South Pacific

Melbourne’s founders were farsighted

 Hot air balloons fly over Melbourne skyline | Photo credit: Global Ballooning

Melbourne is an exciting hub of Australian arts, culture, fashion and sports.

Melbourne, nipping closely at the heels of Sydney, is the second-largest city in Australia, and is home to several arts and cultural institutions. But nowadays, Melbourne is more famous for its fashion sense – and sports-mad locals. It’s a true sporting city and rightly proud of its main stadium, the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground, affectionately known around the world as the MCG.

Set along the shores of Port Phillip Bay, the city is laid out in an easy-to-navigate rectangle on the northern banks of the Yarra River. Established in 1835, it was meticulously planned from the beginning, even though records suggest it began as nothing more than a tent ‘community’ of some fifty settlers. The farsighted founders of Melbourne envisioned a great 19th-century city with an abundance of parks and wide boulevards, and even though many of the original buildings have been replaced over the years and the city has long outgrown its boundaries, it remains loyal to its open spaces.

Walking the city streets is like stepping back in time as an old colonial building pops into view, overseen by the futuristic Eureka Tower stretching up towards the sky. With its vibrant caf

With its vibrant café culture and collection of charming city-center precincts, each quite different from the next, Melbourne has an almost European feel, and a stay here offers plenty to see and do – and not just for fans of fashion and footy.

Did You Know?

  • A person from Melbourne is called a Melburnian.
  • Long before Melbourne became the City of Melbourne, it was called Batmania, Bearbrass, Bearport, Bareheap and Bearbury.
  • Melbourne inventions include the Black Box Flight Recorder and the Bionic Ear to name a few.
  • For a time in 2002, you could feed your parking meter by mobile phone in Melbourne. Meters in Latrobe Street displayed a number that, when rung, debited the parking fee to your phone bill. Advantages included a free text message reminding you when the meter was soon to expire. Disadvantages included the 55c fee. The system was discontinued because too few people availed themselves of the service.
  • Is it true or false that toilets flush counter clockwise in Australia? Surprisingly the answer is FALSE. Whilst this rumour has elements of truth, thanks to the natural phenomenon known as the Coriolis Effect, the real truth of the matter is that the small area inside your toilet basin is not large enough to cause the water to alter direction. However, larger bodies of air and water such as hurricanes and typhoons DO actually rotate in different directions as a result of being in the Southern hemisphere. It’s a well known fact that in North America toilets flush clockwise, but on closer examination, is this true of all of them? The decision of which way the water flushes is not determined by the earth’s rotation, but by the manufacturer of your bathroom appliance, who position the ‘water jet’ to flush in one direction or another.

How to Get Here

Melbourne Airport (MEL) is located approximately 25 kms from the Melbourne’s CBD on the Tullamarine Freeway – less than 25 minutes by car. To get from the airport to Melbourne, you can take a Skybus, which offers a shuttle bus service from the airport to Melbourne CBD and city hotels. This service operates 24 hours, 7 days a week and buses run every 10-15 minutes throughout the day and every 30-60 minutes overnight. There are also public buses which operate from the terminal to various areas in Melbourne. Information on destinations and schedules can be obtained from the information desks within the airport.

Taxis are available from the ground level of Melbourne Airport, outside the International Terminal and both domestic Terminals.

Melbourne Airport has five car rental companies located on-site. All have offices on the ground floor of the Short Term Car Park, and information desks in the Melbourne Airport domestic terminals.

Australian Dollar

The most convenient way to access cash in local currency is to use a debit or credit card in an ATM in Australia. All banks have ATMs accessible 24-hours a day, generally outside the branch or in the foyer.You might be charged a fee by your bank, and you may need a new PIN number, so contact your bank or credit card company before you travel to make sure you’ll be able to access your account.

For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites.

Travellers cheques are becoming less popular in Australia. If you do use travellers cheques, take cheques in AUS$, not Canadian or US funds. Travellers cheques can be exchanged for cash at banks, exchange houses and large hotels, or used to settle accounts in some, but by no means all, retail or dining establishments.

Credit cards are accepted in most establishments in Australia. Be aware you may be charged a fee to use credit cards abroad, and you should let your issuing company know what countries you are travelling to, as their fraud departments can sometimes freeze cards used in foreign countries.

What will the seasonal weather be like?

For those who live in the northern hemisphere, it is best to remember that the Australian seasons are the opposite of those in the north hemisphere

Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere so summer is from December to February, while winter is in the months of June, July and August.

The country enjoys a mild climate and any time of year is pleasant for a visit.

In Australia, Summers are hot and temperatures often hit 30 C or sometimes higher. Winters are mild with an average minimum temperature of around 9 C. It does rain during winter, but rarely during summer.

