Art galleries, great architecture, wonderful food and accessible, scenic countryside make Melbourne a destination for all ages.
The fact that Melbourne has been named Most Liveable City in The World for seven years in a row is a good clue to its diversity. It’s one of the world’s foremost culinary destinations, has a thriving cultural scene, and hosts formidable sporting events annually.
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The city itself is a fascinating blend of old and new with 100-year-old lanes and buildings housing trendy bars and cafés. Modern architecture sits comfortably alongside the Victorian façades and a trip up the ultra-contemporary Eureka Tower gives a bird’s-eye view of this seaside city built on the banks of the Yarra River.
There are many landmarks visible from this vantage point including the avant-garde Federation Square alongside the Edwardian Baroque Flinders Street Station, the Melbourne Art Centre’s wire spire and the Melbourne Cricket Ground. We went up the tower at sunset so were able to see the city’s layout as well as experience the twinkling lights as the sun went down.
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Melburnians are at pains to preserve the history of the city and quaint arcades with stained-glass ceilings and encaustic tiled floors open onto streets adorned with brightly coloured graffiti. The aroma of gourmet cuisine and freshly brewed coffee drifts out of sidewalk eateries. To say Melbourne is a foodie’s paradise is no exaggeration.
Most restaurants, cafés and street vendors have excellent food and the city is known for its coffee culture. There are also myriad restaurants on ‘best in the world’ lists and every ethnic cuisine you can imagine, but eating out is expensive if you’re travelling on the rand.
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If, like us, your foodie dreams are a bit restricted (we had a toddler in tow), then Melbourne is sure to fulfill your playground fantasies instead. We visited a different park almost every day of our month-long visit with each better than the last. All were free to the public as were the children’s exhibits at museums.
The playgrounds are generally situated inside beautifully manicured parks so even if you aren’t accompanied by a child, they’re worth a visit. Our animal-mad son’s dreams came true at the Collingwood Children’s Farm, Sea Life Melbourne and the three parks that make up Zoos Victoria. He got to feed sheep, ride ponies, cuddle koalas, have butterflies settle on his arm and see a variety of wildlife.
We also made several trips to the countryside beyond the city. A journey down the Mornington Peninsular revealed exquisite coastal scenery. We stopped at Portsea and Sorrento, picturesque towns geared for holidaymakers where the pace of life is slower and turquoise waves lap against white sand. Unfortunately, as it was winter, the temperature was on the chilly side. However, in Victoria, winter has its own charm as it snows heavily each year in Mt Buller, which is less than three hours’ drive from the city.
Here, we spent a weekend knee-deep in snow, skiing, having snowball fights and building snowmen. Waking up to a sparkling winter wonderland was well worth putting up with the chilly temperatures.
Melbourne has fabulous museums, whether it’s history, science or art you’re interested in, and there are great theatre productions and a thriving arts scene with plenty of live entertainment, galleries and shops.
We peered into stores and restaurants all of which take interior design very seriously making window shopping a delight. Every world-famous brand is represented, yet local design and produce is celebrated and there are numerous markets, pop-up installations and grocery stores dedicated to locally produced goods.
The public transport system of trams and trains is comprehensive and there’s no need for a car, especially as the city is very walkable. Drivers, cyclists and runners keep to their designated paths and there’s plenty of street art, gardens and architecture to enjoy.
CANDICE’S TRAVEL TIPS
MUST-SEE SIGHT Consider hiring a car for a few days and take trips to countryside including wineries, coastal towns and farms.
MOST DELICIOUS BITE Hand rolls, large pieces of sushi, can be eaten on the go without chopsticks. They are delicious and reasonably priced.
WHAT TO PACK The weather in Melbourne is very changeable so pack an umbrella and clothes suitable for warm and cold days no matter what time of year you visit.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP
WHEN TO GO It’s best to visit in summer, which is from November to March.
WHERE TO STAY Self-catering accommodation is ideal. While food in supermarkets is pricier than here at home, it’s much more affordable than restaurants.
GETTING AROUND The tram system makes navigating the city simple, but investigate your options when buying tickets as once-off rides can be expensive.
VISAS South Africans require a visa to visit Australia. Visit australia.gov.au
CURRENCY The currency is the Australian dollar.
FIND OUT MORE melbournecentral.com, walkingmelbourne.com and visitvictoria.com