4th -11th January 2016
Oh quirky Melbourne! The arty capital of Victoria I found quite strange to start with, however once I started exploring the suburbs and different areas, it really started to grow on me. At the city’s center is the modern Federation Square development, with plazas, bars, and restaurants by the Yarra River where I spent my first evening wandering around. It is a city of opposites; from the up-market Southbank restaurants to the city streets that are filled with edgy street art, chic laneway eateries and rooftop bars opening in former industrial buildings. The town is famous for its alfresco dining, coffee and wine ethos.
The city is also widely well known for its Arts scene and is home to the Melbourne Arts; a performing arts complex and the National Gallery of Victoria accommodating Australian and indigenous art. A short bus ride away is gorgeous St Kilda with its awesome cafe’s and beach. Sport is also a big deal here. The locals here are fervent about AFL football, cricket and horse racing, and also love their grand-slam tennis and Formula One racing. I did not personally go to any sporting events, however if you are in the area when something is on it could be a good idea to try and get involved if you are interested in sport, or else just interested in witnessing the atmosphere at one of these events 🙂
I stayed in a hostel around the corner from Degraves Street, which was the perfect location to base yourself from, with cafes lining the street next to the hostel, a large shopping district within a 5 minute walk away and the train station right opposite you. Also the hostel was around a 20 minute walk from the Southbank area which comes alive at night with its lively restaurants and bars. The cobbled streets of Melbourne have a Parisian feel about the place with its outdoor al fresco dining on the streets, however lacks the authentic feel that you get in Europe (basically, Melbs is a copycat but as there is no-where else like this in Aus, it kinda works). But you get the idea!
How long should I stay in Melbourne?
This very much depends on what sort of person you are. I found a week to be sufficient before heading off on a roadtrip of the Great Ocean road, however some people can happily stay longer than 2 weeks and not get bored. It is well-deservedly known as the cultural capital of Australia, and whether you are into the Arts, beach-life, sports or the characteristic café culture, Melbourne offers abit of everything and can appeal on some level to the majority of people who pass through the city.
So, what to do in Melbourne?
General highlights Melbourne has to offer:
- Day trip to Philip Island
- Visit St Kilda
- Walk the town streets eating, drinking, looking at the street art and enjoy the coffee, café’s and wine bars
- Melbourne casino
- Go to a sporting event
- Lots of shopping
- Experience the Southbank area
- Visit the Art museums
- Visit the neighbours set ‘Ramsey street’
- Visit the Shrine of Remembrance
- visit the 12 apostles – this can be done as a day tour from Melbs, but in comparison to doing it yourself it is not nearly as good. Only do this if you are very time restricted, as you will miss out on a lot of the great oceans stop offs and villages.
There isn’t too much to do in Melbourne in terms of physical activities to tick off the bucket list. Jamie and I spent a lot of time enjoying its famous café culture; eating, drinking and wandering the town. I highly recommend visiting Degraves Street and the restaurants along the Southbank area.
I landed in Melbourne on Monday 4th January around 5pm, and found it very easy to get on the Skybus from the airport to the city center. I checked in and spent the remainder of the evening at a burger café on Degraves street round the corner from the hostel for dinner (the veggie burger with aubergine fries was delicious!) and wandered along the Southbank. Nothing like a night time stroll in a new city!
The following day I spent wandering around the shops, drinking the coffee which Melbourne is so famous for and people watching. You really get all sorts of people in Melbs and I must say the fashion sense to me is non-existent. Basically the more hippy and bright and weird the better. Think 70’s tie dye disaster. With dreadlocks and wacky boots. Wednesday Jamie arrived from Sydney on the overnight greyhound bus and we went shopping, followed by a late lunch/early dinner in Degraves street where we drank copious amounts of red wine and ate yummy food. My idea of a good day!
The good thing about being in Melbourne was now that I was out of a aircon building (this hostel backpackers united did not have aircon) my cold/cough was slowly starting to get better – hurrah!
8th Jan – Philip Island!
Jamie and I hired a car and took a day trip to this famous little island around a 90 minute drive away from Melbs. We visited the little chocolate factory for an hour, spent time down at the beaches and of course saw the penguin parade. There is also a koala sanctuary here to visit if interested.
The Penguin parade was one of the highlights of my time in Aus. We were one of the first to arrive at the center where you can purchase tickets, that leads out to the ocean front where the penguins pop up on the shore after sunset.
TIP – even though it was summer, bring warm clothing to wrap up in – we waited 2 hours for the penguins to arrive just as night rolled in and it was freezing!
However frozen, it was well worth sitting out in the cold to see the little creatures. Note: No photos allowed here, as the little guys don’t like camera flashes – photography was strictly forbidden.
The sitting area for guests is closely monitored by the center workers and tourists are kept in a sectioned off area. When the sun goes down you are all told to be quiet so not to frighten the penguins when they emerge out of the sea.
As night rolled in, just after sunset we saw our first batch of little penguins appear. They wait for their families, and then move quickly as a pack across the banks and into the burrows. Once they have all scurried into the hilly mounds, tourists are free to wander around the sectioned off walkways to see the penguins in their natural habitat. They are so small and insanely cute. Highly recommend this if you are visiting Melbourne and have time to make this day trip!
9th Jan – Jamie and I spent the day eating cheese, crackers, grapes and big avocado based sandwiches (or as I like to call them; Man-wiches) whilst planning out our trip on the Great Ocean road. He sorted out the car hire and I booked the accommodation and between us we had a solid 3 night plan.
That evening Jamie and I managed to meet up with Alex, Emma, Tamsin and Rick who had all arrived here after Sydney. I also brought along a guy from Sweden who was in my dorm room, and had just arrived to Oz called Simon. Before I knew it Jamie and Simon had made plans to meet up in Tasmania when I went onto New Zealand. We went for drinks in a funky beach themed bar, then went to degraves street for dinner, and ended up spending a few hours back at Emma and Alex’s flat before calling it a night. It was lovely to see everyone one more time before leaving 🙁
10th Jan – Beach day at St Kilda
Simon, Jamie and I spent a day at St Kilda and met Tamsin and Rick there in the afternoon. We got the tram from central and got off when we saw a big market leading all the way along the beach. We spent time wandering around the stalls here and bought some bits and bobs from the stands, before strolling over into the town centre and finding lunch. I bought an amazing falafel wrap – St Kilda does food very well, before we met the others down at the beach. Later we found a pub and introduced Simon to the delights of Mulled wine (This was the first place we had seen in Australia sell it) and stopped by a cake shop before heading back to the hostel that evening full and sleepy!
We did not venture out that evening as we needed to pack and pick up the car early next day for the great ocean road trip 🙂
Conclusion. Overall a week was a good amount of time in Melbourne; I managed to enjoy the city without feeling stressed or time pressured. The only thing I didn’t do was the casino in Melbourne, which I am not too bothered about missing out on. By the time I left it was a relief as the traffic and busyness of the city was abit much (finding parking and the cost of parking is extortionate!) and I was looking forward to seeing the Great Ocean road and returning to Adelaide to see Mel.
Next stop – The Great Ocean Road!