After spending two weeks with my parents in South-East Asia, I jumped on a plane to go back 'down under'. I spent a week in Brisbane and Noosa and then travelled onto Melbourne before finally heading back to Sydney. My week in Melbourne was spontaneous due to undetermined time constraints and I tried to pack in as much as I could during the time I was there. Fortunately, a few of my friends were also in the area at the same time so I was able to catch up with their tales from the road.
Whilst in Melbourne I discovered the Great Ocean Road, camped at the Grampians National Park, saw penguins in St Kilda and drank in fancy roof-top bars.
On first arriving in Melbourne, I took the sky bus from Tullamarine to the central station. After navigating the tram system, I made my way safety to the hostel for my stay at The Mansion Melbourne. This had high reviews online and was a quirky hostel close to the city centre. Although it was set in a beautiful old building, it did mean that the facilities were not that modern, and rooms were small. I also found that many people staying during my time were long-termers and therefore were quieter in the dorms and less likely to socialise.
Luckily, this didn’t bother me too much as I headed straight out to meet my friends, Sian and Cedric at a bar. They had been staying in Melbourne for a few months and I had just caught them before they made their way back to the UK. We had a good catch up over some cocktails and I learnt of their life in Melbourne and the competitive nature of the city with finding a backpacker job.
The next day I got up and headed to the edgy area of Fitzroy which was a short walk from my hostel. In the morning the town was fairly quiet as it is more well known for it’s nightlife but I did explore some fun street art and unique shops. I stopped at a café for a hot chocolate and happily people watched as many made their way to work.
In the afternoon I made my way into the centre of Melbourne and met my friend Hannah for lunch. She had secured a job in Melbourne for a few months, so we caught up on her time in Melbourne at a small restaurant down one of Melbourne’s famous alleys. Hannah then showed me a few more famous streets with street art, we walked around the botanical gardens and war memorial and made our way down to St Kilda.
Here we stopped again from another bite to eat, this time pastries and walked along the beach. St Kilda is a great area as it is easy to get to from the city but offers a laid back and beachy lifestyle. That evening me and Hannah met up again for a drink at a Melbourne rooftop bar. Joining us was a traveller I had met in Noosa, Queensland. It was a nice evening overlooking a busy street of Melbourne.
The next day I got up early to meet a bus to take me to the Great Ocean Road. This was part of a group tour and would take all day. We left the city and headed out into the outskirts of the city towards the coast. Our tour would make its way along the Great Ocean Road with many stops along the way. It would end at the 12 Apostles and then drive the long journey back to the city.
Our first stop on the Great Ocean Road was of course at the sign. This sign was made by loggers and still stands to this day. After a quick photo op our next stop was at a spot where Koala’s often frequent. We were lucky and got some amazing shots of a sleeping koala as well as a few very friendly ducks and parrots!
The drive along the coast is dramatic with many steep cliffs and stunning beaches. We stopped for a quick lunch and continued to make our way around the coast, stopping every so often to admire a beach or view. The finale came around and we stepped off the bus to see the 12 Apostles. With the erosion of time these standalone rocks in the ocean are slowly falling into the sea which means there are not 12 left! They have kept the name and it was lovely to see this famous sight with my own eyes.
We got back to the city late that night and I said farewell to my new travel friends from this day and went straight to bed.
I woke up early once again and met up with Hannah as we were leaving the city this day! Hannah’s friend Laura had recently moved to Bendigo to work for a family ..as their au pair. We took the train out to this fairly large country town and hopped in her car ready for the drive. Luckily, Laura was able to get us a tent, sleeping bags and everything we needed to survive a night in the National Park.
We got to the park, which was a three-hour drive, by the afternoon and straight away made our way on a hike to the most famous landmark of the park, The Pinnacle. This hike was not too long, and we were rewarded with amazing views once we got to the top. The park is dramatic, rising out of the dry landscape of Victoria’s flat country and is home to a lush forest and lakes.
After descending we decided to find a camping spot before it was too late. Our dinner consisted of dry food and sandwiches as we didn’t bring cooking equipment. Without a fire we also got cold very quickly, moving to the car for a bit to avoid being so cold. We did consider joining a group in the camp site who had a fire going but instead opted for an early night. I remember the spot we chose being on a bit of a slope and waking up to very cold feet as I was sleeping down the slope!
The next day we had some breakfast and packed up camp. We headed back into the park and took another hike, this time to a waterfall and more spectacular views. Both days we were here we were blessed with great weather so enjoyed the sun and clear views.
That evening we made it back to Melbourne looking forward to a shower and hot food! That night I checked back into the hostel and met up with two friends, Jort and Sanne in the hostel’s bar. I had lived with both in Sydney and it was a lovely reunion after so long. Jort was working in Melbourne and Sanne was visiting. We promised to spend the next few days together exploring more of the city.
The next day I spent the morning on my own and checked out the tourist tram in the city centre. This old tram services the outskirts of the CBD and tells you more information about the areas and sights as you pass them. This made for an enjoyable and relaxing morning and I got off to check out one of the museums on the river front. I met Hannah for lunch on her break from work and then continued with my day on my own, exploring more stores and museums. I was worried I would not like Melbourne and although it is very different to Sydney, I liked the main city. It is very easy to navigate and the streets are all unique and interesting. The trams make moving around the city easy and the city also had a lot more culture than Sydney. I was jealous of the theatre culture which was apparent here.
That evening I met up with Hannah again and we saw a little more of the city at night. Hannah had recently moved to a house share on the outskirts of the CBD and treated me to dinner that night.
On my final day in Melbourne I met back up with Jort and Sanne and we made the most of my final day. We walked to the Botanical Gardens and spent a lot of time enjoying all of the various plants and sculptures. The Botanical Gardens were extensive and very impressive to walk around. Just by the botanical gardens is the ANZAC memorial which I previously visited with Hannah as it is famous for having a great view of the city. This time around we went into the war exhibition which is huge and was a great reminder of the sacrifices of people all over the world.
That evening we made our way back to St Kilda to enjoy dinner and potentially try and spot some penguins. Although Phillip Island is renowned for penguin sightings, with a hefty price tag we decided to hege our bets with the free option.
At the end of St Kilda pier is a small colony which can often be seen at dusk. Armed with ice cream we made our way to the end of the pier and patiently waited for any sight of these little penguins. After half an hour of waiting we saw our first penguin! They are small, only up to my ankle, but were able to make quite a noise all together.
We happened to stumble upon them in mating season so were lucky to see them very active. Volunteers armed with red-light torches shone a light on the little penguins as they hid in the rocks and attempted to woo females. It was fascinating to watch, and we were very lucky to see them as much as we did. My final day in Melbourne was over and I was satisfied that I had ticked off everything I wanted to do.
We went for a final drink that night in the area which Jort lived in and we reminisced about our time in Sydney and discussed our next plans. I was heading back to Sydney and then onto farmwork, Jort was happy in Melbourne and was planning to do South-East Asia before heading home and Sanne was at the end of her trip, with a final stop in Sydney before heading back to the Netherlands.
The next morning, I packed my bags and made my way to Avalon, Melbourne’s smaller airport for a quick flight back to Sydney. My time in Melbourne was packed full of activities, friends and variety and I really enjoyed this week. Melbourne did surprise me, and I enjoyed my time in this city. I think it is a great place for culture, nightlife and an active lifestyle. I certainly look forward to my next visit.