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5 Must Do Things in Melbourne

AUSTRALIA | Friday, 5 August 2011 | Views [12172]

I seem to have a lot of places I can call my backyard these days. So when World Nomads kicked off their Blog your Backyard project, I saw it as a fantastic way to show off the best bits of the cities that I have called home. I am used to playing 'tour guide' to visitors and friends, sharing my secrets and favourite places, but now I get to share them with the world. Here you are, wonderful travellers, welcome to my 5 Must Do things in Melbourne. Get ready to book your flight already and don't bother with the guidebook.

1. Shop ‘til you drop

Melbourne is well known for its shopping to all Australians. Window shop along Collins Street, where if you fancy, you can grab your favourite Louis Vuitton clutch, or just head straight to Bourke Street Mall for more affordable, trendy fun. If you want to be the new hip thing, make your way on the tram to Chapel Street for the latest designers and trends, or run around the corner to Bridge Road where Factory Outlets abound. No matter where you go, you’re sure to find something you love, and you’ll be inspired by all the fashionistas wandering the streets in the latest Burberry trench.

Melbournians also love their markets. They’re everywhere and there are websites dedicated to tracking the market fare available every day of the week. Although not a favourite of mine, the Queen Victoria Markets are a must see just for their size, where you can grab a bargain from Asian importers everywhere. Best pick along here is to sneak away to the gourmet produce and deli sections across from the consumerist clag-up for delightful cheeses, olives and fresh, hot donuts. Aside from that I’m madly in love with the South Melbourne Markets, the classy end of the market madness. A whole strip is dedicated to delis, butchers and coffee sellers, while there’s a top notch organic grocer at the very top of the market and plenty of places to eat and enjoy the bustling atmosphere. You can easily burn a few hours here, but don’t forget to grab a FAMED dim sim from the seller along the outside edge of the market. Just look for the queue; you’ll find it. Aside from foodie markets, there’s a fantastic Arts Market at the Arts Complex every Sunday, super creative markets from artists and designers along the St Kilda strip every weekend, and always something happening at Federation Square, whether it’s a book market or International Food Festival. Worth a wander!

2. Get on the water!

I know, I know. You’ve been on a whole bunch of river cruises through all the other cities before. Why should you do it again? Well, this is not your average river cruise. Head down to the Southbank at the Yarra River and nab yourself a spot on a boat to Williamstown. You can catch the train or drive there to get access to this cosy little water-based suburb, but why not go the fun way? Enjoy the sunshine, breeze, bridges and water views for the trip across the water, and once you arrive, wander along the waterfront or lounge around on grassy knolls. When you’ve worked up a sufficient appetite, make your way to Breizoz, the French creperie, off to the left along the restaurant strip for stunning crepes and galletes, and beautiful French apple cider. You will feel a world away from the city as you gawp at ivy climbing old stone houses and watch the world go by at a little table outside. There are a whole range of neat little gift shops and other restaurants too, which pad out the whole day trip beautifully.

3. Soak up the sunshine!

Warning: if you want to soak up Aussie sunshine, you NEED sunscreen. It can be bitter, harsh and brutal but is luxuriously warm and satisfying. Make the most of Melbourne’s wonderful, yet at times crazy, weather and take a long walk along the esplanade of Port Philip Bay. Start off at the Port Melbourne tram line stop and make your way along the waterfront for 6 kilometres to St Kilda. By then, you will have earned your time out at any of the fantastic restaurants and cafés all through the trendy little town, before mustering the energy for quirky and bohemian shopping along Acland Street. Stop off also for an extra piece of cake at any of the incredible cake-shops sporting windows full of buttery, sugary goodness. For the more energetic/active/crazy, do the 6 kilometres by bike and keep on going along the water all the way around to the bay side suburb of Brighton, which is 15 kilometres in total (cycle to work anyone?). Here you will find the beach lined with brightly painted little beach boxes owned by the wealthy residents of the area. I’m quite proud that a student’s family from my little Melbourne school owns the one decorated with the Aussie flag! Quite a sight to behold! Brighton’s also got a wicked range of exclusive people-watching cafés where you can top up the energy levels before riding back to Port Melbourne again. All that said, if you’re feeling really lazy, just pull up on the sand and soak up the salt air that way. It’s not surfing material, but it’s nice to enjoy the seaside.

