Melbourne is the second-largest city in Australia and the capital of the state of Victoria. Located on the southern coast of Australia’s eastern seaboard, it is perhaps Australia’s most cultured city. The city’s features include Victorian-era architecture, many cultural institutions such as museums, galleries and theaters, and large parks and gardens. Its 3.5 million population is multicultural (large Greek, Italian, Jewish, Vietnamese and other immigrant groups) and sports-mad.
Melbourne is set to host the XVIII Commonwealth Games  from 15 - 26 March 2006.
Yarra River and Melbourne skyline
The settlement of Melbourne commenced in 1835 when settlers from Tasmania purchased land on Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River from the Aborigines. In 1837 the streets of central Melbourne were carefully laid out, with some streets 30 meters wide. The first governor, Charles La Trobe, arrived in 1839 – his cottage still stands and can be visited in Kings Domain. The year 1851 was a landmark for Melbourne - the colony of Victoria became independent from New South Wales and very soon after gold was discovered in Victoria, sparking a huge goldrush. Aspects of goldrush history can be seen at the Gold Treasury Museum, housed in the Treasury Building built in 1858. Gold was the catalyst for several decades of prosperity lasting through to the late 1880s and examples of the ornate Victorian-era structures built during this time still stand. In 1888 the property boom collapsed and Victoria suffered the depression of the 1890s. Throughout the gold and building booms Melbourne managed to retain its many and spacious parks and gardens and these remain to this day.
In 1901 the British colonies of Australia became an independent federation and Melbourne the temporary capital of Australia. The Federal Parliament met in the Parliament House of Victoria from 1901 until 1927 when Canberra was founded. After World War II Melbourne grew rapidly, its till-then mainly Anglo-Celtic population boosted by immigration from Europe, particularly Greece and Italy. Today Melbourne has the biggest Greek city population (over 800,000) outside Greece and the biggest Italian city population (over 230,000) outside Italy. The significant pre-war Jewish population was also boosted after the war. From the mid-70s many immigrants came from South-east Asia, particularly Vietnam and Cambodia. Melbourne has had a Chinese population since the goldrush of the 1850s and Chinatown has existed from that time but the population of Chinese and other East Asians has also been boosted by immigration in recent years.
New, highrise buildings replaced many of Melbourne’s interesting old structures in the building boom of the 1970s and 80s. Melburnians belatedly recognised the loss of their architectural heritage and steps were taken to protect what was left. Construction of the huge Crown Casino (briefly the largest casino in the world) in the 1990s upset many Melburnians with its introduction of a crass gambling culture and the sucking of money from the rest of the city. Melbourne’s development continues in the 2000s with the opening of the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square and the Docklands precinct.
Melbourne considers itself the cultural capital of Australia (many Sydneysiders would dispute this claim strongly....), a boast supported by its large number of art galleries. In addition to the Melbourne Museum, there are special museums dedicated to subjects such as Chinese history, Jewish history, sport, racing, railways, police, fire brigades and banking. Melburnians are sports enthusiasts and particularly passionate about Australian Rules football , a sport invented in Melbourne. Horseracing is another passion and the majority of the state has a public holiday on the first Tuesday of November for the racing of the Melbourne Cup , one of the world’s famous horse races. Cricket is the big summer sport and the Melbourne Cricket Ground (the 'MCG')  is one of the cricket world’s leading grounds. Each January Melbourne hosts tennis’s Australian Open , one of the world’s four Grand Slam championships. In March, Melbourne hosts the first race of the Formula One season . The race is held in Albert Park in South Melbourne.
Melbourne International Airport at Tullamarine provides regular access from national and international destinations across the South Pacific region. American and European flights tend to go via Sydney or an Asian hub. The airport is 22km north-west of the city center.
A taxi between the airport and the city center costs $30+.
Skybus, ph 9670 7992, runs a 24x7 shuttle to and from the Spencer St coach terminal at the west end of the Central Business District, just north of Lonsdale St. The trip takes 20 minutes and costs $13 adult, $5 child 17 and under, $26 family. There are two airport pickup locations. One is outside the South (Virgin Blue) terminal, 50m from the international terminal. The ticket desk is just inside the South terminal. The other ticket desk and shuttle stop are outside the Qantas domestic terminal. Frequency ranges from hourly during the wee hours to quarter hourly from about 6:30am-7:30pm (always on the quarter hour). They also run a connection service between the terminal and central hotels during the day (M-F 6am-8pm, Sa-Su 8am-6pm). Book hotel pick-up 3 hours ahead. Bookings are not needed for travel from the airport to hotels. http://www.skybus.com.au/
If you're flying with budget carrier Jetstar, Avalon Airport may be your port of call. Avalon Airport is located 55 km to the south-west of Melbourne. Sun Bus Australia operates a shuttle service to Melbourne's CBD at $19 per adult one way. The Avalon Airport Shuttle provides a service to other areas of Victoria from $12 per adult one way.
Train rides from major cities will take about 10 hours. CountryLink operates a twice daily service from Sydney (10½ hours away), though this may soon be cut to daily. Great Southern Railway run four services a week from Adelaide (10-11 hours away).
Services from cities within Victoria are operated by V/Line Passenger (see V-Line timetables). These services operate from regional centers such as Geelong, Ballarat, Albury or Bendigo.
All intercity rail services from interstate and intrastate destinations operate to and from Spencer Street Station, located on the western edge of Melbourne's central business district.
