There’s a big rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, and to be honest we’re probably in favour of Sydney. But that doesn’t mean Melbourne doesn’t have it’s own charm. Though it doesn’t boast the same internationally known attractions, wandering around Melbourne and enjoying its laid back and artsy vibe can be a relaxing way to spend a few days. Make sure to walk around the city center, and make a trip down to St. Kilda’s to chill on the beach and see the native Little Penguins.
How to Get There
We travelled from Sydney to Melbourne on our Hop On/Hop Off Greyhound bus ticket, and the trip took about 12.5 hours overnight. We arrived at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, where you can catch a street car to pretty much anywhere you want to go.
Melbourne has a cool transit system in that you can travel inside the “Free Zone” on streetcars completely free of charge. This zone encompasses a lot of the city center, making it convenient for tourists. However if you want to leave the city center on the street car you have to buy a MyKi card for $6 AUS and tap on and off the street cars. You cannot pay with cash.
Where to Stay
We were lucky enough to have some friends in Melbourne so we stayed with them. There are multiple backpacker hostels in and around the city center. You can find cheap places to stay in Melbourne here.
What to Do
- St. Kilda Little Penguins – Melbourne is home to a colony of Little Penguins, which are super cool to see. The colony lives at the break wall at the end of the St. Kilda Pier (picture on the right). You can take the St. Kilda street car there and get off just after Fitzroy St. turns into Esplanade. Walk down the pier and past the old kiosk at the end, you’ll see signs on the left side giving information on the Little Penguins. During the day you’ll be able to see a few penguins tucked under the rocks and boardwalk, but the real excitement starts at sunset (8:30pm for us in early December). Sunset is when the penguins come back in from feeding in the ocean. You’ll be able to spot them swimming down the harbour and into the rocks where they spend the night. There was at least 50-60 penguins coming back throughout the time we were there. Volunteers come down to monitor the penguins and they’ll happily provide information on them. They also have special red flashlights so you can see them without bothering the penguins. Camera flashes on the other hand do really disturb the penguins, so make sure you’re not that annoying tourist taking pictures with flash. Enjoy seeing the cute little penguins!
- Hosier Lane – Hosier Lane in the city center is an alleyway where street artists are allowed to paint the walls and pretty much anything. It’s a really cool area to check out, lots of amazing funky street art.
- Federation Square – We wandered around near Federation Square and saw the old yellow Flinder’s Train Station and an awesome Lego christmas tree set up in the square. It started raining on us so we went inside the Australian Center for the Moving Image and found a crazy media exhibition. Lots of interactive exhibits about the evolution of film and media, which Devon loved as a film major. Alex enjoyed playing Mario Kart.
- Fitzroy – A cool hipster neighbourhood northeast of the city center. We walked up Brunswick street because our hosts said it was a cool spot and we were not disappointed. Cool quirky shops and restaurants, and very colourful buildings. We got some food there as well but it was pretty expensive anywhere we went.
What to Eat
- Three Bags Full – A cool cafe we went to for brunch with our host. Most likely out of your way if you’re staying in the city center, but the stellar breakfast we had there might be worth it. Melbourne in general is known for it’s fancy and delicious breakfast spots, so make sure you check one out before leaving the city! And if you like coffee, definitely order a flat white while you’re there!