spots in a sort of food crawl, noshing on a course or two at several throughout one evening. 

 

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Elsewhere in the city, coffee fiends have dozens of high-level shops in which to get their fix (Higher Ground and Kettle Black are safe bets), or choose Auction Rooms for their clean, artisanal approach alongside a great atmosphere and excellent lunch. New on the scene and fantastic are Annam (it’s the French colonial word for Vietnam) by Hatted chef Jerry Mai (Pho-Nam), a talent whom the likes of Anthony Bourdain would probably love, and the Italian Tipo 00. The buzz is real at Federation Square’s aesthetically beautiful Taxi Kitchen, a sort of mellower Times Square where all paths seem to lead. The nearby Yarra River is a perfect place for day drinking, as the co-owner of Los Angeles’ E.P. & L.P. has a couple river-level spots that are uniquely memorable, even if you indulge in a bit too much booze (it’s the Aussie way): Ponyfish Island, which one reaches by walking down stairs under a footbridge, and the floating Tokyo-inspired boat-bar pop-up Supafish, which is a play on the word “superficial.” And under the cover of darkness, Arlechin and Eau de Vie are bars where creative cocktails and local gins (try bartenders’ favorite Four Pillars) are served without pretense.

Much like San Francisco, the areas outside Melbourne are just as attractive — if not more, to some seeking solace and privacy — as in it. The nearby Mornington Peninsula is a region that’s taking off; in fact, Portia de Rossi, who went to grammar school in Melbourne, and Ellen DeGeneres fueled rumors last year that they were looking to buy a house on the up-and-coming peninsula. (Hugh Jackman already owns a home.) They’d be in good company, since a couple recent beautiful openings have shone lights on its many existing wineries.

 

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The intimate art-driven, design-forward Jackalope Hotel is one of the most fun — and Zen — places to stay anywhere, thanks to its unique position beside rolling green vineyards and playful approach to decor as well as food. It’s easy to overload Instagram with shots of the innovative courses served on gold terrazzo tabletops at signature restaurant Doot Doot Doot and the sunset behind the picture-perfect infinity pool. The new Pt. Leo Estate stimulates the eyes as much as the tastebuds with its cellar door tasting room, fine dining restaurant (don’t miss the melt-in-your-mouth carrot souffle or vibrant beetroot pancake) and expansive sculpture garden backed by epic views of the turquoise ocean.

 

That's one beautiful roo guarding the path at Healesville Sanctuary's Kangaroo Country

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The famed cool-climate Yarra Valley — home to countless purveyors of Chardonnay, sparkling wine and Pinot Noir — is another popular stop not far from Melbourne where, along with the vino, travelers can check another Aussie must off their list: seeing a koala. (The Healesville Sanctuary in the St. Helena-like town has more than enough of the adorable gray furballs.) One can even take a helicopter directly to the Gaudi-inspired winery Yearing Station for a tasting and three-course meal. Coombe Yarra Valley, the former home of famous opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, is another advisable stop, not only for the wine and lunch with a peach melba dessert, but to appreciate her taste for Cartier and Louis Vuitton.

There’s also Phillip Island, which holds a special place in Hemsworth’s heart. “Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island, is one of my favorite spots to surf. I spent a lot of my childhood there and have great memories growing up with my brothers,” says the actor. It’s not only the swell that brings people to the quaint island, but the Penguin Parade that occurs each evening at sunset as the teeny-tiny birds make their way from sea to shore. Along with charming B&B's, there is excellent food on offer at The Cape Kitchen, where each flower-dusted plate is almost too artistic to eat. Aussies — they really are about beauty.