Much to the dislike of Sydneysiders, Melbourne is not Australia’s wettest capital city. Sydney, Brisbane, Darwin and Perth all receive much higher annual rainfalls than Melbourne. However, Melbourne does have the highest number of rainy days in a year.

It’s also interesting that the average Melbourne summer will see more 30 C plus days than in Sydney, although overall averages are lower, keeping in mind Sydney is further north.

Getting Around

Tram outside Ay Oriental Tea House in South Yara | Photo credit: Tourism Victoria/Mark Chew

There are several ways to navigate Melbourne.

Trains, trams and buses are all linked together in a Metcard payment system. You can purchase a daily MetCard that allows for unlimited travel on all the services in the zones you’ve paid for. It’s best to buy your Metcard prior to boarding. MetCards are available from stations or from vendors displaying a blue ‘Metcards Sold Here’ sign. Before you enter a train platform or board a bus or tram, you need to validate your card in a machine. Failure to do so could result in a fine.

There is an excellent free tram service, the City Circle, that loops around the perimeter of the city centre. As it takes in most of Melbourne’s landmarks, it’s a great starting point for visitors and gives you a real sense of direction.

Buses run frequently during the day and the NightRider bus takes over along major routes between the hours of 12.30 AM and 4.30 AM on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Trains travel around a City Loop, but they’re better used for reaching the inner, middle and outer suburbs, and places of interest outside the city limits.

Melbourne’s bright yellow taxis are numerous and easy to spot. You can find taxis in designated ranks around the city or hail one in the street. Only ever get into a licensed taxi, which should have a meter. You can also call private hire car companies to arrange a pick-up time and location.

If you want to rent a car, free city maps are available from car rental agencies or the Melbourne Visitor Information Centre, but, investing in a handheld GPS system featuring turn-by-turn voice directions could be invaluable. GPS systems today also feature points of interest that are nearby your location, and many other features that will provide a level of confidence while navigating in a foreign country.

What not to miss …

World Heritage Site(s)

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. There are currently seventeen World Heritage Sites in Australia.

In fact, a World Heritage Site is situated in Melbourne. The majestic Royal Exhibition Building, located just north of the city and surrounded by Carlton Gardens, is one of the world’s oldest remaining exhibition pavilions and was originally built for the Great Exhibition of 1880. From 1901 it housed the first Commonwealth Parliament, and in 2004 it became the first building in Australia to achieve World Heritage listing.

Note You can purchase, for one all-inclusive price, a See Melbourne and Beyond Smartvisit Card, which opens all the right doors to over 60 attractions, and also includes three convenient transportation components and some tempting offers at wineries. Every card comes with a full color 128-page Melbourne Smartvisit Guide. This guide includes helpful information about each attraction, how to get there, opening/closing times, as well as some insider tips. Once the card is activated (From the first time it is used), it is then valid for the consecutive days shown on your card. The card is valid per calendar day and not for 24 hours from the time it is activated. Upon collection, the card is valid for one year until activated.

Melbourne opens doors to a combination of a past heritage and a future of promise. The many Melbourne attractions provide visitors a sampling of the many sights of those visiting Australia. While you are in Melbourne, here are some “sites to see” …

 Flinders Street Station | Photo credit: Karmouche

The hub of Melbourne’s train system, Flinders Street Station is an attraction in its own right, and one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. It is also the best-known railway station in Australia. Renowned for its grand dome and historic clocks (I’ll meet you under the clocks is a common Melburnian arrangement), the building was unveiled in 1910, although the site has been the central point of the rail system since 1854. You may well marvel at the elaborate architecture and how this slice of history continues to serve the city today.

Before Europeans arrived in the Melbourne area it was occupied by several Aboriginal groups that formed the Kulin Nation. To find out more about the history of Australia’s indigenous people, take the Aboriginal Heritage walk in the Royal Botanical Gardens or visit the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Centre at the Melbourne Museum.

The Botanical Gardens are also where you’ll find Government House, one of the finest examples of Italianate architecture in Australia. It is the home of the Governor of Victoria and is said to be the grandest house in the state. Tours are available, but you need to reserve in advance.

Over the last 200 years, people from all over the world have settled in Australia, and the Immigration Museum explores the stories of those who migrated to Victoria. You can live the dreams and disappointments of those who arrived during the 1800s up until the present day, and climb aboard the 17-metre replica of a ship to experience the cramped conditions of an 1840s boat, the luxurious saloon of a 1900s steamer and the cabin of a 1950s ocean liner.

