Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.

An image capturing the South Wharf precinct in Melbourne. A couple strolls along the footpath with the Yarra/Birrarung River on their left, while a line of trees is on their right side. In the distance, a bridge spans the river, with the city skyline in the background.

South Wharf Precinct: Entertaining Delegates near MCEC

By Deni Kirkova|

You’re hosting an event at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) for out-of-towners. You want them to have the best time.

It may be an international conference with several thousand delegates flying in from abroad or a seminar with a few employees from around the country.

Either way, attendees will be in Melbourne for a while. They’ll have gaps between sessions, need evening entertainment, or want something to do around a multi-day event. But they won’t want to venture too far from the venue.

So where to point them? We’ve got you.

Melbourne is one of the most culturally thrilling, food-loving, creative destinations in the world. Some of the best the city has to offer is right on our doorstep.

A picturesque scene capturing the South Wharf precinct in Melbourne, with the sun setting in the background. The Yarra/Birrarung River flows on the left, while people can be seen strolling along the precinct. On the right, individuals line up eagerly outside restaurants, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.
Photography: Roland J Dempster
Explore the South Wharf Precinct

Surrounded by picturesque tree-lined banks and promenades, our venue is based in a prime spot, on South Wharf by the Yarra River.

South Wharf is the last remaining piece of Melbourne’s rich maritime heritage when the clippers and schooners sailed the Great Circle route from Europe to Melbourne.

It was a place where people from around the world mingled, exchanged information, and made contacts - much like today’s delegates who attend conferences at MCEC.

Many establishments are built in heritage cargo sheds that date all the way back to the 1870s, restored to their 1920s glory. These are a perfect spot to admire the 1885 Polly Woodside three-masted ship at any time of day.

Visitors might see Olympic standard rowers in the morning before conference sessions, then watch the gondoliers serenade their guests when they return in the evening. The tranquil yet buzzing atmosphere of South Wharf enhances the experience of a stimulating business event.

Meanwhile, Pan Pacific Melbourne and Novotel Melbourne South Wharf are great onsite accommodation options. Alternatively, The AC Hotel by Marriott Melbourne Southbank and Oakwood Premier Melbourne are just around the corner.

By staying at a hotel close to the venue, delegates get a bird’s eye view of the comings and goings on the river. It’s a scene that’s endlessly changing throughout the day and frequented by beautiful black swans.

Tim Bracher, Executive Officer of the Yarra River Business Association , says: “Instead of heavily laden sailing ships, the river is now full of rowing sculls, recreational boats, tourist sightseeing boats and self-drive vessels. There’s even a Yarra River Gondolier service and a full-blown marina right on the CBD.”

An inviting outdoor setting where people are enjoying conversation and relaxation outside a beautifully decorated restaurant. In the background, two talented musicians captivate the scene—one playing a guitar and the other a double bass guitar.
Photography: Eb4L
Bars and Restaurants on the Yarra River

Delegates can enjoy great waterside dining in heritage cargo sheds on South Wharf, overlooking the Yarra River and city skyline. These date from the 1870s but have been restored to how they looked in the 1920s when operating at their peak.

Some top bars and restaurants close to MCEC on South Wharf include Plus 5, Common Man, The General Assembly, BangPop, Munich Brauhaus, Melbourne Cellar Door and The Boatbuilder’s Yard. Currently, you can receive 10% off at participating restaurants and bars when you show your event ticket or lanyard for an event at MCEC. Just book ahead to make sure you secure a spot for you group!

Occasionally, local establishments will put on themed specials to match conferences and special events at MCEC. The district works together to make South Wharf the quintessential conference and exhibition destination in Melbourne.

For those willing to venture just a little further from the venue – and why not? The riverside walk and views are sublime – there are a few more options: Ponyfish Island, The Arbory, Pure South Dining, and Riverland. Arbory Afloat and Yarra Botanica, built on floating structures, offer trendy drinks experiences right on the river itself.

An image capturing individuals immersed in a transformative gallery experience at THE LUME Melbourne. Surrounded by expansive digital screens, they are engrossed in the Monet and Friends Exhibition, this particular image showcases Edgar Degas' blue ballerina paintings.
THE LUME Melbourne

Take an epic journey into art at THE LUME Melbourne , set within MCEC. This exceptional experience involves a multisensory immersion into art, currently showing Van Gogh and launching with Monet & Friends Alive from 26 October 2022.

