Exploring Melbourne in 48 hours
MANILA, Philippines - Mention “Australia” to most Filipinos planning a tour and you’ll probably hear “Sydney” in response.
Yes, Sydney certainly does have all the picture-perfect sites like the Opera House and the Harbor Bridge; but it is Melbourne — the underrated rival city — that has so much more to offer.
Since no amount of talk can dissuade a first-time visitor from seeing Sydney, here is a quick guide to Melbourne for side trip skeptics:
Take the SkyBus
The SkyBus is a paid shuttle that takes you from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport to the Southern Cross Train Station in less than 30 minutes.
It is a bit cheaper than taking a taxi (especially for the solo traveller) and is fast and reliable. From the train station, it’s a quick tram or taxi ride to the hotel.
Walk and ride
It’s easy to get around the city. Walking and biking are the two most popular means of transport. Melbourne even has a bike-sharing scheme which costs an average of 7 Australian dollars per day.
Trams are another good way to get around the city and cost about the same amount. There is even a free City Circle Tram that takes tourists around the old Central Business District (CBD).
Flinders street station is a good starting point for your city adventure.
Melbourne residents are caffeine addicts. Every street has a café, but none of the mass market coffee chains we see in Metro Manila. A Starbucks in the city is a rare sight, believe it or not.
The best places to get a good brunch and a cup of coffee are found in the hidden nooks and alleys of the city.
Auction Rooms along Errol Street in North Melbourne is a crowd favorite. Set in an old Victorian-era auction house, the popular brunch establishment has its own coffee bar.
Order the Golden Ticket and the servers will smile at you knowingly, as if you just joined some secret club for coffee connoisseurs.
Another hip brunch spot is Manchester Press in Rankins Lane, Melbourne CBD. Aside from freshly-pulled espressos, the Press serves hot bagels all day. But beware, Australians are big believers in work-life balance so most brunch establishments close by 4:00pm.
Something for everyone
A common misconception about Australian food is that it consists mostly of barbecued meat and seafood. This myth is easily debunked in Melbourne where the only things Australian in the menu are the prices.
Like much of Australia, Melbourne is a melting pot of immigrants who have infused the city with their own unique cultures and traditions. There is something here for everyone. Aside from the typical European fare, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines are the next most popular choices available.
Check out Victoria Market for fresh fruits and vegetables. The deli section is a good place to buy Australian cheeses, nuts and coffee. Walk over to the meat section near closing time to see butchers loudly hawking discounted prices because “everything must go!”
Head to Sydney Road for some of the best kebabs, souvlakis and borek (a phylo pastry stuffed with feta cheese or minced meat) this side of the world has to offer. Look for the car wash kebab truck that left Anthony Bourdain swooning.
Vietnamese phở is a great soul pleaser, particularly during the cold winter months. Pho Chu The in Victoria St., Richmond offers some of the silkiest beef broth. Raw slices of meat cook in the hot soup just as the waiter serves the bowls.
If the trip includes a night out on the town, after all the fun, head to the city’s China Town located on Little Bourke St. Dimsum, bao and roast duck are the best ways to welcome back sobriety.
Parks and recreation
Melbourne is a great place to get into sports. Aside from hosting several international sporting events every year, the city is full of activities for the active living enthusiast.
The city is literally plastered with parks, jogging paths and bike lanes. Check out the Tan jogging path in the Royal Botanical Gardens or try your skill at rowing in the Yarra river.
Arts and culture are also part of the city’s lifeblood. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is home to Aboriginal artwork as well as imported exhibits. As of writing, NGV is showing French impressionist Claude Monet’s works.
For the younger crowd, there is the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) which curates pop culture, design and multimedia art in one ultra modern building.
Get out of the city
If city life is too stifling, take one of dozens of day tour packages outside the city to get some fresh air.
The Yarra valley winery tour offers visits to a couple of small batch wineries just an hour away from the city. Along the way, the bus driver — who doubles as the tour guide — will happily tell you everything there is to know about wine making.
Check out Rochford wines located along Maroondah Highway in Coldstream. Aside from breathtaking views and a nice lunch, the Filipino manager there will make sure you are well taken care of.
For those travelling with children, you may have to forego the tour to the Chandon winery and opt for the Healesville Sanctuary where getting up close to the birds and kangaroos is highly encouraged.
Writing this quick and dirty travel guide to Melbourne has caused this writer to gravely commit the sin of omission. Left out were the city’s numerous watering holes, deviant yet elegant street art and a giant gorilla puppet starring in his very own musical.
Another sin was to mislead you, the reader, into thinking Melbourne could be conquered in just 48 hours. To paraphrase Master Chef’s Matt Preston, Sydney is the sexy star but Melbourne is her more reserved yet equally attractive sister.
The key lesson: you can never stop exploring what this great city has to offer.