Stephanie Holmes checks into a CBD hotel with amazing views.
Less than half an hour's drive from Melbourne airport to the Crown Metropol's prime Southbank location.
Check-in experience: There was a long queue when we arrived, but it moved quickly and there was a delicious smell wafting around the lobby — the hotel's "Signature fragrance".
We were also checking in during the Australian Open, so there were a few active-wear clad tennis players milling around too. Out of a group of four of us checking in together, mine was the only room not yet available. The staff took my phone number and promised to text me as soon as it was ready.
Room: A Luxe King room on the ninth floor. Cleverly appointed and decently sized at 38sq m, the room had lots of space to move around — I even managed to do a workout from my Nike + Training Club smartphone app — starjumps, burpees, etc — without banging into any furniture. The floor-to-ceiling windows looked back at the Southbank skyline (not over the river and towards the city), and there were separate desk and lounge areas.
Price: From A$258.
What's so good about this place? Sleek and modern, with great facilities and hospitality options.
And the bad? Although the Southbank is a buzzing part of Melbourne, it's a long walk to the CBD.
What's in the neighbourhood? The hotel is part of the Crown casino complex, including shopping malls, cinemas and restaurants, which you can access via underground walkways from the hotel. It's also close to the bars and restaurants of the Southbank, as well as the DFO shopping outlet and the National Gallery of Victoria. The City Road and Clarendon St Junction tram stops are just across the road.
Food and drink: I had access to 28 Skybar Lounge — a club lounge, bar and restaurant on the 28th floor of the building — where I had breakfast and pre-dinner drinks/canapes. The view was amazing — looking out over the city skyline through the 5m floor-to-ceiling windows. According to the hotel's website, "On a clear day, the east-facing view spans as far as the Dandenong Ranges". You can also look down into level 27's impressive infinity pool. Breakfast was a continental buffet, plus cooked options — I enjoyed poached eggs on toast and fresh fruit and yoghurt. Before dinner, my friends and I sat out on the balcony and had a few glasses of bubbles and canapes. Delicious.
The bed: A comfortable king, but the extra-large padded headboard made it feel shorter than standard. Extra tall guests might find their feet hanging over the end — unless they're alone and can starfish.
Bathroom: Cleverly appointed with separate toilet and shower, enclosed in frosted glass cubicles. The vanity area was open plan, with sliding privacy screens. The shower was powerful and, on having a little solo singalong, I discovered that it had amazing acoustics.
Toiletries: Crown Metropol-branded, which smelled as delicious as the lobby.
Free wi-fi? Yes, and it was mostly reliable.
Noise: Nothing at all. Hopefully that was the case for my neighbours. If not, apologies to my adjacent neighbours for the singing, and my downstairs neighbours for the starjumps.
Exercise facilities: The gym and spa are on the 27th floor, along with the 25m indoor infinity pool looking out to Melbourne's CBD. I'd envisioned doing a few laps then peacefully sitting in the hot tub while I gazed out to the city ... but on my Tuesday afternoon visit during school holidays, the pool was packed with children so there was no peace to be had. Understandable though — it was 38 degrees.
Perfect for: Gamblers, shoppers, or anyone looking for a glamorous getaway in this super-cool city.
The bottomline: Ask for access to the Skybar.
The Crown Metropol Melbourne is at 8 Whiteman Street
Southbank, Melbourne, Victoria. Phone: +61 3 9292 6211.