We’ve been travelling for 5 weeks now, it seems like longer, and very few places have captivated us in the way that Melbourne has. There is a sense that we’re home, a home away from home. This city has a little bit of everything; the skyscrapers are all neatly contained together, there is plenty of greenery the botanical garden being my favourite sanctuary, there’s the quirky, the cosmopolitain, a gaggle of sports arenas to suit every taste, the beach a stones throw away, and the Yarra River running through the city, I mean what more could you want.
Before leaving on our trip, Melbourne was the one place that everyone had an abundance of recommendations for, and I can totally see why. We have also left with our list of favourite restaurants, cafes, hangouts, and places to visit, which we will also pass onto our family and friends and of course you. We left a little piece of our heart back in the city that truly captured us.
I’m Free Walking Tour
I was a little dubious of I’m Free walking tour, like all things ‘free’ there is always a catch. However, no one was more pleasantly surprised than me. I can well recommend taking this tour at the beginning of your trip, we did it the day before we left and typically visited some places we would have liked to spend more time in but ran out of days.
Matt our tour guide and original founder of Melbourne walking tours, was extremely clued up on the history of Melbourne, I’m pretty sure you could ask him any question and he’d know the answer. He had great humour and, for me, he really changed my whole perception of the city. It’s obvious that Matt loves and is proud of his city, which comes through in his passion for storytelling. I noticed how he would discreetly make his way slowly around the group, 30 of us in total, finding out about each and everyone making the group feel really welcomed. Thirty people sounds a lot, but don’t be put off by this, it didn’t seem like a big group at all and we were never waiting for others lagging behind or struggling to hear Matt.
We started our tour at the State Library, close to Federation Square and walked from here towards the prison where we learnt about the famous Ned Kelly and 888, I’ll let Matt explains these to you. The highlights for me were definitely seeing the street art, Block Arcade modelled on the famous arcade in Milan, the Laneways and Fitzroy.
Twelve Apostles & The Great Ocean Road
Close your eyes, take a deep breath and imagine your last day on this planet, now open them and look out across heaven. You maybe mistaken for thinking you have died and gone to heaven when looking out across the Twelve Apostles. The beauty of this place is breathtaking. It’s surprising to learn this is not one of the seven wonders of the world, its certainly up their on my list.
Twelve limestone stacks stand prominently out of the ocean below, the waves crashing below them, on a beach that looks so inviting I began searching along the shore and cliff line for ways to get down to it.
The Great Ocean Road snakes us along beauty spot after beauty spot. Lush beaches, view points and cute towns line this 243km stretch of Australian National Heritage Road. It’s a long drive from Melbourne, the whole trip took us a good day, so it would be preferable to take a few days and space out the travel.
Don’t miss out on Erskine falls, just a small 9km detour from Lorne, which a great little village to stop in and have something to eat. There are two lookouts to the falls, so if you’re unable to walk far, opt for the upper deck which is just 5 mins from the top, both are equally stunning. We went down to the lower deck to see the 30m falls cascade down into the misty Erskine river below us.
Something we missed out on due to time was Otway fly treetop adventures, the world’s tallest treetop walk. 600m long and 25m high giving a birds-eye-view out across Otway Ranges, it sounds amazing. We should have ideally given ourselves a couple of days travelling the Great Ocean Road, its not advisable to do it all in one day as we did. This is definitely on our list of things to do when we go back.
Botanical Gardens & Shrine of Remembrance
Walking through the serenity of the Botanical Gardens the sun warming our backs, water in hand, its easy to forget you’re still in the city. I would happily pay to walk around these beautiful gardens but to my astonishment they’re totally free. As well as just taking in the beauty of these gardens one of my favourite things we did was was to go to the Moonlight cinema. Open between 8 Dec to 2 April it shows all the latest releases. We settle down to watch Lion at dusk, with beautiful views across the gardens and the city in the background. Once the light had gone fireflies were visible flitting about, which added to the magic of it all. We took a blanket and duvet but I recommend spending a little more on a bean bed for added comfort, as we were a bit uncomfortable on the hard ground.
A great running track surrounds the perimeter of the gardens, as well as a war memorial named the Shrine of Remembrance, a prominent marker of Melbourne. Looking out from the top of the shrine down Ceremonial Avenue, you have extraordinary views over Melbourne, by far my favourite view point.
