Melbourne is the Aussie town of penguins, wine and beaches. Our local, Nicole, takes you along to alleys full of street art and convents full of food and drinks.
Nicole relocated back to her hometown with her Dutch hubby and five year old twins and has discovered anew Melbourne’s quirkiness and love of all things gastronomic.
Melbourne tips by locals
1. Hidden alleyways in the CBD
One of my first Melbourne tips is the Melbourne CBD. At first glance the Melbourne CBD, or Central Business District, looks the same as that of any other city: a skyline of skyscrapers with traffic jams and shopping sprawls lying in their shadows. A walk between the high rises will soon reveal an array of ill-lit alleyways and laneways,many covered with graffiti.
Take a step inside though and you’ll see why we call the graffiti street art and that these same alleys and lanes are home to some of the hippest bars, restaurants and boutique shops in town. From the historical ambiance of the Block Arcade to the cafe culture at Degraves, the nightlife of Meyers Place and the cool bars/restaurants at the top end of Flinders Lane. The names are always changing so put on your walking (or dancing) shoes and just explore.
2. Biking along The Yarra
The Yarra is known locally as the Upside Down river and there’s no need to explain why. It’s brown and boring … Fortunately we’ve built a bike path alongside it that will take you on a very scenic journey through Melbourne suburbia to the wonderful Abbortsford Convent.
Once a Convent (duh) its now a thriving centre of food and art, with a children’s farm to boot. Try Lentils as Anything or the Farm Cafe for lunch before cycling back to the city. You can rent a bike at Federation Square, right on the river.
An alternative route would be to cycle to the nearby Botanic Gardens before heading to a circuit around Albert Park Lake.
Return via Coventry Street South Melbourne for a famous South Melbourne Market steamed dim sim and a wee bit of shopping on one of the hippest shopping streets in Melbourne.
3. City beaches
When the sun comes out there’s a beach for everyone. For those who like a beer and people watching to accompany their beach experience head to the iconic Espy (The Esplanade Hotel) in St. Kilda. If a park on the beach to entertain the toddlers is more your style head to South Melbourne or Elwood.
A little further south of Elwood you’ll come to the gentrified Brighton Beach with its line of colourful beach huts or you may prefer to rough it and follow one of these Melbourne tips: Head over the Westgate Bridge to charming Williamstown, an old working class fishing town with beaches looking back towards Melbourne city.
4. Day trip to the Mornington Peninsula
My favourite thing to do of all is a day trip down to the Mornington Peninsula. My day always begins with a visit to the Red Hill Markets, held from 8-1pm on the first Saturday of the month. These markets are exceptional. I defy you to come home without something special and the food stalls are notable too.
There’d even a children’s farm, playground and painting for the kids. After the markets head to Montalto Vineyard for lunch. You can book weeks in advance to dine at the restaurant or wing it to eat gourmet pizza outside amongst the vines. Either way a few bottles of wine will add to the scenic ambiance of the meal.
Red Hill Brewery
The Red Hill Brewery isn’t bad either if a home brew is more your style. After lunch you could head to the Peninsula Springs to paddle in the natural pools, take the kids to The Enchanted Maze or Arthur’s Seat and then stop at Mount Martha on your way back to Melbourne for fish and chips on the beach. Look at for the beach huts here that can go for A$150,000 a pop!
5. The Penguins
It is the height of tourism but a visit to Melbourne would not be complete without a visit to see our Fairy Penguins on Port Phillip Island. Its one of only two places in the world (the other in remote Argentina) where you can see them in their natural habitat. I’ll say no more because every guidebook to Melbourne will do it for me.