Three full days and four nights: my time in Melbourne was cut far too short, much like a brief love affair.
If you don’t believe me about Melbourne’s amaze factor, watch this.
Yes, I am in LOVE with Melbourne, Australia.
I can’t stop raving about the city (although I shouldn’t be advertising this to Kiwis).
Upon arrival, I was wide-eyed and scared. However, it didn’t take long before I relaxed and embraced everything around me. The SkyRail bus from the airport to central Melbourne was uneventful… until we passed the Melbourne Star, a large observation wheel. It was similar to the London Eye (although on a smaller scale), and I felt my heart flutter because all the lights of nighttime central Melbourne were beginning to come into view.
I was so exhausted, I wandered into a 7-11 unknowingly… and when I realized they sold Slurpees, I was dying. I hadn’t had one since October. If there was a Slurpeeholics Anonymous, I’d be in it. I’m pretty sure I ended up having at least one per day in Australia. In central Melbourne, 7-11s were like Starbucks in America – one on every block.
I was in love with Australia even more when I got that Slurpee. 😉
The YHA Central Melbourne (which is the nicest, cleanest and most quiet hostel I’ve ever stayed at) was in the midst of the town’s heart. It was basically right across from Sea Life, the city’s aquarium, and a bridge away from the Crown Casino. Yes, the city has a casino that connects to a large food court and shopping complex, which then connects to another shopping complex, and sprawls out into a huge array of restaurants along the riverfront. Fire displays occurred every evening as well (okay, this was Vegas-esque).
What WAS this place?! It wasn’t Vegas-esque, it was far more classy (especially the Southgate area). It was so vibrant, so cultured, so incredible.
That first night, I ended up wandering off without a map. I didn’t need one. There was something around EVERY corner, and I do mean that literally – whether artsy, music-filled, trippy, food-related, or entertaining, it was a poppin’ place to be.
That was also the perk of arriving on a Friday night. I ended up staying out until 1am, something I rarely do, after walking for five straight hours. I couldn’t get enough of this city.
I’ve never felt this way about any place before – not even Tokyo, which was the first place outside America I visited. Wellington was pouring rain and windy when it greeted me back in October. While I loved the city, it wasn’t to the extent of my love for Melbourne.
It was magical.
I pictured myself living here – I wondered if I could ever tire of a city like this. Regardless, my mind was always racing and stimulated with every step I took in Melbourne. I knew, in those few days, that I had to experience living in Melbourne or else I wouldn’t be living life to my fullest.
I woke at my usual 6am, keen to start the day and watch the sunrise above town. Despite the Yarra River being brown (which doesn’t seem beautiful to most), the overall view of the city is amazing. Nighttime Melbourne was my favorite – to me, it seemed that was when the city truly came to life, filled with aromas of street food, markets, theatre performers, musicians, fire breathers, and lights everywhere.
Oh, that street art. My heavens.
I’m HUGE on any city with an emphasis on arts and music, which is why I was drawn to Wellington so much. But Melbourne blew everything else I’ve seen out of the water.
Graffiti art was scattered about in hidden laneways (another secret of the city – I spent a full day exploring these lanes), on trash bins, windows, sides of buildings. Everywhere. Splashes of rainbow colors surrounded me. I remember smiling so big whenever I found more art – it was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t believe I had waited 23 years to see this place.
Federation Square. Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). Flinders Street Station. Southgate. Fitzroy. State Library of Victoria (probably the grandest library I’ve ever set foot in).
I was running around, never wanting to stop, constantly trying to take more and more of the city in. It was an electrifying feeling.
I like to think of Melbourne as a mini version of the UK – but still any shopper’s heaven. Damn, they have shopping to make your eyes pop out for days, weeks, years.
One of my favorite shopping areas was Melbourne Central, which spanned two city blocks. Not only did it house the Melbourne Nixon store, but it was atop the large City Loop train station and featured two famous architectural wonders. The first was a 20-story high glass cone created by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa. Inside was housed Coops Shot Tower, a bullet-making facility designed in 1889. Next to this was a giant Marionette watch hanging in Town Square that chimed every hour with the iconic “Waltzing Mathilda.”
I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open as I tried to capture these landmarks inside the mall while maintaining composure.
According to the official website, “Melbourne Central is an essential destination for any visitor wanting to experience the real ‘Melbourne’ shopping and entertainment experience. Melbourne Central epitomizes the melting pot of culture and style that characterizes Melbourne, offering an eclectic shopping, dining and entertainment offering. Thousands of visitors and locals alike are drawn to the centre daily to view the mingled historic and modern architecture, explore the maze of retail precincts and laneways or linger in the market garden and network of bars and dining.”
