WE HAVE BEEN TO MELBOURNE A NUMBER OF TIMES. THIS IS FROM OUR LAST TRIP.
Melbourne is a steaming melting pot of cultures from around the world. The weather is unpredictable and can be downright horrid at times, but it’s still easy to see why we love Melbourne. After all, we rate Melbourne our second favorite city after our home town of Brisbane. Melbourne is Australia’s second biggest city and the capital of its second most populous state, Victoria. Melbourne is a self-proclaimed capital of fashion, culture, sport and food. It hosts the Melbourne Cup horse race, the Formula One Grand Prix, the Australian Open Tennis Championship and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Melbourne bends over backwards to impress its visitors. A trip to Melbourne is not so much about seeing, as it is about tasting, trying, looking and listening.
We have been to Melbourne a few times and this time around we stayed at The Vibe, Carlton. The Vibe was a colourful, contemporary hotel which was a 3-minute walk from the Levers Street tram stop, 11 minutes’ walk from the Melbourne Zoo and 3 km from the food stalls of Queen Victoria Market. The hotel had an airy restaurant/bar and an outdoor pool.
The next day we woke late and chilled by the pool in the morning. Lunch time we headed to Melbourne Zoo to enjoy restaurant quality meal in unique wildlife inspired venue for Christmas Day Lunch. The special was a 3 hour premium beverage and 3 course lunch and a visit from Santa. We then toured the manicured gardens and worldwide habitats that are home to a wide variety of animals. Late back to hotel we ate light and explored the brochures on what to do next.
The next day was only going to be one thing, Boxing Day Shopping. It’s no secret that when we hit a new city, country or small town for that matter, Kim likes to check out the shops. It’s in her genetic makeup, I’m sure.
There’s something way more relaxing about the browsing that takes place away from home. You’re not really shopping with a specific occasion or wardrobe addition in mind. You’re shopping for the fun of it.
We headed to Little Collins Street to check out shoes, then the boutiques on Flinders Lane, onto the arcades and little side alleyways, to the Bourke Street Mall which was the best place to shop as stores are aligned on each row of the street in the heart of Melbourne’s City, perfect for lunch at a Café in Causeway Inn On The Mall and the afternoon at Collins Street … the Paris end, of course.
It was getting late and we were getting hungry so we headed to one of our favourite restaurants, the +39 Pizzeria. We have been here quite a few times. Every time the standards remained very high, and never fail to disappoint us. It didn’t matter which night, they were always busy. The staff there was all so friendly. I even picked up how to speak a little Italian there, and ordered my pizzas in Italian. The guy who served us had a great sense of humour, he pretended that he didn’t understand English, and made me order our food in Italian. That was quite funny. Kim loved the prosciutto. It was served with fresh Mozzarella, tomatoes and basil, it was delicious! She just can’t get enough of it. Belly’s full, we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning we headed on the tram and into the CBD again. Our first stop before it got too crowded was the Eureka Skydeck. While Sydney has its famous attractions like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Melbourne is content with its atmosphere and cafe culture. But if there’s one attraction you’ll see in every guidebook, it’s Eureka Skydeck. This residential building is the 14th tallest in the world, at 975 feet (297.3 meters) and happens to have the best view of Melbourne. The Skydeck, located on the building’s 88th floor, has views of the surrounding area with telescopes telling you what you’re looking at. The Edge experience is an extra fee, but it allows you to go onto a glass platform that is clear on the bottom and just out above the city. Those with a fear of heights should maybe skip this one, but it makes you feel like you’re sitting, or standing, on a cloud above Melbourne. Eureka Skydeck makes for a great rainy day activity or a nice escape from the fast pace of Federation Square.
We then rode the tram to Victoria Parade, where we get off at the Queen Victoria Market. We spend a couple of hours at the market and grabbed some coffee and a snack at one of the many eateries within the market. After a couple of hours at the market, we took the circle Tram via Docklands Drive and Harbour Esplanade back to Flinders Street Station. We crossed the road to Federation Square and headed straight to the Melbourne Visitor’s Centre (clearly signed) and book a couple of day trips. We then took a leisurely stroll back down Southbank along the Yarra River, and headed back to the hotel.
The next day was a Puffing Billy steam train ride, lunch at a Yarra Valley Winery and an afternoon at a wildlife park. We took in the delights of riding iconic Puffing Billy steam train through the forest, a delicious spit roast lunch at Fergusson Winery and finally, spending time at Healesville Sanctuary, home to over 200 species of native animal.
Puffing Billy with Healesville Sanctuary was a wonderful full day tour to experience the lush rainforest of the Blue Dandenong Ranges as we rode on the original steam locomotive they affectionately call, Puffing Billy. Culinary joys today included our special Aussie style Bush Billy Tea for morning tea, a delicious spit roast lunch at a winery and sweet samples for dessert from Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery. Then we walked off the day’s treats at Healesville Sanctuary where we were taken on a guided tour of Australia’s native animals. A long and rewarding day.
Today was going to be a little quiet day. We began the day in the bustling centre. We took another visit to the bustle of Queen Victoria Market. We then checked out Southbank’s huge casino complex and string of riverside restaurants, bistros and bars. Moving on we visited the unique galleries and museums in the cultural hub of Federation Square. We hit the shops again in the historic Melbourne General Post Office, QV laneways and other alleys and wrought-iron arcades. Then back to the Hotel for an afternoon relax and swim.
The next day was a trip to Sovereign Hill. Sovereign Hill in Ballarat is one of the best outdoor museums you can experience. With a colourful history relating to the discovery of gold in the region back in the 1850’s, you too can capture the excitement. We traveled the stage coach route of the 1850’s along Western Highway to Ballarat, steeped in history with the discovery of gold. We toured through the gracious town with its exquisite gardens, noble statues and magnificent architecture. Then we passed by the Eureka Stockade, site of the 1854 miner’s rebellion. Spend the rest of your day at Sovereign Hill where Ballarat’s first 10 years after the discovery of gld in 1851 is re-created.
We tried our luck at gold panning in Red Gully Creek and headed underground on the Red Hill mine tour, then visited the Gold Museum.
We had a late start to the day, followed by some chillin by the pool. Tonight was New Year’s Eve at the Valley. We got to ring in the New Year at Moonee Valley with fun, entertainment and horses. There was amusement rides for the kids, a live band and premium night racing. Plus, we got to see the 9.15pm and the midnight Melbourne City fireworks from a great vantage point at the Valley. We celebrated New Year’s Eve with a 4 Course Dinner and a fun night of celebrations and live entertainment in the exclusive Committee Room. Hands down, one to the best night we have ever had. We are looking into doing it again in the future.
Nice sleep in the next day, followed by some pool time then back on the plane back home to Brissy.