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Since opening in 2015, the Mayfair Hotel in Adelaide has hosted many high-profile guests but its most loyal patrons enjoy free board. Tucked away on the rooftop of this 1930s building are two beehives that house the Mayfair’s 120,000 resident Ligurian bees – producing honey for the hotel’s Mayflower Restaurant and spicing up the cocktail list at its dazzling rooftop bar. Created by mixologist Christiane Haddad, the signature Honey Trap consists of a ginger and honey syrup base topped with ice, vodka, lime juice and a drizzle, naturally, of the sweet stuff.
The lane less travelled
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Hosier Lane gets all the press as the epicentre of Melbourne’s world-famous street-art scene, with hordes of Instagramming tourists to prove it. But get off the beaten aerosol track with a trip down Rutledge Lane. The walls, windows and even the wheelie bins of this furtive Hosier Lane tributary are home to an ever-changing landscape of edgy murals. Locals know that to get the perfect shot, you need to take the elevator to the second-last floor of the nearby Flinders Gate car park (enter from Flinders Street) for an aerial view.
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In the middle of Sydney’s bustling CBD, through a fire door next to a sandwich shop at the northern end of Pitt Street, you’ll find a subterranean oasis – but it won’t be easy. Descend a flight of stairs, wander down a long corridor, veer right and look for a pineapple doorknocker. You’ll need to rap three times to gain entry to one of the city’s newest speakeasies, Door Knock. It’s industrial yet comfy, seductive yet approachable, and the menu boasts vibrant, fresh cocktails that promise to transport the senses from Sydney’s concrete jungle to a Bali tree house. Try the in-house bottled tipple, My Ex Paloma, a smoky spin on the classic Mexican cocktail, with hopped mezcal, smoked grapefruit, agave and apple cider vinegar.
Cloak and dagger
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While Brisbane might not share Melbourne’s penchant for laneways, it does indeed have them – and if you’re walking down the right laneway off Elizabeth Street of an evening, you’ll happen upon a suited-up bouncer who will escort you up through a fire escape and into one of the city’s best-kept secrets. You’ll find no menus at The Cloakroom Bar but you will be greeted with a hot or cold towel (depending on the weather), a complimentary palate cleanser and a conversation with the bartender, who will tailor a cocktail to you. Your adventure to find Brisbane’s most secretive cocktail bar starts at 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday.
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It’s one of Melbourne’s most storied – and most beautiful – buildings but, like all grande dames, the Neoclassical State Library Victoria has her secrets. Sign up for the free weekly Dome to Dungeons tour and you’ll access all areas, from the library’s sixth floor, which offers an aerial view of the stunning domed La Trobe Reading Room, to the original Melbourne Museum catacombs, a secret underground labyrinth.
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In the city there’s no shortage of fine-dining establishments from which you can enjoy a view of the Brisbane River but finding one away from the crowds takes a little bit of nous. A quick ferry ride from the CBD, however, can take you straight to Watt. Nestled underneath the city’s Powerhouse Theatre – a towering former power station converted into a riverside arts hub in New Farm Park – Watt offers a menu of modern Australian cuisine designed by chef Michael Harris in an open, minimalist space perched on the edge of the water. Once you’ve finished dinner, you can enjoy a drink on one of the Powerhouse’s balconies, explore the park or get lost in the industrial maze of corridors and nooks in the Powerhouse itself.
Spirit of Tassie
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Hobart’s newest drinking hole wholeheartedly embraces the city’s reputation as the gateway to Antarctica with a polished, wintry aesthetic. At Institut Polaire, the plush grey leather chairs, marble bar and white walls make you want to don a faux-fur-lined jacket and sample the Huon salmon tartare with a 65-degree quail egg accompanied by a gin flight. Can’t see the flight on the menu? That’s because it’s not there – you need to have a quiet word with the bartender, who’ll bring over a very selective spirit library of Tasmania’s best alongside English, Icelandic and Nordic gins. Take home a bottle of aromatic Tasmania bitters for your own cocktail experiments.
