In Part One of our Jet Set guide to Melbourne, we discussed the culinary, nightlife, and entertainment options that can be found inside the Crown Casino. Now, for those of you excitedly planning your 2010 Aussie Millions itinerary, we’ll give you the lowdown on accommodations and some exciting trips to take outside the walls of the Crown.
Places to Hang Your Hat
When it comes to the Aussie Millions, the best option by far is to stay in either one of the Crown’s two top-notch hotels. Both are only a five-minute walk from the poker room and convenient to the complex’s shopping and dining options.
The Crown Towers
At PokerNews we've been everywhere on the international poker circuit and when it comes to the best hotels we’ve had the pleasure of staying at during our travels, the Crown Towers perpetually ranks at the top. The rooms are massive, framed by a floor-to-ceiling window that gives way to panoramic views of the Melbourne skyline and Port Phillip Bay. Drift off to sleep in a fluffy king-sized bed dressed in Frette linens while catching a cricket match on your 42-inch wall-mounted plasma TV. Rooms at the Towers also feature in-room safes, high-speed wireless internet, an iPod docking station, and your very own white terrycloth robe and matching pair of slippers (just don't steal them).
The Crown Promenade
The price tag is smaller but the views are just as spectacular at the Crown Promenade. Situated right next door to the Towers, the Promenade is directly linked to the Crown Complex by air bridge. The rooms are a bit smaller, but graciously appointed with flat-screen televisions, high-speed internet, and huge windows letting in lots of natural light. Another bonus for the traveling poker player? Twenty-four-hour room service.
Fun off the Felt
It’s entirely possible to spend the duration of the Aussie Millions well-fed and happily ensconced inside the Crown, but since you flew halfway around the world to get here, make sure to get out and explore both the city of Melbourne, and the vast countryside that surrounds it.
Exploring the city
Start off with a walk along Southbank, next to the Yarra River. Stop in for a “pot” or a “pint” of beer (Boag’s and Toohey’s are our favorites) at the World Bar & Restaurant and share a plate of their grilled Turkish breads and dips. The Melbourne Aquarium is just across the Yarra by bridge and is definitely worth a look, especially if you’re into sharks. If land animals are more your thing (or you’re just dying to get a photo of yourself with a kangaroo), hop in a cab and check out the Melbourne Zoo.
For an excellent dinner right in the Central Business District (CBD), head down to Lygon Street and hit up one of the dozens of Italian restaurants and cafés in the area. Donnini's is our favorite; try the "Trio of Pasta" featuring hand-made noodles and gnocchi. To wash down your dinner with a little vino, head down the street to Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar where you can sample different vintages via their tasting menu.
If you’re more in the mood to enjoy some great people-watching and enjoy a casual night at the beach, grab a cab to St. Kilda. Stop at The Prince for a pint, grab a slice of pizza from a vendor or dine outdoors on some amazing Malaysian food at Chinta Blues.
The Australian Open
If you’re a tennis fan, you’re in luck. The 2010 Australian Open is running from January 18 through 31 at the Melbourne Park National Tennis Centre, and it’s always a popular outing for Aussie Millions players on their day off. Although the official draws won’t be out until the second week of January, tickets are already available online at www.australianopen.com.
The Great Ocean Road
For a spectacular day trip away from the city, hire a car in the CBD (a 15-minute walk from the Crown or a $5 taxi ride) and drive the Great Ocean Road. If nominations were being accepted for the eighth wonder of the world, this brilliant section of Victorian coastline would surely be a frontrunner. The distance from central Melbourne to the road’s endpoint in Warrambool is approximately 163 miles, so this is a trip best taken over one long day or even a day and a half.
Take in the scenery, make sure to stop off a few times and take photos, and most of all, take your time. The road is slowgoing and curvy in many places. If you’re a surfer, Bells Beach, Point Addis, and Johanna Beach are all excellent spots to catch a few waves.
A must-see stop on the Great Ocean Road is Port Campbell National Park, home to the Twelve Apostles, a spectacular, oft-photographed rock formation along the coastline.
If you’re looking for a good place to stop for the night, the sleepy coastal town of Lorne fits the bill and has many low-cost hotel and B&B options.
Even the most jaded urbanites will be charmed by the wildlife on tiny Phillip Island, located an hour and a half south of Melbourne. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day and if you’ve brought your kids with you, they’ll love it. There are dozens of attractions on the island, from a Grand Prix racetrack to wineries, to nature preserves.
At the Phillip Island Wildlife Park you can get up close and personal with over 100 species of Australian animals including kangaroos, wallabies, dingoes, and wombats. If you’re dying to cuddle a koala, well, first keep in mind that they have claws. Then head down the road to the Koala Conservation Centre where you can observe koalas inside their natural habitat. You might even catch a few mama koalas toting around their newborn joeys.
The crown jewel of Phillip Island, however is their famous Penguin Parade. Every night at sunset, people can watch as hundreds of tiny penguins emerge from the ocean and waddle back to their burrows inside the sand dunes. Trust us, it’s truly a magical experience. Bring a hoodie though, it gets chilly!
There are still two more Aussie Millions qualifiers left on Full Tilt Poker. Open an account today and win your way to Melbourne.