Posts Tagged ‘Melbourne’

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More Australian Adventures: Merrymaking in Melbourne

May 12, 2010

Melbourne trainsOn the surface, Melbourne and Sydney are a lot alike. They’re both coastal cities with the two largest populations in Australia. Both have Chinatowns and huge markets and good nightlife and nearby beach getaways that are popular with locals and tourists.

But Melbourne and Sydney do have their differences. Melbourne is smaller, more quaint, and has a sort of cozy, cultured feel about it. There are crazy works of public art all over, and even the streetlights and utility boxes are painted with bright murals and patterns to liven things up. Sydney isn’t exactly a huge metropolis, but it’s a hefty walk from one end to the other, whereas Mellie is more manageable, hence the NY/Boston comparison. And just like their American cousins, most people love one and hate the other. (Personally, I find New York much too big and overwhelming, but I love Sydney.)

Out of Time?
If you’re planning to drive Great Ocean Road or visit Grampians National Park, Melbourne is worth a stop. I only had three days there, but could have easily filled a week with all the things I didn’t get to do.

Stuff to Do
Spend your way through the Queen Victoria Market. It’s a huge outdoor flea market, produce market, and souvenir extravaganza all in one; Much like Paddy’s Market in Sydney, but bigger and with some better deals. Besides the usual t-shirts, stuffed kangaroos and koalas, and postcards, you’ll also find custom car seat covers, shoes, kitchen supplies, beauty products, slicers and dicers, watches, jewellery, sports jerseys for your favorite footy and AFL teams, and live chickens and ducks in the produce area. The booths tend to repeat themselves, so don’t rush into buying something the first time you see it.

Stroll the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens. This is a beautiful place to go on a sunny day for a picnic, some aimless meandering, and relaxation. Don’t try to powerwalk here, it just won’t work. Be sure to see the Fairy Tree and the Model Tudor Village, both located right next to the Pavillion Café. The fountains are also worth a look, and make good picture spots, and there’s a small trail that goes down the middle of the park that almost makes you feel at one with nature. If you want something historic, go by Cook’s Cottage. It once belonged to Captain James Cook’s parents and was brought over from England in pieces and reassembled. Cost is reduced with a student ID.

Melbourne aquariumHit the Melbourne Aquarium. There’s a coral reef, rock pools, a fish bowl, and a spot where you can watch the fish swim right over you. Also included with your ticket is a motion simulator ride. Don’t eat before you hop on. Admission is reduced with an ISIC or student ID. For a lot extra, you can arrange to go diving in the shark tank. Call ahead for that.

Get culture at the Melbourne Museum. Lots of European and Australian art and innovative type things are featured here. There’s also an IMAX theater next door if you want something less taxing. Check their website to see what exhibits will be on display during your visit.

Shop Bourke Street. Every kind of store you could possibly want, including a Target for your budget clothing and toiletry needs can be found here. This is also the place to find fast food, movie theaters, and street performers. On a good day you might get some activists too.

Ride the Free Tram. It’s high on my list of things to do on a budget that won’t tire out your feet. It runs along with the other trams, but it’s painted gold and burgundy and says “City Circle” on it. Hop on and enjoy a loop around town as the computer voice announces what attractions are located at each stop. It’s an easy and relaxing way to learn your way around.

Ramble along the Yarra River. Oh la la, it’s just like the Seine, except for being totally different. There are cafés and fountains and shops and things, though, so if you say a few “merci”s you might get into a European mood.

Munch at the Hard Rock Café. Not that you would want to go there, of course, being a real traveler and not a tourist, but if you have to bring a t-shirt home for someone, you may as well stop and have some of their excellent spinach dip. Drop in for Happy Hour and live music to meet locals and other backpackers.

Explore Melbourne’s backpacker bars. You should throw in a few local places as well, but if you’re looking to stretch your dollars out, backpacker bars offer some of the best deals for food and drink, and you never know who you’re going to meet. Try the Industry Bar and Lounge downstairs from the Nomad’s hostel on Beckett Street for live music, trivia contest, and dscount drinks. The Pint and Punt offers cheap backpacker meals and is located near the race course and the Grand Prix if you’re planning to take in some sport.

If you make it to St. Kilda, head to base Backpackers and The Red Eye Bar for karaoke, comedy, and ladies night specials.

Eat in Chinatown or the Greek Precinct. Melbourne has the largest Greek population in the southern hemisphere, and there are plenty of tasty restaurants to prove it. Walk along Lonsdale Street, between Swanston and Spring and see what smells good. Chinatown is just one block over, on Little Bourke Street.

