We really like Australia…no, we really love Australia. One of us used to go every few weeks for work for almost 5 years straight while another TFD member lived there for a year on an Australian Work & Holiday Visa.
Neema, from the blog Adventures of An African Dutchess, recently went on a month long trip to Australia and New Zealand and here are her practical travel tips for Melbourne.
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When I was a little girl, I had this image of me being an air hostess (that’s how we call them back home) so that I can travel the world. I told my parents about it and I remember my dad saying I should do something else. Well maybe be a pilot? Australia has always been on my list and I finally made it happen this year after getting my American citizenship. I spent a month exploring Auckland, Sydney, and Melbourne, and boy did it have everything that I had dreamed of.
Melbourne is a city after my own heart despite four seasons in a day – arty, lively, walkable and easy to navigate, foodie and friendly. I love the fact that I could experience Melbourne without feeling overwhelmed. In fact, I did not have enough time. There is so much in the suburbs surrounding Melbourne – hippy Fitzroy, upscale Brighton beach and beachy St. Kilda.
Melbourne has become a world renowned place for food and coffee – bars, cafes, restaurants all make this city a must-visit and the best food and root top bars are found in chic alleyways. My goal for exploring Melbourne was to just get lost and have no sense of direction. After all, this city is so easy to navigate- no wonder it was ranked as the world’s most livable city 6 years in a row.
By the way, Melbourne in general is expensive – food, drinks, shopping and accommodation. You can spend according to your wallet size. (Editor’s Note: In general, Australia is expensive. It is not only expensive to get to, but also expensive to visit.)
Getting There and Getting Around Melbourne
Melbourne has a major airport, which is about 12 miles from the city center. And a cheap way ($18) to get to the city center or to the airport is to take the SkyBus that drops you off at Southern Cross in the city; from there, you can take a tram, taxis, or rideshare to your hotel depending on the location. The bus operates 24/7 and has a departure of every 10 minutes with about 20 – 40 minutes to get to the city depending on traffic. Buy tickets online or at the SkyBus ticket booth located at the airport. Alternatively, you can take a taxi like I did, which is a little expensive.
If you base yourself in the city, then you can walk to most attractions since they are close by. Even the suburbs such as St. Kilda have excellent transportation to the city: trains, taxis, trams, bus or biking. Melbourne’s layout makes the city so easy to navigate on foot and you might not even need a car. Ohh and the tram, depending on where you are – has free tram zones. You will need a myki card, which you can re-load to get around especially if you will be taking the trains, trams and buses outside the free tram zones. Don’t forget to drop by the visitor’s center in Federation Square to get all the local tips and advice on what’s going on around Melbourne.
Sydney and Melbourne offer a lot of apartment style living that has everything that you need. I stayed in Southbank- about 1 mile from the city center just behind Crown casino and I loved my apartment. Initially, I was planning to stay in St. Kilda but I loved what Southbank had to offer – running along the Yarra River every morning and easy walk to the city. The city also has so many hotels with different prices; for those on a budget, guesthouses, motels, and hostels for backpackers are in plenty. No matter where you stay, be sure to know you will find your way into the city.
Art and Culture
Besides food, this is the second reason why I love Melbourne. Dynamic, cutting-edge arts and culture. On the streets, museums, MTC, National Gallery of Victoria, Shrine of Remembrance, Art Federation Square, Alleys such as Hosier Lane, Train rides to Brighton Beach, endless inspiration. Don’t forget to also take the free city Tram or even walk along the laneways, along Yarra River to experience public artwork, musicians up close.
My favorite street art is found in alleys (Flinders, ACDC, Hosier), Fitzroy, Duckboard place and Train ride to Brighton Beach. The art here is ever-changing and represents an outdoor gallery of urban art, murals, stencils, etc. You can also book a tour of Hosier Lane to get an inside view of street art. Clearly, there is a reason why Melbourne is known as a source of inspiration for artists, writers and musicians.
What’s even more amazing is you can take three-hour walking tour exploring the street arts of Melbourne and Fitzroy. Take a tour if you wish to look at the city through different eyes and get an insight on all things street art in Melbourne. These tours are done by the street artists themselves, giving you good insight on this art form that changes daily, especially because they are passionate about this and are well-informed about all the scenes that goes on. Depending on the tour you take, you can have a chance to visit some of the studios, meet more local artists and hear from them stories behind their artwork and have some light refreshments. Most of the street art walking tours start from about $48 and they have a meeting point, which tends to be at the Federation Square.
