Five Unusual Things To Try This Winter

You could stay inside playing board games, or you could get out and experience some of these special winter activities around Melbourne.

1. Dog sledding At Mt. Buller

Dogs are awesome. Sledding is awesome. Dog sledding, surrounded on all sides by the breathtaking scenery of the Mt. Buller ski fields, is simply divine. Australian Sled Dog Tours offer exciting, picturesque dog sledding tours, where you’ll get to experience the thrill of riding behind, and on some tours, driving a team of Alaskan huskies.

The tours cater for couples, singles, adults and children (a maximum of four people on most tours), and there’s a range of options available, starting with a 10-minute ride that will set you back $80 per person, all the way up to a 3.5-hour ‘Powder Hound Adventure’ for the real adrenaline junkies out there, which costs $650.

Tours will be operating throughout the ski season, snow and weather permitting. Warm ski gear is a must, as is a camera! These tours only take a small number of people each day and are very popular – they tend to sell out quite quickly, so be sure to book well in advance to avoid any disappointment.

2. Ice Hockey Classes at the O’Brien Group Arena

You’re probably aware of the ice hockey at the O’Brien Group Arena in Melbourne’s Docklands (formerly the Medibank Icehouse) and you’re probably aware of the sport’s ever-growing base in Melbourne. So why not give it a try?

Whether you’re a complete newbie and getting the basics down, or you’re looking to improve your skating and learn the fundamentals of ice hockey, there’s a wide range of options for you – all the way up to even joining a team. Lessons are also available for those interested in learning figure skating, speed skating and curling, with classes taught by some of the best instructors in the country.

If you’re completely new to skating, visit the O’Brien Group Arena’s website and register for a free 15-minute skating lesson. There are a variety of membership options at the arena, which is open year-round, starting at $70/12 months for adults, $55 for kids or $200 for families.

3. Visit A Distillery

Just about everywhere you look you see ‘brewery this’ and ‘winery that’ in every single lifestyle publication, ever. Victoria may not be as famous for its spirits as it is for its craft beers and cool-climate wines, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some hidden gems out there that offer exemplary service and excellent liquor. Next time you’ve visiting a few wineries or breweries, why not make a stop at a distillery too? Here are three great options:

1. New World Whiskey Distillery is situated in an old Qantas hangar in Essendon Fields, has a gorgeous bar and cellar door and boasts a big range of whiskeys (and beers) to choose from. Tours of the distillery run on Fridays at 6pm and Saturdays at 2pm for those interested in seeing the distilling process up-close.

2. 4 Pillars, which specialises in gin and is located in Healesville, about an hour from Melbourne’s CBD, is a stunning, rustic place which offers walk-in tastings every day (you’ll need to book in advance for groups of 9 or more).

3. Bass & Flinders Distillery in Red Hill is a relatively new distillery that specialises in gin but also make a few other spirits as well, including a grappa, a limoncello and several different vodkas. Open every Friday-Saturday-Sunday and public holidays.

Try an onsen experience at Onsen Ma in the Melbourne CBD.

4. A Luxurious Onsen Experience

A luxurious soak at a bathhouse is good for the mind, body and soul, and more often than not, also a great social activity. Onsen, the traditional Japanese bathing experience, requires you to be completely naked, so a trip to a place like Onsen Ma in Melbourne’s CBD might also be a fun trip out of one’s comfort zone if you haven’t tried something like this before. Most public baths are single-sex only, although Onsen Ma’s private bathing option, where you have a bath and sauna area to yourself, is well suited to couples.

At Onsen Ma, which is a modern, extensive facility, private and public bath options are available, as is a sauna. A variety of traditional Japanese massage services and bathing/massage packages are also on offer. A basic one-hour public bathing session at Onsen Ma costs $30, and a private one-hour session for two costs $120. Bookings are essential for massage services, which start at $75.

5. Observe Starry Southern Skies

There’s nothing quite like a clear, starry sky on a winter’s night. Gazing in your backyard is great, but wouldn’t it be amazing if you could get up close and personal with the cosmos for a night, without the hassle or expense of having your own powerful telescope?

On Monday nights you can rug up, head down to the Royal Botanic Gardens, and watch the roof of the Melbourne Observatory rotate towards the vast Australian night sky. You’ll have the chance to view Saturn or Jupiter using the Observatory’s powerful heritage telescopes under the guidance of experts from the Astronomical Society of Victoria.

Tours run every Monday night from 8.00-9.30pm. Booking ahead is essential. Tickets cost $24 for adults and $20 for children and concession cardholders. This is also great one for families (with kids aged 8 & up), with $70 family tickets also available.

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