These were the first words I heard as we stepped out of the Melbourne airport. As our heads turned to this cheerful voice, a cabby stood beaming at my husband greeting in distinctive Australian style. We cheered back “Hello Melbourne!” and rolled our trolleys to the car park where our dear friend Andrew was waiting in his favourite multihued car to take us to his home.
Who should go to Melbourne? City Lovers, Romantic Couples, Beach Lovers, History Buff, Culture Seeker
Australia’s second city boasts plenty of first-class attributes, from its thriving arts scene to its tantalizing variety of ethnic cuisines.
“Nature has done everything for Sydney, man nothing; man has done everything for Melbourne, nature nothing,” a friend from the US to this antipode once noted. The glib witticism nevertheless captures an essential difference between Australia’s two largest cities. Melbourne may have grayer skies, and a muddy river in lieu of a glistening harbor, but no matter—nature’s withheld bounty has motivated Melbourne’s citizens to cultivate man-made pleasures. Hence the city’s reputation as Australia’s cultural capital. Theater, music, street sculpture, fashion, and other forms of artistic expression thrive here, alongside a cosmopolitan mix of cafés, restaurants, and pubs.
Quip aside, nature has not completely ignored Melbourne. More than a quarter of the city luxuriates in verdant parks and colourful gardens. Though here again, the hand of man proves instrumental, for the jewel in the crown remains the 88-acre Royal Botanic Gardens, a splendid example of 19th-century English landscaping.
Melbourne is gifted with leafy parks and gardens. Vast and verdant, the manicured lawns and floral displays are scattered with elegant gazebos, cooling fountains and theatrical statues and structures. What’s more, they’re all within walking distance of the city and cost nothing to visit.
The Royal Botanic Gardens is considered to be one of the most significant botanical gardens in Australia. Its wide paths curve around sweeping lawns planted with thousands of plant specimens, a fern gully sits beneath a rainforest canopy and an artificial ornamental lake supports flocks of waterfowl.
Melbourne’s distinctive electric trams, stately Victorian buildings, and stylish wrought iron designs every where also evoke a European ambience. Immigrants, for their part, introduced continental pastimes: Yet, this being Australia, the city’s sophistication is offset by a refreshingly relaxed attitude.
Melbourne is a city of neighborhoods. Italian or Chinese, groovy or chic, bohemian or beach side—Melbourne has them all. Each has its own character instilled by the type of people who live and work there—émigrés from all over the world who have brought their customs, beliefs, businesses, food, art and style to the city. Nowhere have Melbourne’s successive waves of immigrants exerted more influence than in the city’s kitchens. One can dine out every night for a month without crossing the same cuisine twice, Food hubs include Chinatown (Little Bourke Street in central Melbourne) and Little Italy (Lygon Street in the suburb of Carlton), as well as Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street, renowned for its wide range of “multi-culti” fare. Distinctive cafés dot streets and alleys throughout the city. This multicultural city of almost three-and-a-half-million people is bisected by the Yarra River, near the point where it empties into the vast Port Phillip Bay, along Australia’s southeastern coast. Most attractions can be reached on foot or by tram.
Melbourne reveals its soul at street level. Pick up a self-guided heritage walking tour brochure, or join one of the many guided walking tours, with themes ranging from pubs to Aboriginal traditions. World-class art hangs on the walls of the National Gallery of Victoria. Check out underwater Australiana, in the form of sharks, coral, and other marine life, at the Melbourne Aquarium. First-time Australia visitors (and especially their kids) might also appreciate the animal and Aboriginal culture exhibits and interactive displays at the new Melbourne Museum. Gain insight into this city’s obsession at the Australian Gallery of Sport, housed within the country’s most hallowed sporting venue, the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
This city is, quite simply, a shopper’s dream. Melbourne’s gracious covered shopping arcades date from another era but sell up-to-the-minute goods, from urban street wear to sophisticated clothing, accessories, and gifts. International designers draw shoppers to the rather ambitiously named “Paris End” of Collins Street; check out the imaginative fashions at the New Zealand- based Zambesi shop. Boutiques on South Yarra’s elegant Toorak Road and swanky Chapel Street (the latter includes Australian fashion icon Collette Dinnigan’s feminine creations) attract the well-heeled crowd. Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia
With more than 1,000 traders and spanning 17 acres the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Whether one is looking for tasting wines, or shopping for Aboriginal art and didgeridoos, this 129-year-old market has it all. Open every day except Monday, Wednesday, and major holidays.
In the past couple of years, the number of Melbourne hotel rooms has increased significantly. Notable newcomers include the boutique Hotel Lindrum, decorated in inviting, neutral colors; the large, luxurious Quay West Suites; and The Prince, comprising 40 modern-decor rooms in a landmark art-deco complex at the beach front suburb of St. Kilda. The echoes of an earlier era resonate at The Windsor, Melbourne’s last remaining grand Victorian hotel.
DRIVE TO NEAR BY PLACES FROM MELBOURNE. and drove back
(soaking up the phenomenal views) along the most amazing Great Ocean Road. Down the Great Ocean Road trip back, I stopped to savor places like Loch Ard Gorge (where they did “The Tempest” on the beach), the amazing Twelve Apostles rock formations, Apollo Bay … and so much more. I have not been to Sydney yet, but folks in Melbourne were exceptionally nice.
Melbourne is a great city for meandering around too and seeing whatever comes on the way. We got to see so much – historic swimming holes, Aboriginal meeting places, old boathouses. For those who like bike riding Melbourne’s bike tracks are excellent. I had great fun wandering around the old strip-shopping streets. They are rich with the flavors of the different migrant groups that have set themselves up here. Auckland Street, St Kilda; Sydney Road, Brunswick; Victoria Street, Richmond, Carlton; Hopkins Street, they showcase the multicultural side of Melbourne, great for shopping, inexpensive food, or just exploring.
I was privileged to be able to spend a week in Melbourne on my first holiday to Australia and I instantly fell in love with this city. Everything in Melbourne made me feel at home. It’s charming yet sophisticated, its casual yet chic. I would never imagine visiting Australia without reserving few days for Melbourne. I highly recommend this charming beach town.See you in Sydney soon…
Although Melbourne’s weather remains notoriously unpredictable, the climate rarely hits extremes: High temperatures average in the mid-50s (°F) in winter (June-Aug.) and in the upper 70s in summer (Dec.-Feb.).