It’s back to our honeymoon adventure! And after telling you all about our time in Bali, it’s time to move on to Australia. After arriving in Melbourne in the middle of the night, surprising GB’s close friend in possibly the most ridiculous way, and attempting to figure out to how to deal with the 40+ degree heat, we set about exploring the area our friends call home. Considering the state of Victoria (the second smallest state in Australia) is roughly the size of Britain and we only had five days there, we knew we couldn’t see it all. But luckily we had some awesome tour guides in our friends and their two young kids, and as such we packed quite a bit in to our time in the garden state.
I was originally going to make this a post about what we got up to during our day in Melbourne city itself, but actually seeing as we were staying outside of the city and visited so many other beautiful areas, I decided to focus on the sights in the surrounding areas too, for anyone who does have a bit more time to explore.
So, while I can’t claim to be an expert on the area at all (it was the first time I’d ever visited Australia and I’m now dying to go back and drive down the Great Ocean Road, visit Sydney and go to Byron Bay), these were a few of the things that we enjoyed doing in Melbourne and around the surrounding areas of Victoria.
In the City
Take the train to Flinders Street Station
Of course you don’t have to take the train, but I always think using public transport in a new city is part of the fun right? Seeing as we were on our own this day (at least until the evening when we were met by some familiar faces for a delicious dessert fuelled dinner – more on that in a minute) we set off early and jumped on a train into Flinders Street station. I always think train stations are a good indicator of what a city is going to be like and Flinders Street is pretty cool. I mean inside it’s just like any other train station but from the outside it’s quite the impressive building, sat right in the middle of Federation Square. It has that traditional feel to it with the old clocks and original signage still in place. And how odd is it seeing a Merry Christmas sign in the blazing heat?
Stop for coffee in the Lanes
It’s important to mention that the day we visited the city it was baking hot. Crazy Australian summer like no heat you’ve ever felt before hot. Suffice to say that still suffering the effects of jetlag after so many flights and completely unaccustomed to anything above 30 degrees, our energy levels depleted very easily. Walking at a speed of anything other than a leisurely stroll and not stopping every hour or so for a drink and some fuel in the shade, was almost impossible. So pretty much as soon as we got off the train, after an early start, we took ourselves to a coffee shop in the Lanes to wake ourselves up a little. The Lanes are the place to go for this kind of pit-stop for sure. The area is regularly mentioned on travel guides, and our own personal Australia tour guides had pointed us in this direction for an array of trendy coffee shops and cafes, and we weren’t disappointed.
Take in Federation Square
Federation Square is one of the main cultural attractions in the city, and you’re pretty much in it the minute you step out of the train station. It’s a square (funny that) public space that’s often home to many of the cities biggest events and parades. It’s also a great meeting point in the city and standing in the centre you can take in a 360 degree view of many of the iconic buildings. The juxtapostion of old churches alongside modern builds makes it a bit of a feast for the eyes, and there’s plenty of restaurants and bars here too.
When you’re husband tries to do a blogger pose – crying with laughter!
Walk down the Southbank
Much like the Southbank in London, Melbourne’s riverside path makes for an ideal picturesque stroll on a sunny day and will lead you to many of the tourist spots you may have on your list. We walked this way from Federation square, and after the busyness of that spot a walk along the river felt rather tranquil and relaxed. There’s plenty of riverside cafes, and places to make a pit-stop should you want to, and the views are gorgeous. Again the leafy surroundings against the tall industrial buildings is quite the contrast.
Head up the Eureka Tower
There’s a tower in every big city right? And for some reason it’s always an attraction we all champion. Myself included. There’s something rather magnificent about seeing a place from above and getting that reminder of how small we really are in comparison to our surroundings. In Melbourne, you’ve got the Eureka Tower, and after our stroll down the Southbank we crossed over the bridge and made our way up the 297.3 metre high skyscraper. You can take a lift to the 88th floor to visit the Skydeck and take in those amazing views, and if you’re brave enough, you can even get in a glass pod and be extended out the side of the building with nothing between you and the drop but a sheet of glass!