These are no ordinary exhibitions. The upcoming Monet & Friends Alive experience celebrates Monet, Cézanne, and Renoir by animating their most famous artworks during a 45-minute feature show, projecting them across the 11ft walls. Accompanied by curated music, aromas and flavours, guests are transported to adventurous and bohemian 19th-century Paris.

THE LUME Melbourne is the southern hemisphere’s first purpose-built space to seamlessly animate art at such a jaw-dropping scale, breathing new life into art.

Playful, profound, exhilarating and liberating, THE LUME Melbourne is an invitation to see art in a new light. A visit is a perfect way to punctuate a conference at MCEC.

A vibrant café scene, where a group of people enjoys their time seated. Above them, a prominent sign displays 'Goldfields Cafe + Bar'. Behind the bar counter, a barista engages in conversation with a customer while preparing coffee. On the floor, another barista can be seen serving coffee.
Photography: Shannyn Higgins
Goldfields Café + Bar

Nestled inside the MCEC building, 2 minutes from Plenary’s doors, is Goldfields Café + Bar. It’s a classy and convenient spot to recharge and refuel with an express lunch, share drinks and plates with delegates or friends, work, or spend some quiet time.

Goldfields serves coffee and homemade pastries through to wine by the glass, liqueurs, and cocktails. Our chefs favour seasonal, local produce, showcasing the best of Victoria on the casual all-day dining menu.

The café celebrates Australia’s gold rush era, as the name might suggest. Comfortable and laid back but beautiful, greenery and gold accents decorate the interior. It’s part of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre (MEC) gold-themed expansion project. The newest part of the building features a bespoke ‘Goldrush’ exterior colour and precious metal-inspired interiors.

Both THE LUME Melbourne and Goldfields are set here. So, delegates can pop for drinks and snacks before or after their immersive art experience.

An image showcasing the vibrant South Wharf precinct in Melbourne. The Yarra/Birrarung River takes center stage, elegantly reflecting the pathway lined with stylish apartment buildings and restaurants.
Shopping at DFO

Open until 9pm on a Friday, the shopping centre next door does not disappoint.

DFO South Wharf is the leading outlet shopping centre in the city, offering up to 70% off top designer brands. It’s a prime retail destination for residents, tourists and MCEC delegates.

You’ll find more than 180 leading Australian and international brands under one roof. Premium stores include Armani, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, Calvin Klein, and Michael Kors, plus a range of mid-range fashion, kids, outdoor and active outlets.

The multi-level shopping centre has free Wi-Fi, a vast food court, and an inspiring Homemaker Hub with more than 12 large homewares stores on Level 1. There’s even a playground for the littles.

Open 7 days 10am-6pm and Fridays 10am-9pm, DFO South Wharf offers plenty of parking that’s 50% off if you’re shopping. A one-stop-shop to get your fashion fix.

But that’s not all! Venture just a little further and reach Melbourne’s many art galleries, including ACMI and NGV. See live installations at Federation Square. Visit the famous graffiti laneways: AC/DC Lane, Hosier Lane, and Duckboard Place.

Check out events and plan your visit while you’re in town. The entertainment and activity opportunities are endless, with hidden gems around every corner.

An image featuring a beautifully presented breakfast spread on a table. There are two plates with toast, creamy smashed avocado, poached eggs, and a roasted capsicum garnish. The table is further adorned with cups of coffee, neatly arranged cutlery, salt and pepper shakers, and a small bowl of grated cheese.
Discover Melbourne

As Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne is known as the cultural epicentre of Australia. It boasts flourishing arts and renowned galleries, stylish shopping and a lively foodie scene with the best coffee culture in the world. Trust us – come hungry.

Our city has a packed program of exciting events year-round. Check out the Melbourne International Comedy Festival for world-class laughs. It’s also a global sports hub, home to Australian Rules Football, the Spring Racing Carnival, the Australian Open and F1 Grand Prix.

The natural beauty of our pristine beaches and Royal Botanic Gardens is just a tram ride away. And if you want to travel further out, you can.

Melbourne is the gateway to our wonderful state of Victoria, with new inspiration around every corner. From sweeping coastlines, national parks and lush forests to wineries, lakes and mountains offering skiing, climbing and hiking, you’ll be spoiled for things to do.

Venture out along the breathtaking Great Ocean Road or visit the Yarra Valley for some of the best wine in the world. With so many great options for places to visit and stay, Melbourne has it all.

Scoping out locations for your next conference? Reach out to the team and discover the difference.