in Australia, Travel

Melbourne was the fifth leg of a COVID19-shortened trip to Australia. 2020 was to be the year of extended travel (that didn’t completely happen).

To be honest, four days in Canberra was plenty for us, and we couldn’t wait to leave for Melbourne. A few years ago my son spent a few months there and had glowing things to say about his stay, so our expectations were fairly high. We weren’t disappointed. The week in Melbs, plus the four day roadtrip from Phillip Island through the Great Ocean Road and back through the Grampians, was a thoroughly enjoyable whirlwind.

Our February 25th flight from Canberra to Melbourne was on a smaller prop plane and only about 1:15 in duration. The trip was uneventful and sunny and we were very pleasantly surprised with our accommodations at the Ibis Melbourne Central, located in the middle of the CBD and walkable to all manner of food, drink, Yarra River, and transit to get anywhere else. I’ll have more to say about Ibis in my post about Perth, but we were exceedingly impressed with not only the hotel quality, but the customer service overall when we ran into the wall of COVID-19.

Melbourne is Australia’s second largest city at roughly 4.9 million people. While Sydney felt fully 5.5 million strong, Melbourne felt far smaller than its population would suggest. Sporting riverfront and oceanfront areas, sports and culture, Melbourne is a city in which I could easily see myself living. Its climate is the coolest of all the places we visited, being the furthest south. It doesn’t have the beach and waterfront beauty of Sydney, nor the heat of Perth or Brisbane, but its sidewalk/alley cafe and street art scene was incredible.

Our First Partial Day

If I recall, our flight was reasonably early in the day, so we had time to noodle around on foot. Walking the CBD, we made our way to:

Chinatown, lively laneways and urban spaces

There are wonderful spaces, alleys and laneways full of bistros, bars and businesses all over Melbourne, in the CBD and beyond.

AC/DC Lane

A special little streetart laneway celebrating rock’s native sons, one of hundreds in the city.

Federation Square

The beer pictured was at the Captain Melville pub, a nice little spot amongst very tall buildings to grab a pint, while Federation Square is in the east end of the CBD, on the Yarra River at Princes Bridge. This shows it fairly empty, but all kinds of events are held in this space.

In No Particular Order …

As with writing my other posts so long after actually taking the trip, exactly what order we did things in tends to fade. I have dates in Google Photos, but don’t have all my photos there, so it’s just easier highlighting places we saw, regardless of timeline.

Yarra River (with bonus running scenery)

The Yarra set against downtown

I’m going to start with the river itself, because I’ve divided everything else below based on proximity to it. It’s a healthy distance to beachy oceanfront from Melbourne’s CBD, as the ocean closer to downtown is more focused on port and business activities. As such, when you’re looking for waterfront in the city centre, you’ll likely be hitting the Yarra River. It’s really what Melbourne is built around and has all kinds of drinking, eating, walking and any number of events and activities lining its shores. Whether just walking around, at Skydeck, or going for a run, we ended up seeing the Yarra every day. I’ve tried to not overdo the photos while showing its many faces below.

Between Princes and Queens Bridges, in the heart of the CBD.

Further east, on a Yarra River run. You can even see on the map capture from my Strava activity, the points en route where I took the pics.

North of the Yarra / CBD

I figured it made sense to split things up by their proximity to the Yarra River, and which side is best has apparently been a long-standing debate. The things below are all in closer proximity to where we stayed in the Central Business District.

Flinders Station – We never actually caught a train from Flinders Station, but it’s a major hub and we had to walk under/through it several times to get to the riverfront from the CBD. I didn’t get a good photo at night, but it really looks great lit up.

Fitzroy’s Amazing Street Art was something I’ve never seen anywhere else, at least to the extent we saw it here.

Welcome to Fitzroy

Northeast of the CBD, just past Chinatown is the funkiest of neighbourhoods, Fitzroy. If you like murals everywhere, then it’s a must-see. And I do mean everywhere. Garage doors, fences, pavement, the sides of buildings … the place is amazing. We grabbed a map of the key murals and just started walking. I think we probably spent 3-4 hours walking around, taking pictures and finished off with a cold one.