We’re up here, Cazaly
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Love AFL? Then imagine watching a game from the roof of a stadium with 360-degree views. During the footy season, both the Magpies and the Crows host matches on Adelaide Oval’s hallowed turf. But instead of taking a seat with the other 50,000-plus spectators, join a 2.5-hour RoofClimb experience. Strapped into a safety harness, you’ll walk across the top of the five curved shells of the stadium’s Western Stand. The deal clincher of the package, however, is the 30 minutes you’ll spend on the metal viewing platform – suspended 50 metres above ground.
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On any normal day, Sydney's Redfern Continental is the suburb’s best bistro for an Aussie take on European cuisine – think more-ish pastas, steak frites and sauerkraut. But its naughty-little-sister bar, GDR, is where the good times unfold. With sultry velvet booths juxtaposed with kitsch European landscape art, David Hasselhoff glamour shots and an always-spinning mirror ball, this cocktail bar is a reward to the curious, found behind a large door at the back of the restaurant. Head here on Sundays between 5pm and 7pm to finish the weekend with $1 oysters and a sexy disco soundtrack.
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The story goes something like this: long-time Flower Drum aficionado Neil Perry mentioned he felt like crab and noodles without all the mallet-and-cracker bother so the chefs at this venerable Cantonese institution in Melbourne whipped up a dish of pickled mud crab stir-fried with ginger and spring onion on a bed of egg noodles. Neil Perry Mud Crab Noodles is just one of several dishes you’ll never see on the Flower Drum menu but those in the know are aware that a quiet word with the waiter will see it rustled up with aplomb. Another tip? Try your luck with the steamed egg custard laced with crayfish or even a retro sweet-and-sour pork.
Millinery and Martinis
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You’ve heard of beers and barbers – but hats and house drinks? Soultrap is one of Sydney’s newest style-meets-tipple concepts, bringing bespoke millinery to a sultry Surry Hills basement bar. Located on Campbell Street, right by some of the precinct’s hottest new cafés and restaurants, this warmly lit speakeasy-slash-workshop has all the dressings of a friendly local, with a penchant for golden-age style and mood. Come for the one-off fedoras and stay for the jazz- and soul-centric soundtrack and French-themed apéritifs.
Keys to the kingdom
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In Hobart, all roads lead to Mona – except on Tuesdays, when the subversive Museum of Old and New Art takes the day off. But here’s the hot tip: if you book one of the eight pavilions on a Tuesday night, you can take a private tour of the subterranean gallery, free from the madding crowds. Its new architectural trump card, the Pharos wing, features four major works by James Turrell and a robot video-portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Nam June Paik. And did you know that Mona also has an onsite winery with Tasmania’s second-oldest vineyard? Tours of Moorilla estate, conducted every Wednesday to Monday, include a thorough exploration of the gravity-assisted winery and a tasting of its vino straight from the tank.
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According to legend, R. M. Williams made his first pair of riding boots at a remote bush camp in the northern Flinders Ranges. Today, R. M. Williams is a global fashion icon but the famous Aussie stockman’s boots are still made by hand. Join The Tailor for an exclusive half-day tour of the R. M. Williams factory in Adelaide’s Salisbury. The tour includes a detailed look at the boot-making process, refreshments (with tea and damper) and a fitting for your own handmade boots at the company’s original Percy Street store.
Warhol in the wall
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Matisse. Warhol. Hockney. Whiteley. In Tasmania, you won’t find this eclectic collection of artworks in a gallery or museum but at one of the most unexpected of places: the ultra-boutique Islington. This grand 1847 mansion in Hobart’s dress circle has been converted into an 11-room hotel, where the walls of the public areas display the owners’ collection of greats alongside sumptuous antiques. Yes, that portrait of China’s Mao Zedong hanging in the entrance hallway is a 1974 screen-print by Andy Warhol, while the etching just metres away is from Pablo Picasso’s landmark 347 Series of 1968.
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There’s a particular thrill that comes with ordering off-menu; the delightful sensation of being let in on a conspiracy, a secret. You can indulge that feeling at Red Hook, a New York-inspired restaurant and bar in the Brisbane CBD’s burgeoning Gresham Lane dining precinct. Request the Unicorn Ice-Cream Burger – a sweet brioche bun filled with vanilla ice-cream dipped in hundreds and thousands – for a dessert as magical as its name suggests.