Melbourne, a city which is growing so fast in population (and a city I explored back in January 2017), should soon overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest city and it was a great pleasure to check out this amazing place which lies on the Southern Ocean. I was surprised to find out there is a lot of food places to check out as well as some of the sights which includes the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and St Kilda beach. Have to admit, as a British national, I was surprised to find out that the city was named after a former British Prime Minister. From the Aussie soap Neighbours and the famous Ramsey Street sign to be done on a tour to checking out the shops on Bourke Street, here are my top tips on what to see and do in this amazing city (but it was a shame I didn’t get to see the Neighbours set, next time!)
Arrival at Melbourne Airport
The airport is probably one of the main gateways into the city and lies not too far from the centre. There is no train link into Melbourne but the best, quickest (and also the cheapest option) is the SkyBus. Outside arrivals on the main road there is a small ticket hut which sells tickets and behind that is the queue to board the next bus into the city. The ride took about thirty minutes before I arrived at the Southern Cross train and bus terminal.
The tram system
In Melbourne, the tram system is the main mode of transport to use for the public (as there is no subway system here) but there are two handy things to know. There are lots of tram lines passing through the CBD (Central Business District to the Aussie’s but city centre for anyone else), but in this area is a zone called ‘Tram-Free-Zone’, where the public doesn't have to pay within the CBD. However, listen to announcements or see the signs at the station for when you are going out of the free zone into a paying zone.
There is also a tram line ‘35’ which is the tourist tram or as I call it, ‘the circle line’ as it's a circular route which goes around the CBD and passes all the major tourist sites in the area. (Any tram route inside the area which the tram 35 goes along is ‘the free zone’, another way of remembering where visitors don’t have to pay for their journeys). On board there are plenty of wooden seats and there is running commentary over the loudspeakers telling visitors what sights they are passing by. Once again, this tram line is free but they start running after midday.
A good meeting point
The best place to set up a meeting point (for meeting friends, family etc) in the CBD is underneath the clocks at Flinders Street train station, which is at the interchange of Flinders Street and St Kilda Street. Don’t the clocks look nice, old and very rustic.
And here are some of the other top sights to check out…..
Federation Square (opposite the clocks as mentioned above) is another great meeting place for people to chill out and maybe even have a drink. There is a huge television screen where locals get the deckchairs out and watch major sporting events like the Aussie Rules or Australian Open tennis (which I had the pleasure of seeing as I was there when British Andy Murray messed up his chances of winning the title).
On the southern side of the Yarra river is the Eureka Tower, where visitors can take the elevator up to floor 88 (which is about 290 meters above the ground). Here is the Melbourne Skydeck where after paying a fee is the best place to get a great view over the river, the CBD and all the way to the ocean. Melbourne is truly an amazing city from above.
For those who love the outside (well, it is Australia of course), have a stunning walk along the South Bank checking out the city views…..
….. Or for those who like parks, I recommend the huge park just south of Federation Square (follow St Kilda road and it's on the left hand side a few minutes away). Here the park is divided into sections and there are areas known as Queen Victoria Gardens (British queen from many moons ago who stamped her authority here), Kings Domain and Alexandra Gardens. The area is beautiful, quiet and a great place to get away from the urban sprawl.
Not too far away from the gardens is the Shrine of Remembrance (on the other side of St Kilda Road but is well signposted), was originally a memorial to the people of Victoria state who served in World War I but now serves as a memorial to all Aussie’s who served in the war.
Inside the sanctuary contains a marble stone of remembrance which engraved are the words “Greater love hath no man”. On Remembrance Day (11th November at 11am) I found out that a ray of sunlight shines through a hole in the roof to light up the word “Love” on the stone. Shame I missed this by two months when I came to the city.
Beneath the sanctuary is the crypt which has a bronze statue of a soldier father and son and surrounding it are panels listing every unit of the Australian Imperial Force. At the top of the shrine is a balcony to get great views of the city and somewhat the ocean and nearby in the grounds, is an eternal flame which hasn’t been put out since it was first lit.
To the north of the CBD is the Old Melbourne Gaol, a museum on Russell Street which is a former prison with lots of history where the highlight was notorious criminal Ned Kelly was banged up and then hanged. Tours here include the Watch House and Court buildings next door.
Another sight I came across near the Old Melbourne Gaol is the Eight-Hour Day Monument, where it was here many moons ago that a campaign to transform working life started here. After the agreement came in, workers had eight hours work, eight hours social life and eight hours rest a day, instead of working between ten and sixteen hours for six days a week. Also with this agreement, forty hours a week would be the common norm and when other countries heard about this, they enforced this policy. A monument now stands to celebrate this achievement as working conditions back when this came into force were terrible and not healthy for a human being.
Did I tell you about the beach and wild penguins?
For those who want sand and ocean, head to St Kilda (again, to the south of the CBD) where relaxation or having fun can be had on the beach. Also nearby are many other great food and bars to check out and there is also an amusement park called Luna Park (I didn’t check that out otherwise I would have thrown up all the food I had eaten that day!)
On the breakwater at the end of the pier (at the western end of the beach), I got to check out something which I didn’t believe was possible in Australia. Seeing wild penguins. Yes, you heard me right, there are wild penguins. Eudyptula Minor (as they are called) usually come in from the sea around sunset after a hard day finding food in the ocean and come to this breakwater to sleep on the rocks. This usually happens in the summer months but a few can still be found in the winter months. This was a truly amazing sight to see and my top piece of advice, do not disturb them and don’t poke a selfie stick at them! That did sicken me. Watching animals in the wild is a truly amazing thing to see and loved every moment of it (despite the difficulty of capturing a great photo of them at difficult angles).
So there you have it guys, that is Melbourne in a nutshell for a very short visit. I might have missed out a few things but I can tell you now, if I get the chance to get back out there, I will. It’s truly an amazing city, the people are great, the food is yummy and it’s so laid back compared to other cities in the world. Here are some other photos I took from my trip.