So it turns out I have family in Melbourne. Full Disclosure: I had no interest in visiting the city. I don’t know why. I’ve been looking at all the so called attractions online and all those places just didn’t interest me. But having a free place to stay for a couple of nights does seem enticing— especially since everything is really expensive in Australia. I’ve also never been to Victoria. It would be nice to tick the territory off my list. And who knows, I might like it once I’m there. So I opened my trusty SkyScanner app and searched for flights.
I was in Queensland and I was looking for flights at the last minute, so as expected one way flights to Melbourne were quite expensive. I was starting to get discouraged, then I noticed that all flights made a layover in Sydney. What if I flew to Brisbane first then fly to one of the nearby airports in Melbourne from there. Maybe flights would be cheaper? I was right. Prices for flights were more reasonable. So that’s one pro tip right there. Skyscanner is a great tool for searching for cheap flights but it won’t show you all options available. It’s still best to look for flights yourself if you really wanna score cheap flight tickets.
There are 2 airports close to Melbourne— Tullamarine and Avalon. Tullamarine is closer to the city, thus flights are usually more expensive compared to Avalon. You don’t have to worry about reaching the city center from Avalon though— there are express shuttles (Skybus) available for every flight arrival. Yes, even those late night flights. A single journey ticket to the Southern Cross Station in the city costs about 19 AUD and the journey takes about an hour. From Tullamarine you can also take the Skybus. A single journey ticket costs the same and it will only take about 30 minutes to reach the city center. A cheaper option from Tullamarine would be to take public transport. If you choose this option, you need to purchase a Myki Card at the airport first. This is similar to the Opal Card used in New South Wales. Once you’ve purchased your card, find the 901 bus to Broadmeadows Station, and from there take the train to Flinders Street Station (the central business district where a lot of attractions are located) or to wherever you’re staying. The entire journey via public transport would take more or less an hour but it would only cost about 6 AUD.
Buuuuttt… since I had family in Melbourne, I didn’t have to worry about all that. Free airport transfers! Yay for family! 😀 But all that info is correct, I double checked just in case they wouldn’t be able to pick me up. 🙂
As I’ve mentioned above, Flinders Street is pretty much at the center of the city and it’s a great spot to start sightseeing since a lot of the attractions are within walking distance. Just across the station is Federation Square. The building sticks out like a sore thumb from the surrounding Victorian architecture, there’s no way you’ll miss it. Right off the bat you’ll find Melbourne to be different from Sydney due to the architecture. Sydney looks and feels like your usual contemporary city, whereas Melbourne has more of a classical feel. Also right across is St. Paul’s Cathedral, another popular tourist attraction. From here you can also clearly see the tallest building in the distance— The Eureka Tower. The sky deck on the 88th floor offers a panoramic view of the city. There are also glass cubes that slide out from the sky deck— not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. Walk south and cross the Yarra River and you’ll eventually reach the Arts Center. On the banks of the Yarra River there are lots of restaurants and cafes, it’s a great place to relax.
If you get tired of walking around you can easily hop on a tram, and it’s free as long as you remain inside the so called free tram zone. Further south but still within walking distance (about a 20 minute walk) is the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanic Gardens. I particularly liked the Shrine of Remembrance— I’m a sucker for military and war history. The museum gives a detailed account of Australia’s participation in all the historic wars and the role of its military in modern times. If you’re gonna take a tram to this area, take note that it’s not included in the free tram zone so it’s better to just walk. It’s not as hot in Melbourne anyway. In fact it can get real cold at night even during the summer. One night I found it uncomfortable walking around without a sweater.
Of course I had to check out the beaches. The popular ones are St. Kilda and Brighton Beach. I just came from Queensland though, so I was understandably underwhelmed. Frankly, I didn’t even know why I bothered going to both beaches lol. But anyway if you really want to go to the beach, St. Kilda is the more convenient option since it’s closer to the city center. Just take the tram and you’ll be there in 20-30 minutes. St. Kilda is a good beach, I’d say it’s a good place to hang out and relax and it’s bustling with activity. There’s just nothing that sets it apart from other beaches.
Others may prefer to go to Brighton Beach instead because of the famous bathing boxes. It’s easy to get there too, just hop on the Sandringham train line and get off at the Brighton Beach Station. The bathing boxes are just a short 10 minute walk away. It’s farther than St. Kilda but somehow it takes just as long to get there. I guess the trains are just must faster than the trams. I didn’t spend much time in Brighton Beach though. Since those bathing boxes are popular tourist attractions, the area near those were really crowded. I couldn’t even get one decent picture because of the crowd. I went during the afternoon though, maybe it’s better to go to this beach early in the morning if you want to take pictures or selfies without other people obstructing the view. I have to mention I went on a weekday. I imagine the place would be even more crowded on weekends.
Since I was with family, I was able to visit nearby areas that I probably wouldn’t be able to visit if I went alone. One weekend they took me to the Yarra Valley. I loved the scenery, and I got to taste a number of delicious chocolates and cheese for free! We did some wine tasting too. It was quite an experience, though I think the wine tasting host got offended when he heard me whisper I couldn’t really tell the difference between the wine he was serving and box wine lol. Sorry, I’m just not a wine person haha.
There are also a number of hiking sites in close proximity, but since some of my relatives weren’t hikers, we just visited one with an easy trail. The hiking trail at the Maroondah National Park was real easy, yet is still offered spectacular views. It’s also a good place to spend the entire day just relaxing. A lot of people do day trips and have picnics in the area.
I did have a great time in Melbourne. I may not have had as much fun as I’ve had in Queensland and New South Wales, but it was a great experience overall. Also, it’s different enough from the other Australian cities I’ve gone to and for that alone I’d say it’s worth a visit. And I didn’t get a chance to explore much of Victoria. All I got was just a glimpse. Surely the territory has so much more to offer that it definitely warrants a return visit.