Fragrant new life bursts into bloom at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne’s springtime, with pink-petalled peony roses and camellias. Leave your spring hotel in Melbourne to take a drive to the Dandenongs’ Garden Festival on the outskirts of the city, where cool-climate glades of flowers fill the National Rhododendron Gardens or you can picnic in the shade of soaring Mountain Ash gum trees in Sherbrooke Forest.
Australia holds its breath on the last Saturday in September, when the two Australian Football League finalists battle it out for premiership honours. Team colors wave from windows, cars and buildings, and the lead-up to the AFL Grand Final culminates in a street parade through the city, with balloons and bunting flying. The match takes place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in East Melbourne. If you aren’t lucky enough to grab a ticket to the match, watch the game live on the big screen at Federation Square and witness Melburnians’ legendary love of sport first hand.
Experience the city’s love of all things cultural on a Melbourne spring break, with a festival for every taste and age group. The festival season kicks off with the Melbourne Writers Festival in August at Federation Square, with authors from home and abroad reading excerpts from their works and entertaining the crowds with themed discussions. Spring Fashion Week follows, with models strutting the catwalk in the rarefied Main Hall of the Melbourne Town Hall. Alternative art, theatre and comedy are on parade in September during the Fringe Festival, and October’s International Arts Festival takes over the neo-Moorish Forum Theatre opposite Federation Square.
Melbourne’s wide, tree-lined boulevards and cycle lanes flanking the river and bay invite cyclists to get on their bikes in spring. All things bike-related are celebrated during the October Cycling Festival, and Melburnians leave their car keys at home on the annual Ride to Work day. Cycling the Capital City Trail is a fun and healthy way to see Melbourne, winding its way from the Docklands entertainment precinct by the port, along the Yarra River to the petting animals at the Collingwood Children’s Farm.
The country comes to the city in September for 11 days of baby animals, sheep-dog trials, racing pigs, wood-chopping competitions, and tea and scones lovingly prepared by the ladies of the Country Women’s Association. The Royal Melbourne Show is a family fixture, held in the Flemington Showgrounds, so join the crowds for a fun-filled day of showbags, wild carnival rides, live entertainment, and food and wine sampling in the Grand Pavilion.
If you’re wondering why the entire population of Melbourne has donned fancy frocks and smart suits, it must be because it’s Spring Racing Carnival time. The highlight of the month-long horseracing festival is the running of the Melbourne Cup on the first Tuesday in November. Everyone has a flutter on the Cup, and the nation stops at 3pm to listen to the race. In Melbourne it’s even a public holiday, so catch the train to the Flemington Racecourse, order strawberries and champagne, and settle in for a day of people-watching and horse races.