Take a day tour of Phillip Island. There are penguins and other wildlife and swimming, and depending on which tour company you pick, you can get a barbeque and wine tasting thrown in. Ask at your hostel for recommendations.

Tour Great Ocean Road and Bell’s Beach. It’s along Great Ocean Road that you’ll see the Twelve Apostles. Never heard of them? They’re huge rocks poking out of the seashore that are pretty impressive, if you like nature stuff. You’ll see other breathtaking scenery along the way to Bell’s Beach, a surfing hotspot and filming location for Point Break. Whoa!

Melbourne’s Luna ParkTram it to St. Kilda. This is the seaside area where they used to film the popular Aussie show The Secret Life of Us, so you shouldn’t really need any other reason to go. If TV connections aren’t enough for you though, there are the rides and amusements of Luna Park, plenty of bars and cafes, sandy beaches, and it’s all just a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne. Plan to get a hostel room there and stay the night.

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Where Should I Live in Australia?

March 5, 2010

Map by Lonely Planet

If my last blog post about working holidays in Australia made you at least consider doing it, and I really hope it did, then the next step is to start making plans about what to do after you get there.

The first question you should ask yourself: Where am I going to live?

As far as picking a town to settle down in, do you want the urban excitement of Sydney? The casual cool of Melbourne? Someplace close to adventure, like Cairns? Or maybe you want to pick a dusty little outback town and see how the ranchers and miners used to – and sometimes still do – live.

This is where guidebooks and other travelers can come in handy. I chose Sydney when I did my working holiday, mostly because I had friends there, but also because it’s a beautiful place near both beaches and mountains and with lots of nightlife and activities.

Other things to consider:

  1. What kind of work are you looking for? If you have the skills and experience for an office job, then the big cities will have more opportunities and pay higher wages. If you’d rather pick fruit up and down the east coast, then you might look into smaller, rural towns.
  2. What kind of adventures do you want to have? If you’re into scuba diving or boating, head north, around the Great Barrier Reef. If you want to hike and rock climb, take a look at cities around the Grampians.

There really aren’t any bad parts of Australia to live in, and you might want to try more than one area out. Be flexible with your expectations, and your itinerary, and you’re sure to have an amazing experience.

So where are you headed?
Lisa

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Where to Go from Melbourne?

December 14, 2007

Once you’ve seen all that “Mel-bin” (never say “Mel-bourne”) and St. Kilda have to offer, where will you go next? Adelaide is a nice drive to the west, Canberra a decent road trip to the east, and there are at least a dozen tour companies willing to take you either direction. Here are some of your better choices:

Twelve Apostles Great Ocean RoadOz Experience: Don’t just get from point A to point B; stop and see the dozens of sights in between. The Oz Bus has several passes and routes to choose from at very reasonable prices, and they can take you around New Zealand too.

Wayward Bus: Same idea as the Oz bus, but with different paths and stopovers. You may want to compare routes and prices to see which one is going to be right for you.

Countrylink: If you’re short on time, and want to be able to eat at a snack bar, the train may be a better travel option. Countrylink operates in New South Wales, with extentions into Melbourne and Brisbane. Single tickets can get pricey, but they’re 40% off if you have an International Student Identity Card (ISIC); perfect if you need a one-way to Canberra, or just want to do a weekend in Byron Bay.

For longer trips, look into their Backtracker Rail Passes. You can get a three-month pass, good for unlimited travel anywhere on the network, for AUD$298. Six-month, one-month, and 14-day passes are also available. Another option is the East Coast Discovery Pass, which covers travel in NSW and connecting service along the coast of Queensland, as far north as Cairns. Prices range from AUD$130 to $493.90, depending on how far you plan to travel. It’s good for unlimited stopovers, but only going in one direction.

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Australian Adventures Around Melbourne

December 12, 2007

Melbourne trainsOn the surface, Melbourne and Sydney are a lot alike. They’re both coastal cities with the two largest populations in Australia. Both have Chinatowns and huge markets and good nightlife and nearby beach getaways that are popular with locals and tourists.

But Melbourne and Sydney do have their differences. Melbourne is smaller, more quaint, and has a sort of cozy, cultured feel about it. There are crazy works of public art all over, and even the streetlights and utility boxes are painted with bright murals and patterns to liven things up. Sydney isn’t exactly a huge metropolis, but it’s a hefty walk from one end to the other, whereas Mellie is more manageable, hence the NY/Boston comparison. And just like their American cousins, most people love one and hate the other. (Personally, I find New York much too big and overwhelming, but I love Sydney.)