VicLink will presumably become a handy website to manage your state-wide travel on trains and buses at some point in the future. Metropolitan travel can be planned on the MetLink website.
From Sydney, the quickest route is the Hume Highway, which takes about 11-12 hours (non-stop). A more popular, longer route is along the coast on the Princes Highway. This adds several hours to the journey as it is longer in distance and there are fewer bypasses. Adelaide is slightly closer, and can be reached in 9-10 hours. Once again, it is possible to go inland or along the coast - the coast is very scenic, but will add a couple of hours to the journey.
Bus services to Melbourne from out of state are provided by Firefly Express and McCafferty’s Greyhound. Greyhound is now owned by McCaffertys, though their services are not entirely integrated yet.
Melbourne can be reached from Devonport, Tasmania by car/passenger ferries run by Spirit of Tasmania.
By public transport
Melbourne’s public transport system, Metlink, comprises trams, trains and buses. Trams service the central city and inner suburbs. Trains service the suburbs, radiating from the central Flinders Street Station. Buses go where there are no tram or train tracks. One ticket allows travel on all three modes of transport.
The Met Shop, Melbourne Town Hall, cnr Swanston St and Little Collins St, M-F 8:30am-5pm, Sa 9am-1pm, provides timetables and brochures, and sells tickets, maps and travel merchandise. The Met Information Centre, ph 131638 (131MET), every day 7am-9pm, provides information and the Metlink website also provides information including maps, fares and zones and all timetables.
Tickets are called Metcards and are available from train stations and many retail businesses. Ticket machines on trams sell tickets for casual use, e.g. 2 hour and day tickets, but the machines are coin-only. Zone 1 covers the CBD and inner suburbs (including St Kilda) and adult tickets are $3.10 for 2 hours, $5.90 for a day and $25.90 for a week. At night a 2-hour ticket validated from 6.00pm is valid until 2.00am the following morning, so if you’re heading out after 6pm for an evening’s entertainment, don't buy or validate a day ticket. A City-Saver ticket allows a single boarding within the CBD only ($2.20 adult). Trains and trams operate from 5am to about midnight Monday-Saturday and 8am to about midnight on Sunday.
Less than one-quarter of Melbourne's suburban train stations are staffed. At unstaffed stations, Metcard vending machines are provided, some of which will accept notes. All ticket machines accept coins, and will issue a maximum of $10.00 in change. Most stations will have at least 1 machine that will take notes, but little-used railway stations may have just coin-only machines.
After midnight on Saturday and Sunday mornings only there are NightRider buses. Tickets are $6 except for Mornington ($8) and Melton ($8.20) and Metcards are not valid.
The free City Circle trams run around the CBD perimeter, covering Flinders St, Spring St, Nicholson St, Victoria St, La Trobe St and Harbour Esplanade. They run in both directions every 12 minutes every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day from 10am-6pm, and until 9pm Th-Sa during daylight savings. Several of the trams on this service are equipped with recorded commentary about attractions passed. They are geared to visitors and are a great introduction to central Melbourne.
Melbourne has an excellent network of bike paths, making pedal-power a great way to take in the city. Most paths are dedicated to cyclists and skaters, although some trails contain on-road sections (in marked bike lanes). It is illegal to ride on footpaths unless otherwise marked, helmets are required by law, and take care of slippery tram tracks.
The main paths of interest to travellers are:
- The Yarra River Trail runs from the mouth of Melbourne's iconic Yarra River, through the city and onwards to Westerfolds Park in the outer suburbs. A punt operates under the West Gate Bridge near the paths start to link with the Williamstown Trail.
- The Capital City Trail runs a circuit through Melbourne's inner suburbs, the Docklands precinct and the city. It's a good way to see a slice of day-to-day life.
- The Bayside Trail is a pleasant trek along the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, running from Port Melbourne, through the bustling beachside precinct of St Kilda and on to the famous bathing sheds of Brighton.
Detailed maps of the bike path network can be found here.
Bikes can be hired from Hire a Bike on the Yarra River Bank just over the river from Federation Square, ph 0417 339 203.
The cheapest car rentals are from places like Rentabomb but use may be restricted to the Melbourne metropolitan area.
Mid-range rental companies give good value. Try:
- Snappy, 225 Franklin St, Central Melbourne or 79 Matthews Ave, Airport West
- Crown, 371-379 King St, Central Melbourne or its affiliate Abel, 247 Mickleham Rd, Tullamarine.
The more pricey major chains are well-represented. These include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Thrifty.
Driving in the city shouldn't be attempted without at least a basic map! Melbourne has a great city road map Melways which has won many international prizes for its excellent presentation. Most Melburnians will give you their Melways reference along with their address on written invitations.
Drivers should watch out for hook turns in the inner city areas, where one must make a right turn from the left lane. (See Wikipedia:Hook turn).
Central Melbourne (the Central Business District (CBD) and nearby) attractions are arranged here more-or-less on a route starting in the south-west, proceeding east along Collins St, covering Swanston St from the Yarra River to Victoria St in the north, then going through Chinatown to Spring St and finishing at the south-east corner of the CBD.
- The Docklands Precinct is the lynchpin of Melbourne's urban planning vision for the next fifty years. The old shipping yards and industrial neigbourhood just south of the CBD is being developed into a lively residential, commercial and entertainment district that hopes to refocus Melbourne's attention to the waterfront. http://www.docklands.vic.gov.au/
- Victoria Police Museum, Victoria Police Centre, Concourse Level, 637 Flinders St, west of Spencer St. M-F 10am-4pm. Free.
