Let’s get this out from the beginning – this for us was much more than just a tour of Melbourne’s sporting precincts. So whatever you do, do not let the name put you off. If you are new to Melbourne or planning a visit there and want a full day out and a great overview of everything that Melbourne has to offer (not just sporting icons), we would highly recommend you contact Melbourne Sports Tours.
We met our guide at 8:30 in the morning, wearing comfortable walking shoes and clothing that we wouldn’t get too hot in (you never know with Melbourne weather!). If you’re worried about this though, you will be able to leave any extra camera bags or clothing on the tour bus throughout the day. Our tour went all day, right up until 5pm, so prepare yourself for a possibly tiring day but one you will thoroughly enjoy, whether a sports lover or not.
There are a variety of tours available, depending on your budget and interests. View the full list at http://www.melbournesportstours.com.au/city_sports_tours.html.
The Ultimate Sports Lovers Tour has a full itinerary, covering all of Melbourne’s major sporting complexes.
Flemington: Our first stop was Flemington Raceway. Though still cool at that time of the morning, it felt like the perfect time while the track was still wet with dew and the air crisp and fresh. You could easily imagine the horses and their trainers getting up bright and early to go through their paces. Home of the Melbourne Cup, the race that stops the nation, you can stand on the finish line, and see true-to-size statues of some of our greatest horses and their trainers, include Makybe Diva and Bart Cummings. View the stabling areas, see where the race stewards sit, and the special seating reserved for the VIPs. Even for those with no particular interest in racing, it’s a beautiful venue and fantastic to see and experience in real life.
Commonwealth Games Athletes Village: One thing that we appreciated about the tour was that our guide did not just stick to main routes to get to the major destinations, which allowed us the chance to drive through the streets that were the original Athletes Village, now home to ordinary Australians.
Albert Park: Our tour timing was well-planned, as only a week earlier was the Melbourne F1 Grand Prix, which would have put this part of the tour out of action. Thankfully, we were still able to drive around the circuit, passing the Melbourne Sports & Aquatic Centre on the way, and do a not-so-quick take-off at the starting line.
Rod Laver Arena: Walk through the players’ change rooms where the top tennis players prepare for their game at the Australian Open Championships each January. The roof was over the Arena during our time there, but it was still an incredible sight and much larger than it looks on TV. It would be a very imposing theatre for any player. We walked through the halls containing pictures of all the winners through history, and finally went into the Media Room. This was definitely not what we expected – quite small in size, but still gave us a thrill to sit in the chair where so many champions had sat before.
Etihad Stadium: When lunchtime came around, we had more than worked up an appetite. Thankfully, our guide had taken our orders early and so there was only a very brief wait for our meals when we arrived at Etihad Stadium (formerly Telstra Dome). Our tables sat overlooking the field and one could imagine the atmosphere here during a game. It really was a great stadium (though being Queenslanders, our hearts will always claim Suncorp Stadium (or the old Lang Park) as the greatest of all). For the record, our meals were absolutely delicious, and setting aside the venue, if you’re just after somewhere with great meals, we can highly recommend here.
MCG: After lunch, it was time to tour the grandest venue of all – the Melbourne Cricket Ground, home to the 1956 Olympics, Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games, International Cricket and Australian Rules Football. Features of our tour, which was hosted by a humorous elderly member of the Cricket Club, included the Northern Stand, Coaches’ box, Players’ change rooms (football and cricket), Cricket viewing room, Long Room, Bill Lawry Cricket Centre, The Ponsford Stand, MCG Museum, and a walk on the hallowed turf. Standing on the lawn at the foot of the grandstands, it truly is a sight to behold. It would be well worth booking a ticket to a full-house match here just for the experience and atmosphere alone. The history behind the venue and it’s location was fascinating, and again we appreciated the extra detail and information put into the tour.
National Sports Museum: Located beneath the MCG, the Museum features more than 2,500 sporting artefacts and extensive multimedia displays. One we were truly blown away by was the Shane Warne lightshow – so well done that it really seems as if he is right in front of you in the locker room. A must-see if you do visit the Museum. The Museum showcases all the great moments in Australia’s sporting history, covering Australian football, boxing, basketball, cricket, cycling, Olympic and Paralympic Games, soccer, tennis, rugby union, rugby and rugby league. We particularly loved the interactive area (great for big and little kids), where you can try your hard at Archery, Soccer, Football, hand-eye coordination activities and more. You could easily spend a few hours here exploring all it has to offer.
The Ultimate Sports Lovers Tour runs from 8:30am – 5pm.
$145pp. This includes all entry fees for the day as well as lunch.
We were very tired by the end of the day, but thrilled to have seen so much and somewhat surprised by how much more our guide showed and told us about the city. We wish we had done it when we first visited Melbourne months ago, as it will give you a fantastic idea of the layout of the city, and the most important places to visit with both historical, sporting and cultural significance.