The laid-back European vibe, waterfront bike and run routes and café-centric dining options of Melbourne, Australia, make for a terrific place to eat, drink, train and race.
Go: In March, when it’s late summer and temperatures are between 66 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Stay: At the inviting Hotel Urban (Hotelurban.com.au) on St. Kilda’s main drag, Fitzroy Street. This simple yet sophisticated Euro-style boutique hotel—the race’s presenting sponsor—is conveniently located near the Ironman expo and finish area.
Dine: Your best bet for breakfast is Il Fornaio on Acland Street. The menu is packed with egg and pancake dishes, though the bircher muesli or old-fashioned porridge might be your pre-training preference. Lunch is served at seaside Republica (Republica.net.au)—lounge in the open-air patio, taking in the ocean views while munching a roast pumpkin, sage and goat cheese pizza. The organic gourmet restaurant Fitzrovia (Fitzrovia.com.au) is a must-do dinner experience. It feels like a comfortable yet cultured Victorian home filled with party guests.
Race It! 2014 will mark the third edition of the Ironman Asia-Pacific Championship in Melbourne. A race that delivers big on the wow factor, it involves a single-loop swim in scenic Port Phillip Bay, then two laps along the EastLink Tollway, a major freeway closed to traffic, and a 26.2-mile beachfront journey along paved roads and pedestrian paths to St. Kilda. Registration opens next week. Ironmanmelbourne.com
Half-Day City Adventure
Take a long walk or a short tram ride northeast toward Chapel Street’s Windsor precinct to find a plethora of bohemian boutiques and artsy antique stores. When hunger strikes, try local favorite Mileto’s. Continue your meandering to the Prahran precinct and make a left turn into tiny Greville Street. Here, you’ll find Northside Wheelers bike shop, an eclectic collection of bike culture artifacts and couture cycling apparel. Before you leave, hit the Prahran Market, with farm-fresh produce stands and packaged specialty items to rival any Whole Foods.
Work It Out
Swim, ride and run here
Take a dip in the historic St. Kilda Sea Baths, boasting a soothing 25-meter heated saltwater pool. For a more serious swim, hop the #96 tram to the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre (MSAC), a lap swimmer’s fantasy, with both indoor and outdoor 50-meter pools. For a run you can’t beat the Ironman course in reverse; a perfect ride traverses scenic Beach Road, a famous cycling spot for Melbournites that also incorporates the final miles of the marathon.
A Night Out
Begin in Melbourne’s City Centre. Take the northbound tram up St. Kilda Road to Flinders Street Station and wander the laneways (don’t miss Degraves Street!) to uncover numerous cafés, hidden shops and stunning street art. When you’re ready to quench your thirst, look for the pedestrian bridge near the Southbank Promenade, underneath which lies one of the city’s gems, Ponyfish Island. This tiny bar is a perfect place to carbo-load with a “pot” (10-ounce draft) or “pint” (20-ounce) of local Carlton Draught.
- Save your pennies pre-travel— prices are high, and the exchange rate has not favored the U.S. dollar in recent years.
- Hop a tram to almost any city destination. Pre-purchase a “myki” pass in any convenience store, or pay the automated machine on board.
- Layer up. Weather seems to pass through several seasons in a single day.