‘Don’t worry about the world ending today, it’s already tomorrow in Australia’ – Charles M Schultz
I arrived in Australia at 4:30 am, after a long flight that felt even longer and having travelled across multiple time zones. It was raining; no, strike that- it was an absolute downpour. A little bit of me cried inside; I’d hoped I’d left the grey and rain behind me but alas, Melbourne gets rain too!
We felt so crap we showered at the airport (Melbourne Tullamarine has free showers near to Nando’s on the first floor of T2 Departures).
There’s various ways to get in to the city but we used SkyBus which was $38 return or, if you don’t plan on flying back out within 6 months, it’s $20 one way. By this time it was peak rush hour on a Friday morning so it took about an hour to get in to Southern Cross (coach terminal drop off in the city).
We have spent 4 nights at Flinders Backpackers on Elizabeth Street. It’s pretty big and although it does get busy, it doesn’t feel as busy as say Base in Queenstown, NZ. We opted for semi-luxury and chose the 4 bed dorm and got bunked with two long termers who have work each morning so at least we’ve had some solid sleep! THANK YOU JAMES AND KIRSTY! Flinders offers a free breakfast every morning (different cereals, toast with multiple spread options and pancakes with a sauce of your choice) as well as free tea and coffee all day (but milk is only on offer in the morning so you’ll have to pick some up!) Location wise, it’s a minutes’ walk to both Flinders Train Station and the tram line for the free City Circle tram (more on that later). There are restaurants and fast food joints everywhere here. Flinders also has its own bar –The Joint Bar- next door which offers $5 on selected beers and wines and $4 pizza every night. There’s also a ton of things to get involved in each night we were just too jet lagged to do so!
So other than the rain and the free breakfast what’s made Melbourne so special?
Granted, on the first day it rained and rained, and then rained some more. Other than that we’ve pretty much had sun for the rest of our time and it’s been about 23 degrees (my poor English skin can barely cope!)
There is so much to do! More than I can cram in to my short 4 days here. We have walked miles and miles each day taking it all in, but there are some highlights which I would definitely recommend
This is completely free and with the walk there included as well as a stop for lunch, this can easily take up an entire morning. It is absolutely gorgeous there and despite being able to hear some city sounds, it’s a very tranquil part of the city. Every now and then, you’d look up and notice some high rise buildings visible through the dense treeline and be reminded of where you were. The walk there past Sidney Myers bowl (a place to see in itself) is absolutely gorgeous and the hill there boasts some of the best views of the city. There are also plenty of other parks to wander through and if you’re there of an evening, you may spot a possum or two like we did!
Shrine of REMEMBRANCE
An impressive structure, it gives you a chance to reflect on the wars of our past. We saw it from a far on our rainy day as there was a ceremony being held in honour of Anzac Day. On our walk back from the Botanical Gardens, we got to see it up close with all the details of the carvings. Luckily for us, it was open and we headed up to the balcony. On all four corners of the Shrine boasts something and as you can see in the image below, one had the clearest poppy design. If you can’t afford the cost of the Eureka Skydeck (or even if you can) definitely try to visit when the Shrine is open. The balcony offers some amazing views without looking down on buildings and you really get a feel for how spread out the city is!
St. Kilda (and the penguin parade)
Where we can, we try to walk in city’s as a) it’s free, b) it’s easy exercise and c) you see more than you would any other way. We decided to walk to St. Kilda after lunch and as it’s pretty straight forward (straight down St. Kilda road!), I wasn’t expecting to ‘see much’. In terms of actual tourist site seeing does, there isn’t really anything on the walk. However, I am secretly in love with looking at buildings; residential, commercial, schools, apartments, offices- I’m not fussy! I love comparing one to the next and if there are more than three in a row made with different materials and of varying shapes/sizes then I freak out. I hate rows and rows of buildings that all look the same and so if you’re sad like me, you’ll love the walk to St.Kilda too! It ended up taking us an hour and a half to walk in because I was stopping and admiring buildings every few metres… I’m sure a normal (read: non-crazy building fanatic) person could walk it in about an hour or so. Or just pay for the tram, your feet will thank you for it!
Once in St. Kilda there’s an array of restaurants, bars, pubs and shops to choose from. Plus lots and lots of ice cream parlours- what more could you want whilst visiting the beach?
Luna Park, built in 1912, is perfect for children- or for adults to wander through. It operates the oldest continuously operating roller coaster in the world- the Scenic Railway. It has plenty to keep little ones entertained and even more photo opportunities for us adults.
The reason for our visit though was to see the penguin parade. The ‘Little’ or ‘Fairy’ penguins nest in the rocks of St. Kilda pier and the parent that has been out fishing all day returns home every day after sunset. This is not a managed park like Phillip Island and therefore there are only a few volunteers to help manage the crowd- and boy what a crowd there was. There was so many people and the penguins are so small I felt almost mean being there and standing between a parent and their chick. After watching one appear from the water and another appear from the rocks, we left. There were just too many people ignoring the ‘no flash photography’ rule to make the experience enjoyable. Also, Lewis hadn’t thought to bring a coat and was freezing. So I recommend you wrap up warm as it gets windy out there!
City Circle Tram
The City Circle tram (number 35) does a full loop of the city from Flinders Street up to La Trobe Street, down to the Docklands and across to Nicholson Street. It’s free- so don’t be surprised to see commuters on it during the first few hours of the morning and evening! After the morning rush is over, we found that that’s when they then started playing the actual tour guide facts and recommendations’ as we approached each stop. If you don’t have a load of noisy tourists with you like we did- you may learn that Melbourne has the highest population of Italians outside of Italy! Or, ‘China Town’ in Melbourne is the longest in the Western World. Of course there are also many facts relating to the architecture and settlement- but you’ll have to get the tram to find out for yourself…
Eureka Skydeck 88
One of the few things we actually paid for (oh to be a poor- read tight ass- backpacker!)… The Eureka Skydeck 88 is visible from all over the city and standing at 285 metres above ground, it’s easy to see why! The elevator takes you from ground level to the 88th floor in 38 seconds so on the way back down prepare for some ear popping. We opted to go up just before sunset so that we could see it in the day and watch all the city lights coming on, before leaving whilst it’s dark. Also, it’s busiest at night so this way you beat the rush if you wanted a night view! It’s $20.00 for the standard Skydeck experience ($16 if you have a Myki travel card)- one night off the booze for the average backpacker and well worth the money.
We saw so much more too including a ton of awesome street art, beautifully landscaped gardens, gorgeous architecture- but these were definitely my highlights as well as meeting some of Lewis’ friends for the first time (hey, you four!).
The city feels familiar despite never having been here before. Whereas I’m usually in awe of the sights and sounds, I’m strangely underwhelmed; but only because it feels like I’ve been here forever. It has the feel of home after being away for 10 years, so there are new things to look at but the foundations of the city are the same as you remember. It’s surreal when this is the first time I’ve set foot in Melbourne; perhaps it’s because my tour guide (my better half) used to live there himself?
I can’t wait to go back- do you have any recommendations for the next time I’m there?!