Melbourne is a large hipster city. There are organic juices and smoothies everywhere, and everyone
eats fresh avocado smashed on sourdough bread (which is delicious by the way). I LOVE IT. If this isn’t your thing, there’s plenty else for you to eat, but I personally appreciated the easy access to healthy foods and vegan / vegetarian (and gluten free if you want that too). It's also near beaches and a beautiful route to drive for a day or more, the Great Ocean Road.
There is also a light rail system / tram in Melbourne that works very well. It’s expensive though – you need a Myki card which costs AUD $6 (~ US $4.50), and then each one-way ride is AUD $4.10 (~US $3). There are also buses and a metro, but we never needed to use either because we were directly on the tram line. It’s easy to navigate without a car (and if you do have / rent a car, make sure that you know how to drive on the left side of the road!)
We stuck to 2 main parts of the city: St. Kilda and the city center / downtown area, and we also rented a car for 24 hours to drive along the Great Ocean Road.
St. Kilda is a beach area with some cool cafés and restaurants that’s a couple miles south of the city center. We stayed at an Airbnb in the heart of St. Kilda, but I would recommend staying in the city center if you can afford it. Our location was great because the tram took us straight into the city (30 minute ride one-way on the tram or a 15 minute Uber), but we went into the city nearly every day we were in town. We would have just stayed there, but the hostels and Airbnbs were too expensive for our budget. However, if you plan on beaching every day, then St. Kilda would be a great place to stay, and you can just take the tram into the city a few days to explore there.
We spent one day at St. Kilda which is all you need to see the area (unless you want to beach every day). There is a really cool street of cafés and shops called Acland St. I highly recommend Leroy Espresso as a place to have breakfast / brunch / lunch. The food was fantastic; they had a lot of healthy options along with good vegan food; and the staff was wonderful. I wanted ginger kombucha, but they only had lemon. The waitress juiced some ginger to add to the lemon kombucha, and it was delicious. She offered that right off the bat – I would never have asked her to do it, but it was so nice!
There’s a carnival type park in St. Kilda called Luna Park. We walked in and around for about 10 minutes. Colin wanted to see it, but it’s like a state fair. You can buy tickets for each ride or pay to play the fair games. Might be a good option if you have kids
The rest of our time in the actual city of Melbourne we spent in the city center. We took a free walking tour with the same company we used in Sydney, I’m Free, and it was good. Very informative and gave a good overview of what to do / see in the city. I always recommend starting with a free walking tour in whatever city you visit.
There are LOTS of shops, restaurants, and cafés around everywhere in the city center. There are also some streets that are full of graffiti, but nice graffiti. You’ll see what I mean. There is a TON of good Asian food everywhere (we had some great Korean BBQ), and we even found Ethiopian food. I definitely suggest walking around the Queen Victoria Market near the city center. There are aisles and aisles of little booths selling cool things. I got a really great new passport holder and had a yummy smoothie. There were a lot of people selling purses, leather, jackets, other clothes, Aussie souvenirs, etc. Worth checking out even if you don’t want to buy anything.
If you like musicals like Broadway type stuff, I would also suggest visiting the Princess Theater. They do a lottery every night that there is a show, so you can win a chance to buy up to 2 front row tickets at AUD $40 per ticket. That’s a very good price, and they give away 24 front row tickets every night. We won the second night we tried, so we saw Book of Mormon in the front row for only US $30. Pro tip: if you’re with someone and want 2 tickets, don’t just send one person to enter. You can BOTH enter for the chance to win 2 tickets.
I’ve mentioned this about Australia before, but the wifi here (and all interne at that) is totally fucked. I looked it up – they are slower than 58 other countries in the world. This means that there are 58 countries with faster internet than Australia. And they call themselves a developed country. However, we were able to find decent wifi at 1 spot in the city center which was a lifesaver for researching our next stop. If you need good wifi, go to the City Library. Not only can you sit in the library and work / read books (it’s a public library), but there’s also a café for coffee, tea, food, etc. called Journal that has the same internet speeds as the library.
Just to give you an idea, our internet speed (when the wifi was actually working) at our Airbnb was 0.03 Mbps. In Atlanta, we were getting 50.00 Mbps at our apartment. ISN’T THAT INSANE?! How do people live like this?! If you’re just on vacation though for a few weeks, you can live for sure, but it does make it hard to plan things out for the next part of your trip if you’re backpacking. Still worth visiting, but just FYI.
We also rented a car and did a one-day trip along the Great Ocean Road. Take a look at our pictures here as well as our YouTube video of a couple of the sites here. If you’re able to spare more time, you could see more along the route – we didn’t make every stop, but I do feel like we saw enough. However, it was a very long day. We left the apartment at 5:00 AM and didn’t get back until 4:30 PM to drop the rental car off.
The small rental car for 24 hours was $65 for an automatic or $60 for a manual. We started with the automatic because we weren’t sure how hard it would be to drive manual while learning how to drive on the left side of the road. Any other time I’d go for the manual. We picked the car up at 5:00 PM on Tuesday and had to drop it off by 5:00 PM on Wednesday.
If you do have the time, you should make this at least a 2 day trip. We didn’t spend very long at any site that we stopped at, and you could do some short hikes at some of them. We didn’t do the entire road, but I do feel like we saw the highlights. There is a highway leading you out to the sites or there is a road along the coast that is slower (similar to Highway 1 along the coast of California) called the Great Ocean Road. You can take the highway out and the Great Ocean Road back or vice versa. We decided to use the highway to get to our farthest point out and stopped at the sites on our way back to town. We missed a lot of the tour groups by getting there so early in the morning, but I feel like you could do the same the other way as long as you start out early enough.
This was our route:
B. London Bridge
C. Loch Ard Gorge & Thunder Caves
D. Twelve Apostles
E. Split Point Lighthouse Lookout
F. Melbourne (driving along the Great Ocean Road)
We actually also stopped at Cape Otway Lighthouse, but it cost AUD $20 to get in, and we didn’t really have the time. It seemed like you could spend awhile there looking around and going to the top of the Lighthouse.
Whatever you do, you have to drive along that bit of road on the coast between D and E. It's BEAUTIFUL and the whole reason for the trip. The Twelve Apostles are probably the most famous, but I really liked London Bridge as well. There are so many other stops along the way as well!
See our Australia photos here.
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.