First trip to Aus is in the books!
Brett was able to take two quick work trips to Sydney right before Christmas, but I had never been to Australia. Looking at upcoming holidays, we didn’t have time for a huge city-to-city tour (you know, since Australia’s as big as the US and all)… but I was desperate to feed kangaroos.
So, we decided to do a quick trip to Melbourne over the four-day Easter break. Sure, New Zealand is far from almost everywhere else in the world, but it’s a huge bonus that a weekend trip to Australia is completely possible!
Why Melbourne? We had heard that it’s a lot like San Francisco – great food, funky alternative culture, a cool art scene, etc. And it definitely delivered on all of those fronts. (See “The City” section.) Plus, there are outdoor adventures right outside the city, so we spent a day driving from beaches to kangaroos to a penguin parade! (See “Outside the City” section.)
For some reason, I was expecting a smaller city. But in fact, Melbourne has three times the population of Auckland. Honestly, it was even a bit overwhelming – I forget that our “big” city Auckland (and everything in New Zealand, really) is defined on a much smaller scale. We’ve spent so much time lately traveling away from big-bad Auckland to remote locations, that bustling malls, loud restaurants, several options of public transport, etc. was a bit of a shock to the system. I felt like I was back in a US city!
We didn’t have much planned for our time in the city. We wanted plenty of time to wander around, sit at cafes, window shop, etc. Our favourite part? That the food scene was pretty amazing. We had really missed having so many options! Casual Mexican, Greek souvas, snobby coffee, brunch-appropriate Vietnamese, international craft beer – we hit it all.
If you’re heading to Melbourne soon, here are some areas/things you should definitely check out:
- Laneways, Arcades & Street Art: Melbourne is known for its maze of hidden side streets. They’re either packed with cute restaurants, bars and shops. Or, their brick walls are covered from top to bottom with the most colourful street art.
- For the most famous street art, check out: AC/DC Lane, Hosier Lane, and Flinders Court
- For cutesy arcades, visit: Block Arcade, Degraves Street and Centre Place
- Spot with the highest percentage of quality restaurants:
- Definitely Flinders Lane. See this list. We had the most amazing meal at Chin Chin, and quick, cheap tacos at Fonda (only because Mamasita was closed). We were pretty upset that Tonka was closed for the holiday weekend as well.
- For a more hipster scene, Fitzroy. We had a great time checking out this neighbourhood – highlights were Naked For Satan (rooftop cocktails) and Industry Beans (amazing coffee and brunch).
- As you cross into Southbank, don’t miss the bar floating in the Yarra, Ponyfish Island!
- We had an epic splurge meal at Maha, a Turkish restaurant with a few pre-coursed options.
- Touristy spots worth a wander: State Library of Victoria, Flinders Street Station, Federation Square.
- Federation Square has a beer bar with a pretty epic selection. The highlight of Brett’s trip was finding Founders KBS (a limited release Michigan beer that we used to call stores to track down, wait in lines at 7:00am when they got them in stock, and were limited to two beers a person). We tracked down 10+ bottles in Melbourne… but paid a hefty markup for the import.
Outside the City
On Easter Sunday, we rented a car and headed out of the downtown area. Our final destination was Phillip’s Island to see the famous little blue penguins parading to their burrows at sunset… but we hit a lot of spots along the way. I’d highly recommend a day like this:
- Breakfast in St. Kilda: Try Miss Jackson – nom.
- Brighton Beach Bathing Houses: So colourful and cute. Awesome photo opps!
- Kangaroo Park: We went to Maru Koala Park, which I’m not sure I’d recommend… I’m sure others have nicer facilities that make the animals more comfortable, but I can’t deny I had the time of my life feeding kangaroos in an open range.
- Cape Woolamai Hike: Follow the Pinnacles Trail for beautiful views – out and back will take about 1-1.5 hours.
- Penguin Parade!: Hands down, the absolute highlight of the entire weekend. We couldn’t take any photos, but you can read all about the experience here. I’ll need an entire extra blog post to elaborate on the epic amount of cuteness! Stay tuned 🙂