People have described Melbourne to me as being like ‘Wellington on steroids’ and after visiting there myself, I can’t really disagree. Think fashion, coffee, culture and sport; it is a continual hub of activity and a foodie’s dream. The public transport system is excellent (a possible point of difference to Wellington), there are so many beaches just a stones throw away, and it also serves as a gateway to the Yarra Valley. It is so easy to escape the big city life in Melbourne.
Despite being in Australia (which therefore means it should be tropical), Melbourne has weather not dissimilar to that of Wellington, although on average it would be a few degrees warmer and lacking the wind. Easily one of the most livable cities I have ever been to, I have a number of friends that are spread across the city and all absolutely love it. On my most recent visit I managed to scrape in about ten days; long enough to really get a feel for the place, but which has left me wanting so much more.
The most efficient way to get around in Melbourne is to buy and top up your ‘Myki’ card at the first possible opportunity, and then swipe it on and off when you use the trains, trams and buses around the city. Fares differ depending on what zones you travel through, but there is a daily cap, and travel within the inner city is completely free.
Getting to and from the airport
Despite the extensive train network Melbourne has, there is no train line that gets you to the airport. Not the end of the world, but a slight inconvenience because the airport is about 25km from the city – which can create quite an expensive taxi ride. The best way to and from the airport is via the SkyBus which costs $36 for a return trip. It takes you from the airport to the Southern Cross train station, which is basically a depot for a huge number of trains, trams and buses. There is also a free hotel transfer available, for if you caught the SkyBus. The trip takes about thirty minutes, but I would allow slightly longer if you have a flight to catch.
My family stayed at an Air BnB in Southbank which proved to be an absolutely ideal location for both access to the CBD, and also for the Australian Open (our real purpose for visiting Melbourne). Anywhere in the CBD is going to be super convenient, but probably also expensive – so we felt Southbank was a good compromise.
We almost stayed in St Kilda, which is only a short tram ride away and has the added benefit of the beach. Proximity to the tennis won out, but I suspect that had we not been going to the Australian Open we may have ended up staying out there.
Obviously the longer you can spend in a place, the better the feel you will get for it. I do think that based on my recent 10 days there (admittedly a lot of that was spent at the tennis) you could get a pretty decent taste of Melbourne over just a long weekend. Here’s some ideas on what you could do:
- Melbourne CBD: Eat, drink, shop is the easy answer. For me to suggest eateries is an absolutely ridiculous idea as there are just so many and I didn’t have time to visit more than a few (but the few I did visit I have reviewed here). But we can go beyond that. If you are heading up north, make sure you visit Chinatown in addition to the nearby Greek and Italian Quarters. There is also the museum up this end of town and a bunch of shops. Walking back towards Flinders Station, pay heed to the numerous laneways that are dotted about the place, the most famous of which is Hosier’s Lane. If you’re lucky you may even catch an artist at work. Captain Cook’s Cottage is an interesting visit, and you can picnic in the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens afterwards. St Pauls Cathedral is not far from Federation Square, both of which are essentially across the road from Flinders Station. By night, visit the Crown casino complex (it is massive) and Southbank in general for some great bars and restaurants.
- South of the Yarra River: Get your walking shoes on and go for a wander. Visit the Shrine of Remembrance (to commiserate the soldiers who lost their lives at war) and meander through the Botanical Gardens, which plays home to the Government House as well as a venue for the Bowl, a venue for many a concert in Melbourne. While you are out this way, if you’re sporty you may be interested in doing a tour of the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) which I have to admit that I actually found really interesting despite not being the biggest cricket fan. Finish up this journey by going for a stroll along the river, where you will end up back in town.
- Beaches: I had no idea Brighton Beach was so close to Melbourne. Growing up I had always been very aware that somewhere in Australia these adorable little boat sheds existed, but had no idea where until very recently. Thankfully I found out about Brighton before I left. It’s pretty easy to get to as well – just jump on the Sandringham line from Flinders Station – although you will have to walk for a wee bit when you get there (well worth it though). Another great day trip is to Williamstown. Also a beach, you can actually catch a ferry there and you’ll get some amazing views. It’s a cute little seaside village, with lots of cafes and boutique style shops.
- Yarra Valley: You can either hire a car or do an organised tour – because there was six of us my family opted to do an organised tour. For AUD$130, we got taken to 5 different wineries in the Yarra Valley (one of which we had the most delicious sit-down lunch at), as well as a dairy farm and a chocolate shop. It was such a great day out, and if you go there with the intention of drinking all the wine that they offer you, you’ll come away thinking it was well worth your money (although you mayn’t remember all the events of the day…).
- St Kilda: In my opinion St Kilda is one of the coolest suburbs of Melbourne (and I think it’s a common opinion to have). With the beach right there, St Kilda is super outdoorsy, with people swimming and kite-surfing and doing all sorts of other exercises. It is a young, hip area – you see people of all sorts wandering around – it’s really great. There are heaps of funky cafes, bars and restaurants and lots of interesting shops. It is also the home of Luna Park; which is somewhere you have to visit once, but I think the novelty wears off with age!