Melbourne is the country’s second largest city after Sydney and is a modern metropolis with scenic surroundings. The city is in the state of Victoria in the south-eastern part of Australia. From Melbourne, it’s easy to get to many nearby attractions. Victoria borders New South Wales in the northeast, South Australia in the west and Tasmania south across the sea. Get lost among the streets of Melbourne, famous for its mix of Victorian buildings and warehouses adorned with artistic street art. Enjoy the café culture that has become synonymous with the city, something other parts of the country have not manage to achieve yet. Lush green parks lighten up and prevent the cityscape from adopting an overly grey hue. Trams navigate crisscross among streets that are full of odd bookstores, affordable second-hand shops and swanky restaurants. Sport is taken in bloody earnest and many people especially have a craze for the Aussie Rules Football. Take the opportunity and watch a game on the country’s largest arena MCG. Explore some hip districts, take the train to the beach in St Kilda and sip cocktails on roof-bars with splendid views of the city.
Despite the unreliable weather with rain and storms, there are several beautiful wine regions in the immediate vicinity. Both Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula have plenty of vineyards that welcome visitors. Join in on a guided tour among dead-straight rows of vines and compare the different grape varieties produced. Besides wine, Mornington Peninsula also has postcard-beautiful beaches and opportunities to swim with dolphins in the open sea.
If you are looking for additional activities, you can drive east to Dandenong Ranges, where you will find quaint little villages and unique cafés. Tire out yourself by testing a range of hiking trails and discover cascading waterfalls in the mountainous national park. There are both easy paths and more difficult hikes to try out depending on your preferences. When you are satisfied and tired by the end of the day, rest your feet at a bed and breakfast.
Come close to the wildlife on Phillip Island, an island just off the magnificent coastline, known for its little penguins that waddles around. The island is flat and is well suited for cycling and car rides. There are great conditions for those interested in surfing, but it works just as well for a lazy day with some bathing. Just north of Phillip lies the lesser known French Island. Far from crowds and free from exhaust. Two thirds of this car-free zone are national park and it is a perfect retreat for cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts who seek peace and quiet far from the city’s noise.
If you are a sports fan, you will do best to see an Aussie rules football game at Melbourne’s own arena Melbourne Cricket Ground, abbreviated to MCG (mcg.org.au). Aussie rules are also called footy and resembles a mix of rugby and football. MCG is Australia’s biggest sports arena and nothing less than one of the city’s own icons. Aussie rules and cricket are played here, but sometimes concerts and other events are held here too. Those with a keen interest in sports can go for a guided tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/behind-the-scenes-mcg-national-sports-museum-tour.a226995.activity-details).
Experience the café culture that makes the rest of the country glance at Melbourne with envy (wotif.com/things-to-do/coffee-lovers-walking-tour.a256096.activity-details). In the district of Fitzroy, a warmly bubbling atmosphere awaits. Students from the nearby universities come here to cure their exam anxiety with coffee, beer and shopping. Come here to get a dose of caffeine while you take in the surrounding street art. Many buildings have gotten a makeover with the help of colour and creativity. The Carlton district is known for its alternative style and its wide range of restaurants and cafés. Like Fitzroy, this is a great place to find good food.
A sandy beach and saltwater await you in the coastal suburb of St. Kilda, six kilometres from the city centre. St. Kilda has become something of a backpacker favourite over the years. Every Saturday, a large market is held along the esplanade. Other typical activities include taking a stroll along the pier or spending from a few hours to a full day at Luna Park, an amusement park suitable for the whole family (lunapark.com.au).
If you prefer a slower tempo, you can embark on one of the many ferries running up and down Yarra River. The river runs through Melbourne, so if you take a trip here you will see the city from a different angle (melbcruises.com.au). You can also treat yourself to a dinner while floating along the waters.
You don’t have to go far from the city to get some time on an island. The most given option is Phillip Island (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/phillip-island.d6051897), a popular place to see wild animals in their natural surroundings. There are both little penguins and seals here. But consider taking a trip to French Island, just north of Phillip. It is a car-free zone that is largely a national park, making the island is ideal for cyclists and pedestrians.
Victoria has turned into a big shot when it comes to wine production. Yarra Valley (vinetrekker.com.au) is one of these wine regions but also the Mornington Peninsula. There is a bunch of knowledgeable tour operators who can show you around with a guide. Wine tasting and some meal is often included in the price. It is quite possible to make a visit during a daytrip from Melbourne (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Melbourne,%20Victoria,%20Australia).
Eucalyptus-dense Dandenong Ranges (wotif.com/discover/australia/victoria/melbourne/sassafras/dandenong-ranges-national-park.d6126451) is a dented mountain range in the otherwise flat landscape. Dandenong is a popular place for excursions among people who want to get away from the big city for a while. You can get here by train and hop off at Upper Ferntree Gully Station, but you will be generously rewarded if you take a car. Enjoy the tranquillity and spend a full day in the forest by hiking and drinking Devonshire tea. The area is lined with cosy small villages with their many smaller restaurants.
Planning and preparation
Melbourne is known for its mild weather and abundant rainfall, so be prepared for it to rain a lot. There are plenty of accommodation options (hotelscombined.com/Place/Melbourne.htm) and there is good public transport making it easy to travel to and from the city. There are ferries and flights to Tasmania and flights to most cities in the country (wotif.com/Flights). For example, from Melbourne you can go west towards the Great Ocean Road and Adelaide.
You can easily get to Melbourne by car (wotif.com/Car-Hire), bus, train or plane. There are two airports in the area, Melbourne Tullamarine Airport and the low-cost airport Melbourne Avalon Airport. Airport buses are scheduled for all arrivals, so it’s easy to get into the city. The main bus- and train stations are Southern Cross Railway Station and Flinders Street Station.
Public transportation is operated by Public Transport Victoria (ptv.vic.gov.au/getting-around/visiting-melbourne) serving the public with buses, trains and trams. Buy a myki card that you charge with money. Use the trip planner to check your itinerary (ptv.vic.gov.au/journey/#jpsearch% 5Baction% 5D = showPlanner). The myki card costs around six dollars. You can also buy a myki Explorer card that is charged with nine dollars for travelling to different tourist attractions (ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki/buy-a-myki-and-top-up/myki-explorer-pack/).
The city is big, so use a good few days to see what Melbourne has to offer. After all, this is one of the country’s best places to eat good food from all around the world, sipping boutique coffee in hip cafes and spending your shopping budget in no time. Start from the centre and work your way outward. Use the expansive tram network as help. Jump on the Circle Line that runs clockwise and counter clockwise around the city for free.
Hop off the tram at Federation Square where you will find art galleries, museums and exhibitions. Visit the National Gallery of Victoria, then take a refreshing walk through the botanical garden. But do not miss to visit the iconic districts of Fitzroy and Carlton for a cultural experience. Take the tram out to the beach suburb of St. Kilda, visit the weekend market, swim in the water or hang on the beach, soaked in sunscreen.
Visit one of the vineyards nearby. Spend a full day here or extend your stay with a stopover. Join a guided tour to learn more about wine making and sample different wine varieties.
A couple of hours’ bus or car ride will take you over to Phillip Island. Let a ranger lead the way and show you the little penguins. Every night they are seen leaving the water for dry land after having spent the whole day at sea searching for food. Watch as they waddle in a line of what is called the penguin parade. Then explore the beaches or try the surf. If you think that Phillip Island is far too mainstream, modest French Island lies a short distance further north, a pristine island that is particularly well-liked by cyclists and hikers.