[Update: Hilton Melbourne South Wharf has been re-branded into Pan Pacific Melbourne. The review below depicts my stay in the previous Hilton Melbourne South Wharf and is no way an indication to how the current property is being run.]
When I visited Melbourne In 2014, I stayed two nights in an Executive Room at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf and seriously fell in love with it - the view was amazing, the rooms were beautiful and modern but more importantly, that lounge was just perfect to take in the sights. Finally, when I was deciding between spending 8 nights at the Grand Hyatt Melbourne or the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf this year, I decided to go for the latter option since I only have Platinum status with the Hyatt Gold Passport program.
The Grand Hyatt Melbourne has a better location for sure if you want to be right smack in the city. The Hilton Melbourne South Wharf is located right next to the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) and is probably a good 20 minutes walk from Flinders Street. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Melbourne - Flinders Street is located in a better location too but I was not too keen on spending 8 nights in a DoubleTree and the lack of Executive Lounge meant spending more in the evening for drinks (yes, I tend to drink quite a bit) so I decided that the premium on Hilton was well worth it. Besides, I did manage to get a Best Price Guarantee (BPG) approved for the stay but the BPG used to be quite terrible - you used to get the price matched and an additional US$50 off the stay as compared to the 25% now.
I stayed in a Relaxation Suite at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf when I visited in April 2016 and being a corner room, the suite offered incredible views of the city and the Yarra River. Since I like to get quite a bit of work done when I travel, I always try to opt for a junior suite when I travel because having a dedicated work space is very important to me - the last thing I want to do is to work on my laptop from the bed. With 68 sqm of space, the Relaxation Suite has a sizeable work desk in the living room for me to work from. There is also plenty of space for a small family of 3 (or even 4!) to lounge around in the living room.
The living room itself is beautiful - it is large enough to actually spend time in with a book or simply gaze out into the city from a distance. In the evening, you will be able to watch the nightly Gas Brigades where eight towers along the Southbank shoot the world's largest fireballs into the night sky from the comfort of your suite. You will also find a coffee machine (which I personally used so little of since I was in the city of cafes after all), a microwave, a dishwasher, a sink and a huge minibar to store all your products. What products you say? Well a trip to Woolworths would leave you with a huge bag to lug home because trust me, you would want to buy everything in the supermarket.
WiFi is unfortunately chargeable at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf but as a Diamond Hilton HHonors Member I did not have to pay for it at all. I was told to connect using a special access code but I did not have trouble waiving off any excess internet charges once I have exceeded the maximum number of devices for the access code. While I do understand that the provision of WiFi as a chargeable service is a brand standard, it is truly quite an annoying charge since the price of an average room night here does not come cheap - the least they should do is include WiFi in that price!
Registered hotel guests who are staying in the Relaxation Suite will have access to the Executive Lounge (I have written quite a lot about it on my last visit here so I will not be covering it again) which comes with complimentary breakfast and evening wines and canapes. One thing to take note of though is that the food served during evening cocktail hour is not substantial enough for a dinner (unless you are a tiny eater!). If you have been spoilt rotten by the hotels in Asia (look at what the Pan Pacific Singapore serves!), you must know that the Executive Lounge at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf serves only one or two hot food items alongside some chorizo, salami, cold cuts and cheeses. The hot food does change from day to day but the cold cuts and selection are exactly the same each day. On my last visit, there were even salt and pepper squid (which I love!) but I did not even see that once during my 8 night stay here.
You will find a selection of wines and beers here but there did not seem to be any available liquor around - I did not ask the lounge staff but no one else seemed to be drinking it either. If you are feeling hungry after cocktail hour, getting food around the hotel is not too difficult if you are willing to walk a little. The immediate restaurants in the vicinity can be quite expensive but there are a number of famous restaurants like the Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne around. If you are looking for cafes around the area, I will be sharing some of my (long-overdue) favourites in Melbourne very soon so watch out for that!
Oh and if you are traveling with children, there is also a half bathroom outside next to the walk-in wardrobe with a separate sink. The wardrobe itself is massive and you will be able to fit all your clothes, luggages and shoes here effortlessly - I do not usually travel light and this space is more than enough for me to unpack my suitcase (as well as to hold my shopping bags!). Bathrobes are also provided here and if you need any laundry service, you may opt for a faster one at a higher rate - I remember spilling red wine on a pretty expensive shirt during my last visit to Melbourne and the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf managed to get the stain out for something along the lines of S$30 (still money well-spent though!).