The Melbourne Museum was a good fit with some of the political, cultural and natural history we took in during our Canberra stay. The venue itself is beautiful, located just northeast of Queen Victoria market, adjacent to the south of Fitzroy.

The National Gallery of Victoria is accessible from Federation Square, so the exterior is in line with the earlier photo. Including a lot of exhibit photos isn’t really useful in this format, so I’ve just included a few of the space to give you its flavour.

Melbourne Cricket Grounds weren’t even on our radar until we were poking around for things to do, but I’m so glad we toured the MCG. It’s an immense place with well over 100,000 seats, and home to rugby, cricket and footy. We were in a small tour group and got some very lively history and factoids from a retired tour guide who was clearly in love with MCG and cricket. I cannot recommend this highly enough. I’ve included a few photos from the stands and interior, that will hopefully give some idea of the sheer size of it.

National Tennis Centre was one of the things I really hoped we could do for Connie, being a huge tennis fan. We arranged to do a tour of the National Tennis Centre (of which Rod Laver Arena is the centrepiece), but found out that due to renovations, Laver was closed to the public. We still figured we’d get to see the outdoor courts where the Aussie Open was played and see some fairly rich history. Sadly, no.

Unlike our tour of the MCG, we had a guide in love with the sound of his own voice, who took us through the bowels of the admin building, dressing rooms and then spent ten minutes to end the tour in Margaret Court Arena. Sure, she’s a champion in her own right, but also long-exposed as a raging bigot. Let’s just say it wasn’t the tour we’d hoped for.

Honestly, there was nothing worth taking a photo of while we were doing the tour, but I’ve included a few pics taken around the outside of the arenas. It’s actually very close to the MCG.

Queen Victoria Market gets a special mention, even though I didn’t take any photos. It’s a huge multi-block market that has all manner of meat, fish, dairy, produce, crafts, clothing, food fair and the like. For Vancouverites, it’s what you’d get if you put all Granville Island retailers, the market and food fair under one massive roof. Impressive in its own way, but the abundance of meat and seafood wasn’t my thing, and isn’t what I typically take photos of.

South of the Yarra

The buildings in this area get smaller, while there’s more arts, culture and green space, with lots of food by the river thrown in for good measure.

Kings Domain and the Royal Botanic Garden was, as with every large Australian city, a centrepiece of the experience.

Looking to the CBD from the Shrine of Remembrance

As I’ve said in other posts, every Australian city has a botanic garden. Melbourne’s version shares a huge greenspace with King’s Domain on the south side of the river, probably a 15-20 minute walk from our hotel. It’s really lovely and what I liked about each city’s version was how different they all were. Encompassed on the grounds were also Government House and the Shrine of Remembrance. We managed to cover most of the space in 2-3 hours, but you could easily spend a full day there if you like to meander.

Skydeck is worth the fee, strictly to get a look at the city from way above.

National Tennis Centre, MCG & AAMI Park

The views. That’s really all there is to say. The Eureka Skydeck stands high above Melbourne with 360 degree views of the area. I was glad I brought the DSLR in addition to my phone camera, because I was able to get some nice zoomed pics of landmarks like the MCG, the National Tennis Centre, Flinders Street Station, and Yarra River to name a few. I’d recommend making sure you’re there at sunset because you can capture some beautiful light (even though the windows do cause some challenges) if that’s your thing.

To the east …

To the west, as the sun set … I played with various angles and exposures.

And, waaaaay south of the Yarra, Saint Kilda, the beach daytrip destination in Melbs. It was really warm the day we decided to take transit to Saint Kilda. This is a good thing because it’s kind of Melbourne’s funky beachy getaway. Not really far enough to be a trip, I suspect a lot of folks come out for the day, hang at the beach and have some lunch. There’s an amusement park with rides, lots of shops and eateries and a vibe that’s mostly earthy. It’s fun but doesn’t feel pretentious.

That’s all she (I) wrote for our Melbourne leg. Hoping I can get through the other three trip posts before too much longer passes.