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Jul 05, 2017
Get the best of the great outdoors smack bang in the middle of the city. By Kate Barracosa.
Camping out in Melbourne’s CDB in the middle of winter sounds like a bad idea – especially when heavy clouds threaten rain. But when your luxury tent is preheated to a toasty 24°C ahead of your arrival, it’s a much better proposition.
Opened two years ago, St Jerome’s – The Hotel makes use of the otherwise empty space on top of Melbourne Central shopping centre on the corner of La Trobe and Swanston streets. The clever camp site includes two “wings” of canvas tents that run the length of the roof and a General Store that also serves as a bar and board-game hub.
By the time you’re reclining in your beanbag chair, watching the city light up and spying workers still in their offices at 9pm, camping might just seem like a pretty good idea after all.
Well, tents. There are three different sizes (six Luxe tents, 12 Luxe Plus and three The Lodge) and each is equipped with a queen or double bed, a heating system and an Esky filled with two complimentary James Squire ciders and two cans of Furphy beer (tip: don’t wait until you’ve warmed up to plunge your hand into the ice to locate the bottle opener).
The tents are designed for maximum cosiness, with throws and pillows stacked on the bed and a fuzzy rug beneath the feet, and feature the necessary hipster accoutrement (cacti, repurposed lanterns). Each has a “verandah” with folding chairs or beanbags to recline in. There’s no television but Samsung Galaxy tablets loaded with streaming service Stan are available from reception and wi-fi is complimentary.
Bathrooms are communal but never fear: these aren’t the grungy camp-site shower blocks of family holidays past. Three tents are allocated one amenity unit with a proper shower, toilet and vanity. Towels, robes and slippers are supplied, as are toiletries in scents such as grapefruit and aloe.
You are in the middle of the CBD so expect city sounds (the occasional ding of a tram or a car horn) but earplugs and eye masks are provided should you need them.
The entrance is on level three of Melbourne Central, next door to Strike Bowling. Take the lift beside Sportsgirl on level one. Parking is available at Melbourne Central car park off Lonsdale and La Trobe streets (check the website for prices).
There’s no on-site restaurant but a breakfast box will be delivered to your tent. It comes with a scrambled-egg breakfast burrito, granola, berry and mango yoghurt, fruit, juice, iced tea and either tea or filtered Niccolo coffee. A tub of Gelato Messina ice-cream and a thermos of T2 night-time tea will be delivered to your tent between 8pm and 10.30pm as part of your stay.
For dinner, embrace the camping spirit and order ham-and-cheese or spaghetti jaffles or a cheese, antipasto or dessert platter from the small in-tent dining menu. There are fast-food options at the shopping centre below but you’re in the middle of the Melbourne CBD – there’s a myriad of dining destinations close by. It’s a 15-minute walk to Flinders Lane, where you’ll find acclaimed restaurants such as Chin Chin and Supernormal, and Chinatown is a five-minute walk down Lonsdale Street.
The General Store sells beer, wine and non-alcoholic beverages (happy hour is from 5pm to 7pm and includes a complimentary cocktail). It’s surrounded by chairs and beanbags, as well as an undercover communal table stacked with board games such as Connect Four and Scrabble. The infra-red sauna can be booked in half-hour blocks at reception and bikes can be hired for $15. Guests also receive a complimentary game at Strike Bowling – just take a pin from the cart at check-in and the alley will know you have a free game. Pre-booked meditation sessions run from 9am on Saturdays and Sundays.
The best way to contact reception is via the mobile number provided at check-in. The reception desk is staffed 24 hours a day and comes with a promise that if you’re exploring Melbourne past the Melbourne Central lockout time, they’ll let you back in when you call.
Book one of the three oval-shaped The Lodge tents. They’re the largest on offer – six metres by five metres wide and six metres tall – and feature a queen-size bed, two-seater couch, dressing table and more space to spread out. You can order a bottle of Laurent-Perrier champagne to greet you on arrival, too.
Location: Level three, Melbourne Central, Melbourne
Style: City glamping
Perfect for: A novelty stay in the heart of Melbourne that you’ll tell your friends about
Number of tents: 21