Melbourne was all about the food and coffee. Luckily and by a happy accident we were staying right by Lygon Street, which is famous for its Italian community and excellent food. The street has a great bustling vibe and is full of wonderful looking restaurants, which were so busy every single night of the week. They had alfresco dining and for a moment you felt like you were in Italy.
By the time we arrived in Melbourne it was late and we were starving so having all these restaurants so close was great and we enjoyed our first delicious Italian meal, which by chance was one of the highest rated down Lygon Street. It was so good it was hard to not go back to but with so many great looking places we didn’t want to go back to the same place twice.
On our last night staying near Lygon Street we went to the top rated Italian restaurant for pizza, one that had been recommended to us and one we had seen queues outside every night. Luckily, we arrived early-ish and didn’t have to queue like many of the people after us. The pizza and wine were delicious – one of our favourite meals of the trip.
We loved our time in the ‘Little Italy’ of Melbourne and the place we stayed in, which was also only a 20-30 minute walk into the centre of the city.
Our second place was at the seaside area of St. Kilda. We stayed there for five days. We weren’t too impressed or happy with our accommodation here but we were grateful that at least it had air con as we experienced two days reaching over 40 degrees whilst staying – It was difficult to be outside during these days.
St Kilda was a cool place to stay and it was nice to be beside the sea for a few days.
Highlights from Melbourne
I’m Free Walking Tour
This was a free tour with the premise of tipping at the end for what you thought it was worth. It was a long tour being over three hours and with a lot of walking. Our guide Andreas was full of interesting facts and we felt like we knew the Melbourne area pretty well by the end. We learnt that Melbourne has been voted the most liveable city in the world for the past seven years until this year where it missed out to Vienna, but second in the world is still pretty good. We also learnt that Melbourne had an era called ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ where the city boomed after the gold rush in the 1850s. In this time Melbourne’s population exploded from 20,000 (in 1850) to 125,000 (by 1860). During this time most of Melbourne’s institutions were established, such as the first railway line, the telegraph, the university, public library and museum and its famed Royal Exhibition Building. For a short time Melbourne was actually the temporary capital of Australia, but this didn’t last and as the decision couldn’t be made between Melbourne and Sydney at the time, they created a completely new city – Canberra, which was in the middle of both, naming it the capital of Australia. There is still a big friendly rivalry between the two cities, especially when it comes to sporting events.
As we have been travelling we have noticed that Australians like to give things a grand title and claim to be the best or top something in the world as much as they can. We found they will give this title to random things such as in Tasmania with the ‘worlds longest single charlift span’ and Australia claims to have the ‘world’s longest fence’. We were told by our tour guide that when they cannot use the best in the world they claim it is the best in the Southern Hemisphere, which when you consider only has 10% of the world’s population isn’t quite as impressive.
This building was the ‘highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere’ and boasted views for miles across Melbourne. The lift shot you up 88 floors within 60 seconds (9 meters a second) so we did feel our ears popping. When we arrived at the top we were a little underwhelmed. It was great to have such a good view across Melbourne but it was all through glass, meaning that it was difficult to get that many nice photos without a reflection or glare. We also paid extra for the ‘Edge’ experience. For this you stood in a glass box, which then extended out of the building three metres so you had the view below your feet. It was quite crazy that only four centimetres of glass stood between you and the floor below. Again, though it was a cool experience we were a little underwhelmed especially after the first minute where it was quite exciting and then after that you were just walking around a glass box, feeling like David Blane, looking down not really sure what else to do for the next five minutes. Not only that, we were unable to get any photos as they didn’t allow you to take your phone or camera into the glass box.
The hidden laneways were really cool and had some great little cafes, bars and restaurants but we were a little disappointed with the ‘iconic’ street art. There were some really impressive paintings but then a lot of it just looked like messy graffiti over graffiti. On our walking tour we did actually see some people spray painting in one of the alleys and you could see the layerings of paint in some places as they were starting to peel off. We were told that we could add some ‘art’ if we wanted but unfortunately we had forgotten our painting supplies!
The Laneways were where we finally had some kangaroo burgers, after months of talking about it. We found a small independent burger bar called Metro Burger and, we must say, the burgers were pretty tasty.
Another foodie item we got while down Degraves Street was some extremely good gelato, another recommendation. We really needed the cooling ice cream as it was another very hot day in Melbourne.
One day we walked to the docklands area to visit an immersive art gallery called ArtVo. We had lots of fun posing with the different works of art and illusions and we had a good laugh looking back at all of the photos.