The Immigration Museum is also where you will find the beginnings of the Golden Mile Heritage Trail – an historic walk that takes in nearly 80 buildings and attractions throughout the city. It’s one of the best ways to learn about the history of Melbourne and its early inhabitants. You can go with a guide, or pick up a map from the Museum Shop and head off on your own …

St Kilda may not be as famous as Bondi in Sydney, but it’s well worth a visit. Situated on one of the most picturesque points of Port Phillip Bay, it has safe, sandy beaches and in the first half of the century was one of the most fashionable suburbs in Melbourne. It declined somewhat over the years, but has recently experienced a resurgence and is now firmly back on the list of places to be seen, with plenty of music venues and restaurants, and a café lifestyle.

Don’t miss the view from the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere at the Eureka Tower. Skydeck 88 is located on floor 88 of the 91-storey building and offers fantastic birds-eye views of the city below. If you’re brave enough, try The Edge – a glass cube that projects three metres out from the building, almost 300m above the ground – with you on it. Even the floor is glass so you truly have the world at your feet.

If you’re something of a wine buff, you’ve picked the right city to visit – there are literally hundreds of vineyards within a 90-minute drive of Melbourne. The area is renowned for its top-quality tipples, and you can sample some of the best at a selection of cellar doors. Several companies offer guided yours so you don’t have to worry about where to go and what to see …

For the kids …

 Rides at Luna Park, St Kilda | Photo credit: Tourism Victoria/Mark Chew

The Old Melbourne Gaol is always a hit with kids and adults alike. It’s one of the city’s oldest surviving buildings, and Victoria’s first prison. More than 100 people were hanged in this imposing building, including infamous bushranger Ned Kelly. Join a night tour and learn the prison’s secrets by the thrill of candlelight as you explore eerie passageways and silent cells – just watch out for the restless souls that are said to languish within.

A Melbourne river cruise along the Yarra River is a fun, easy way for the family to see the heart of the city. Enjoy the views, a full commentary and complimentary refreshments as you sail past the highlights of Melbourne in the comfort of a River Cruiser.

Scienceworks will entertain kids for hours with its live demonstrations, informative tours and hands-on activities that help unravel the mysteries of science. Scienceworks incorporates the Melbourne Planetarium, where you can reach for the stars; Sportsworks, which provides the ultimate sporting challenge; the electrifying Lightning Room where you’ll discover how lightning is formed and what happens when it strikes; and Nitty Gritty Super City, where kids can get creative in the construction zone, record their own weather report, steer a ship, explore a recycling factory and much more.

Luna Park is a world of thrills and spills … and once you’ve experienced all the fun of the fair, try your luck and skill on one of the carnival games in the arcade at this heritage fun park in St Kilda.

About Shopping

 Shopping at Qeen Victoria Market | Photo credit: Mark Chew

When it comes to fashion in Australia, Melbourne is “it”. From locally designed originals to all that’s good and great from designers around the world, you’ll find plenty to spend your holiday funds on. The only problem is deciding where to start.

Bourke Street is the traditional heart of the shopping district. You’ll find all the most popular Australian names here, along with independent stores and bookshops, cafes, restaurants and cinemas.

Don’t miss the laneways and arcades that run between the city’s main streets. This historic network houses a fascinating collection of boutiques selling the unique, vintage, exotic and downright quirky. Visit the Block, Cathedral, Royal, Presgrave and Centre Arcades. These Victorian-era heritage sites offer a shopping experience which includes a bit of history thrown in, and even if you don’t intend to buy, strolling around is worth a visit.

If you fancy venturing further afield, take a leisurely walk along Flinders Street, pass the MCG and on to to Bridge Road. With something for every taste at great value, it’s a slightly-out-of-town shopping adventure not to be missed. From made-to-measure stores and outlets for popular brands to vintage boutiques and shoe stores galore, you might need to budget. There are bookshops, galleries, beauty salons and furniture stores. If you don’t fancy walking back laden with all your purchases, take the number 48 or 75 tram back to town.

Melbourne has a great selection of markets as well, and the Queen Victoria Market in the city centre is a fine example. A colourful mix of everything, from fresh food to novel souvenirs and inexpensive clothing, the historical market opened in 1878. It’s now a landmark and local institution.

For real insider information on where to find the best buys, join an organized shopping tour. Several companies offer tours that focus on different things, from fashion and clothing to chocolate and coffee. Whether you want to walk or be chauffeured in a tram or bus, there could be a tour for you.

The Tourist Refund Scheme (TRS) enables you to claim a tax refund on goods purchased in Australia. To claim a refund you must:

  • Spend $300 or more in one store and get a single tax invoice.
  • Buy goods no more than 30 days before departure.
  • Wear or carry the goods on board and present them along with your tax invoice, passport and boarding pass to a TRS facility.
  • Claims are only available up to 30 minutes prior to the scheduled departure of your flight.

