19 Jul | Sports Mad Melbourne

Image courtesy of Chris Phutully.

From Sydney’s Blue Mountains to Far North Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, Australia’s premier tourist attractions have been attracting visitors in droves for decades. And rightly so. But more and more visitors are looking at Australia tours that coincide with one of Melbourne’s premier international sporting events. Let’s take look at a handful, any of which are well worth working into your down under itinerary.

On the banks of the city’s iconic Yarra River sits Melbourne Park, home to the Australian Open Tennis Championships, which along with Wimbledon, the French and US Opens makes up tennis’ grand slam. For two weeks each January, the Australian Open attracts the world’s best tennis players and tens of thousands of spectators from all over the globe, for an event always renowned for its hospitality and often for its heat.

After a successful stint in Adelaide, for the past couple of decades the Australian Formula One Grand Prix has found a home on the shores of South Melbourne’s picturesque Albert Park Lake. Over a weekend each March, the Melbourne GP marks the first round of the Formula One season. Mid March in Melbourne can mean 35 degree heat or torrential rain. Prepare for both. Motor sports enthusiasts will lap up the practice sessions that run from the Thursday through Saturday but it’s race day on Sunday that attracts Melbourne’s party crowd. Pack the earplugs and the suncream, take up your vantage and get ready for the formula one circus, Australian style.

Known locally as the the race that stops a nation, the Melbourne Cup has been run and won on the first Tuesday of November since 1861, when a stallion by the name of Archer took the first place prize purse of 710 gold sovereigns in cash and a hand-beaten gold watch. Today’s prize-money tops $6.4 million Australian dollars, while Cup Day gets its own holiday in Victoria. The Melbourne Cup is the highlight of the Spring Racing Carnival — a week of group one race meetings, that attracts some of the biggest names in racing worldwide. If you’re in Melbourne it’s a great excuse to gather up some mates, dress to the nines and head to the track. Flemington race course in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs attracts in excess of 100,000 revellers on Cup day. Place a bet with an on-track bookie, get the bubbly in and prepare for one of Melbourne’s biggest parties.

For a truly unique taste of Australiana, get along to the Melbourne Cricket Ground — or ‘the G’ as it’s known locally — for a game of Aussie Rules. Australian Rules is a super quick, padding’s for wimps, mix between rugby and soccer. Actually, skip that description, with the exception of Ireland’s Gaelic football there really is no other sport to which any sort of comparison can be made. To be honest, you’re much better off not even trying to get a handle on the rules. You’re better off heading to a game with a local or befriending someone sitting nearby who can give you the lowdown on the fly. Grab a beer and a meat pie, give it a squirt of tomato sauce (the pie, not the beer) and settle in for a couple of hours of full contact mayhem from fit men in small shorts.

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