Melbourne, Australia, offers a wonderful mix of Victorian architecture with world cultures. From its favored site on the banks of the Yarra River, Melbourne offers travelers some of the best shopping and theater in Australia, a varied arts scene, top-notch food and wine with restaurants to fit any taste and budget, and excellent hotels.
Melbourne also has a thriving fashion industry, sporting and leisure activities, a greenbelt of parks and boulevards with a distinctly European feel, and an unrivaled festival calendar. Its dynamic and varied lifestyle, cafe culture, affordable cost of living and low crime rate make it one of the world's most livable cities.
Melbourne's city center sits on the banks of the Yarra River, about 4 mi upriver from Port Philip Bay. The portion on the north bank is known as the Central Business District (CBD), and the portion south of the river is called Southbank. The ambitious 495-acre Docklands project is extending the western border of the city.
The sprawling metropolitan area is made up of suburbs. Surrounding the city center are the communities of West, North, East and South Melbourne. To the south are Albert Park, South Yarra and, along the bay, St Kilda; Williamstown is on the western side of the bay. To the northeast are Collingwood and Fitzroy. The suburb of Carlton lies to the north, Footscray to the west, and Abbotsford and Richmond are to the east. All of these suburbs are nearly as old as the city center and are known as "inner suburbs." You can reach them from the CBD by foot, train or a short tram ride. To reach the "outer suburbs" (truly on the fringe of the urban area), you'll need a car or a longer train ride.
No matter what suburb you're in, Melbourne is relatively flat. In contrast to this flatness is a chain of hills to the east of the city. The Dandenong Ranges, 40 minutes by car from the city center, are a cool getaway as is a trip to the wineries of the Yarra Valley. To the southeast of the city, a string of golden beaches stretches more than 30 mi down the Mornington Peninsula to the head of Port Philip Bay.
Melbourne was home for the indigenous Koori people for 50,000 years before the arrival of Europeans in the 1800s. The newcomers established a town, but it remained a small settlement until the middle of the century, when a gold rush in central Victoria saw Melbourne grow to become Australia's financial capital and most glamorous city. The boom gave the town its magnificent public architecture, gracious parks, tree-lined boulevards, opulent mansions and the nickname "Marvelous Melbourne." The city developed so successfully that it was the original capital of the Australian Federation. (Melbourne relinquished this role to Canberra in 1927.)
Though it was no longer the capital, Melbourne continued to be one of Australia's leading cities. It took the next step—to world-class city—when it hosted the Olympic Games in 1956. Melbourne has since attracted large numbers of immigrants from China, India, Sri Lanka, North Africa, Lebanon, Vietnam, Italy, Malta and Greece (Melbourne has one of the largest Maltese populations in the world and the largest population of Greek origin in the world outside of Greece). Annual festivals such as the Italian Lygon Street Festa, the Greek Antipodes Festival and the Chinese New Year celebrate the cultural diversity of modern-day residents.
Melbourne has become a vital international business location, with world-renowned research universities and local companies developing groundbreaking technology in biological sciences, information technology, security and communications. The Port of Melbourne is considered a world-class hub for shipping and cargo.
It's not difficult to see something memorable in Melbourne. You can hardly walk two blocks without running into a quirky piece of street sculpture or stencil art, a group of buskers or an unusual take on a familiar scene.
Nevertheless, there are some areas and grand attractions that you shouldn't miss. The Melbourne Aquarium is a good first stop, especially for shark lovers. From there, you can cross the Yarra River and walk east along the riverside promenade making sure you take in the view from the Eureka Tower, Melbourne's tallest building.
Eventually you'll reach Princes Bridge, which leads back across the river to Federation Square. There you can rest at a cafe and take in the stunning contemporary architecture or visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, a unique museum devoted to film and video.
The Ian Potter Centre is also on Fed Square, home to the city's best collection of Australian art. (If you enjoy the pieces there, consider visiting the Heide Museum of Modern Art, which has more works by Australian artists.)
Stroll along the Paris end of Collins—named for the exclusive shopping and grand Victorian buildings—and visit historic points along the self-guided Golden Mile walking tour. Check out the bustle of Chinatown with its shops and restaurants over numerous city blocks.
Just north of the city center is the Melbourne Museum, which is a great place to learn about Australia's natural history and Aboriginal culture. Botanists should check out the Royal Botanic Gardens, and history buffs should visit Old Melbourne Gaol, the former prison that once housed Australia's worst criminals.
Wandering through one of Melbourne's colorful markets is a great way to spend the morning. Day trips to the wineries of the Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula, or the beaches of Philip Island are other options.