4. Get behind a team

Aussies love their sport. Regardless of whether you love playing or prefer watching, you must catch a local game of Australian Rules Football at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Grab a supporter scarf on your way in (just pick the prettiest colour) and get behind whoever you can. The atmosphere in the stadium is electric and the Victorians have AFL pumping through their veins. As a non-native Victorian, I don’t have that special blood, but I still love the way that the stadiums light up with cheering, support and a whole lot of laughs! Start up a conversation (or friendly argument) with someone from the opposition and watch the sparks fly for the rest of the game. When it’s all over, you get to head out for more of Melbourne’s fantastic food….

5. Lastly: Eat, drink and be merry

Let’s face it; Melbourne is like a holiday for your mouth. Anything you could possibly want, you can get in Melbourne and the high quality, scrumptious food in divine locations all come together to create an eating experience not just an average part of your day. So, here’s a few of my favourite insider haunts in Melbourne, though I’ll probably get a few virtual stabbings from Victorians for sharing their secrets.

Firstly, Australians love their breakfasts. It’s something I’ve noticed as I left this corner of the globe and have struggled to find a fantastic breakfast or brunch venue for lazy coffees and delicious, heart-warming fare. I am completely divided when it comes to breakfast between New York Tomato, on the corner of New and York Streets in Richmond (where you might spot Nicholas Cage or Geoffrey Rush enjoying a meal), and the tiny little cozy cafés hidden away in Degraves Street. Degraves Street is a neat little find, just a half block down Flinders Street from the famed Flinders Street Station, but be sure to keep walking right to the end of the laneway, rather than just stopping half way. Jungle Juice is definitely the winner of Degraves, mostly because their menus are old children’s Golden Books with the pages taken out. I love that. You can also pick up wicked morning munchies along Chapel Street in St Kilda or at the South Melbourne and Prahran Markets.

I haven’t even mentioned the coffee yet. Melbourne’s lifeblood is coffee and you’ll not find a better brew in Australia. Degraves Street baristas will serve up fantastic coffee with your morning meal, or try out Seven:Am on Bay Street, Port Melbourne, for the best coffee on the café strip! If you’re looking for a lighter start to the day, go no further than Giles the Juice Man on Elizabeth Street, right near the camera and photography ‘zone’. You can’t miss it as his shopfront is covered in ORANGES. This man knows how to squeeze. He’ll tantalise your taste buds, fill you with wonderful stories, make you feel special, and best of all, if you don’t like your juice, he’ll make you a new one. I think I was in love with Giles for a little while, but he’s married.

Then for lunch, load up on giant bowls of beef pho and rice paper rolls at any of the awesome Vietnamese gems lined up along Victoria Street in Richmond. Light on the waistline AND the wallet, it also makes a fantastic night out with bunch of friends before hitting the city for the ‘being merry’ portion of the evening. Melbourne has plenty of superb places to drink and chat, dance and, well…everything. For your classic trendy/trashy bars and clubs, try Fitzroy Street in St Kilda. If you’re looking for good British pub grub and a pint, check out my old watering hole and workplace, The Local on Bay Street in Port Melbourne, where you’ll get great live and local music on a Sunday afternoon. For a plethora of local bands and talent, check out the Espy in St Kilda, and for the cocktail connoisseurs and lounge bar lizards, sidle up to the kings and queens of mixology at 1806, The Red Hummingbird or The Emerald Peacock, all in the CBD, for a classy affair.

Then, last but not least, dance the night away at the Odeon nightclub in the Crown Casino, stopping by to watch the flame display every hour on the hour outside on the Southbank. Or, if you’re not into dancing, just chill out and people watch with a cup of gelato until your head is ready to hit the pillow.

There you have it. I love Melbourne, and although it’s not my backyard any more, there’s not a week that goes by where I don't wish it still was.

The ‘Blog your Backyard’ Project

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