- Melbourne Aquarium, cnr King St and Queens Wharf Rd (on the banks of the Yarra River). Every day 9:30am-6pm (last admission 5pm), 1-27 Jan 9:30am-9pm. $22 adult, $12 child. http://www.melbourneaquarium.com.au/
- Immigration Museum, 400 Flinders St (between William St and Market St). Every day 10am-5pm except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Located in the restored Old Customs House it covers customs history as well as immigration. It is interesting to learn of the racist attitudes that influenced past immigration policy only to realise that the Australian government still has a very contentious policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. $6 adult, children and concession free. http://immigration.museum.vic.gov.au/
- Rialto Towers, 525 Collins St (corner of King St). Su-Th 10am-10pm, F-Sa 10am-11pm. This is the tallest reinforced concrete structure and the tallest office structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The Melbourne Observation Deck on the 55th floor gives an excellent 360-degree view of the city. $11.80 adult, $6.80 child. http://www.rialto.com.au/ and http://www.melbournedeck.com.au/
- Block Arcade. Runs between Collins St and Elizabeth St. Shopping arcade built in 1891.
- Scots’ Church, cnr Collins St and Russell Rd. Gothic church built in 1873.
- Flinders Street Station, cnr Flinders St and Swanston St / St Kilda Rd, beside Princes Bridge. This Melbourne icon is one of the city's major train stations and was designed in an 1899 competition. The station's front steps, below a row of clocks announcing train departure times, are also a popular meeting point for locals. A government plan to replace the ageing, and usually inaccurate, clocks with digital contemporaries was shelved after howls of protest from residents who had grown up meeting friends "under the Flinders St clocks".
- Federation Square, cnr Flinders St and Swanston St / St Kilda Rd, opposite Flinders Street Station. Recently built over the rail yards, it includes an open space, an atrium with restaurants and cafes, an amphitheater and somewhat controversial asymmetrical architecture. http://www.federationsquare.com.au/ It includes the following centers:
- Melbourne Visitor Centre, cnr Flinders St and Swanston St / St Kilda Rd. Every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day, 9am-6pm. Most of the center is below ground level. Free.
- Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, cnr Flinders St and Russell St extension. M-Th 10am-5pm, F 10am-9pm, Sa-Su 10am-6pm, ANZAC Day opens 1pm, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day. Houses the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection of Australian art. Free. (The NGV’s international art collection is housed in the original NGV building south of the Yarra.) http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/ngvaustralia/
- Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Screen gallery is open M-F 10am-5pm, Sa-Su 10am-6pm. A museum of television, film and digital media. Entry is free for much of the Centre, although charges apply for cinema screenings and certain programs and exhibitions. http://www.acmi.net.au/
- City Square, Swanston St between Flinders Lane and Collins St.
- Melbourne Town Hall, cnr Swanston St and Collins St. Free tours M-F 11am and 1pm, first Sa of the month 11am, noon, 1pm and 2pm. You need to book tours one day ahead on phone 9658 9658. Built in 1870.
- Manchester Unity building, cnr Swanston St and Collins St. This 1930s Gothic building was once Melbourne’s tallest.
- Bourke St Mall, between Swanston St and Elizabeth St. Melbourne’s main department stores are located here and street performers and buskers perform in the mall.
- State Library of Victoria, Swanston St between Little Lonsdale and Latrobe Sts. M-Th 10am-9pm, F-Su 10am-6pm, except public holidays. Built in stages starting in 1854, it has an impressive classical revival façade. Renovation of the La Trobe Reading Room was completed in 2003. Includes a good newspaper reading room, genealogy room and an art collection. Internet terminals are provided for research only, not email, and usually need to be booked because of high demand. Free storage for bags is available just off the lobby, with staff in attendance – large bags are not permitted in the library proper. http://www.statelibrary.vic.gov.au/
- Melbourne City Baths, cnr Swanston St and Franklin St. The Edwardian (1903) building still function as a health and fitness center with a gym and other facilities complementing the swimming pools. Casual rate for a swim is $4 adult, $3.20 student, $2 pensioner. http://www.melbournecitybaths.com.au/
- Queen Victoria Market, 513 Elizabeth St, cnr of Elizabeth St and Victoria St. Tu, Th 6am-2pm, F 6am-6pm, Sa 6am-3pm, Su 9am-4pm. Over 1000 stalls, between them selling everything. Like most markets, the earlier you arrive, the better the quality of produce.
- Old Melbourne Gaol, Russell St between Victoria St and La Trobe St. Every day 9:30am-4:30pm except Good Friday and Christmas Day. Night tour performances W, Su evenings (suggested age 12 years plus). Built in 1841 it is now a penal museum. Bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged here in 1880. The scaffold on which he and many others were hanged is displayed, as is Kelly’s armor. There are other displays in many of the cells. Allow an hour or so for your visit. Day $12.50 adult, $7.50 child; night performances $18.70 adult, $11 under 16 years. http://www.nattrust.com.au/pages/default.cfm?page_id=4822
- "Little Greece", Lonsdale St adjacent to Chinatown. As most Melbournites will tell you, Melbourne has the third-highest Greek population in the world. Although not the focal point it once was, this stretch of Lonsdale St boasts many lively Greek cafes, nightclubs and shops.
