Stylish and arty, Melbourne is the second most populous city in Australia and also our last stop on our trip down under. This city full of edgy street art, modern architecture, iconic lane-ways and multicultural cuisines all reflect its trendy personality. Here are the highlights of some of the places we visited in and around Melbourne:
1. Federation Square – Melbourne’s first public square is located at the intersection between Flinders Street and Swanton Street in the center of the city. Designed in the deconstructivist style with modern minimalist shapes and angles, this exciting piazza has become the city’s meeting place. It is home to cultural festivals, exhibition performances and thousands of other events, as well as a tourism office and an exceptional array of restaurants, and bars. There always seems to be something exciting going on whenever you visit.
2. Street Art Tour– You’ll be remiss if you visit Melbourne without checking out the street art, prominently featured in the downtown area. There are plenty of tours that take you around the city to visit the various sites. Or you can follow this map, which shows the location of each artwork centrally located in an easy-to-walk distance around downtown Melbourne. One of the hubs of graffiti and a local attraction, is located across from Fed Square in Hosier’s Lane. We hit up a few of these spots and it’s definitely worthwhile to see.
Cost: Free self-guided walking tour
3. Flinder Street Station Flinder Street railway station is located across from Fed Square on the busy corner of Flinder and Swanton Streets. Stretching along the Yarra, this beautiful neo-classical building, completed in 1909 with its prominent copper dome, arched entrance, yelllow façade and row of clocks is one of the city’s more recognizable landmarks. Flinder station is the busiest suburban rail station in the Southern hemisphere serving the entire metropolitan network with over 1500 trains. This cultural icon is a popular rendezvous spot, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a Melburnian who hasn’t uttered the phrase ‘Meet me under the clocks’ at one time or another.
4. Carlton Garden– Based on the advice of our friendly waiter, we headed over to the hip Brunswick street area and visited the Carlton Gardens, a World Heritage Site. This green space near the central district is home to the Royal Exhibition building. The gardens feature flowerbeds, miniature lakes, majestic fountains and dramatic tree-lined avenues. There are many trees from the English oaks to the Moreton Bay figs providing shade over the sweeping lawns. It’s a great place to cool down on a hot afternoon.
5. Victoria Market – This historic landmark, known affectionately as ‘Vic Market’ or ‘Queen Vic’, has been the heart and soul of Melbourne for more than a century. This bustling inner-city market is open most days from early morning to afternoon where you can shop for everything from fruit and vegetables to clothing and souvenirs. On Wednesday nights, Vic Market turns into a Night Market, a place where emerging designers, artists, musicians, and foodies showcase their talent.
6. Phillip Island – A short 90-minute drive from Melbourne is Phillip Island, home to the world-famous penguin parade. After you pay the admission fee and enter the preservation park, head down to the grand-stand and try to find seats near the edge or down by the sand where you’ll get the best view of the adorable creatures. Every night, as the sun sets and the sky darkens, groups of tiny penguins waddle up from the beach to the sand in search for their nest. They are quite shy at the beginning but start to get braver as they dart between rocks, heading up to their home. Standing at only about 6 inches, these penguins (Eudyptula minor) are the world’s smallest, and probably cutest of their kind. At night it can get chilly, so remember to bring a blanket and a hat to wear as you wait for the penguins to make their journey inland.
If you don’t have transportation, there are numerous tour options that will go out to the island for this unique experience. The Penguin Parade attracts more than half-a-million visitors annually. It is worth noting that there is no videography or photography allowed at any time on the premises.
Cost: $24.50 AUD per person
7. Great Ocean Road – One of my favorite parts of the whole trip is this long stretch of road winding around cliff tops and down to the beach that goes all the way from Melbourne to Adelaide. This scenic drive has amazing views of the Southern coast with many lookout points. There are many things to do along the way, from gazing at wildlife to surfing. Check out our road trip here.
Cost: car rental $50/day
Length of Stay: 4 days
Hotel: Sheraton Melbourne – $250/night
Air: Qantas – 37,500 AA points and $100 pp for 1 way economy from MEL to JFK