On day one of a Southeast Asian Agents fam trip we’re at Melbourne’s famous restaurant by the bay, Donovan’s, where the table is laden with delights that tempt and satisfy every palate. The sensational meal sets the scene for what is to be a true taste of Australia’s leading incentive destination: Melbourne. Presenting their signature Australian cuisine, the restaurant caters for groups offering individualised service.
After an ear-popping ascent, we’re staring at Melbourne from the 89th floor of Australia’s tallest building – Eureka Tower. We’re in its function facility, the North Point Room, which boasts a new perspective of this great city in every direction.
Our group is then led through the city’s laneways by dapper musicians who act like the Pied Piper. We bop along Collins Street to musical notes but strangely, we’re not conspicuous – Melbourne is a place where the unusual is the norm.
We visit the many function spaces of the historical and beautiful Melbourne Town Hall. Spanish Rococo in style and restored to an as-new condition, the ballroom is spectacular. There’s definitely more than just a touch of theatre here.
In the Docklands area, on the western edge of town, is Sketch, an exclusive dining location on the end of Central Pier operated by the Atlantic group. Superlatives are thrown around at the setting, the scenery and the food. The entrée is served and the food is as delicious as the venue. For entertainment, String Divas – two gorgeous and talented violinists – precedes one of the greatest exponents of a cappella musicality in the country: Mr Percival. He fills the room with energetic and sensitive notes.
The remainder of the meal follows and each course outdoes the last with perfectly balanced flavours and delivery. It’s a sublime evening. Sketch is one of four of Atlantic’s incentive-class venues, and with elaborate and flexible facilities they cater for small and large groups delivering a true Melbourne experience of sophistication and style.
The following morning, we’re flying in a light plane down Victoria’s Great Ocean Road – one of the world’s greatest coastal drives. We’re high above the smashing coastline and the famous Twelve Apostles – limestone outcrops shooting from the seabed. A popular destination for incentive groups, the Twelve Apostles can be accessed by road or air, depending on the size of the group. We’re set for lunch provided by Big Group Caterers, on the sandy shores where the beachside scene is a relaxing interlude to the hectic schedule.
Next stop is the beautiful Yarra Valley. Chateau Yering is the quintessential incentive-class accommodation. Every detail in the historic building is finessed and meticulously coordinated. Set in 101ha of handsome landscape, the 32-suite home ticks all the boxes in luxury accommodation. Dinner is a grand event; in the Oak Room, courses of duck, Australian lamb and suckling pig are delivered with aplomb. With rare wines flowing, the night has the feel of a flawless gala.
The following morning we find ourselves driving through rows of fruit trees. Rayner’s Stonefruit Orchard is tucked away in one of the prettiest parts of the Yarra Valley. Len Rayner leads groups through the orchards, providing a running commentary on the 250 varieties of fruit. In perfect, sunny, 25-degree weather, it’s time to move on to sample some cheese and wine.
Dominique Portet greets us as we enter his winery and guides us through his vineyard, explaining his French methods of making sparkling, rosé, sauvignon blanc and bold red wines. His brand is widely regarded as a premium product in the valley and Monsieur Portet runs sessions on wine blending which engage the groups in an informative and fun way. Under his instruction they learn the techniques of wine blending and create their own special vintage. The activity is a favourite with groups because of its interactive element and strong point of difference.
The Yarra Valley brims with clever operators who have a deep understanding of the MICE market’s specific needs. Quality food and wine is the cornerstone of the valley’s appeal. With high-end accommodation, conference facilities, magnificent views and hundreds of incentive-style activities, it’s a “no-brainer” when it comes to group planning.
We spend the evening clapping and cheering for our favourite tennis star at the Australian Open Tennis – another famed Melbourne major event, before spending our final morning in team-building exercises at The Garden House of the Botanical Gardens where breakout groups create flamboyant hats or artistically questionable paintings under the instruction of professional milliners and artists.
Melbourne is a major events city. If there’s not a world-class sporting event happening, there’s a top Broadway show playing at one of the many theatres. If the shopping and fashion doesn’t entice you, the vibrancy of the laneways and streets will. From a planner’s point of view, Melbourne is all about options. And the options are many.
Contact: Melbourne Convention and Visitors Bureau
Tel: +61 3 9693 3333