- Parliament House of Victoria, Spring St opposite Bourke St. Free half-hour tours M-F when parliament is not sitting, 10am, 11am, noon, 2pm, 3pm, 3:45pm. Built between 1856 and 1879, the federal parliament sat in this impressive building from 1901 to 1927. http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/default.htm
- Windsor Hotel, Spring St between Bourke St and Little Collins St. Opened in 1883 as The Grand, it is indeed the city’s grandest historic hotel. http://www.thewindsor.com.au/
- Hotel Sofitel, 25 Collins St (the eastern, “Paris” end of Collins St). The floor-to-ceiling windows in the men’s toilets of Le Restaurant on the 35th floor offer men excellent views of the city.
- Old Treasury Building and Gold Treasury Museum, cnr Spring St and Macarthur St. M-F 9am-5pm, Sa-Su 10am-4pm, closed Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Built in 1858, it was the city’s first Italian Renaissance building and many consider that its elegance has not been surpassed by anything in Melbourne since. Contains displays on the history of Melbourne as well as history of gold in Victoria. The volunteer attendants are very helpful in a fussy way. $8.50 adult, $5 child. http://www.oldtreasurymuseum.org.au/
- Treasury Gardens, behind the Treasury Building. Features a memorial to John F Kennedy.
- Fitzroy Gardens, on the other side of Lansdowne St from the Treasury Gardens. Features Captain Cook’s Cottage which is the cottage that belonged to Captain James Cook’s parents and was transported from Yorkshire to Melbourne in 1934. http://www.fitzroygardens.com/
- St Patrick’s Cathedral, cnr Gisborne St and Cathedral Place (between Macarthur St and the north end of Fitzroy Gardens). The original part of this Gothic Revival cathedral was built in the 1850s. It was consecrated in 1897 and the spires added in 1939. http://www.melbourne.catholic.org.au/cathedral/index.html
- Yarra River
- Melbourne River Cruises leave from Princes Walk, just east of Princes Bridge (Swanston St), and from Southbank Lower Promenade. The timetable is subject to tidal conditions and river closures. $16.50 adult, $8.80 child. http://www.melbournerivercruises.com.au/
- A popular walk is from the corner of Batman Ave and St Kilda Rd (near the Princes Bridge and Federation Square) eastward along the riverbank then crossing the Morell footbridge and returning to Princes Bridge either along the riverbank or through the Botanic Gardens and Alexandra Gardens.
Southbank & South Melbourne
Attractions listed from west to east are:
- Polly Woodside Maritime Museum, Lorimer St East near the Melbourne Exhibition Centre. Every day 10am-4pm except Good Friday and Christmas Day. The museum features the restored 1885 sailing ship "Polly Woodside". $10 adult, $7 child. http://www.nattrust.com.au/pages/default.cfm?page_id=4823
- Crown Entertainment Complex including the Crown Casino, 8 Whiteham St. Open 24 hours except Christmas Day, Good Friday and Anzac Day when it is closed 4am-noon. A Las Vegas-style gambling palace, also containing restaurants, upmarket boutiques, nightclubs, two hotel towers, a cinema complex, and floorshows. http://www.crownltd.com.au/
- Southgate Plaza. Can be reached from the CBD by an arched footbridge from behind the Flinders Street Station. Three levels of restaurants, cafes and bars overlooking the river.
- Arts precinct, St Kilda Rd immediately south of Princes Bridge and adjoining Southgate.
- Victorian Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Rd, nearest the Yarra. M-F 7am-late, Sa 9am-late, Su 10am-5pm. http://www.vicartscentre.com.au/ The Centre consists of:
- Melbourne Concert Hall
- Theatres Building including the State Theatre.
- National Gallery of Victoria. The original gallery, it now houses the gallery’s international collection. The Australian collection is at the Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square. http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/ngvinternational/
- Between the east side of St Kilda Rd and the Yarra River is a series of gardens and parks.
- Alexandra Gardens
- Queen Victoria Gardens. Features memorials to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, sculptures and a floral clock of 7000 plants.
- Kings Domain. Contains:
- Shrine of Remembrance war memorial
- Governor La Trobe’s Cottage. M, W, Sa & Su 11am-4pm except Christmas Day. Charles La Trobe brought this prefabricated house when he came to Australia in 1839. http://www.nattrust.com.au/pages/default.cfm?page_id=4826
- Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Built in 1959, it is used for concerts and in winter as an ice-skating rink.
- Government House. A landmark but rarely open to the public.
- botanic features such as the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Garden and a fern grotto.
- Royal Botanic Gardens, Birdwood Ave, 15 min walk from CBD. Every day Nov-Mar 7:30am-8:30pm, Apr-Oct 7:30am-5:30pm. Free. http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/
Carlton and Fitzroy
- Carlton Gardens, just north of Victoria St / Victoria Parade and between Rathdowne St and Nicholson St, on the fringe of the CBD. Within its grounds are:
- Royal Exhibition Building. Built for the Great Exhibition of 1880. http://www.museum.vic.gov.au/reb/
- Melbourne Museum, 11 Nicholson St. Every day 10am-5pm except Good Friday and Christmas Day. This excellent museum opened in its new building in 2000. If you look at everything thoroughly it might take you more than one day. If you want to come back the next day, keep your ticket and see if the attendants will let you back in with it. The entry fee though is extremely reasonable. Inside you can even get a complimentary copy of the weekday newspaper. $6 adult, children free. http://melbourne.museum.vic.gov.au/
- Melbourne IMAX Theatre, Rathdowne St. Films screen every day on the hour, every hour 10am-10pm, except Christmas Day.
