second largest city, Melbourne is perhaps
the most refined and 'European' city in the country, an affluent
and exciting city demanding cutting
edge performances in the arts, live music and dance.
There's a racial hot pot of superb restaurants and food halls.
Victorian and some modern buildings are lovely,
especially in the summer, and the immense amount of landscaped
parks are a haven all year round for urban refugees.
Melbourne has some wonderful beaches, wildlife,
hilly walks and winter skiing not too far away and is in
pole position for the spectacular Great Ocean
Road driving experience.
Winter is often decidedly chilly, grey and
wet, and Melbourne doesn't have any special style icons,
unlike their great rival, Sydney.
Spring and Autumn.
Worst: June-August. Nights can get wet,
windy and chilly, but are good for skiing. November-January temperatures
can hit 40C (over 100F).
- Take the free City Circle tram for a city tour but don't bother with the dull boat rides. The line is free and rumbles past some of Melbourne's best attractions, including the Docklands, Federation Square, Parliament House, the Princess Theatre and Queen Victoria Market. The hop on-hop off tram also broadcasts an informative description of stops on the way.
- Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in Australia, with hundreds of traders bawling about their wares. On Sundays the food and flower stalls are replaced with clothing and knick-knacks. In summertime the market is open on Wednesday evenings from 5.30pm to 10pm, with food stalls, music and dance performances.
- The Royal Botanic Gardens on the Yarra River are outstanding and while the city also has many other calm, green oases such as luscious, free and bird-packed Albert Park Lake, a couple of miles out of the centre.
- Melbourne Zoo was the first in Australia,
it's enjoyable, instructive and features the Platypus.
- Melbourne's little wandering lanes and alleyways (such as Hardware Lane, Bennetts Lane and Block Arcade) are packed with window-shopping interest, strange boutiques, quirky cafés, lively eateries and seductive bars.
- Night tours of old Melbourne Gaol (Ned
Kelly's place of execution) are a giggle.
-The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCC) offers lively and unusual works from both local and international artists. It's free and a 10-minute walk from Flinders Street Station; open Tuesday to Sunday.
- St Kilda, with its beach front walks,
market, gardens, funky cafés and bars and red light district.
The city has an excellent integrated public
transport system of trams, trains and buses, with the especially free and fun City Circle Tram (more info above).
Biking is popular and easy except for the tram tracks.
Driving a rental car is NOT easy here,
with complicated rules governing tram/car interaction.
- Mornington Peninsula National Park, snorkel or just swim with dolphins.
Near the city.
- For walks around weird rock formations head for Organ
Pipes National Park (20kms NW) and/or Hanging
Rock NP, just past Organ Pipes.
- Stagger around and sample top class plonk at Yarra
Valley wineries. 60kms (37mls).
- The hilarious and totally natural Penguin
Parade at dusk on Phillip Island is wildly popular, and there
are wildlife walks, seals, koalas and good surfing. 120km (75mls)
- Wilsons Prom National
Park is a world ranking national park, busy but unspoiled
and alive with native fauna and flora. 170kms (106mls) SE, past
- Surfing. The Surf
Coast, from Torquay to Lorne, best season March-August. Pro-surfers love (inconsistent) Bell's Beach
but there're more than enough amateur action spots too.
- Great Otway National Park (200kms/125mls), a temperate rainforest with wildlife, camping,
beaches, swimming, surfing, fishing.
- Great Ocean Road. Travel along one
of Australia's most famous coast roads, visiting the limestone chimneys
known as the Twelve Apostles, whale
watching at Warrnambool (June-September), then circling back via
the gorgeous Grampians NP - good for
hikes, bikes, adrenaline activities and wildlife viewing - and old
gold Ballarat town (1.5hrs from Melbourne).
The GOR circuit needs about 5 days, but don't expect too much, it's not really spectacular by global standards.
Late Jan-mid Feb, Midsumma, a wild
3 week gay fiesta.
Feb, 1st weekend, Melbourne Blues Festival,
Early March, a weekend, Melbourne Moomba Waterfest,
an extravagant family festival.
March, from 4th Thurs for a month, Melbourne
June, 2nd Sat/Sun, Melbourne Good Food &
Oct for 2 weeks, Melbourne Festival. A
city-wide arts and culture event.
November, 1st Tues, the Melbourne Cup
- the biggest horse race in the southern hemisphere.
Museums: The outstanding Melbourne
Museum is a wacky new millennium showpiece and covers Australia
in depth, while in contrast the Immigration
Museum is based in the restored Old Customs House; it's very
The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCC) offers lively and unusual works from both local and international artists. It's free and a 10-minute walk from Flinders Street Station; open Tuesday to Sunday.
Classical Music/Opera: see the
world renowned Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Melbourne Concert
Dance: at the University; the Melbourne
Ballet; the performing Arts Museum.
Live Music & Clubs: There is a
lot happening with live music, comedy and theatre all over the city.
Check The Age on Fridays or Beat Magazine.
Warehouse, The Lounge, Metro and Revolver for clubs.
Classy: there's an excellent international
selection widely available.
Wacky: Queen Victoria Market is Melbourne's
#1, massive but also quaint and tourist friendly, but St Andrews market is eclectic
and unusual and St Kilda and Camberwell markets also fun.
Like Sydney the mix of cultures in Melbourne make for a diverse
selection of foods, though many Australians believe that
Melbourne offers the country's best eating
out, and at the right price too.
Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, and Chinese dominate, but there's a
good cross-section of most world cuisines available
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From Melbourne to Sydney on a direct route is 963 kms (600 miles), taking about 9 hours. Alternatively choose the beautiful coast road, with endless views of beaches, lakes, national parks, wildlife and some cute little resort towns en route. This is 1160kms (719 miles) long and takes about 14 hours.
On the way some of the best sights are Croajingolong National Park; the southernmost point of Australia at Wilson's Promontory - with attendant wildlife and panoramic scenery; the Phillip Island Penguin Parade at dusk when thousands of the little chaps head for their burrows. It's a hoot.
Driving to Adelaide is 728 kms (452 miles), taking about 9 hours.
Driving to Canberra is 647 kms (402 miles), taking about 7 hours.
Driving to Perth is 3430 kms (2,130 miles), taking about 39 hours.
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