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Melbourne's iconic sites, including the MCG, Southbank, Federation Square and Flemington, are some of Australia's most memorable features, instantly recognisable to millions of Aussies around the country, whether they've explored these sites or not. However, if you're a determined local sporting an AFL jersey amid sub-zero inner-city gales or a regular visitor from interstate or abroad, you might take these gems for granted, jealous of the open-jawed gasping of first-time tourists, dazzled by vast masses of humanity buzzing energetically on another day in the most liveable city in the world. What if you could feel that same joy again? How can you experience the pleasure of discovery without joining Eddie McGuire on a gaffe-prone meander past eager journalists chasing the next viral headline?
Regardless of the region of Melbourne you call home, there are secret delights, overlooked by snooping Google-view camera cars and Youtube stars scanning for ideas for their next cringe-worthy videos. With a bit of local knowledge, you can relive our city's past, walking over the footsteps of urban legends, history's heroes and the moments in Melbourne story that are often missed by the masses as they race to the opening of another fast-food shack, supermarket complex or a boutique fashion house.
(image by Melbourne Observatory)
To experience new local delights, you'll need a sense of adventure, a bit of persistence, your finest period costume and a vivid imagination to blend the sepia images of our past with the true-colour legacies remaining at these sites of Melbourne's hidden history. At each of these sites, watch for savvy local residents – with a friendly chat, you may discover even more about the past of Australia's best city, missed by the gossip pages.
Choose from one of these sites, located throughout Melbourne:
Beatles Assassination Attempt In 1932, the headquarters of the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Odd Fellows opened, bearing the motto Friendship, Love and Truth. In 1964, as the legendary rock and roll band, the Beatles, toured the streets of Melbourne, surrounded by thousands of screaming fans, the motto appeared to ring true. Atop the towers of the Manchester Unity building, a distressed teenage boy, jealous as he watched his girlfriend ecstatic reaction to the Fab Four, planned a cruel act of revenge for the worldwide sensations, heartbroken as his teen love was enchanted by their charm. Discover the outcome and the other encounters at this gothic building adorned with sculpted marble and ornamental glasswork.
Visit the Manchester Unity building on Swanson St, where you can book a breakfast or lunch in the art-deco restaurant before joining a guided tour of the highlights. Book here.
The Supper Club Sir Antony Jay, the insightful co-writer of the comedy television series Yes, Minster and Yes, Prime Minister, recently passed away. His fictional creation, Sir Humphrey Appleby, the Permanent Secretary cleverly applying Machiavellian political strategy in Whitehall, would particularly enjoy an evening at the Supper Club. Chesterfield couches, aged wood panelling and a large oil painting of Columbia, the female personification of America, suggest many of the real power-players of politics make or break deals from the dining tables or bar in the club, overlooking Parliament House from the giant picture window. Visit the club at Level 1 161 Spring Street, Melbourne at 5pm daily. For details, click here.
The Old Treasury Vaults Victoria has a rich history of gold prospecting. When a local recently unearthed a 4kg gold nugget in our central Victoria's 'golden triangle', he added $250,000 worth of gold bullion to that history. While he toiled for a decade to experience a Eureka moment, you can enjoy an afternoon of gold fever at the Old Treasury. Explore the 8 stone vaults beneath the entrance, stepping through Victoria in the 1850s and 60s, as the gold rush filled these rooms and funded the construction of our most loved public buildings. While much of the gold has changed hands, the fuel of bureaucracy – paperwork, has led to a bonus exhibit featuring the original documents, maps and photographs capturing the details of Victoria's most prominent cultural characters and periods, including Ned Kelly, the controversial settlement of Port Phillip and the drama of the Burke and Wills expedition. The vaults of the Old Treasury Building open at 10am Sunday – Friday at 20 Spring St, Melbourne. For details, click here.
Olinda – The Cuckoo Melbourne has Australia's most sophisticated and exciting foodie culture. Longevity in the country's most competitive dining market can be frustratingly rare. There are well-established restaurants, but many have changed hands over the decades, reopening with new management. The Cuckoo, established in 1958, is Melbourne's oldest, soon to celebrate 60 years of constant dining pleasure. Enter a Bavarian chalet and feast on the broad spread of hearty German cuisine, ideal for cool winter evenings. Celebrate Oktoberfest with your leather pants and join in the traditional yodelling and folk dancing. Visit the Cuckoo for lunch or dinner at 508 Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Olinda. To view the menu and book, click here.
The Great Melbourne Telescope
Chart a course into the skies at the site of the world's largest steerable telescope. In the 1860s, the 1.2-metre-diameter mirror of the Great Melbourne Telescope tracked the stars gliding over our southern skies, pioneering the science of astro-photography. At the end of World War 2, the Observatory closed and the telescope was shipped to Canberra, where the mirror was shattered by the blistering heat of the 2003 bushfire racing over Mount Stromlo. The scorched remains were sheepishly returned to Victoria, where experts are restoring the components. Fortunately, Observatory hosts many other historic telescopes for modern-day skywatchers with tours and night viewings available. Visit the Observatory at Birdwood Ave, Melbourne. For details, click here.