- Royal Park. As well as parklands and sports facilities, it contains:
- Melbourne Zoo, Elliot Ave. Every day 9am-5pm. Open till 9:30pm on selected summer evenings. A very popular Melbourne attraction it contains a large collection of native Australian and exotic animals, birds and butterflies. Average visit approx 4 hours. $18 adult, $9 child. http://www.zoo.org.au/
- Australian native plants garden.
- Lygon St, Carlton. Following World War II Carlton became an Italian neighborhood. In the 60s and 70s it became an intellectual and bohemian area. In the 80s renovators came in. Now Lygon St contains fashion shops and many restaurants, with Italian styles predominating.
- Brunswick St, Smith St and Gertrude St, Fitzroy. When the bohemian lifestyles left Carlton, they went to Fitzroy. Brunswick St has a mixture of weird and interesting shops, clothes and food. If street art is your thing, the surrounding alleyways and backstreets are also interesting as there's an ever-changing array of graffiti, stencils, stickers etc on show. In recent times locals bemoaning the gradual gentrification of Brunswick St have transferred their attentions to parallel Smith St, and nearby Gertrude St, where the bohemian charm, vintage clothing stores and great cafes are still at their scruffy best.
St Kilda & Elsternwick
- Luna Park, Lower Esplanade, St Kilda. F 7-11pm, Sa 11am-11pm, Su 11am-6pm. Open more days and hours during school holidays. Historic amusement park built in 1912. Admission free; single rides $7.00 13+ years, $5.50 4-12 years, $3 3 years and under; unlimited rides $33.95 13+ years, $23.95 4-12 years, $12.95 3 years and under. http://www.lunapark.com.au/
- St Kilda Pier. Popular spot for fishing and walking.
- St Kilda foreshore. Fine place for walking, skating, sunbathing and, on Sundays, shopping at the Esplanade Sunday market.
- St Kilda Botanical Gardens, Blessington St, St Kilda. First planted in 1859.
- Woodlands Historic Park is immediately north of Melbourne Airport. Entrances are off Somerton Road, Oaklands Road and Providence Road. Contains an 1840s homestead, a walk up Gellibrand Hill, and a nature reserve.
Organ Pipes National Park
A small national park located just to the north north-west of Melbourne on the way to Bendigo. Contains walking trails and rock formations including the “organ pipes”, hexagonal columns of basalt, the Rosette Rock (a radial array of basalt columns like the spokes of a wheel) and the Tessellated Pavement, the tops of basalt columns. http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=167
Werribee is about 30 minutes drive west south-west from Melbourne, off Princes Freeway which runs to Geelong. Werribee Park Shuttle runs from Melbourne to the attractions for $15 per person.
- Werribee Park, K Rd, Werribee. Daily except Christmas Day Nov-Apr 10am-4:45pm, May-Oct M-F 10am-3:45pm and Sa-Su 10am-4:45pm. A 1870s mansion and gardens including the State Rose Gardens. $11.00 adult, $5.50 child, $28.50 family. http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?park=197
- Victoria’s Open Range Zoo, K Rd (take Werribee Sth exit from Princes Freeway). Daily (including Christmas Day and all public holidays) 9am-5pm, entry closes at 3:30pm. Sa-Su during Jan-Feb open till 9pm. Safari bus tours (50 minute) begin 10:30am-3:40pm (up till 7:40pm Sa-Su during Jan-Feb). An open range park with animals from the grasslands of Africa, Asia, North America and Australia. $18 adult, $9 4-15 years. http://www.zoo.org.au/visiting.cfm?zoo_id=3
You Yangs Regional Park is 55 km south-west of Melbourne and 22 km north of Geelong. Access from Princes Freeway is via Little River if coming from Melbourne and Lara if coming from Geelong. Open 8am-4:30pm year round and from 8am-6pm on weekends and public holidays during daylight saving. Four main walks traverse the park. The 3.2 km walk to Flinders Peak (348m) takes 90 minutes and gives good views. The longest track is the 3 hour Branding Yard Track. http://www.parkweb.vic.gov.au/1park_display.cfm?Park=208
- See interesting films at Cinema Nova in Carlton, the Kino, Lumiere or ACMI in the city, or the Astor in Windsor. There are several moonlight cinema programmes in summer.
- Visit a comedy club. The Comic's Lounge has shows for $10-25 including a show filmed for Channel 31 on Mondays, or dinner and show for $45. The Comedy Club has dinner and show for $32 and shows only beginning at $7 (discount ticket price).
- Watch the mesmorising process of personalised hard candy being hand-made at Suga. Around lunch time is a good time to see (and sample!). There is one store at Queen Victoria Market, but if you visit the Royal Arcade location, you can also watch chocolate making next door at Koko Black.
- You can take language classes, join a cafe book group, learn to draw, sign up for historical or foodie walks, study for your Victorian Certificate of Education or take computer or business classes at the Council of Adult Education (CAE). The CAE is also home to the City Library where you can sign up to borrow books or just read magazines in their cafe.
Melbourne is the Fashion Capital of Australia without a doubt. Bridge Road is a strip where warehouse direct outlets rule and no one pays recommended retail price. Chapel Street in South Yarra is a favourite among the locals, with its spread of exclusive boutiques, cafes and well established chain stores. In the CBD itself, Little Collins Street is home to some of the world's top designers and fashion houses. Brunswick Street features an ecclectic mix of vintage, retro and alternative gear for the more adventurous. With its numerous Shopping Malls and boutique lined streets, Melbourne has more than enough to keep the most avid shoppers happy!
