Monday, August 27, 2012


Melbourne, the capital of the state of Victoria, the 'cultural capital of Australia' and second largest city in the country with a population over 4 million, is definitely worth a trip to see and experience.  As a destination, it's very easily accessible, with plenty of international and domestic flight options.  The city has an integrated public transport system with buses, trains, trams and taxis.  Let me tell you though, if you're not used to being around trams, you really need to pay attention, both as a pedestrian and as a driver.  The CBD is laid out in a grid pattern, so navigating your way around is pretty easy, although not without its quirks.  If you get verbal directions from someone, make sure you really pay attention, as many of the main roads have a second 'little' road...for example, there's Collins St, then Little Collins St; or Bourke St, then Little Bourke St; it sounds confusing, but when you look at a map of Melbourne, it's laid out very logically.
Map of Greater Melbourne
One of my favourite things about Melbourne was the mix of historic and contemporary architecture.  I spent hours wandering aimlessly around downtown, watching the people and admiring the buildings (and dodging the trams).  An iconic piece of history, Flinders Street Station is a great place to meet up with mates, or use as a landmark if you get lost, as you simply can't miss it.  On the corner of Flinders and Swanson Streets, next to the Yarra River, it covers 2 city blocks.
Flinders Street Station
Without really paying attention to where I was going, I walked from Flinders Street Station to China Town.  Incidentally, it's the oldest China Town in Australia, established during the Victorian gold rush in 1851.  After getting the requisite souvenirs, I continued along Russell Street in search of the Old Melbourne Gaol.  Initially, my purpose was to see where the famous (or should I say infamous?) Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, was jailed and hanged.  Honestly, I was a bit surprised to find the building and the exhibits were really interesting.  It's a good thing that I wasn't on a tight schedule for a change....

Feeling a bit peckish and parched, I decided to find a cafe.  That was not a problem, as there were restaurants and street cafes aplenty....the issue was trying to narrow down the options.  Melbourne is such a multi-cultural city, there seemed to be an endless choice of cuisines.  I finally decided on an Italian place on Lygon Street and sat down to rest my weary feet.

Hopping on a tram, my next stop was the Shrine of Remembrance.  Located in Kings Domain, an area of parkland that also includes the Royal Botanic Gardens, the Shrine is an elaborate memorial to all Australians who have served in war.  I thought it was beautifully laid out and definitely recommend climbing the stairs to the lookout on the Shrine and visiting the vaults to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Shrine of Remembrance

If you have the time, consider a visit to Phillip Island to watch the Fairy Penguin parade. Check out the great write up my colleague, John, did on his blog about Phillip Island.

Another great excursion if you have room for it on your schedule is the Great Ocean Road.  It's a full day trip from Melbourne, but the scenery is definitely worth it and you'll get plenty of great photo opportunities, including the iconic Twelve Apostles rising majestically from the ocean.  Pass by quaint beach townships, limestone cliffs, rainforests and discover the rugged Shipwreck Coast.  You can book your trips to Phillip Island or the Great Ocean Road on our Melbourne tours sightseeing and activities page.
Twelve Apostles
On this trip I was lucky enough to stay with some mates, but you can find hotels and accommodation in Melbourne on our website.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Adelaide, a city often overlooked by the international traveller, has a wealth of attractions to make it appealing to a wide variety of people.  As the capital city of South Australia, it's the perfect size - large enough to lots of culture, infrastructure and service, while being small enough to have character, the chance to bump into some locals and not be totally overwhelming the way a massive city can.

One of the nice things about the downtown area is that the major streets are laid out methodically in a grid pattern, so you shouldn't have too many problems finding your way around, and then it's surrounded by parkland.  It's a good city to get around on foot, or you can hop on a tram or bus.
Aerial view of Adelaide

Due to its location on the eastern side of the Gulf St Vincent, Adelaide has many easily accessible beaches that are only 20 minutes or so from the city centre.  You can even take the tram right from the heart of the city to the nearby suburb of Glenelg and wander on the beach near Jimmy Melrose Park.

If art and culture are more to your liking, you'll be glad to know that Adelaide has plenty of both to offer.  Held every March since 1960 is the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, internationally renowned and considered to be one of the world's greatest art celebrations.  It showcases theatre, opera, cabaret, dance, contemporary and classical music and new media.  If you're going to visit during this time frame, make sure you book your Adelaide Hotels well in advance.

I'm not much of a wine drinker, but I always love the countryside where you find the vineyards and South Australia is no exception.  In this instance, the hard part is deciding which direction to go.  The most well known region would probably be the Barossa Valley about 60 km (40 mi) north of the city, the Wine Coast (or McLaren/Southern Vales) south of the city, or the Murraylands in the southeast.  There's also the Clare Valley, even further north than the Barossa Valley, but you could always find a hotel out of the city and combine the two regions.

Another 'must see' destination when you make it to Adelaide is Kangaroo Island, Australia's 3rd largest island.  It's only about 13 km (8 mi) from the tip of Cape Jervis, or about 112 km (70 mi) southwest of Adelaide.  You can either do a day trip from the city, or if you want to really explore and enjoy, you can book accommodation on Kangaroo Island itself.  At least a quarter of the island is protected and conserved, so it's a great place for wildlife.  Obviously the first one that comes to mind is the kangaroo, but you can also find goannas, bandicoots, wallabies, possums, echidnas, koalas and platypus.  It's also listed as an Important Bird Area due to some of the bird-life that is supported.
Feeding the wallabies on Kangaroo Island
What could be more Australian than feeding some furry critters on Kangaroo Island???  For a great list of bookable things to see and do, please check out the Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Barossa Valley Tours Sightseeing and Activities page on our website.

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