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How I tried and failed to stay up all night in Melbourne

Illustration of girl dancing
Illustration: Katya Cameron

Our gorgeous 24-hour city makes it easy (and fun!) to stay out all night. So how did committed early bird Rebecca Russo go when she tried to become a night owl?

I love sleep. When I wake up, I count down the hours until I can sleep again. And when I’m asleep sometimes I genuinely dream about sleep, which are of course the best dreams. I have never, in all my time on Earth, stayed up long enough to see the sunrise. 

So when the challenge was set that someone should party until dawn, taking advantage of our late-night culture and 24-hour public transport system, why on Earth did I put my hand up? Good journalist I am, I picked a date, gathered two willing friends and set off on what we hoped would be an all-night adventure. 

9pm 

The evening begins with food, naturally. We hit up Cheek for our first round of sustenance. We order a juicy half roast chicken and salty battered onion rings from the broadly barbecue menu to set us up for a long night ahead.

10.30pm

From there, we climb upstairs to achingly hip rooftop bar Peaches, with its pink, plush booths, thumping music and Espresso Martinis (necessary reinforcements). The close quarters and too-dark lighting make everything feel a little like a club night from 2008, but the pink lighting (and pink everything, actually) is perfect for Instagram. It’s designed for (and frequented by) under 30s, but even though I am in that demographic, my sensible shoes and need for a reasonable bedtime mean this bar is probably not for me.

All nighter illustration espresso martini

Illustration: Katya Cameron

11.30pm

It's inevitable at this point that we make our way to Heroes, the three-level karaoke joint that has all your sing-along, South East Asian street food and rooftop cocktail needs covered. By the time we’ve ordered drinks and sat down, we’ve already harmonised (terribly) through ‘Barbie Girl’, ‘Mr Brightside’ and ‘Despacito’. I went for ‘If It Makes You Happy’ by Sheryl Crow, which, as it turns out, is one of those songs that you think you know the words to but only really know the chorus. There’s something about ponchos and mozzies – look it up.

All nighter illustration Heroes karaoke

Illustration: Katya Cameron

1am

The embarrassment of singing in front of a room full of strangers doesn’t prepare me for what we’d planned next: dancing wildly in a room full of strangers. We walk over to the Toff in Town and are immediately greeted by a darkened room full of sweaty souls grooving their way through Modjo’s ‘Lady’. Something happens when you’ve been drinking for hours and are trying to push your body to go all night. A dangerous fever kicks in and you decide it’s the right time to attempt flossing for the first time. It’s a mistake. 

When the music changes into no-lyric-untz-untz territory, it’s our signal to depart. It’s 3am, historically the time when I’d throw in the towel. But I am a serious journalist on a vital assignment, and so we push on.

All nighter illustration dancing at Toff

Illustration: Katya Cameron

3am

We get on the 86 and make our way up to Collingwood for more food at Le Bon Ton. This is another mistake. As soon as we sit down, a wave of fatigue hits us like a ton of bricks. Suddenly we are struggling to keep our eyes open while forcing our way through fried chicken and loaded fries. Not even these savoury delights can pep us up.

All nighter illustration Le Bon Ton fried chicken

Illustration: Katya Cameron

4.30am

I manage one last rallying cry, and we decide to walk back into the city to get our heart rates up. We see people stumbling out of the Peel, possums going about their business at Carlton Gardens and the familiar flicker of Fitzroy street lamps. Finally, we arrive at Melbourne Supper Club, where we are greeted with open arms by the too-friendly-for-5am waitstaff. We sink into deep red couches and order a punchy lemon tart, hoping its tartness will prove an antidote to our exhaustion. It seems like we have found our people: those who had given up on dancing, eating and coherent sentences and just want to sit in this old-fashioned hidey-hole until the wee hours of the morning, sipping Negronis and eating sexy Euro bar food. I think I finally understand Sinatra now. 

All nighter illustration sunrise dream

Illustration: Katya Cameron

It’s 5.30am. We are spent. The thought of staying up even another 30 minutes seems inconceivable, let alone another hour for the sun to arrive. I made the call – it was time to depart. I’d failed, but when we hop into our Uber, we are greeted by a sprightly ‘Good morning, girls!’ from our driver. Morning it is. I still think that counts for something.

Looking for more things to do late at night in Melbourne? Consult our guides to the best late-night bars and late-night eats

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