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Published October 15th 2018
Stay here for a bird's eye view of Melbourne's Southbank
Melbourne's CBD is pumping on a Saturday night. Lights flash, trams rumble past, bands are playing and the dance floors of the city nightclubs are full. Sirens wail with alarming regularity and helicopters come and go, landing on a helipad on the north side of the river opposite the casino.
My friend and I are staying at Punthill Northbank for a mini break from the suburbs. The apartments are located directly opposite Crown Casino. This is the first time we've stayed at the southern end of the CBD, and it's very different. Northbank is close to everything. The Melbourne Aquarium is a block away, the casino and the Southbank dining precinct are a short stroll over the bridge and the nightclubs are within tottering distance. The Melbourne Convention Centre and Etihad stadium are both only minutes away and dotted all around the area in modest alleyways are fabulous cafes and restaurants.
We check in at 2pm but we have commitments all day so we stumble back in at 11pm. This is no problem as the reception area is staffed 24 hours a day and we already have access cards for the entry and lift. Our River View room is on the 26th floor and the action outside the window invites us to admire the view when we enter.
Sunday morning we are up early but take it easy, not venturing out of the apartment until lunchtime. Melbourne has turned on the sunny weather for us (miracle of miracles!) so we decide to cross the pedestrian bridge at the Aquarium and head to Southbank for something to eat.
At Teatro, in a secondary kitchen fronting the boardwalk, the chef tends the paella in an enormous pan, about a metre in diameter. The bright red rice and the fragrance of saffron and seafood wafting on the breeze is very tempting but we indulge in some tapas and a Gamberi pizza with big juicy prawns and chilli.
Sated, we climb the stairs to the Arts Centre and stroll the length of the Sunday Arts and Crafts market where we are drawn to Monica, a passionate and accomplished artist with decades of training under the tutelage of various famous fabric designers. She makes silk clothing imprinted with Eucalyptus leaves. She describes the process; from collecting leaves in an inner city park from "the best trees in Melbourne" and steaming the materials for up to six hours, until the designs are set. Then she cuts the fabric and completes each piece.
I do have a penchant for buying from the makers at markets, so it is no real surprise that as I wave goodbye to Monica I am wearing a stunning, silk, eucalypt imprinted, dress.
The Japanese restaurant Tokyo Maki, directly across Flinders St from the Punthill Northbank property, is the obvious choice for us for dinner despite the full kitchen facilities in our room. We order takeaway and enjoy the meal at the table in our room while switching our gaze between Foxtel and the Southbank flames, which charge up into the air every hour on the hour.
We decided that this would be an amazing location to watch the New Year's Eve fireworks and, in fact, hotel manager, Matthew Doyle, says that the state of the art gym and its balcony gets a lot of use on nights when special events are held on the riverside. When I step into it, I understand why. The panoramic city view is magnificent from the top floor and there is an outdoor balcony on which to enjoy some fresh air. There was even a proposal on the balcony on New Year's Eve 2017 with fireworks as the backdrop.
The gym - for sunsets, fireworks, proposals and working out.
Location: 560 Flinders Street. Punthill Northbank is located within the Free Tram Zone so it is super easy to get around the Melbourne CBD grid without having to worry about a Myki card.
Things that make this special: AMAZING city views. The views from the apartment windows are second to none. To the south, the deep blue of the Port Phillip Bay sparkles in the sunshine, directly ahead of the bright lights and even brighter incentives of the casino beckon and to the north, of the city, the suburbs roll out to the Dandenong Ranges.
Rooms: Stylish and tasteful, the rooms are clean and modern, if a little small. The windows, however, are floor to ceiling and provide a 24 hour city show. All through the night cars traverse the roads that ring the city and helicopters land on the riverside helipad providing access to the casino. By day, watch as boats skim up and down the river. The bird's eye perspective offers so much to see.
The beds and pillows are plump and comfortable and the crisp white sheets are a delight to sleep in. Roller blinds keep the light out effectively for those who like to sleep in.
Restaurants/bars: Right now there is no on-site cafe, however, the foyer has chairs and tables and a bar area which is about to be inhabited by local entrepreneurs from the Rex Tremendae cafe, just around the corner.
There are five kebab shops that we count on the street, as well as a Nandos, Tokyo Maki and heaps of cafes in the few blocks around the building. Two laneways up we found a bunch of on-trend cafes, including the Five and Dime Bagelry (which supplies its authentic bagels to many cafes around the city) and a Bibimbap shop.
Delicious bagel with avocado smash from the Five and Dime cafe.
Activities on site: Tours are available around the city and beyond. Ask desk staff to direct you. A few blocks up towards Flinders Street Station, you will find Degraves Street where plenty of tour operators offer Victorian adventures. The free Melbourne City Circle Tram stops right out the front of the building.
Advice for other travellers: If you are sensitive to noise you need your Earplugs for this property. The downside of being right in the heart of the action, is a little bit of excess noise, especially on a Saturday night when the young clubbers are celebrating their youth on the city's dance floors.
The city views are awesome and the proximity to the Casino, restaurants, cafes and transport make this a fantastic choice for travellers coming in from out of town for shows, meetings or conventions.
How to get there: Train to Southern Cross Station. If driving in, staff can organise parking for you in the nearby Secure Parking at a reduced rate.
Microflite Helicopters. They can arrange airport transfers and city scenic flights.