Out of Time?
If you’re planning to drive Great Ocean Road or visit Grampians National Park, Melbourne is worth a stop. I only had three days there, but could have easily filled a week with all the things I didn’t get to do.

Stuff to Do
Spend your way through the Queen Victoria Market. It’s a huge outdoor flea market, produce market, and souvenir extravaganza all in one; Much like Paddy’s Market in Sydney, but bigger and with some better deals. Besides the usual t-shirts, stuffed kangaroos and koalas, and postcards, you’ll also find custom car seat covers, shoes, kitchen supplies, beauty products, slicers and dicers, watches, jewellery, sports jerseys for your favorite footy and AFL teams, and live chickens and ducks in the produce area. The booths tend to repeat themselves, so don’t rush into buying something the first time you see it.

Stroll the Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens. This is a beautiful place to go on a sunny day for a picnic, some aimless meandering, and relaxation. Don’t try to powerwalk here, it just won’t work. Be sure to see the Fairy Tree and the Model Tudor Village, both located right next to the Pavillion Café. The fountains are also worth a look, and make good picture spots, and there’s a small trail that goes down the middle of the park that almost makes you feel at one with nature. If you want something historic, go by Cook’s Cottage. It once belonged to Captain James Cook’s parents and was brought over from England in pieces and reassembled. Cost is reduced with a student ID.

Melbourne aquariumHit the Melbourne Aquarium. It’s no Monterey Bay Aquarium, but it’s not half bad. There’s a coral reef, rock pools, a fish bowl, and a spot where you can watch the fish swim right over you. Also included with your ticket is a motion simulator ride. Don’t eat before you hop on. Admission is reduced with an ISIC or student ID. For a lot extra, you can arrange to go diving in the shark tank. Call ahead for that.

Get culture at the Melbourne Museum. Lots of European and Australian art and innovative type things are featured here. There’s also an IMAX theater next door if you want something less taxing. Check their website to see what exhibits will be on display during your visit.

Shop Bourke Street. Every kind of store you could possibly want, including a Target for your budget clothing and toiletry needs can be found here. This is also the place to find fast food, movie theaters, and street performers. On a good day you might get some activists too.

Ride the Free Tram. High on the list of things to do that won’t tire out your feet is the free tram. It runs along with the other trams, but it’s painted gold and burgundy and says “City Circle” on it. Hop on and enjoy a loop around town as the computer voice announces what attractions are located at each stop. It’s an easy and relaxing way to learn your way around.

Ramble along the Yarra River. Oh la la, it’s just like the Seine, except for being totally different. There are cafés and fountains and shops and things, though, so if you say a few “merci”s you might get into a European mood.

Munch at the Hard Rock Café. Not that you would want to go there, of course, being a real traveler and not a tourist, but if you have to bring a t-shirt home for someone, you may as well stop and have some of their excellent spinach dip. Drop in for Happy Hour and live music to meet locals and other backpackers.

Explore Melbourne’s backpacker bars. You should throw in a few local places as well, but if you’re looking to stretch your dollars out, backpacker bars offer some of the best deals for food and drink, and you never know who you’re going to meet. Try the Industry Bar and Lounge downstairs from the Nomad’s hostel on A’Beckett Street for live music, trivia contest, and dscount drinks. The Pint and Punt offers cheap backpacker meals and is located near the race course and the Grand Prix if you’re planning to take in some sport.

If you make it to St. Kilda, head to base Backpackers and The Red Eye Bar for karaoke, comedy, and ladies night specials.

Eat in Chinatown or the Greek Precinct. Melbourne has the largest Greek population in the southern hemisphere, and there are plenty of tasty restaurants to prove it. Walk along Lonsdale Street, between Swanston and Spring and see what smells good. Chinatown is just one block over, on Little Bourke Street.

Take a day tour of Phillip Island. There are penguins and other wildlife and swimming, and depending on which tour company you pick, you can get a barbeque and wine tasting thrown in. Ask at your hostel for recommendations.

Tour Great Ocean Road and Bell’s Beach. It’s along Great Ocean Road that you’ll see the Twelve Apostles. Never heard of them? They’re huge rocks poking out of the seashore that are pretty impressive, if you like nature stuff. You’ll see other breathtaking scenery along the way to Bell’s Beach, a surfing hotspot and filming location for Point Break. Whoa!

Melbourne’s Luna ParkTram it to St. Kilda. This is the seaside area where they used to film The Secret Life of Us, so you shouldn’t really need any other reason to go. If TV connections aren’t enough for you though, there are the rides and amusements of Luna Park, plenty of bars and cafes, sandy beaches, and it’s all just a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne. Plan to get a hostel room there and stay the night.