Melbourne is a city that I definitely could have spent an entire week in, though there isn’t really a lot to see, per se. I had about 3.5 days there and it wasn’t really enough, though I did enjoy my time there and got a great taste of the city. It felt more chic than Sydney, but was still a huge city. It lacks the breathtaking nature of Sydney’s physical beauty, but still had its own charms – and the Great Ocean Road outside of Melbourne was one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve ever been. One thing I hadn’t expected was just how cold Melbourne would be- definitely chillier than Sydney, where it felt like summer. It was early fall in Melbourne, and felt like it.
My first half-day was spent dealing with my Mifi and Kindle drama and running all over Melbourne. My friend took me to a Korean bbq place which was pretty good, and similar to what you’d get here in the States. After dinner, he drove me around and showed me St. Kilda, the waterfront area, and pointed out the terminal for the ferry to Tasmania, before heading to bed.
The next day was spent completely on the Great Ocean Road, which I’ll cover in a separate post.
So that leaves only two days in Melbourne itself, which I spent mostly walking around the city. From the Park Hyatt, I walked through the city, first past the Parliament of Victoria, then to the Old State Library, which was a gorgeous building, with exhibit space on the history of Victoria, but also filled with students and others studying in its regal reading rooms.
I found myself wandering through the buildings of RMIT- the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – a school I didn’t know much about, but has some funky buildings.
My main destination was the Queen Victoria Market, which consists of two different destinations. The first is a major food hall and market, which looked delicious – though I was stuffed from my Park Hyatt food, so didn’t indulge. I did however hit up the other part, which is a massive flea market selling pretty much everything, but also a lot of souvenir-type items. I picked up a puzzle map of Australia for my nephew, some boomerangs, and a really nice solid would carved trivet with a koala design. I also picked up some knockoff Beats headphones to replace those I lost in the Qantas lounge, which unsurprisingly only worked for about two days.
After spending too much money, I hopped on the tram back to the Park Hyatt (all in the Free Tram Zone), had lunch, checked out, and switched to the Grand Hyatt.
From the Grand Hyatt, I walked over to Fed Square (or “Federation Square”), a fairly ugly public mixed-use space built in 2002. The modern buildings house a variety of tenants, but the most interesting for tourists are some of the museums. I went into one, the Ian Potter Centre of the National Gallery of Victoria, and saw a disappointing and overpriced exhibit on the design of cars in Australia.
The park led me to the Melbourne Cricket Ground, also known as the MCG. The site of the 1956 Summer Olympic Games, it’s been redeveloped in pieces since, and is now mostly used for Australian Rules Football, in addition to cricket.
The coolest part of the MCG, though, was the National Sports Museum, which I highly recommend. In addition to lots of interesting exhibits about the history of various sports in Australia, there is a huge interactive area, where you can play rugby, Australian Rules, cricket, and basketball in computer-aided kiosks. I spent a few hours there and could’ve spent more, but it’s great for kids and adults.
I took a long walk back to the Grand Hyatt, through the shopping and fast food area surrounding Flinders Street Station, the main train station in Melbourne. After a nap and a work-out, I walked a few blocks away to a good restaurant – Stokehouse City – which was relatively casual and delicious, but not cheap. I had a kale salad, spaghettini with prawns, and a beer for 49 AUD. I was not surprised to see the Real Housewives of Melbourne dining there this season!
It was a Thursday night, so I went out for a bit in the Fitzroy area, but it wasn’t that hopping, so I Ubered back after 90 minutes or so. My flight didn’t leave Melbourne til 5:30pm Friday, though, so I had time to do some more exploring. After a workout, I headed to the Immigration Museum, which is another museum I highly recommend. Opened in 1998, it does a wonderful job telling the story of immigration to both Australia in general, and Melbourne’s history as a city of Southern European immigrants.
After that, I did some shopping, before a delicious cheap lunch at Ba’get, a fast food-ish Banh Mi place on Russell Street near the Grand Hyatt.
And then it was time to make my way back to the Southern Cross Station for the Skybus back to the airport. I think my favorite parts of Melbourne were hard to describe here, as it was a lot of just wandering around, and the city definitely had a cool vibe. I’d love to go back and explore some more nightlife, and some of the other outlying suburbs, but I definitely got a sense of Melbourne’s flavor.