For the culinary traveller, Melbourne is one of the best destinations in the world. There is an abundance of affordable, high quality restaurants representing almost every cuisine — though Mexican is a notable weak point. While prices have increased in recent years, eating out remains noticeably cheaper than in Western Europe or the United States.
Excellent eateries can be found sprinkled throughout all of the inner suburbs (and many of the outer ones, too). There are dozens of shopping strips which boast numerous worthwhile choices.
Some random ideas:
- Hungry budget travelers can eat all they want for $6.95 at the Melbourne Bar & Bistro smorgasbord, 168 Elizabeth St, near the Bourke St corner.
- Vietnamese on Victoria St, Richmond (109 tram, East Richmond station). Binh Minh and Thy Thy 2 are good.
- Fusion on Brunswick St, Fitzroy (11 or 112 tram). Try Babka's bakery or Atomica for breakfast. Try Charmaine's for icecream or Vertigo for cakes. Jasper Coffee for sheer coffee expertise.
- Shakahari's, on Faraday St in Carlton, for fancy but not overpriced vegetarian food. The White Lotus, on Victoria St near Victoria Market, does good vegetarian Chinese for those who like fake meat.
- Lygon St, Carlton has innumerable Italian restaurants. Some of them are good. Try the Lygon Food Store for lunch; Trotters, Tiamo 2 or the University Cafe for dinner. Both Il Dolce Freddo and Cassa Del Gelato serve first-rate gelati & icecream. Lyon St in North Carlton (Tram #1 or 22) is also worth a visit: there are some good Indian options, and Thai Thalia and I Carusi are great. Rathdowne St has some (more up-market) exceptional choices — Cafe ZumZum, La Luna, the Rathdowne St Food Store are good starting points. Kumichan provides good value Japanese.
- Try Little Bourke St for Chinese (with some excellent Japanese alternatives, if you go looking). Search Tattersal's Lane for cheap dumplings. The CBD is also suffused with postmodern oriental restaurants catering to the large Asian student market. In this vein, Gigi on Swanston St is the place for fast Japanese.
- Acland St in St. Kilda is noteworthy for both felafel and cakes. Bala's, opposite Luna Park, is a must for the budget traveller. Fitzroy St, around the corner, also has numerous (slight more expensive) choices. Try The Pelican for tapas.
- While there is some reasonable food on Chapel St, South Yarra, travellers who are not into pretentious phallic symbolism may wish to avoid the place while the local automotive parade is taking place on Friday and Saturday nights (there are more genuine phallic cars in Williamstown on a Sunday afternoon). The clothes here are overpriced.
Still to come: Indian, Balinese, Morrocan, Greek and Turkish recommendations...
If you're in Melbourne for more than a couple of weeks, and wish to sample the cuisine in a studious fashion, get a copy of "Cheap Eats in Melbourne" from a book shop. Serious epicureans can move up to "The Age Good Food Guide".
Caffeine lovers rejoice, for Melbourne is a city of cafes. Fuelled by the passion of Italian migrants arriving in the aftermath of World War II, Melbourne's lauded cafe culture makes it one of the few cities in the world where an espresso is never more than a few metres away. Thousands of cafes, ranging from the bohemian and cool of Fitzroy to the Euro-chic glamour of Collins Street or the traditional coffee houses of Carlton, are waiting to dispense half-froth decaf-a-chinos, soy lattes, or just a high-fuel espresso. All caffeine addicts have to fear in Melbourne is a case of the jitters.
While it would be impossible to list all the cafes in Melbourne, below is a tiny selection of the cafes well-regarded for brewing an (almost) perfect cup:
- If Melbourne's coffee culture has a home, it is the Italian precinct surrounding Lygon St, Carlton. Brunetti's (198-204 Faraday St, Carlton; Phone: 9357 9499; Sun–Fri 7am–11pm; Sat 7am–midnight) is a Melbourne institution for good coffee and a fiendish selection of Italian sweets and gelato. The cafe also pioneered the now ubiquitous use of gas heaters to let customers sit outside, even in the winter months. Tiamo 1 (303 Lygon St, Carlton; Phone: 9347-5759) is a traditional, no-fuss Roman style espresso bar beloved by Mafia bosses and those seeking an authentic espresso. The family behind Grinders Coffee House (277 Lygon Street Carlton; Phone: 9347 7520; Mon–Thurs 9am–5.45pm; Fri 9am–6pm; Sat 9am–12.45pm) have not only been supplying Melbourne's cafes with coffee since the 1960's but at their first store you can also get a shot of your favourite brew.
- The central business district also holds some hidden gems. Degraves Espresso Bar (23 Degraves Street, City; Ph 03 9654 1245; Mon–Fri 6.30am–7.30pm; Sat–Sun 7.30am–4pm), tucked into a bluestone laneway near Flinders St Station, has long-held the title of Melbourne's best coffee. If Parisian pastries and good coffee are what you crave, then head to Laurent Bakery (306 Little Collins St, Melbourne; Phone; 9654-1011) a now franchised establishment with well-trained barristas.