Melbourne after dark …

Cakes and pastries from Self Preservation in Bourke Street | Photo credit: Tourism Victoria/Mark Chew

With the influx of gold money in the nineteenth century, Melbourne was able to build grand theatres, attract performers from around the world and establish itself as the cultural capital of Australia – a title most Melbournians still claim. From the internationally acclaimed Australian Ballet and Opera Australia, or the renowned Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, to companies specialising in contemporary and experimental performances, there is always something to satisfy your passions during a night out in Melbourne town …

Most nights of the year you will find a production on any given night at these theatres …at either:

The State Theatre is the major venue for the Melbourne-based Australian Ballet and Melbourne Theatre Company. It is also used by Opera Australia when the company is in Melbourne.

CUB Malthouse is where theatre company Playbox performs. Playbox is dedicated to the development, production and promotion of Australian theatre. The theatre, as its name suggests, is set in an atmospheric converted malthouse. The complex includes two theatres and cafes, and shares its site with the striking new Australian Centre for Contemporary Art.

And, there are five main heritage theatres in the city area. Princess Theatre still reflects the opulence of the ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ era of the nineteenth century, Her Majesty’s Theatre has been recently refurbished, the Regent Theatre has also been recently refurbished to accommodate blockbuster shows and the Athenaeum Theatre is one of the oldest if not the glitziest.

Melburnians love food, and the quality, variety and affordability of its food and drink establishments is outstanding. Thousands of restaurants and cafés cater to Melburnians and visitors, and nearly every cuisine imaginable is available. Some of the best places are tucked away in nooks and crannies, while others display themselves proudly on the city’s main streets. There is no single place that stands out more than others – just get out there and explore.

The city’s nightlife is varied and eclectic in nature. Boutique bars and so-called hole-in-the-wall drinking establishments are favoured by locals, with wine bars and intimate pubs lining the city’s famous laneways. Just head off the main streets into the warren of small alleyways that make up the centre and you’ll find a range of places to suit all tastes. Live music is an essential part of life for many Melburnians, and several places will have a music set of some kind on most days of the week.

If you fancy flirting with Lady Luck, head to the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex at Southbank by the river. Quite different from the rest of Melbourne, it’s one of the largest and flashiest gaming facilities in the Southern Hemisphere, complete with the largest sports screens, and a gaming floor that stretches more than half a kilometre. The range of lounges and restaurants could keep you busy for several evenings, while the two nightclubs showcase DJs and live bands from Melbourne and around the world.

For a taste of Melbourne’s nightlife just off the traditional track, head to Chapel Street. This trendy strip of designer clothes shops, cutting-edge fashion boutiques and all that’s funky is also home to a collection of café-bars and unique drinking spots. It’s where everyone goes to be seen, so if that’s your thing, don your snappiest outfit, and sit back and be ‘seen’ in Melbourne.

Sports / Outdoor Adventure

 Royal Melbourne Golf Club | Photo credit: Tourism Victoria/The Photo Factory

The major sport played in Australia is AFL. The game of the nation, known as Aussie Rules or just plain footy, is a cross between soccer, rugby and Gaelic football, although it can seem like there are no rules to the inexperienced eye. Melbourne is the birthplace of Aussie Rules, with all the major clubs beginning life here, and there is great rivalry between fans. You can watch a game at the MCG and experience it for yourself.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) can be described as the mainstage of Australian sports.

The MCG has thrilled millions of people around the world by hosting memorable events such as the Olympic Games, the Commonwealth Games, Test Cricket matches and Australian Football’s not-to-be-missed Grand Final on the last Saturday in September. So if you want a look see at how it’s done elsewhere, you can now experience the excitement for yourself during a backstage tour of the grounds, which reveals a treasure trove of sporting history.

Local Customs and Etiquette

Aussies are a notoriously laid-back, friendly bunch, and have little time for pomp and ceremony. ‘G’day, how ya goin’?’ is a frequent greeting between friends and strangers alike, and it’s hard to offend an Aussie by accident – unless you tell him he sounds the same as a New Zealander. Most of Australia’s etiquette rules – of which there are few – relate to expressing equality. As long as you appreciate an Aussie wants to be treated as an equal, regardless of his social, financial or racial background, you’re on the right track.

If you’re out drinking with Australians, be sure to buy your ‘shout’ or ‘round’. In Aussie drinking culture, everyone buys an equal number of rounds. If you go out for dinner with Aussies, it’s usual to split the bill equally between all diners.

Tipping is optional in Australia. If you have received good service at a restaurant and want to show appreciation, 10 per cent of the bill is considered fine. There is no need to tip for every drink you order in a pub, although some bartenders in the flashier bars will try and encourage this by placing your change on a tray. If you don’t tip, it doesn’t usually affect how quickly you get served.

Above all, Australians are an honest, open lot and appreciate the same from you.

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