Royal Botanic Gardens
Birdwood Ave., South Yarra
Ninety-four acres of lawns, lakes, and native botanicals in the middle of a sprawling metropolis—sounds like a date to us. Transformed from swampy landmass to manicured flower beds in 1846, the gardens act as a community hub for locals and visitors alike. There are tours themed around plants and birds, boating on the lake (perfect for kids), forest bathing, and even projector movie nights on regular rotation.
44 Toorak Rd., South Yarra
Bar Carolina is a good-looking restaurant with a rapidly expanding set of equally good-looking neighbors: Cantina Carolina and Tetto di Carolina next door. South Yarra’s gourmet-loving population packs the narrow space—with its log, grey-black bar topped by shelves heaving with Italian wines—night after night. Blonde-wood floors and tabletops mingle with dark fixtures to create a sleek, modern aesthetic that makes the wine glasses sparkle. A typical supper here might start off with delicately battered fritto misto and a dish of asparagus and almond-filled tortellini followed by a whole grilled fish and the most delicious, crispy potatoes flecked with rosemary. Bar Carolina is one of those all-day spots that works as well for a group dinner as it does for a lazy afternoon spritz at the bar. But for nights when the narrow space is simply too jammed with diners spooning burrata onto grilled bread, there’s always the neighbor next door. Images courtesy of Kristoffer Paulsen.
United Places Botanic Gardens
157 Domain Rd., South Yarra
United Places in South Yarra is a hotel we would truly fly to Melbourne for. In conceiving the property and guest experience, the owners, architects, and designers all went radically off script. The attention to detail, and the commitment to making those details—the bedding, the scent, the tableware—unique is exceptional. Each suite (there are only twelve, and no other guest rooms) is stocked with Le Labo toiletries, hand-loomed Turkish towels, local ceramics, and Bang & Olufsen speakers. There’s one dedicated concierge per guest. This personalization removes the check-in process altogether, so you head straight from the lobby to your cloudlike bed for a jet-lagged snooze before an in-room massage or dinner at the superb hotel restaurant, Matilda. And—best for last—the location, on the edge of the Royal Botanic Gardens, transforms the thirty-minute walk to town into relaxing stroll through a beautifully manicured garden.