There were beautiful colored lights strung on the ceiling, more creative art hanging in other areas, and just so many vintage/boutique places to swoon over. I loved it so much, I visited twice- something so unusual for me.
I actually despise shopping. I’ve never been one to splurge, and I just don’t enjoy it much (other than Target). However, Melbourne was an exception. While I didn’t buy many things, I SPENT heaps on what I did purchase (but everything was worth it, since nothing could be found in NZ anyway).
I loved how the complexes are connected to other complexes, thus allowing you to skip to other streets that run parallel. I loved how historical buildings were converted into shopping malls. I JUST LOVED EVERYTHING. Excuse me for sounding like a broken record, but I really did love it (the two people I texted most read, “OMG. OMG. I LOVE THIS. WHAT IS THIS. LOVE,” every few minutes from me when I was there).
The Royal Arcade was another one of my favorite shopping areas – so much love. I spent hours perusing the stores and admiring all the architecture and cute cafes. I had this crazy urge to book a flight to the UK after staying in this area for too long.
Maybe I was fascinated with the fact that Australia was a bit (or a lot) more Americanized than New Zealand, because I loved seeing Costco and IKEA. I almost cried out excitement when I found Target, but I’m glad I didn’t – what a letdown. Australia’s Targets are similar to America’s K-marts. Jank, but I guess it’s better than nothing.
And don’t even get me started on their H&M. I’ve never seen anything quite as fabulous.
And the markets. TOO MUCH. SO MUCH LOVE.
I highly enjoyed exploring the riverfront and waterfront areas the most, especially due to my fascination for being near the water (I blame growing up in the middle of nowhere – our nearest lake, river, stream or ocean was really faraway). Docklands was an incredibly urban renewal project alongside a large harbor. The apartments were some of my favorite things to admire around in this area – the reflective glass, purples and turquoises – it was the dream exterior for my future place.
Being the tourist I am, when I spotted the Melbourne Star again, I ran toward it and wanted nothing more than to go on it for some spectacular views of the city.
The day prior, I had gone 88 floors up to Eureka Skydeck. It’s the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere and the glass of the top 11 floors is plated in 24K gold. Pretty spectacular. I thought the nighttime views were grand, but being so high up, all you could see was miniscule lights that blurred together after awhile.
The Melbourne Star, in my opinion, was far more worthwhile. The pods themselves were ginormous – plenty of room to walk around and see Melbourne from every angle. We saw the most amazing views of the skyline from sunset to twilight to brisk evening. Absolutely amazing – I was even more spellbound than before.
I tried to hit up all the gardens in CBD, primarily since gardens are my happy place. I found all of them to be quite Victorian (no pun intended) and regal in comparison to those in New Zealand. The fountains and statues in almost every garden added a certain mystique and British flair.
Heck, the Fitzroy Gardens even had an amazing Conservatory and a miniature village and a fairie tree.
Holy crap. All I’m going to say is that Melbourne has far better food than Wellington. In my few days there, I didn’t have anything that was less than par. The service was excellent, the restaurants were tidy, the takeaway places were efficient. Everywhere you look, there’s food. I suppose that’s a good thing – and after being used to some of the NZ suburbs, it’s SO nice to not have to walk more than 20 min. to look for some sign of human life.
Melbourne is a city rich in history, especially since it was a major boomtown during the Gold Rush. The National Treasury and Parliament areas were incredibly interesting places to explore – and I’m not even a history geek.
Seriously, Melbourne just made me love everything – and I somehow had this newfound interest in things I would otherwise gloss over. Perhaps it was the honeymoon phase of being in a new country and vibrant city?
Nah. Melbourne wasn’t crowned as the globe’s Most Liveable City three times in a row for nothing.
I also loved how Melbourne is referred to as Victoria, just because it’s Victoria’s most populous state. Being that I have a best best friend from childhood named Victoria, it gave me even more reason to love the city.
Toward the tail end of my trip, I had the chance to explore central Brisbane for a hot second (okay, it was an hour). With a tight schedule, I still managed to hop on the AirTrain and made it back in time for my flight (even though I very much didn’t want to leave Australia). I explored the Queen Street Mall, King George Square, had my last gelato (although nothing compares to Messina Gelato in Fitzroy), and successfully maneuvered the streets without getting lost. The Brisbane airport is also similar to the Tokyo/Haneda one – beautiful, with glass windows and stunning views (and palm trees indoors). I found the vibe similar to Melbourne, but a little more low-key (definitely need to explore another time).
But ah, Melbourne. Every night, I sat cross-legged on the edge of the riverfront, trying to embed all the sights and sounds into my memory while I could. This was where I wanted to be.
And after I give South Island life a shot, I will be there… again. And my love affair will continue. 🙂