We started our most recent trip to Australia in Melbourne, spending three days there before setting off along the Great Ocean Road. The first two days covered popular attractions, with day three becoming more niche, visiting the film set of Neighbours and following in the footsteps of my great great grandfather who lived here over a century ago. However, I would thoroughly recommend all the activities listed, regardless of your viewing preferences/ genealogical roots.
Entering Australia is a special challenge for the short sighted. The first instruction, on entering the E-gate, is to remove your glasses. The second is written on a screen 20 metres away. I couldn’t even see there was an instruction, let alone read what it said. Despite my unbeaten run of failing to use an E-gate without assistance, we made it through the airport. We caught the SkyBus into the city centre. The SkyBus is a convenient way to get to the city. It runs approximately every 15 minutes terminating at Southern Cross Station and has onboard Wi-Fi. Tickets cost $22 for a single or $34 for a return, available from a ticket booth just in front of the pick up point.
Melbourne has an extensive public transport network of buses, trams and trains. Although it’s also a lovely city to just wander around on foot and we mostly did just that, with the occasional tram ride.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at The Jazz Corner Hotel, a centrally located funky boutique hotel with a jazz theme throughout. Our accommodation was a one bed flat on the 25th floor. It was clean and comfortable with all mod cons including a kitchenette (I was disproportionately excited when I discover the washing machine). But the best bit is the balcony with spectacular views across Melbourne and the River Yarra.
|Day 1||Queen Victoria Market|
Royal Exhibition Building
Accommodation – The Jazz Corner Hotel x 3
William Barak Bridge
Royal Botanic Gardens
Shrine of Remembrance
Dinner – Queen Victoria Market
|Day 3||Neighbours Set Tour|
|1||Queen Victoria Market|
|3||Royal Exhibition Building|
|10||William Barak Bridge|
|12||Royal Botanic Gardens|
|13||Shrine of Remembrance|
|14||Neighbours Set Tour|
Queen Victoria Market
We start our visit to Melbourne at Queen Victoria Market (apparently the largest market in the Southern Hemisphere). It’s huge and you can buy practically anything here, but we make a beeline for the very comprehensive food court and have fish and chips for brunch.
Suitably refuelled, the sightseeing can begin in earnest. The Yarra River bisects Melbourne. We spend the afternoon exploring north of the river; there’s some grand old Victorian buildings, some cool modern buildings and a sprinkling of nice parks.
We spend some time visiting the enormous State Library, which is surrounded by book themed sculptures.
Inside, the six storey octagonal dome structure reminds me more of a cathedral of books than a library.
Royal Exhibition Building
On to Carlton Gardens, home of the Royal Exhibition Building. This grand Victorian building was originally built for an exhibition in 1880.
When we arrive, there is a craft fair taking place, so we are able to go inside and admire the beautifully frescoed interior.
Also in Carlton Gardens is the Melbourne Museum. This large modern building covers the natural and cultural history of Victoria from dinosaurs to the city’s favourite racehorse. Tickets cost $15.
Last stop of the the day is the opulent Victorian Parliament House. It is possible to take a tour of the Parliament, but we make do with a couple of photos on the grand steps.
The building is set it the pretty Parliament Gardens with a very inviting fountain structure on such a hot day.
Adjacent to Parliament House is The Great Petition, a sculpture commissioned in 2008 to commemorate a century of (non-indigenous) women’s suffrage in Victoria.
We catch a tram back to the hotel and I sit on the balcony with a beer and some rather strange chicken and aioli crisps. Melbourne is a lovely city. My great great grandfather Paul Monte settled here (more of that later) and I can understand why he fell in love with the place. As I watch the sun set over the harbour, I wondered how my view compares with that of G G Grandad Paul a century ago.
Part two of our Melbourne sightseeing extravaganza starts where we finished yesterday. We walk in a large zigzagging circle along the river to reach Hosier Lane.
The harbourside is a pleasant area to take a stroll with parks, sculptures and terrific views of the city.
My favourite is Sandridge Bridge.
This steel bridge contains ten structures, each depicting different groups of settlers; from convicts and the Gold Rush to assisted migration and refugees.
