We scale Melbourne's loftiest summits to find out where to get your high-altitude kicks and the best views in town
The stats: 120m high: the equivalent of 40 storeys. 1736 tonnes of solid steel held together by 21,000 bolts.
A soothing pre-recorded voice guides you through your half-hour ride over the Docklands. Over to the east, you're introduced to Chinatown ("wait, where?") the MCG ("I can’t see it!") and the Botanical Gardens ("behind all the buildings?"). You can’t actually see many of these landmarks, but if industrial-chic is your thing (or if you’re an eight-year-old boy), you’ll clap your hands with glee as Thomas, Henry, Percy and all their friends chug their way into Southern Cross Station. Once you’ve accepted that first-rate attractions come at a premium here, enjoying the city, silent and serene, from afar does put things into perspective.
Best time to visit: It’s party central here every night when the Star’s rave-tastic coloured lights swing into action.
The stats: 251m high, 55th floor. 95km of lift cables, 1450 staircase steps.
Ears still popping from the elevator, you’re greeted by a sharp-suited maître d’, a novel-length cocktail menu and a floor-to-ceiling vista of the southern end of the city. By night, you can trace the city’s major arteries, lit up in dusky orange and glittering white. You’ll also notice the gentle curve of the Yarra, dark expanse of the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, and the slowly swaying mast of the SS Polly Woodside. Did you forget that Melbourne is home to a ten-storey-high ship from the 19th century?
Best time to visit: Arrive fashionably late for a live music sunset session every Sunday from 3pm.
The stats: 297m high, 88th floor. 110,000 tonnes of concrete, 13 elevators.
The glass box starts to move away from the building and you think you’re OK until the (totally sadistic) pre-recorded cracking noises start. But once the vertigo subsides, you’re treated to the most astonishing panorama of Melbourne this side of sprouting wings and going freestyle. The colours are what surprise us: bright blue tennis courts stand out from the sports precinct and the south side is all about the desert reds of the Malthouse Theatre and sunshine yellow of the adjacent Vault sculpture. If see-through floors give you the willies, then we suggest you plant both feet on the Skydeck. It’s just as high, but without the terror.
Best time to visit: For a few extra dollars, we recommend picking up a multi-visit Sun and Stars pass so you don’t have to choose.