Its sister city on the East Coast, Sydney, may have the famous opera house, but Melbourne is the edgy, younger sibling that offers lots of character, personality, and several laughs. Melbourne has great diversity, culture and is turning into one of the fastest growing cities in Australia. Let’s find out why.
Quick Overview of Melbourne
Location: South Australia, about 8 hours driving-distance from Adelaide, and about 9 hours from Sydney.
Language: English, but due to WWII, as well as economic or political instability in Asian countries, there are around 233 languages and dialects spoken there. Mandarin and Greek are the highest minority groups, with Italian and Vietnamese coming in behind them.
Population: 4.9 million people. Only 63% of the population are born there in Melbourne, with about 200 countries and territories represented by the rest.
Money: the Australian dollar.
Transportation: Trains, buses, and trams within Melbourne.
Religion: around 64% are Christian, which includes Catholics; around 20% classify themselves with no religion, and the minority religions are Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism. But in general, there are over 116 religions represented in Melbourne.
Birthday: January 26 (1788)
Safety: Despite having a high number of immigration, Melbourne is a very safe place to walk around. Australia is even listed as the 10th safest country in the world.
Fun Facts: Melbourne has the largest tram system in the world, having 250km (155 miles) of track, which is 42km (26 miles) more than Moscow. There isn’t much of an ozone layer there, so it’s very easy to get sunburnt in Australia.
History: Melbourne had indigenous tribes living there for an estimated 30-40,000 years, but it wasn’t until the late 1790’s/early 1800’s that Europeans started arriving and exploring the area. It would take another 30 years though, until the land was bought from the locals, and more Europeans started settling there. In June of 1847, the town was officially recognized by Queen Victoria, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Arriving In Melbourne
From the airport to the city center: After arriving in Melbourne Airport, you can either take a bus or a taxi, with the taxi taking around 30 minutes to the city center, but can cost around $55-65 (Australian Dollars-”AUD”-not USD). There bus is called Skybus and is an express bus that runs every 10-30 minutes 24/7, costs $19.75, and takes about 30-45 minutes, depending on your destination. You can buy a ticket from the ticket desks in Terminal 1 or Terminal 3, as well as from the driver.
Getting Around: In the city center, a lot of things are easy to see just from walking around. But a really nice option is that there is a free-zone for the tram. So you can get on and off for free during that zone.
Things To Do In Melbourne
Watch A Movie Above The City: Something I use a lot when I’m traveling, is the free website meetup.com. It’s a website that local people can create a group, based on interests. So if you’re interested in hiking or a book club or finding new restaurants, you can join that group, and then just show up and meet people that like the same things as you. But the nice thing is that it isn’t just for the U.S., it’s in many cities all around the world. One of the fun things I found while I was in Melbourne through meetup.com, is a movie night on top of a restaurant/bar. A group of us girls met up for a snack and drink before the movie, then walked upstairs to watch Casablanca, while having a view of the city all around you. It’s called Rooftop Cinema, and only shows movies during the summer months, but it’s a really fun experience if you can go.
Unique Places To Eat/Drink: One of the things that’s great about Melbourne is how they have several quirky places to grab a bite to eat or have a drink. There’s kind of an edgy, hipster feel in Melbourne, and they like to decorate, or offer things that wouldn’t work in a more polished city. One of those places, is an outdoor restaurant/bar called Ponyfish Island, which sits under Southbank Pedestrian Bridge. The only access is from a staircase on the bridge, and they offer seasonal food, with other common finger foods.
A Library, Even If You Aren’t A Bookworm: Sometimes you just want to visit a place that isn’t loud and filled with tourists, or maybe the weather’s not cooperating and you need to find some indoor ideas. So here’s one for you, the State Library Victoria. It’s the oldest public library in Australia, being opened in 1854, and was one of the first free libraries in the world. There’s over 2 million books there, including photographs, maps, as well as diaries from the city’s founders, and even the folios from Captain James Cook.
Take A Step Back In Beach History: While Melbourne isn’t known as a beach destination like Sydney is, there is a really cute place to see, Brighton Beach, even if you don’t want to swim. By public transit, it’s about 40 minutes to an hour away, but because of that, you’re likely to be around more locals. The beach itself isn’t that wide, but it’s nice for walking, kids to play in the water, and for the bathing boxes. Bathing…what? In the early 1900’s, people wanted a modest place to change into their swimming clothes, and thus, the boxes were created. There are 82 distinctive bathing boxes, that are mostly unchanged since then, and is well worth the visit and taking some enjoyable pictures.
More Than Just A Train Station: While other train stations mainly have a few restaurants, cafes, and a place to sit and wait, Melbourne Central Station has a few surprises for you. They have several stores to go shopping in, so if you need to buy some clothes, sports shoes, or even a new computer, they have it there. But they also offer a lending library, a piano that likes to be played and even a nice cinema. Something that you probably haven’t seen in a train station before is what’s called a shot tower. This one, Coop’s Shot Tower, is 50 meters (164 ft) high, was built in 1889 and was going to be destroyed in 1973, but was decided to include it into the train station. In order to protect it, an 84 meter (275 ft) glass-cone-roof was built around it.
Drive Along The Great Ocean Road: Going from Melbourne, towards the West Coast, is the famous Great Ocean Road, with some really nice places to relax, take some pictures, have a picnic, etc. There’s a stop that’s about 130km (80 miles) from Melbourne, called Memorial Arch at Eastern View, and you can pose in front of the Great Ocean Road sign, before continuing on your trip. Without a doubt, a few really special places to stop and see are Gibson Steps, Twelve Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge, which are all a few minutes from each other. Twelve Apostles are big limestone rocks sitting in the water, next to the beach. Gibson Steps lets you go down to the beach, next to the Apostles. And Loch Ard Gorge is a beach, with some limestone rock formations that sit facing each other.
Feels Like You’re Standing On Top Of The World: Grampians National Park is a 3-hour drive from Melbourne, but it’s highly recommendable. It has a nice blend of sandstone mountains, wildflowers, and wildlife, such as wallabies. MacKenzie Falls is a waterfall that cascades a few times over the rock face. Reed Lookout is a stunning landscape, and nearby is The Balconies, which lets those crazy “selfie” people, sit on the edge of rock, that looks like they’re about to plummet to their death. But don’t worry, there’s also a fenced in area for those of us not trying to tempt fate.