We reach the little laneway of Hosier Lane. This narrow street is famous for its abundance of street art.
Not only do we get to admire the art already there, but are able to watch artists at work on a new piece.
From Hosier Lane, we continue through Birrarung Marr. This riverside park with spectacular city and harbour views features indigenous flora and art.
At the top of the park are the Federation Bells. This installation of 39 bells was designed to commemorate the centenary of Australia’s federation in 2001. The website allows members of the public to compose music for the bells to play. The bells ring three times a day (8-9 am, 12.30-1.30 pm and 5-6 pm).
William Barak Bridge
We walk over the freaky William Barak Bridge which talks and sings to you as you cross to the Olympic Park.
The Park is home to various sports venues including the MCG (cricket ground) and the Rod Laver Arena (tennis centre).
Royal Botanic Gardens
Newt, we head for the Royal Botanic Gardens. There is 5 km trail around the edge of the gardens, here, a radio station are handing out chocolate bilbies (imagine a genetic mutation of half rabbit half wallaby).
The Gardens themselves are free to enter and beautiful. We wander around for a while admiring the different gardens.
Lunch consists of a chocolate picnic by the lake.
Shrine of Remembrance
Next we go to the Shrine of Remembrance; a huge shrine originally built to honour the dead of WW1.
A forecourt with eternal flame was built later to commemorate those who died in WW2. The shrine remembers the service and sacrifice of all Australians in war and peacekeeping.
The area underneath the shrine houses the Galleries of Remembrance, a moving and informative museum detailing the role of Australians in conflicts around the world. Entrance is free, although donations are welcome.
We return to our hotel via Victoria Market to get some dinner. We need to refuel, we’ve covered a lot of miles and only eaten a chocolate marsupial.
Neighbours Set Tour
On my final day in Melbourne I get to indulge in two of my passions. First, having watched Neighbours for 30 years, a visit to Melbourne would not be complete without a Ramsey Street tour. Reviews are mixed so I have high hopes and low expectations. The package includes a meet and greet with a star of the show. I am intrigued to see who they had coaxed out of bed on a bank holiday morning.
After a shaky start (the bus driver reversing into a street sign) it is actually a really good tour. The clientele are exclusively British (the Aussies don’t watch Neighbours) and super excited. The driver/guide spends the 18 mile drive to the suburbs engaging in Neighbours themed banter.
We start at the studio. Because there was no filming taking place, we are allowed onto the set, which is a bonus, and I get to take loads of cheesy photos.
Then on to Ramsey St, which isn’t actually called Ramsey St. But the guide has a makeshift street sign for more cheesy photo ops. The star we meet, Ben Nicholas, played the character Stingray. He seems really nice and is happy to chat and pose for photos. All in all, a great morning.
Note: Since our trip to Australia, Neighbours has been cancelled, although it is soon about to be reprieved – hooray! So I have left this in my blog because it was one of the highlights of the trip and hopefully set tours will resume again soon…
The afternoon is dedicated to genealogy. We start at the Polly Woodside, a 19th century tall ship similar to those my G G grandad sailed on.
You can board the ship to see what conditions were like and there is also an interesting little museum. Entry costs $16.
Then we walk to the bayside suburb of Port Melbourne, to Bay Street where my G G grandad lived. My family were led to believe that he died at sea shortly before my great grandma was born, but recent research showed that he actually jumped ship in Melbourne, married bigamously and settled in Port Melbourne leaving wife No 1 destitute in the UK. I take plenty of pictures of his homes (front and back) while the old man worries that I will get arrested for stalking or casing the joint.
We planned to return to the city by train but that involves purchasing a $6 card on which to put the $6 fare. We are too mean to pay, so walk instead. By the time we reach the hotel, we have walked 19 km and are tired and hungry. We head out intending to eat our body weight in Chinese, but I order a Kung Po chicken so hot it burns my lips – a novel form of portion control.
Note: I added Port Melbourne to my itinerary for personal reasons, but would still recommend a trip as we enjoyed our visit to this pleasant suburb, with an abundance of shops and restaurants as well as a prom adjacent to the beach.
- Date of trip: March 2018
- Updated: February 2023
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