Discover Food and Wine in Melbourne
The only way to describe Melbourne’s food and culture is to look at it through the lenses of its mix culture. The dining scene here offers world class cuisines that I can talk about for days. As a foodie and wine lover, I felt I was in heaven – serious food. Whether I am enjoying an upscale dining at Tipo 00 or having amazing dumplings at one of those never ending restaurants in Chinatown for my cheap eat days – let’s not forget eating destinations in Fitzroy (Spanish and Brunswick for Lebanese food), Richmond for Vietnamese, and Carlton known as the ‘little Italy.’ At the end of the day, you just need to find out what your budget can accommodate. Don’t forget to book a reservation in advance – these restaurants are always packed. You can always grab a seat at the bar and eat your heart away. Chin Chin has a long lines for days.
Some of my favorite restaurants were found in Laneway Dining. Places that you would never believe would have some serious high-end restaurants, plenty of bars and cafes. Flinders Lane – home to my favorite restaurant Chin Chin (ate here 4 times and always had the BBQ Ora King Salmon), Supernormal, Cumulus Inc. and Eau De Vie – perfect place for cocktails and drinks – and by the way, this place needs a lot of help to find – it’s on Malthouse Lane (it took me over 20 minutes to find the hidden and unmarked door). Also, try Movida, Mamasita, Embla (amazing wine list), Hardware Societe for amazing brunch – it’s worth the long wait – order any of their specials!
If you are in need of some good dumplings, trawl Chinatown located on Little Bourke Street for endless choices. I tried Shanghai Village and also ended up in Supper Inn for late night noodle soup. To be honest, Melbourne has so many hidden dinning along the tiny lanes all across the city – just wonder around and you will find something. You can also find good dining on Yarra River. And for a night out try some of many roof top bars – my friend and I visited Fatto and Arbory.
Beyond the City
Brighton Beach – Home to Brighton Bathing Boxes and upscale houses that will leave you wondering how much money people have. These boxes were built centuries ago and have distinctive personality with so much decoration and colors. Just get your camera ready for picture perfect moment. And how to you get here – take the train from Flinders Station on the Sandringham line to Brighton Beach, then walk to the bathing boxes. It’s about 20 minutes.
Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanic Gardens – Victoria’s War Memorial is located on St Kilda Rd about 20-30 minutes walk from the city and you end up passing through the beautiful gardens. Opened from 10am-5pm daily and admission is free. So beautiful.
Fitzroy – Wonder along Brunswick Street for hippie shopping, restaurants and some serious street art. I ended up walking back to the city from Fitzroy and stopped by Melbourne Museum. Expect the unexpected in this place. And don’t forget to try food and drinks at some of their famous restaurants such as Naked in the Sky – rooftop bar and Mario’s. Don’t forget, you could also take a walking street art tour of this city to learn more about the street art in Fitzroy.
Wine Tours: I did not get a chance to do a wine tour while in Melbourne but if you have time, you can visit The Mornington Peninsula, a famous wine-producing region about 45 minutes outside the city and home to more than 40 wineries. Also, Yarra Valley has a lot of day trips from Melbourne that costs between $150-200. My advice would be to get a car and spend the night there.
Great Ocean Road and 12 Apostles – This is next on my list. I did not think a day trip here was worth it.
My advice when you visit Melbourne, get good walking shoes, an umbrella, jacket and explore the city – everything is within reach and some of the best things are found in the hidden lanes.
About the Author:
I am a Kenyan-American who is blessed, adventurous, foodie, wine lover, shoe addict, photographer, yogi and a runner. I enjoy traveling and more so cheap travels. I spend my days planning my next trip and enjoy traveling as a local. I love taking pictures of the places that I visit and sharing them with people. When I am not traveling, I work in the bay area as a Marketing Professional for one of the technology companies based in Palo Alto, CA. My free time is spent catching up on more than 50 TV shows that I follow. You can follow me on Instagram and my blog Adventures of An African Dutchess.
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