The most obvious areas with a concentration of accommodation are the CBD, the adjoining suburbs of North Melbourne, Carlton, Fitzroy, East Melbourne and Richmond, and down by the bay around St Kilda. Some of the cheap accommodation areas on the fringes of the city centre are fairly dead at night, though they’re within easy reach of all the action. St Kilda is very lively, if a bit rough around the edges, with a few hostels and quite a few motels and apartments. South of the CBD, South Melbourne, Albert Park, South Yarra and Windsor (see map) are handy for both the city centre and the beach, and with lots of good eating options.

The most exclusive hotels are in the CBD, particularly around Collins St and the leisure precincts of Southgate and the Crown Casino, while there’s a collection of revamped hotels around Southern Cross Station. For last-minute discounts, check out wotif.com. Melbourne has plenty of backpacker accommodation, ranging from fairly basic, scruffy places to smart, custom-built hostels with all mod cons. During winter, most hostel beds cost around $26, rising to around $34 in summer. Most hostels have separate dorms for females on request. Standard facilities include a kitchen, TV room, laundry, luggage storage and internet access. For those with their own transport, campsite cabins and vans are an inexpensive option but they are located far from the city centre.

If you plan on staying during the big sporting events, be aware that virtually all accommodation tends to be booked out months in advance. This applies particularly during the Australian Open Tennis in Jan and the Grand Prix (first or second weekend in March); other events and times to avoid or pre-book far in advance are the Melbourne Cup (first Tues in Nov & the preceding weekend) and the AFL Grand Final (last Sat in Sept).

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