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.

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