Visit a Street Food Market for Lunch
We’re big fans of street food, and always seek out a market in any city we visit. Melbourne’s answer was the Queen Victoria Market – a giant indoor food haven with every different type of cuisine you could imagine and then more small shops, local traders, fruit stalls and clothing outside. I seem to remember us choosing badly on the food front (hence no photo) but I loved meandering through all the little shops afterwards. Plus there was pretty coloured bunting, which always makes a place that much better in my eyes.
Visit a Dessert Restaurant
A restaurant entirely dedicated to desserts. Oh yes that it my kind of restaurant. I visited a pop up in London a few years back that was trialling this very idea but for some reason the concept hasn’t quite caught on in the UK yet – I’m not entirely sure why? Thankfully the residents of Melbourne are clearly as sweet toothed as I and new restaurant Om Nom inside the Adelphi Hotel is proving a success. This was described as a must visit by our Oz based friends and so after a day wandering the sights of the city we met up with our team and headed for a meal of the sweet kind (we had eaten plenty at the street food market not that long before but if not you might want to grab something savoury ahead of your visit). The menu switches up regularly but centres around about ten different dessert options (each one sounding as crazy wonderful as the next) plus a whole host of dessert cocktails to wash it all down with. The restaurant classes itself as fine dining and as such isn’t super cheap but when you see the amount of detail and expertise that has gone into the creations put in front of you (this is true MasterChef stuff) you’ll be willing to pay for it. This is no apple pie and custard kind of affair, this is fallen through the rabbit hole to eat pink mushrooms with pistachio crumb, fragranced air and bubbles of sauce that taste faintly of liquorish. It’s a true Heston style experience and we loved it!
Admire the Graffiti
The Lanes I mentioned earlier are also home to Melbourne’s best graffiti art as well as the hip cafe culture. This long street, without a single square of wall space free from colourful spray paint is like the Brick Lane of the city and full of photographers, skateboarders and even couples having their wedding photos taken. There’s quite a bit of cool art to take in and if you know your stuff I’m sure you’ll be able to name some of the artists behind these pieces. For us, it was a chance to get silly with our tiny companions and take photos under giant speech bubbles before calling it a day on our visit to the city centre.
On the Outskirts
These sights are both in suburbs of Melbourne so you might need a car to visit, but they’re only a short drive outside of the city and worth adding on to your ‘must see’ list.
Watch the Penguins at St Kilda Bay
Granted, as far as beautiful beaches in Australia go, St Kilda probably isn’t going to be top of that list and there are many more picturesque beach locations worth a visit. But St Kilda’s pier has another attraction once the sun falls, and that’s the family of penguins which reside there and come out to play in the evening. The breakwater is home to a small colony of penguins which have been part of a research study since the 1980’s. They build their nests on the rocks that surround the boardwalk, and once the sun sets they come in from the water and can be seen waddling around in droves on the rocks. I love penguins and this was definitely one of my favourite moments of the trip – being so close to them was wonderful. It can at times feel a little intrusive though as the area has become popular and as such there are a lot of people trying to get a closer look and take the perfect photo. As it was so dark I only got the photo you see above before putting my camera away and just taking it in. Luckily the research volunteers are on hand each evening to man the area and avoid people getting too close.
As far as St Kilda itself goes though, I loved it. It reminded me a lot of seaside towns like Brighton in the UK – a little tacky, full of colourful and alternative souls and home to arcades, funfairs and plenty of restaurants and night life. After a stroll along the beach, and an afternoon scoping out the best cakes shops on the pier, we went for dinner at a Thai restaurant which served 5 dollar gin and tonics – what’s not to love?
Visit the Neighbours Set
But be prepared to be pretty disappointed when you realise that you’re not going to meet Harold Bishop while there and that most of the show is actually filmed elsewhere in a studio. Perhaps the most mind blowing thing of all is that Ramsay Street isn’t actually called Ramsay Street. I know!! The street we all know and love is actually in reality a cul-de-sac called Pin Oak Court in the suburb of Vermont and real people who are not Karl and Susan Kennedy live there, in those houses. I KNOW!! So by all means visit, but know that you’ll only really need to allocate about three minutes of your days schedule to do so. Simply drive in, have a photo taken under the arch and then feel extremely weird while some official man in a uniform sort of follows you around a little too closely, and tells you off for trespassing every time you even try to peer around to Harold’s drive way or step onto the pavement for a photo.
