The City You’ll Never Want to Leave
Sports, markets, and jaw-dropping ocean coasts make up only part of all that is Melbourne
Two months into my Australian study abroad where I was based out of Sydney’s suburb, Manly, I booked another weekend getaway that left me dying to go back. “Well isn’t Australia amazing no matter where you are?” you might be asking and the answer is, yeah it’s pretty great everywhere. However after spending my weekend in Melbourne, I desperately want to return.
Located in the southernmost continental state, Victoria, Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city and not counting Tasmania’s Hobart, the southernmost primary city. For me, I went to Melbourne not having a clue what was there or what I should see or expect. Other students had mentioned the Great Ocean Road and a “lock and key” bridge, but aside from that I knew nothing and was going to see a friend who was an exchange student in my house in high school.
An overnight 11 hour train ride or a speedy 1.5 hour air flight is all that separates Sydney from Melbourne. I had been told it was more “English” than Sydney but I’m not sure what people meant by this. Approaching Melbourne by train at sunrise is a delight; not the industrial looking rail yards, but the very modern and contemporary towers, Etiad Stadium, and the giant 40 story tall Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel that is passed. Getting around in Melbourne itself was a piece of cake compared to Sydney. There are trams, or what I knew as streetcars all through the city and they were one of the first things I saw stepping outside the train station. There is a City Circle tram which is a free tour of the CBD (Central Business District) stopping every couple of blocks where a recorded message informs you of the history and key things at each stop to see. If you choose to use the trams to get outside the CBD you will need to purchase a Myki card as there are no tickets sold when boarding, everything is pre-paid. Melbourne is also quite easy to walk as it’s very square in its layout with every three blocks taking about five minutes. When walking, be sure to take the time to wander down the surplus of laneways. Melbourne boasts these as its hidden gems and much of the vibrant café community are found in them.
For a little longer walk, take a foot bridge across the Yarra River and head to the Southeast part of town where the Royal Botanic Gardens, Shrine of Remembrance, Old Melbourne Observatory, Government House, and Melbourne Park, home of all things sport are. In the 5.5 hectare (just over 592 thousand square feet or 13.6 acres) Melbourne Park you’ll discover the famous Tennis Centre with Rod Laver Arena where the Australian Open Championship is played each January, National Tennis Centre, the massive Melbourne Cricket Grounds, Hisense Arena, and Olympic Park from the 1956 summer games.
On the Northwest side of the CBD are the famous Queen Victoria Markets. Open five days a week and one evening, QVM boasts the largest open-air markets in the Southern Hemisphere and is the final lingering working market in Melbourne of the traditional genre. Having some 500 stalls to meander through, no matter what you’re searching for, food, bargains, culture, organics or just a day out, QVM has it all. You can also book a tour of the markets; Foodies’ Dream or Market Insider Shopping are available for single bookings, or the Heritage & Culture tour for groups only.
One of Australia’s most famous coastal scenes is in Victoria and can you imagine, is titled “The Great Ocean Road”. Well if that’s the title, why on earth would you miss it? Book a tour, drive it yourself, or there is the “great ocean walk” you can do and backpack and camp along it as well. The coastal drive runs about 300 kilometres (186 miles), is between Melbourne and Adelaide, and was built as a World War 1 memorial by returned military men. The start is approximately a 1 hour drive Southeast of Melbourne at Torquay, home of Bells Beach, the Australian Surf Capitol and finishes in Port Fairy which marks about one-third of the drive between Melbourne and Adelaide if you’re keen.
This stunning road trip is worthy of at least a week, but if you only have a day much can still be accomplished. Lorne is a popular stopping point with a pier that is enjoyed as both a fishing spot and a casual day taking in the ocean scented breeze and forested coast. Here you can gaze at the expanse of the ocean and relish the coastline behind you as it shoots out 196 metres (643 feet) into the sparkling turquoise and emerald sea. Also easily accessed is Blanket Beach where you gawk at the flat rocks that compose the beach rather than sand and Apollo Bay which has golden sandy beaches and a sundry of fish and chip eateries.
There are also many forests filled with ferns and breathtaking waterfalls like Hopetoun Falls in the Otways, as well as picturesque lighthouses to be hiked to such as Cape Otway Lighthouse. The coast line is also well known for all the maritime shipwrecks that occurred. A beach named “Wreck Beach” along the way is where one can witness the dangerous history of sailing through the several anchors left behind from the deadly collisions of boat and eroded shoreline.
Out of the plethora of sites to see, The Twelve Apostles is one of much fame. Located in Port Campbell National Park, this location is not to be missed and worth your one day only opportunity. Picture a coastline of limestone cliff, now take hundreds of years of ocean waves beating against it, add in the incredible and vibrant sea creatures in the waters below and you are left with what is today called The Twelve Apostles. The stunning site that it is changes throughout the day with the sunlight. Finish the day relishing in the mist that pours off the sea as it crashes against the rock formations and stand in awe at sunset.