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What to See and Do in and around Melbourne, Australia
22 Sep. 2017
What to See and Do in and around Melbourne, Australia

Utopia?

Melbourne might be as close to Utopia as any city in the world that I’ve seen.  I miss Melbourne.  It’s definitely one of the best cities that I’ve visited in nearly 50 countries of travel and one of the world’s best cities.  What makes it so great?  Quality.

Melbourne has a very high standard of living.  You see very little poverty in and around the city.  There are very few homeless, low crime (especially violent crime), and a high quality of life in general for the vast majority of people there.  It’s a very clean city with great architecture (both old and new), some of the highest quality food that I’ve had anywhere, good fashion and garment materials, great sports, and an affordable life for nearly all aspects of life.  The ocean is also in the Melbourne’s back yard as is the nearby Yarra rainforest and the rugged coastline with some of the prettiest views that you’ll ever come across.

12-Apostles-Australia

One of several stops along the 12 Apostles coastline

Lots of places have amazing coastlines like Ireland, Italy, the US, South Africa, and also Australia.  The Economist magazine ranked Melbourne the “Worlds Most Livable City” for the 7th straight year.  I’m not one for polls and awards from media sources, but the city is definitelyin a small group of one of the world’s most livable cities.  The only downside with life in Melbourne is that housing prices (for buyers) are off the charts expensive.  You basically can’t find anything under a million (Aussie) dollars there.

Growing Pains

Melbourne isn’t huge but does have around 4.5 million people.  All of Australia has a population of only 25 million, so a good chunk of those live in Sydney (5 million), and Melbourne.

melbourne-population-growth

As the chart above illustrates, both Sydney and Melbourne are experiencing dramatic growth.  Melbourne is forecast to overtake Sydney as Australia’s largest city in the next 20-30 years.

The downtown area (CBD) isn’t very big, and you could cover much of it in a full day of walking.  But if you include some of the surrounding neighborhoods like the beach areas of St. Kilda, trendy streets of Richmond, and others then the city does stretch out significantly.  Over 300 people are moving to Melbourne everyday.  Fifteen years ago the population of Melbourne was 3.5 million with nearly 5 million there in 2017, and by 2050 the city is expected to house 8 million or more.

Melbourne doesn’t have the instant flair and beauty that Sydney does, but it definitely is a pretty city.  Even the names of the suburbs are cool.  Fitzroy, Collingwood, Richmond, and St. Kilda are all great sounding places that live up to the hype.  Parts of the downtown are very cool to see too.  Old hotels and pubs, and quaint shopping areas surrounded by modern sky scrapers along with a major river that flows though the city.  Unlike downtown Adelaide, which is completely flat, Melbourne has gently rolling hills through the city reminiscent of, but not as dramatic as, San Francisco.  The achitecture, especially for the newer modern buildings, is very interesting.  Many of the buildings have curved or angled glass or supporting structures that often make the building look like the are fighting gravity with waves or shapes that are very distinct and eye catching.

The food in the city is fantastic.  Melbourne’s population is very diverse with many Indians, Greeks, Asians, and Eastern Europeans.  There are neighborhoods that all basically cater to a specific cuisine like Asian food, but more often you’ll see different options mixed in with one another.  One minute you’ll see place that serves seafood, then a pizza place, then a Greek store, then a burger joint, and so on.  And the quality of the food is incredible, from the bread to the meats to the vegetables.  It’s the highest quality food that I’ve had basically because nearly every spot that you’ll eat has great food.  In the city I live in here in the US, there might be a dozen places at most that I’d say have amazing food with quality, natural ingredients.  Nearly every place that I ate at in Melbourne had fantastic food from the bakeries, to coffee shops to pubs to restaurants.   The worst food was pre-made dishes in supermarkets.  But outside of that, you’ll eat like a king.

What to See and Visit

The Crowne Casino, located downtown in the CBD, is owned by the Packard family, one of Australia’s richest families.  The casino has large exterior vertical canisters supplied with natural gas and a flame that resembles a row of giant metal candles.  Every hour on the hour in the evenings, the Gas Brigade takes place, where the canisters erupt and omit a quick spurt of gas followed by a fire shooting into the air.  It’s very Vegas like, and combined with the scenery of the river and skyscrapers in back of the casino it’s pretty stunning.

  1. Victoria Market – top attraction, largest market in the souther hemisphere.  Several (10?) sheltered sheds selling fruits and vegetables, meat and seafood, clothing, souvenirs, hot food and much more.  Old style English feel…encompasses 2 full city blocks?  Northern part of downtown
  2. Golf – Royal Melbourne, Kingston Heath, Victoria Golf Club, The National, and many more amazing golf courses.  Without a strong connection or member, you won’t be allowed on the grounds at Royal Melbourne.  The club is essentially the Augusta National of Australia.
  3. Day trip to 12 Apostles – drive along the Great Ocean Road, route through Apollo Bay, see koala bears, rainforest…from central Melbourne or the airport, plan on a 3 hour drive to the 12 Apostles with minimal stopping.  With some stops it’s more like 4-5 hours each way.  similar to driving the Pacific Coast Highway (PCF) in California, the Great Ocean Road is one of the best and most scenic drives in the world.
  4. Ada Tree Walk – a giant mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnants) located inside Tarra Bulga National Park, is considered to be one of Victoria’s largest living trees.  Ada is estimated to be over 300 years old and towers 250 feet over the park’s visitors.  The mountain ash is the largest flowering tree in the world and the second largest tree after California’s Sequoia.  The rainforest is cool compared to the area before park.  Much of the parks walking areas are shaded from the large mountain ash trees.  Visitors can basically park do a 30 minute loop inside Tarra Bulga National Park,
  5. Shopping – The Emporium downtown Melbourne is pretty incredible.  There are tons of shops on both sides of the street, including large world class department stores like David Jones and Myer. Prices for most goods are similar to what you’d see in the US, but if you time your trip when the US dollar is doing well, you’ll get a nice (20%-30%) discount on your money.
  6. City Circle Tram – a no fee (free) above ground trams running throughout the CBD.  Outside the CBD there are fees for riding but downtown there’s not charge. The tram service takes approximately 60 minutes to complete a loop from start to finish. Melbourne also has a below ground metro.  Uber is popular, and taxis are also plentiful.
  7. Royal Botanical Gardens – internationally renowned nature walk covering nearly 900 acres of land.  The Garden focuses on Australian native plants and nature and is located SE of the downtown and for many of my friend who live in the city, it’s there favorite place to visit.

Weather changes fast in Melbourne.  Rain can come in quickly, especially in the winter.  The winter is surprisingly cold in SE Australia.  I woke up one day in August and it was 36 F.  Unfortunately I only packed 1 light sweater with so I had to go shopping just to stay warm.  But shorts and a t-shirt can also happen in the winter so packing isn’t easy.

Melbourne is one of the best and highest quality cities that I’ve ever visited.  The food quality was so high, and was probably the consistently best food that I’ve had anywhere.  There’s natural beauty in and outside the city, and the ocean is always close by.  The men look like models and the clothing there is fantastic.  If the housing prices were lower, I can’t think of a better city to live in anywhere in the world than Melbourne, Australia.

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