As my Australian friends have informed me, no-one in Australia would class the following areas as ‘Melbourne’ but a title that read ‘Must See in Melbourne and a whole bunch of other areas nearby that aren’t quite classed as Melbourne’ didn’t roll of the tongue as easily so I hope you’ll forgive me for including them. You’ll definitely need a car, or a guided tour to get to these areas as the furthest was about 2 and a half hours drive from the city, but if you do have the time to explore, I’d definitely recommend adding these spots on to your list.
Visit the Yarra Valley
The Yarra Valley is home to an array of vineyards and brewery’s and also some of the most beautiful landscapes. We visited this area on Hogmanay as part of a beer and cider brewery tour and it really was beautiful (even before we all felt the affects of copious amounts of alcohol on one of the hottest days of the trip – I promise). My favourite area had to be the first place we visited, Napoleone Brewery and Ciderhouse which not only had the most delicious pear and apple ciders (in my view) but also the coolest and most Instagram worthy space. A true industrial gem this place is also a restaurant and hire space, and word on the street is you can even get married here. A wedding in the middle of a vineyard with home brewed cider for all your guests – sign me up! It was WAY too hot to explore the outside area as much as we would have liked, and the air con indoors was just too good, but throughout the day we visited various different home brew establishments (and even a gin palace), each one in another gorgeous part of the Yarra Valley, surrounded by acres of green hills. There are various different types of tours you can do in this area from wine tasting to beer and cider and walking tours, and it’s an amazing place.
Take a Trip to Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville was quite near the area we were staying and so this was the port of call for our first full day in Oz. It was so hot that my floppy hat went even more floppy and even the Kangaroos were too lazy to move from the shade, but we took in as much of the sanctuary as we could so as to see some of Australia’s best loved creatures (and by that I don’t mean the man playing the didgeridoo). Kuala’s, kangaroos, wallaby’s and dingo’s. Emu’s, water rats, possum’s and Platypus – we saw them all. And even took in a bird show. We finished the trip off by heading back into Healesville and visiting Beechworth Bakery – a pie and cake shop with the biggest array of cream puffs and lamington’s I’ve ever seen. Seriously if I lived in Oz I’d be the size of a house.
Climb to the top of a Waterfall
This activity is quite far out of Melbourne, but was one of our favourite days during our trip so I couldn’t not include it. We took a drive to Marysville, a small town near Healesville which was pretty much devastated by forest fires back in 2009. As our friends both work for the fire service in Victoria, this story was a huge part of their lives and something they were keen to show us. Forest fires are a huge problem in Australia, and while they happen quite regularly (often man-made) the one in Marysville is still one of the most devastating to date. Driving through the landscape, you can clearly see just how much of the forest and trees were damaged and even 7 years down the line many of the dead trees remain. The village itself has begun to rebuild but you’ll notice only new build houses all around as everything – from the houses to the shops to the schools were completely destroyed and 45 people were killed. We visited a museum which had been created in the wake of the disaster, which featured stories from the local people and an array of artefacts recovered after the fires – everything from telephone boxes to bikes and kettles completely melted, warped and burnt out. It was fascinating, but at the same time to think that the museum’s findings were all from only 7 years previous was pretty scary.
South East of Marysville, is the Steavenson River, and Steavenson Falls, one of Victoria’s highest waterfalls with jaw dropping views. Again this area was also damaged in the fires and is only now getting back up and running again. Climbing all the way to the top and taking in the views was incredible, not least because you could see the true effects the fire had – all of the trees before us were black, burnt and bare and the area, although becoming green again in places was still very stark and desert like due to all of the vegetation being destroyed. The community have worked hard to restore the area, and I have no doubt that in another few years the falls will be back to their original glory but it’s incredibly sad to see such a beautiful place as this so badly damaged.
Visiting the falls was definitely one of our favourite activities though. We enjoyed a picnic by the base of the waterfall, before taking the sandy climb to the very top and getting dizzy with those epic views. Definitely worth a visit if you have the time.
And finally – spend time with awesome friends in an awesome country! Thanks for having us guys!
Have you visited this part of Australia? Any more recommendations for the next time we go?