A beginner’s guide to Melbourne
The Australian city of Melbourne is one of the gems to discover on your trip to Australia.
Melbourne is the capital of the south eastern state of Victoria, and the people of Melbourne have always prided themselves on being a little bit more cultured, a little bit more cosmopolitan than the brasher Sydney-siders to the north.
There’s definitely an under-stated charm and quiet confidence about this city, but also a surprising diversity and an ability to adopt and adapt the very best that the world has to offer.
Melbourne is a city to experience, rather than a city where you need to go and see things.
Here’s a quick guide to a few things to experience while you’re there.
If you’re into food then Melbourne’s thriving cafe and restaurant scene is a joy.
The Vietnamese restaurants of Victoria Street in Richmond offer fresh and tasty food at reasonable prices.
The Italian restaurants of Lygon Street in Carlton will satisfy any craving for pizza and pasta.
Beachside St Kilda, as well as inner city Fitzroy and Collingwood, offer an enormous selection of cafes and casual eating options.
Highlights include Archie’s in Gertrude Street for breakfast, Lune in Fitzroy for croissants, and Messina in Collingwood for ice-cream.
Often attributed to the early influence of Italian migrants, Melbourne does good coffee. What sets Melbourne apart in the world of caffeine is that good coffee is the norm – it’s a surprise and shock if you’re unfortunate to find somewhere that doesn’t serve good coffee, whereas in so many other cities around the world the reverse is true.
Highlights include Cafe Rosamond in Collingwood, St Ali in South Melbourne, and Proud Mary in Collingwood.
Much of Melbourne’s public transport system is built around its extensive network of trams. The people of Melbourne are particularly proud of their trams which define the pace and rhythm of the city as they gently whirr along their tracks, gently dinging their bells.
Melbourne is situated on a large bay, and there are a lot of really good beaches along some of the inner city suburbs and stretching down the length of the Mornington Peninsula.
One of the best beach options is the suburb of St Kilda – there’s a slightly alternative, coastal vibe about this neighbourhood, which has great cafes, great restaurants, and some really good takeaway options. In the evening, you can grab some food and then eat while sitting on the beach with the sand between your toes. Take a walk along the pier for an ice-cream or some fish and chips.
Going on a penguin spotting expedition may sound a bit cheesy, but this is totally worth doing.
A short drive from the city is Phillip Island. Each evening a colony of Little Penguins – they are quite small but that is also their official name – scrambles up the beach to find their nests for the night.
That may not sound very exciting but it’s actually a joy to witness. The viewing areas are sensitively done, and you’re seated with a good vantage point of the beach.
After a little wait you start to see the first penguins making their appearance – surfing in to the beach on the waves, landing a little ungracefully on the sand but soon finding their feet and waddling up towards their nests.
To get to their nests they pass right by all of the onlookers but don’t give them a second look, like they’re not even there – the penguins are simply focused on getting to their nests and getting to sleep.
The whole thing gives you a new found respect for penguins.
There’s lots of quality wine regions throughout this part of Australia, and most of them are within easy reach of Melbourne.
The Yarra Valley is just to the north of the city, while the Mornington Peninsula is down the bay to the south.
A bit further afield is the Milawa region. It’s here where you’ll find Brown Brothers – one of Australia’s most established wineries. If you’re into wine, this is worth a visit – you can call in to simply taste their full range of wines, or you can book in for lunch at their top-drawer restaurant.
Another good wine and food option is Fowles, which you’ll find at Avenel – just to the north of Melbourne. Free wine-tasting is a great way to sample what’s on offer, but make sure you stay for lunch as the food is great – you’ll probably need to book to get a table. On a sunny day you can sit outside in the courtyard.
When to go
The weather in Melbourne can be extreme, with cold winters and intensely hot and dry summers. October and November is generally a pleasant time of year, also March and April is a good option.
Some highlights worth considering when planning your visit include:
The final weeks of the Australian Rules Football season are in September – this is when the strongest teams battle it out to make it to the Grand Final of the competition.
The Spring Carnival horse racing season is in October to November – the city goes horse and hat mad. The Melbourne Cup is a bank holiday for the entire city, but the Cox Plate is also a major focus.
The Australian Open tennis is in January – the Rod Laver arena is in the heart of the city and it’s a great way to see some top quality tennis.
If you fancy a bit of pride and party action, then plan your visit to Melbourne to coincide with a few of the major social events on the gay calendar.
Here’s a sample of some of the events that you can plan your trip around for your Australian adventure.
Midsumma Festival is Victoria’s top queer arts and cultural festival for the LGBTQ community. It’s held each year in January, and this artistic festival goes on for three weeks, with Melbourne and surrounding areas hosting events such as films, parties, performances, visuals arts, sports, and social events.
The festival opens with Midsumma Carnival which is an all-day-all-night party in Melbourne’s Alexandra Gardens.
Midsumma Pride March, Melbourne’s traditional march of celebration makes its way through the streets of St. Kilda during the second week of the festival. The final celebration, Midsumma Horizon, bursts onto the scene during the final weekend with an art party.
The best thing about Midsumma Festival is that the entire event is free!
Trough is all about the men. Australia’s sexiest fetish dance party is held every few months in Melbourne (and now also in Sydney and London).
Contrary to the name, Trough isn’t a water-sports party but a chance to play with your own personal fetish fantasies.
Trough transports you to an adventure full of the sexiest men featuring visual arts, exhibitionist performances, and great music that will keep you on the dance floor.
Chillout Festival is the most popular regional gay and lesbian event and is held annually in Daylesford, Victoria – it’s a short drive from Melbourne.
In a landscape filled with festivals that are pure parties, Chillout Festival retains its laid-back, chill ambience that has become a staple of this down-to-earth festival. It’s held each year in March.
Plan your trip to Melbourne
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