- Further afield, Wall Two 80 (Rear, 280 Carlisle Street, Balaclava; Phone: 9593 8280; Daily 7.30am–6pm) has received nothing but praise for its coffee and breakfasts. The prize for most bizarre and welcome arrival to Melbourne's coffee scene, though, must go to Kanteen (1 Alexandra Ave, South Yarra; Phone: 9827-0488) a refurbished toilet block beside the Yarra that serves exceptional coffee and tasty burnches to an in-the-know crowd.
The past decade has seen revival of Melbourne's inner-city bar scene, with dozens of weird and wonderful watering holes opening up within forgotten alleyways and anonymous lanes of the CBD. Melbourne also has its fair share of stylish places to drink, although the better ones can be hard to find. The theory seems to be: the harder your bar is to find, the more people will talk about it.
A comprehensive listing of Melbourne's bars and pubs can be found at the useful Melbourne pubs website. Highlights include:
- Serious cocktail afficionados should check out The Gin Palace (190 Little Collins St; 9654-0533), a welcome mix of knowledgable bartenders, funky bordello ambience and a laid-back crowd. A little more upmarket is Tony Starr's Kitten Club (267 Little Collins Street; Phone: 9650-2448; www.kittenclub.com.au) which offers a leopard-print throwback to the smooth cats and cool jazz of the 50's. The weekday crowd of funk loving twenty-something professionals sip on a range of cocktails blended and shaken by well-trained and attentive staff. The upstairs performance area hosts local and visiting funk, jazz and cabaret acts.
- The Croft Institute (21-25 Croft Alley; Phone: 9671-4399) epitomises the kitschy-hidden-bar trend of the past few years. Tucked within the narrowest and smelliest alley in Melbourne, this place is somewhat charmingly fitted out like a high school laboratory; complete with beakers, test tubes and retorts. Check out the upstairs 'gymnasium' playing house and electro, and the hospital gurney (with stirrups) on display near the women's toilets.
- Arthur's Lounge (Corporation Lane; Phone: 9654 9744; www.arthursbarlounge.com.au) is a decadent club / bar with prices and door policies too match. A crowd-friendly mix of house and electronica will keep you going, and the fun-loving (but sometimes pretentious) patrons are a pleasant mix of funky bohemia, city glamour and coke-snorting party people.
- For a taste of Fitzroy in the CBD, drop into the cheerful Rue Bebelons (267 Little Lonsdale Street; 9663-1700) for a reasonably priced coffee or beer. The South American family behind the bar mix up great music and a friendly vibe to a crowd of laid back artists and students from nearby universities.
- Misty's (3-5 Hosier Ln; Phone: 9663 9202) hosts a smiliar crowd, but in slightly cooler retro-sci-fi surrounds. The staff are friendly, live DJs spin groovy tunes most nights and it makes a great launching pad for shows at the nearby Forum.
A directory of Melbourne backpackers hostels is kept at http://home.vicnet.net.au/~hostels/melbourne.htm. Around Grand Prix time (early March) hostel accommodation is booked out and some hostels raise prices. Be sure to book ahead for that period.
- Arthouse Hotel, 616 Elizabeth St, 9347 3917 (email@example.com). Also a live music venue so you might want to check whether it will be noisy.
- City Centre Private Hotel, 22 Little Collins St, 9654 5401.
- Elephant Backpackers, 250 Flinders St (opp Flinders St Station), 9654 2616 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Centrally located.
- Elizabeth Aus-Asia Hostel, Lvl 1, 490 Elizabeth St, 9663 1685 (email@example.com, fax 9663 2475).
- Flinders Station Hotel, 35 Elizabeth St (cnr Flinders Lane), 9620 5100 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9620 5101). 24-hour reception. Centrally located. The dorms don’t seem to get cleaned often. There is a music venue in the basement but the noise doesn’t penetrate the rooms. However the rooms do get a lot of street noise at night and early morning, but probably other central city hostels have the same. Twins and doubles have own tv. Beds in 4-bed dorms $23 per night or $136 per week, twin or double $64 per room per night or $379 per week, double ensuite $79 per room per night or $469 per week. http://www.flindersbackpackers.com.au/
- The Friendly Backpacker, 197 King St (near Little Bourke St), Central Melbourne, 9670 1111 (email@example.com, fax 9670 9911). Dorm bed $25, double $80 (all include free Internet and breakfast). http://www.friendlygroup.com.au/
- Greenhouse Backpacker, 228 Flinders Lane (just off Swanston St), Central Melbourne, 9639 6400 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9639 6900). Dorm bed $27, single $60, double $78 (all include free Internet and breakfast). http://www.friendlygroup.com.au/
- Hotel Bakpak, 167 Franklin St, Central Melbourne, 9329 7525, 1800 645 200 (email@example.com, fax 9326 7667). 24 hour reception. Dorm beds $21-$25, single $55, double $60. http://www.bakpakgroup.com/
- Hotel Y, 489 Elizabeth St, 9329 5188.
- Kingsgate Hotel, 131 King St, 9629 4171.
- Melbourne International Backpackers, 450 Elizabeth St, 9662 4066 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9662 4077). Jan-Apr Dorm beds $19-$21.
- Stork Hotel, 504 Elizabeth St, 9663 6237 (email@example.com, fax).
