By Jason Hosler
I spent a few weeks in Melbourne and while there, was able to take a good look around the city (sometimes walking close to 20 km in a day).
While exploring, I visited many of the famous landmarks and must-do activities in the city. Here is my list of things to do, places to visit, and where to stay.
Where to stay: Habitat HQ
Whenever you visit a city, the first thing you usually have to figure out is where to stay. When in Melbourne, stay at Habitat HQ. It has won so many awards and accolades over the past few years, there’s no point mentioning them. It is very clean, located a short walk from the beach, close to transit, a grocery store, and even a liquor store. What else could you want? Maybe secure parking, free wifi, or plenty of room to chill in the lounge? Well, Habitat HQ has it all.
I began my stay in Melbourne at another hostel, The Coffee Palace, and while not bad, Habitat HQ is more to my liking. When you walk towards the entrance, the glass doors slide open. Inside, there’s a reception desk to your left, the lounge straight ahead, internet cafe, TV room complete with a wide screen TV, and the kitchen in the far left corner. Habitat HQ offers 10, 8, 6, and 4 bed dorms as well as a few other options. To stay here, it is a bit more expensive than other hostels but if you buy a membership and book online with VIPbackpackers.com, you can save a good chunk of money!
The hostel puts on various activities throughout the week and they are all worth checking out. There are guided walks through St. Kilda and downtown Melbourne, open-mike nights, pub crawls, and free BBQs where you can win free prizes! (I won a free three day tour in Tasmania!)
St Kilda Beach is a short stroll away. Fitzroy road, which leads to the beach is full of restaurants, bars, and other shops. On the beach itself, there are volleyball nets and plenty of sand where you can throw down your towel and go for a swim. Taking a walk up the jetty will give you a chance to meet some local penguins after sunset each night or for the more adventurous a stroll up the beach will take you to a great kiting area. Here, you can watch everyone from beginners to very experienced kiteboarders or windsurfers doing their thing if the wind is up. In fact, there are about a half dozen kiteboarding schools where you can learn to get on the water yourself. Kiteboarding is an activity I highly recommend!
Queen Victoria Market
You can take a tram on a day pass ($7.60 paid in exact change on the tram or buy tickets from postal outlets) to get into the Melbourne CBD. Prices may change, of course.
Here, you can visit the Queen Victoria Markets for cheap souvenirs including Ugg boots, belts, hats, shirts, novelty license plates, and pretty much anything else you can think of. You can also pick up fresh veggies or meats so bring some reusable shopping bags!
Another really great spot in downtown Melbourne is Federation Square. While I was wandering by a spot which had fake grass as a way of making some green space in the downtown core, I could hear people cheering. I ran up the stairs which seemed to double as seating towards what ended up being Federation Square. Not having heard anything about it before, I was happily surprised at what I had stumbled across.
In a big open space right behind the Melbourne Visitor’s Centre, there was a man. He was standing on a 15 metre pole in the middle of a crowd. He had four people holding ropes which were attached to said pole. They were supporting it while keeping it straight so that the very talented former Cirque Du Soleil star could do his tricks. He had everyone’s gaze fixed on him and was doing a wonderful job. I stood there and watched his final routine from the sort of balcony I found myself on.
Once the performance was over, I looked around and noticed some of the other impressive features of this square. To my left, there was a giant TV screen showing the live Australian cricket game. People were scattered all throughout an open area watching. Some were seated in very comfortable looking lounge chairs which I later found out were free for anyone to use. Underneath the screen was a stage where free shows are performed. There is a bar, a 7-eleven for the requisite Slurpee in the summer and the aforementioned information centre.
In Federation Square, you can find the Australian Centre for the Moving Image which is free to check out. This museum will provide you with plenty of ways to spend an afternoon in the city.
The Square is right near the Yarra River where you can hop on a boat and go on a tour or simply bring a towel and just relax in the sun (or shade) on the riverbank.
Federation Square truly is a great place to hang out and spend an afternoon in.
Shrine of Remembrance and Royal Botanical Gardens
One of my absolute favourite parts of Melbourne is the Shrine of Remembrance and the Royal Botanical Gardens. The Shrine was built back in the 1930s to remember those who lost their lives in the Great War. It has now become a place of remembrance for all of the wars that Australia has ever been involved in. It’s a very impressive building which you really have to see to appreciate. It reminds everyone of the lasting legacy of war, the reasons for fighting, and offers a place to pay respect. I found it to be a very humbling and peaceful place to visit.
The Royal Botanical Gardens are located very close by the Shrine of Remembrance, cover 36 hectares and contains over 50,000 different types of plants. This means that you’re sure to find something to remind you of home wherever you are from. The gardens are beautifully laid out and extremely peaceful to be in. It’s the prefect place for a picnic or even an afternoon nap in the shade of a hundred year old tree.
Melbourne is definitely a city worth spending some time in. Even if the things I’ve listed don’t float your boat, there’s always sporting to fall back on. After all, Melbourne is Australia’s sporting capital!