Melbourne is constantly compared to Sydney. Which one is better? Which one has better restaurants? Better schools? Better attractions and so on and so forth. I really don’t get the need for a comparison. We don’t compare Paris to London. Yes, yes they are in the same country and so they shouldn’t be divided should they? I can’t see what else to do. They are so different. Chalk and cheese.
I’ve mentioned in my Great Ocean Road blog what are the ‘must do’s’ in Australia and then build from there. In Melbourne I think the must do’s are as follows.
- Catch a tram to St Kilda and take a stroll around or go to Luna Park. Luna Park is a amusement park of yesteryear and has been at St Kilda for over 100 years. There are a variety of rides.
- For a less expensive experience, you must visit the St Kilda Adventure Park. These are spaces that are described as a communal ‘backyard’ and they provide the local children with a space that they can use their imagination and are encouraged to take risks. The park is greatly designed and built by the local community and they use recycled materials in their constructions. Forget structured playgrounds from a catalogue as this place is far from what a manufacturer in China thinks makes a great playground. Imagine you are Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and you’ll get yourself into the right frame of mind. Don’t expect a Disneyland over rehearsed and over produced kind of attraction. This place is raw and rustic. You will love it.
- Spend some time at Federation Square. There’s usually a children targeted exhibition at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image but we have previously been to the DreamWorks exhibition. You’ll find the Melbourne Visitor Centre here for planning any further trips and tours. Nearby is a great park for the kids, Birrarung Marr. Drop into the children’s art centre and gallery ArtPlay.
- Wander through the Royal Botanic Gardens because they are vast and delightful. Pack a picnic or eat at the café in the centre of the gardens. You can go punting in a punt in one of the gardens lakes. As far as Melbourne eating goes – this is rather inadequate in my mind for inspiring food sensations and a memorable meal. It is however, child friendly and there are many things on the menu for children.
- Wander. Wander through the lane ways and around the city. Melbourne is renowned for its street art. To find it you need to hit the pavement. Don’t worry, the laneways are full of the best coffee places. You will be able to refuel as you go.
- Visit Melbourne Museum and see Phar Lap – for those from out of town, Australia, and in particular Melbourne stops for a horse race every year. Learning about Phar Lap may help you to understand our love of racing.
- Melbourne Aquarium. The penguin exhibit is fabulous and their antics will surely bring a smile to any child’s face.
- Catch a team to Port Melbourne and take a walk along the promenade. Weather permitting you can even swim. The fish and chips here come highly recommended. Grab some and take a pic ice near the water. The Adventure playground in St Kilda has a sister playground in Port Melbourne.
- Take a tour to Philip Island to visit the Penguins. Each evening as the sun goes down the Penguins parade from the beach to the sea to feed. As this tour is at sunset smaller children may not be able to stay up late enough. It is a 90 minute trip from Melbourne and you will not regret the effort made to do this.
- Watch the cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground or a game of Aussie Football League. AFL is a family game in Victoria and a Saturday afternoon match throughout the city is an experience you won’t forget – whether you understand the rules or not.
- Melbourne Zoo. I know seen one and you’ve seen them all right? Well Melbourne Zoo is special and the children are bound to love it.
- If you are a city dweller and you would like to visit farm animals I have not seen or been to a better place than Collingwood Children’s Farm. Can you believe this place is just 5 kilometres from the city centre?
Once you have coveted the above lists you will have an understanding of the city and it is time to explore the outlying areas. Melbourne is accessible and the surrounding areas are an easy drive. The Dandenong Ranges, Yarra Valley, and Geelong are all easy day trips. If you want to visit Great Ocean Road please read here for further information.
Melbourne is chic, urban and oozing in sophistication. It’s a city with a mass of old wealth and there is a great deal of philanthropic projects run in the city. Whilst Sydney has grunge and edge. Melbourne has class and style.
There are an abundance of restaurants and some of the best meals of my life have been in this city. Be careful to ask about children as many are not appropriate for little visitors. The crowd is elegant and expecting behaviour befitting of that and not a 2 year old wobbly.
Melbourne has a diverse multicultural background and many areas were settled by large numbers of Greek and Italian migrants after the war. With them came the food and Lygon Street is the capital to find either. Lebanese and other cultures are strongly represented throughout the city. Australia grows enough food to feed the entire world and you will love the fresh produce.
It’s very easy to find your way around. Trams go everywhere and where trams don’t go the train line is sure to.
In years gone by the shopping in Melbourne was always superior to Sydney and I would of spent time shopping. I have little time for such things now. Internet shopping has solved me having to use previous site seeing time in shopping centres. However, there are pockets of ‘high street’ style boutiques and it is here that you will find some great cafes.
The city of Melbourne has bikes you can hire and ride and drop off at the next stop. You will need your own helmet to enjoy these. Conceptually a great idea but if I’m not packing my bike not sure why I would pack my helmet. They are also one size fits all so little kids are out I’m afraid.
There are plenty of shuttle buses from the airport but taxis are plentiful and will be able to drop you to your door.
I recommend looking at an apartment along St Kilda road. Seasons Botanic was our choice. This is a central location but allowing you the option of an apartment. The Royal Botanic Gardens are also across the road. Flinders Station is not far. Federation Square is opposite Flinders Station. The War Memorial is located in the gardens and the National Gallery of Victoria is behind the station.
Would I visit again? I go nearly every year as my husband works there often some usually find a week where we can tack on a trip with the kids somewhere along the way. It’s different every time and I explore new parts each time I go. In my mind St Kilda Adventure Park is son ominous with what Melbourne is all about. The support of local projects and helping people is a part of what makes Melbourne real. The many charities and non for profits in Melbourne are world leaders in their spaces. Melbournians are not afraid to try things and learn from those experiences. The put themselves out there and attempt to be better or go further. This is the essence of Melbourne throughout the art, the food and the way of life.