- Toad Hall Hotel, 441 Elizabeth St (just north of A’Beckett St), Central Melbourne, 9600 9010 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9600 9013). Office open 7am-10pm. Dorm beds from $25, single from $60, double from $70. http://www.toadhall-hotel.com.au/
- Victoria Hotel, 215 Little Collins St (between Swanston St and Russell St), Central Melbourne, 9653 0441, 1800 331 147 (email@example.com, fax 9650 9678). Single $56-$155, twin/double $78-$155, triple $99-$165, family rooms and apartments from $150. http://www.victoriahotel.com.au/
- Queensberry Hill YHA Hostel, 78 Howard St, North Melbourne, 9329 8599 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9326 8427). Reception hours 7am-10:30pm. Under 18 shared room $20, shared room $25-$27, single from $62, double/twin from $72, family rooms and units from $80 (non-members $3.50 extra). http://www.yha.com.au/hostels/details.cfm?hostelid=98
- The Nunnery, 116 Nicholson St (between Hanover St and King William St; near the Museum; catch the 96 tram from Spencer St Station, get off at stop 13 on Nicholson St), Fitzroy, 9419 8637, 1800 032 635 (email@example.com, fax 9417 7736). 24 hour reception. Dorm beds $23-$27, single $60, double/twin $65-$75, other options also. http://www.bakpakgroup.com/nunnery
- Nomads Market Inn, 115 Cecil St (near York St and the South Melbourne Market), South Melbourne, 9690 2220, 1800 241 445 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9690 2544). Dorm beds from $19, double/twin $58, triple $72. http://www.marketinn.com.au/
- Nomads Chapel St Backpackers, 22 Chapel St (just north of Dandenong Rd), Windsor, 9533 6855 (email@example.com, fax 9533 6866). Jan-Apr dorm beds $20-26, twin $29 pp, double $75. http://www.csbackpackers.com.au/
- Jackson’s Manor, 53 Jackson St, St Kilda, 9534 1877 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Dorm beds $19-$24, single $58, double/twin $30 pp. http://www.jacksonsmanor.com.au/
- Olembia Guesthouse, 96 Barkly St (near Inkerman and Grey Sts), St Kilda, 9537 1412 (email@example.com, fax 9537 1600). Office hours 7am-1pm, 5-7pm. Dorm beds $25, single $46, twin/double $78, triple $90. http://www.olembia.com.au/
- The Ritz for Backpackers, 169 Fitzroy St (near Princes St), St Kilda, 9525 3501 (firstname.lastname@example.org). 24-hour reception. Located above the Elephant and Wheelbarrow hotel. You can park in the carpark behind the hotel overnight, officially till 8am but you will probably get away with parking there a bit longer. http://www.backpackerscentre.com/ritz/index
- St Kilda Coffee Palace, 24 Grey St (between Fitzroy St and Dalgety St), St Kilda, 9534 5283, 1800 654 098.
- Explorers Inn, 16 Spencer St (near Flinders St), 9621 3333, 1800 816 168 (email@example.com, fax 9621 1922). 24 hour reception. Twin or double $118. http://www.explorersinn.com.au
- Southbank Apartments Melbourne, 28 Southgate Ave, Southbank, 9686 7711 (firstname.lastname@example.org, fax 9686 7722). Premium 1 bedroom serviced apartments from $195. Corporate and government rates available. http://www.southbankapartments.com.au
- Melbourne Accommodation, 2/33 Latrobe St, Melbourne, 9663 8878 (email@example.com, fax 9663 8878). 1 bedroom apartments from $140. Lower rates for extended stays. http://www.melaccom.com
After a fire gutted the original building in 2001, most of Melbourne's grand General Post Office (250 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne; Phone: 13 13 18; Fax: 9203 3078; Mon-Fri 8.30am to 5.30pm, Sat 9am to 4pm, Sun 10am to 4pm; australiapost.com.au) has now been turned into an upmarket retail precinct, but it still has a range of postal services including post restante.
Telstra payphones are easily found through the city, but many are being phased out due to growing mobile phone ownership. These phones are coin-operated or use prepaid Telstra Phonecards, which are available from most convenience stores or newsagents. International calling cards are also available at these outlets.
Mobile phone coverage within the CBD and surrounds is usually good-to-excellent. Melbourne's area code is 03.
Internet cafes are dotted throughout the city, especially near the backpacker enclaves of St Kilda and Flinders Street. Speeds are usually excellent and rates range from $5 - $12 per hour. Some of the best include:
- e:FiftyFive (55 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne) is like a huge basement lounge room that feels more like a bar than an internet cafe. Great DJs, comfortable couches and dirt-cheap $2/hour internet access when you buy a drink attract plenty of travellers and will make writing that email home an enjoyable experience.
- World Wide Wash (361 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy) is a laundromat with plenty of internet terminals to keep you busy while your socks are tumble drying. There's an espresso machine, friendly staff and their motto is "Our internet is so fast you'll s*#t your pants ... and then you can wash them!"
Like most Australian cities, Melbourne is relatively safe and in fact boasts the country's lowest per-capita rate of violent crime. Usual big-city precautions like avoiding dark alleys after sunset should apply, but otherwise your visit should be hassle free.
Melbourne's red-light districts include King Street in the CBD and Grey Street, St Kilda, but you're more likely to face drunken revellers and unwelcome approaches from street walkers than any major threat. Melbourne City Council has also recently established all-night "Safe City" taxi ranks with security guards on King Street, outside Flinders Street Station and on Bourke Street.
Melbourne is more-or-less centrally located on the coast of Victoria, and there are many natural and manmade attractions close enough to easily visit in a day's return drive. These include:
===Melbourne Area=== (less than an hour's drive each way)