The bathroom of the Relaxation Suite at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf is simply amazing. The huge walk-in shower and bath overlooks the beautiful city and the Yarra River. Double sinks in the bathroom means never having to fight for the sink when you wake up in the morning. If you intend to share the Relaxation Suite with a friend, make sure it is a close friend because there is no way to shut the doors of the bathroom from the bedroom. There is a door that separates the living room from the bathroom but not on the side with the bathtub. Consistent to the Hilton brand standards, bath amenities are provided by Peter Thomas Roth Clinical Skin Care.
While the huge bathroom space and walk-in shower are both something to marvel over, the winning component of the bathroom has got to be the deep soaking tub that looks out to the South Yarra River. Just remember that people can look into the hotel but honestly, if your suite is located that high up, I seriously doubt anyone can see anything but hey who knows!
The Relaxation Suite at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf comes with one bedroom only and as mentioned earlier on, it is somehow connected to the bathroom as well. As shown in the photo above, you can also exit the bedroom into the living room on the right side (I have an Instagram video below which I believe will help you understand where everything is). Due to the shape of the building, the Relaxation Suites here a pretty strange layout which makes it extremely difficult for photos - you do get a really impressive and expansive view of the surroundings though!
Once you check out the view from the bedroom, you will understand how I managed to justify the high cost of the Relaxation Suite here at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf - if you book in advance, the average room rate of the Relaxation Suite is approximately AUD 650 a night. I stayed 8 nights here at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf and even though I did manage to get a Best Price Guarantee approved for my stay, it was still a really hefty sum but hey it is worth every dollar and cent!
The bed itself was amazing to sleep in and the blackout curtains definitely helped as well. In fact, I first encountered my first blackout curtains here at the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf when I stayed in 2014. I took a redeye flight and ended up sleeping from 11AM to 5PM - I also remember waking up thinking it was late at night (that's how good the curtains are!). So if you do decide to take a nap, make sure you set an alarm because the curtains are amazing at guaranteeing a good night's sleep!
As I have mentioned before, you will be able to watch the nightly Gas Brigades which happen just outside the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex. There is also something peaceful and charming about watching your favourite city go from day to night (do a timelapse video!). If you are looking for something to eat after dark, there are a number of restaurants that I would highly recommend but I will leave that for a separate article (yup, alongside the cafés to check out I promise!).
Since I stayed in the Relaxation Suite and I had access to the Executive Lounge (thanks to both the suite and my Hilton HHonors Diamond status), I had the option of having a breakfast in the lounge or a full buffet one at Dock 37 Bar and Kitchen downstairs. I remembered that the quality of breakfast during my previous visit was really good (in fact, I compared it to café standards!) so I chose to have my breakfast downstairs instead. Besides, I have been spending too much time in the lounge during evening cocktails so a change of environment is always nice.
As a Hilton HHonors Diamond Member, I was immediately greeted and shown to my table - the status was also recognised by the friendly staff every morning who over the week learnt that I like my coffee strong and unsweetened. One of the perks of being a top-tier member during breakfast is complimentary barista-style and espresso-based coffee.
With all that being said, I have to say that breakfast was extremely repetitive and I do not think any of the dishes were actually different from day to day. If you intend to spend your breakfast calories here every day, this is definitely something to factor in. Honestly, it is a little surprising as I would have expected them to at least switch up some of the dishes from day to day but hey, you are in Melbourne after all so get a quick and light bite before heading to a real café!
While I have been to Melbourne on many occasions (considering how I used to study in Brisbane and head down ever so often), the Hilton Melbourne South Wharf is by far the most impressive property that I have stayed in this city. Even though it is essentially a hotel that caters to the business crowd (since it is located right next to the MCEC), I really do enjoy the walk back from the city - just make sure you do not visit the city in summer. The average room night here is not exactly cheap and if you opt for a suite, it is easy to clock up a bill of approximately AUD 4,000 to AUD 5,000 a week here but hey think about all the Hilton HHonors Points (and status) you will be earning!