Hopetoun Tea Rooms
Carrot cake, pavlova, scones, cheesecake, Victoria sponge, strudel, crumble, High Tea whatever you’ve favourite cake is, Hopetoun Tea Rooms is bound to have it. The waiting list for this place is booked up months in advance but if you’re willing to queue then you can just drop in as we did. The window will have you salivating before you’ve even been seated. Don’t go hungry or you’ll end up having a slice of everything and walking out a stone heavier than when you walked in. We opted for the warm scones with blackcurrant jam with cream and a slice of carrot cake and like every true Brit, Earl Grey tea to wash it all down with.
The long promenade is lined with golden sands cool bars and a boardwalk stretching the whole boulevard. If you’re a skateboarder or long boarder or you have a penchant for exercising with an audience this is the place to be seen. Hey you might even pick up a music deal on the grassy mounds surrounding the boardwalk, as those with a talent for music fearlessly sing to those soaking up the sun.
Luna Park can’t be missed, with its famous landmark open-mouthed clown smiling down on you from the entrance of the park. I didn’t go, as its not really my thing but I didn’t miss an opportunity to grab a selfie, as many have done before me.
Escaping city life for the coast we headed straight for Merricks Beach in Mornington Peninsula. Slightly off the beaten track, we parked up on a private lane and then trekked down to a quiet spot on the beach with our picnic. Golden sands and beautiful clear water greeted us as we came out of the clearing. Just a 1hr drive from Melbourne, I well recommend coming to this beauty spot, if you have transport. Whilst you have the convenience of St Kilda almost on your door step, its a lot busier and not as beautiful.
Melbourne City Bikes
We spent most of our week long trip in Melbourne touring around on the city bikes. You get unlimited 30 minute rides between stations, costing just $3 per day. However, I’m pretty sure we were longer than 30mins between docking our bikes and didn’t incur further costs. It was a really great, cost effective way to see the city, combining that with the Free City Trams you can get around the whole city with ease.
My sister is currently living in Melbourne, working in the wine district of Healesville, North-East of Melbourne. A quaint little town with great eateries, cafes and of course plenty of places to try wine and gin. It’s also famous for art so you can stop and see some great art galleries. We stopped at Essenza, a great little Italian restaurant run by really friendly, funny staff. They serve great food and excellent coffee and I’m told great pastries.
As I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, before coming to Melbourne we had plenty of recommendations. Here is a list of my favourite places:
Chin Chin – Fun, vibrant and food that will take you on a taste journey through South-East Asia. I really love this quirky restaurant. It’s super popular, so be prepared to wait, as they operate on a walk-in basis for groups smaller than 10. It’s well worth it, we visited twice. Try the Beef Rendang, its literally a taste explosion in your mouth. The Stir Fry Chicken is also really good and to wash it all down with, go for the pineapple and coconut juice.
Mamasita – A great Mexican restaurant tucked away above a 7/11 on Collins Street, its easy to miss this place so keep your eyes peeled. One small door leads you up a set of stairs into the busy atmosphere of this fast moving restaurant. Authentic flavours and dishes make this place a must do on your tick list.
- Gradi At Crown – Pizza
- Rococos in St Kilda – Italian
- Claypots St Kilda – Seafood
- Long Grain
- Madame Brussels
- Ichi Ni
- Four Pillars Gin
- Naked for Satan (Naked in the Sky)
- Cookie – Also a rooftop cinema
- QT Rooftop Bar
- Vue De Monde in Rialto Towers — Here you can see the best views up high across Melbourne and it won’t cost you anything apart from a yummy cocktail. Go watch the sunset and don’t forget to look down at the fire cannons on your left which go off every hour.
- Mr Albert Eastern – Great breakfasts and coffee over looking Albert Park
- Code Black Coffee – 119 Howard Street Cafe – This cafe has a touch of Shoreditch about it. Designed by Zwei(interiors & architecture), the interior is pretty damn impressive. Go for the bircher muesli, and Latte, delicious!
My next post will be from North Island New Zealand. To follow my adventures and latest updates go to Instagram and follow me on @defining.new.wayz