For a short time in the early 1800s, the city was known as Batmania, after John Batman, one of its founders. Later it was briefly known as Bearbrass before finally settling on Melbourne.
Melbourne has its own hard-rock lane. ACDC Lane is a block and a half off Swanston Street near Flinders Lane. (Swanston Street was also the setting for the Aussie band's video for "Long Way to the Top.")
The bionic ear and the black-box flight recorder were invented in Melbourne.
The first ever frozen-embryo baby, a girl, was born in Melbourne in March 1984.
The world's first polymer (plastic) banknotes were developed and printed in Melbourne in 1988.
Melbourne's tram system is the fourth largest in the world and is the largest outside of Europe. It has 152 mi of track and 450 trams.
The National Gallery of Victoria features the world's largest stained-glass ceiling. It measures 167 ft long by 49 ft wide.
The world's first feature film, The Story of the Ned Kelly Gang, was made in Melbourne in 1906.
Melbourne has the world's second largest Greek population, behind Athens.
Dos and Don’ts
Do explore the Melbourne Central Business District on foot; its alleyways, bars, shops, galleries and cafes are what give this city its soul.
Don't be offended if someone calls you "Mate." Take it as a compliment.
Do say "No worries" instead of "You're welcome." You can also say "ta" instead of "thanks."
Don't even think about drinking and driving; laws are very strict and enforced regularly.
Do wear thongs (flip-flops) and sunscreen in summer.
Don't ever proclaim Sydney to be a superior city. But by all means do proclaim Melbourne to be a superior city.
Do visit BYO restaurants and take your favorite beer or wine with you.
Sights—The views from Eureka Tower; Old Melbourne Gaol; Queen Victoria Market; Chinatown; Federation Square; Fitzroy Gardens.
Museums—The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art; the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square; the Heide Museum of Modern Art; Australian Centre for the Moving Image; National Gallery of Victoria; the Immigration Museum; State Library of Victoria.
Walks—Strolling around Albert Park Lake; exploring the Yarra Trail; a walk along St Kilda Beach; wandering through the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Especially for Kids—Scienceworks and its interactive exhibits; observing the sharks at Melbourne Aquarium; riding the roller coaster at Luna Park; milking cows at the Collingwood Children's Farm; Roar 'n' Snore at Melbourne Zoo; watching films on the world's third-largest IMAX screen at the Melbourne Museum; riding Puffing Billy, Australia's oldest steam train, through the Dandenong Ranges.
The climate in Melbourne is temperate, with a warm summer and moderate rainfall. Seasons are the reverse of those in the Northern Hemisphere, and they usually start very late: The "official" first day of summer is 21 December, but it doesn't feel like summer until mid-January or later.
Spring is cool and extremely variable—often windy and rainy. Summer is warm to hot, with temperatures sometimes topping 100 F in late January and February. Autumn is usually balmy and mild, and it can last well into June. Winter—not the best time to visit—varies from mild to cold and rainy. Average temperatures range about 82 F in January to 68 F in April and October to 57 F in July.
Passport/Visa Requirements: Citizens of Canada and the U.S. need passports and an Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), which substitutes for a visa. There is no cost for the visa itself, but there is a A$20 service charge. The ETA is usually granted within 24 hours of applying. Contact the nearest Australian Embassy for more information or visit the Australian Immigration website at http://www.immi.gov.au. Reconfirm travel document requirements with your carrier before departure.
Time Zone: 10 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+10 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March.
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Telephone Codes: 61, country code; 3, area code;
Australian currency is called the Australian dollar. The dollar is very stable and is roughly equal to the U.S. dollar. Credit cards are widely accepted, but it is always a safe bet to keep cash handy. Be aware that some cafes and bars have a minimum spend amount to use credit cards.
Australian notes each have a distinctive color and vary slightly in size, making them easy to distinguish at a glance or in dim lighting. There are one- and two-dollar coins. Note that the two-dollar coin is actually smaller than the one-dollar coin. One-cent coins no longer exist. When paying by credit card, you will be charged the exact total, for example A$19.99. However, if paying with cash, it will be rounded to the nearest .05, so A$19.99 will round to A$20.
The most convenient way to obtain Australian dollars is to use an ATM: There are hundreds of them around the city. Currency can also be exchanged at the four major banks—ANZ, Westpac, National Australia Bank and the Commonwealth Bank. There are several small currency exchanges along Collins and Swanston streets within a few blocks of the intersection, and nearly every small convenience store in the city center has a money exchange at the entrance.
Copyright ©2017 Northstar Travel Media LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Courtesy of: Darla Logsdon
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