Melbourne has always been one of my favourite cities. It forms a bit of a “triangle” with Dunedin and Wellington, in that if you’re from one of these three cities, you’re likely to feel quite at home in the other two. This is certainly true for me – love Wellington, love Melbourne…could quite happily live in either!
Anyone visiting Melbourne should be aware of the following:
~ the shopping really IS as good as you’ve heard;
~ your taste buds will think you’ve taken them higher than heaven; and
~ a small part of your heart will forever remain there.
You could spend days getting lost in the CBD, wandering up and down the main streets and straying into narrow alleyways which offer up hidden cafes, bars and little boutiques. The CBD is incredibly east to navigate, with a grid-like street system. You’ll also find that Little Collins Street comes after Collins Street, making for a simple, albeit unimaginative, way of getting your bearings.
A visit to the world-famous Queen Victoria Markets is a must; you’ll know you’re getting close when you start to smell the fare. The crowds haggling and jostling for the best products at the best price are a sight – and sound – to behold.
See if you can wrangle a ticket to an exhibition opening at the National Gallery, and make sure you visit one of the many modern art galleries in and around the city. Watch the world go by in Federation Square – the lunchtime rush near Flinders Street Station is an interesting spectacle.
Old Melbourne Gaol is a gloomy but interesting attraction, with a particular focus on hangings, Ned Kelly and his gang. I found the history behind the gang and their capture fascinating, but the deathmasks made for eerie viewing, and I didn’t feel wholly comfortable there.
Wine fans should head an hour south to Mornington Peninsula and Sorrento – the drive is lovely and the wine is definitely worth the trip! There are lots of wineries, galleries and cute seaside villages to explore.
Sovereign Hill, in Ballarat (an hour-and-a-half to the west) is an interactive open-air museum which makes for a fun day trip – although I’d recommend taking a picnic lunch as the restaurant is highly overpriced.
Healesville Sanctuary, just over an hour to the north-east, is a fantastic place to take kids. It’s home to native Australian animals that have been rescued and rehabilitated, and the bird show is a highlight.
There’s also Melbourne Zoo, with its awesome orangutan enclosure; in March of this year we were lucky enough to see a teeny tiny baby with spindly little arms and a mop of sticky-uppy hair.
Many of Melbourne’s suburbs are worth exploring too – hop on a train and see where you end up! Wander through Albert Park and watch the radio-controlled boats racing on the lake; take in the tacky splendour of St Kilda or wander around Cherry Lake and try to spot the pelicans. Visit Williamstown for more galleries, boutiques and antique stores.
I’ve been to Melbourne four times, and every visit, I find something new to love about the city. There’s so much to see and do, and it has such a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Now that my sister and her family are based there, I’m sure we’ll back as often as we can!