During my first trip abroad in 2003, my dad and I saw as much of Ireland as we possibly could in one week. It was great to see so many places, but our fast pace meant we never got to linger anywhere and simply enjoy our surroundings. So ever since then I’ve taken a different approach — over the last 4 years I have picked one or two cities and really explored them over the course of 3 weeks.
Being in one place for up to two weeks means you can find your favorite spots (mostly to eat…) and visit them again. It means you can walk around without pulling out a map and at some point another traveler will ask you for directions. You can take your time and not spend each day at break-neck speed checking off items on the “what to see and do if you have 2-days” itinerary.
But it can also bring a bit of boredom if you’ve done everything you’re remotely interested in and can’t afford any more day trips! After a few days in Melbourne I wondered what I would do for two weeks, but by the end I found there were things I still hadn’t done — which just means I’ll have to return in the next 11 months
So without further ado, my list of things to visit, see, and experience in Melbourne:
— I wouldn’t necessarily recommend driving in the city, but I was offered an opportunity to drive my first evening there and am glad I took it! Once the proper driver was back behind the wheel, he took us to the F1 street-based circuit and drove around the length of it — at normal speed of course
— Visit the Immigration Museum
I had spent so much time researching the “big picture” that I had given very little time to looking into what I wanted to do in each city. This was one of the few things on my to-do list before I arrived! For $8 you walk through a few rooms and read, hear, and see stories detailing the history of immigration to Australia and Victoria in particular. The museum doesn’t take very long to visit, but for $8 the experience is decent value for money. My favorite part of the visit was reading a quote about one’s decision to head to Australia. “One of the things that gave people pause was considering the sacrifice of what they were leaving — their home — behind.” While I’m not a true immigrant, I have come to LIVE here for a year. The quote stayed with me because I really wrestled with everything I’d be missing out on and leaving behind in exchange for this Aussie adventure. You just hope it’s all worth it in the end.
— See what’s on at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
I really enjoyed my day at the Good Food & Wine Show, sampling heaps of free goodies and attending the Lindt Chocolate Masterclass (not so free). I didn’t know it until I arrived, but the Centre was also hosting a photography event at the same time that would have been equally (well, nearly) enjoyable. The Centre is massive, so be sure not to miss out on great events!
— Stroll through Queen Victoria Market, aka Queen Vic Market
I say this only because everyone says to do it and I usually adore markets. This one failed to impress. Now, if you’re looking for fresh produce or meats, you’re in luck. But I wasn’t on a mission for either. Thankfully there was an area with dips, cheeses, and one or two chocolate stalls, so I was at home there O:-) The rest of the market — the majority — was filled with stalls selling the SAME things…socks, shirts, knick-knacks, etc. If you walked down one aisle, no need to see the others — the stalls just repeat themselves. However, if you visit the link above and sign up for the newsletter, you’ll get a “coupon” for a free Queen Vic Market bag, which I printed and redeemed! Oh, and if markets are your thing, there is a crafts market on Sundays (and perhaps other days) along the Southbank area across the river from Flinders Street Station.
— Go for a run along the river and through the gardens
I love green spaces in cities and found myself on several occasions running along the Yarra River and Southbank before heading to the gardens that are between the river and the Botanic Gardens. Very pretty!
— See a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) or Etihad Stadium
I love sports, and I adore Aussie Rules, so I went to see my beloved Lions play North Melbourne at Eithad. It was my third time seeing the Lions play live (the first two were in Brisbane four years ago) and my third time seeing them lose live. The good: it was a short 10-minute walk from my hostel. Insult to injury: I was there alone as no one else wanted to go with me…kind of sad to be in the top section of a massive stadium, in a crowd of only 19,000, all alone.
— Walk down Swanston Street
Hungry? You’ll find plenty of cheap eats here! Need an ATM? The big Aussie banks will surely have a presence. Need access to a train station, mall, church, coffee shop, or just about anything at all? Swanston has it.
— Eat in Chinatown
There are so many options, and I recommend a stop at Camy Shanghai Dumpling. Be sure to include pumpkin cakes in your order.
— Spend a few hours in the Melbourne Museum
Lucky me got in for free and saved $8, thanks to Dan and his friend! It’s definitely a place to spend 2-3 hours on a rainy day. They had a special Titanic exhibit that I was interested in seeing, but not for the special price of $25.
— See Penguins at St. Kilda instead of Phillip Island
Save yourself a $100+ tour and see penguins up close at the rocks at the end of St. Kilda Pier once the sun sets. You won’t see the same numbers that Phillip Island has, but for free, you’ll come much closer (we were within 1-2 feet of some!) and not have a crowd of people around you — at least in winter.
— Take a day trip (or two)
Mine took me to the Dandenong Ranges and Ballarat — closer look at these two places in a few days!
Things I wanted to do and will have to save for next time:
— National Sports Museum
— Old Melbourne Gaol
— Use the City Circle tram or tourist tram! I prefer to walk just about everywhere if I can, but you can use the city’s free transportation to get from point A to B or simply to see the city quickly if your time is limited.
Now that my time in Melbourne has come to a close (I’m in Adelaide at the moment), I’ll be writing about my two day trips and providing a review of Nomads Industry, the hostel where I stayed for the two weeks.
Off I go to watch an episode of Glee before bed…I’d love to go to sleep now but it’s only just after 9pm O:-)
Featured image from andrewbain via Flickr Creative Commons.