This Destination Dash post features my latest city crush, Melbourne. I was lucky enough to start my Antipodean adventure in this cosmopolitan yet charming city. I spent 4 packed days exploring all parts of the city and fell in love with it. Victorian and Edwardian architecture coexist beautifully with steel and glass structures to create a modernity tempered with antique elegance. The vibe is upscale but not pretentious.
Name: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Population: 4.5 million (2014)
Flight Time: from LAX, US 17 hours non-stop; from London 20+ hours, 1 stop
Get Started: If you will be coming from the airport while on a layover, take the SkyBus into the city. It’s not that expensive and gets you downtown in about 20-25 minutes.
My write-up will not give you a moment-by-moment day, but gives you the highlights I’d recommend seeing while in the city. The list covers indoors and outdoors and provides stimuli for kids and adults, but only you know your physical limitations, tolerance to things, and schedule.
The total time for my recommendations comes in at 11 hours, but remember that is because this is what I like to do. You may want to devote more time to sport venues or get out of town for a fast trip to the Dandenong Ranges (about an hour drive outside the city). If you want to build in time for meals, I recommend choosing two or three things from this list. This is just a guide and your mileage may vary.
1. Queen Victoria Market – on the corner of Victoria and Elizabeth Streets. Crowded with people and an impressive array of produce, groceries, dry goods, souvenirs the market is full of locals and tourists. If you can stand the crush of people, stand quietly and try to count the number of different languages being spoken. My best was 14! Recommended time – 2 hours or more.
2. Melbourne Zoo – Elliott Ave, Parkville. Gorgeously laid out and surprisingly diverse, the zoo is a great way to spend 1 hour or 4 hours. It is located in a quiet part of town and just off the 25 tram stop for Melbourne Zoo/Royal Park. Many travelers think of the Australia Zoo in Brisbane and the go-to zoological experience but Melbourne is equally interesting and entertaining. It makes a great destination on its own or as a companion experience to visiting the Werribee Open Range Zoo. Recommended time – 3 hours.
3. Old Melbourne Gaol – 377 Russell Street. Whether you are a history buff, lover of the macabre, or have a few hours to kill and don’t know what to do, make a beeline for the Old Melbourne Gaol. It provides a facsinating glimpse into prison life of the mid-to-late 19th century. Grab a docent and walk the bluestone corridor to learn about such notorious criminals as Frederick Bailey Deeming, Elizabeth Scott, Martha Needle, and folk hero Ned Kelly. The interior harkens the Green Mile or Shawshank, but has a pervasiveness darkness probably made all the more so during the night tours they offer. A thought-provoking look at prison life, the territorial judicial system and impressive collection of death masks. Recommended time – 1 1/2 hours.
4. Royal Botanic Gardens – Birdwood Ave, South Yarra. There is nothing to dislike here. It offers soothing vistas, lush vegetation, and beauty around every turn. Go early morning for a misty stroll through the gardens. It is empty of crowds and full of cockatoos, parrots, magpies, and pukekos. We got there about 45 minutes past sunrise and it was otherworldly. I felt like I’d fallen into a storybook illustration. Recommended time – 2 hours, 3 if you take a picnic.
5. Melbourne Museum – 11 Nicholson St, Carlton. Home to a vast selection of geological, cultural, and anthropological history, this museum is one of the best natural history museums I’ve visited in my life. It is easy to meander from one hall to another and offers a wide variety of subject matters, enough to keep visitors engaged whether they are 3 or 103. My visit was made even more special due to the WWI Centenary Exhibition, which offers an in-depth and emotional look at WWI and the contributions made by ANZAC forces. Recommended time – 3 hours or more.
*As a reminder, these photos are solely mine and not to be used without prior written permission. Thanks!