State Library of Victoria
During our Melbourne walking tour we were told about an exhibition in the State Library dedicated to the infamous bushranger Edward Kelly, more commonly known as Ned Kelly. He is known as one of the last bushrangers – a thief who lived in the Australian Bush to evade capture – and is by far the most famous. He is best known for wearing a suit of bulletproof armour during his final shootout with the police where he was shot in the legs and arrested. He was tried, found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. His final words are said to have been “such is life”, where the now popular phrase comes from, so the story goes.
This armour is now showcased in the State Library, so we were able to view it. We both found it very interesting to read about his life and crimes, but could not quite understand why some consider him to be a national hero and in some ways a national symbol of Australia, as the exhibition didn’t provide any information about this. We have since read that he has been mythologised into a Robin Hood type character with stories being told of him burning mortgage deeds during one of his bank robberies and fighting for the poor against the rich.
Penguins on St Kilda Pier
To our surprise we were told that Fairy Penguins visit St Kilda Pier every evening after their day out at sea fishing. For some reason they have decided that it’s a good idea to nest on the pier, a man made structure, and we were informed that it is only the second place in the world where they have nested in these conditions. After dinner we made the short walk of 15 minutes down to the pier, honestly, we didn’t expect to see much as it was free to visit the area.
Once there we spoke to one of the volunteers who helps to protect the penguins. While we were talking we saw our first little penguin make it on to the rocks below and start to make his way to the top. As he was only little this took a while and a great deal of effort on his part. While he was making his way up, another two penguins appeared and made the same ascent. We managed to get a prime viewing location and the penguins waddled right past us. It was a lot better than expected and another wonderful experience seeing Fairy penguins.
Naked for Satan
Yes, a very strange name for a bar. We went here with two friends from the UK, Sarah and Kris, who are now happily living in Melbourne. The bar had a great rooftop with views across the city and a great atmosphere. This was on one of the hottest days in Melbourne, where it was still around 40 degrees when we went to meet them at 8pm. The best way to describe it was like a hairdryer been blown at you continuously – not very pleasant. Luckily, the bar was pretty cool inside and we had a great time catching up having a few drinks.
In the end we weren’t sure how we felt about celebrating Australia Day. Before being in Australia we didn’t know of the controversy that surrounds the day and were up for celebrating it, but after being here and hearing more about the day and the history behind it we felt that it was a really insensitive day.
The day is also now commonly known as Invasion Day, as that’s when the westerners first landed in Australia and began to colonise it. Unfortunately, this meant invading a home that had belonged to aboriginals many thousands of years before that. This colonisation meant many awful things for aboriginals, many being killed, children being taken away from them and after living on the land for thousands of years not even being counted in Australia’s population count – literally treated as if they didn’t exist.
The government is trying to do a lot now to bring the two communities together, but a lot of hostility and anger still remains. Many people believe Australia Day should be celebrated on a different day, so not to be celebrating the day when so much tragedy occurred for the aboriginal people.
We decided to head into the centre of the city to see the parade.
We also wanted to see the protest march being held, which actually looked considerably bigger than the parade. Many people around the whole of Australia were protesting against the current Australia Day and what it stands for. We hope in the future the date is changed and that both communities will live more at peace with each other.
We really liked Melbourne as a city. The best part was definitely the food and for Daniel, the coffee too. It is known as one of the best places in the world for coffee, which Daniel took full advantage of.
We loved living near Lygon Street and experiencing great Italian food. We also enjoyed eating in China Town, which is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western World (we told you about the titles!).
There is also quite a sizeable Greek community in Melbourne and we enjoyed a great Greek one night too. We ate out more here than we had anywhere else on our journey, but it was totally worth it!
It felt like we spent much of our time in Melbourne planning for our future travels, as when we arrived there we had no further plans as to where we were going 11 days later. After a lot of deliberation where our plans changed, not just daily, but hourly, even less at times, and after considering a range of countries including Argentina, Japan and even Los Angeles, we decided on the most obvious choice of New Zealand. So after lots of time and researching we had decided on the most glaringly obvious choice we probably could have settled on in half an hour! Even so, we were incredible excited for New Zealand and after researching we found so many things we wanted to do. We also planned our Great Ocean Road trip in this time to do before we leave for New Zealand.
Daniel’s favourite thing – All of the awesome independent coffee shops
Lauren’s favourite thing – The amazing Italian food we enjoyed down Lygon Street
So that’s it for Melbourne, now for our road trip along the Great Ocean Road…