So you know you’re going to Australia but you didn’t quite realise how BIG the country is… this has thrown up a big question. WHERE DO I START?! Is it Perth on the West? Is it Brisbane halfway up the East Coast? I know the Bridge and Opera House so maybe it’s Sydney? Surprise! It’s none of these! Below is 5 reasons why Melbourne is actually the PERFECT start point.
No matter what country you’re in, it makes sense to start at the most southerly major town/city of the most travelled route. In Australia, that’s the East Coast and South of the first city on it (Sydney) is Melbourne. Not only does Melbourne have the East Coast to it’s North, it has delights to the South and West too.
To the West, we have the Great Ocean Road, a stunning 220km stretch that wraps around the coastline meanders through beach towns and winds through rainforest. It’s a refreshingly different attraction as you’re not travelling to see a certain monument for a photo, the road is the destination and taking in beauty for 2/3 days is the attraction in itself.
You can carry on from there and visit the Grampians National Park before heading to the quirky City of Adelaide. The City of Churches has Kangaroo Island on its doorstep to the South and the Outback to the North.
South of Melbourne there are destinations such as Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula and Wilsons Promontory, all within a 3-hour drive too. A bit further afield (50min flight/10hr ferry) you have the Apple Isle of Tasmania, home to several hikes, deserted beaches and excellent food produce.
Last but not least, Australia’s first city is to the North-East. With its iconic bridge, Opera House and countless quality beaches then it’s certain that you’ll be visiting Sydney, you’d be crazy not to! Given its location, it’s also the ideal first spot before starting on that golden trail up to Cairns.
So that further says to us, do it after landing in Melbourne! Plans change by the week when you’re travelling, you will make new friends, you could run out of money, you may get stuck somewhere too long, you may even land a career?! This means the original bucket list doesn’t always get completely ticked off! If you land on that Syd-Cns route you may (without meaning to) miss Melbourne altogether! A cardinal sin indeed.
2. Food and Drink
Travelling is all about trying new things and getting out of your comfort zone and trying new food is part of that. The array of food in Melbourne is something else and this is a real treat for the first stop on your travels. In fact, it could be the most enjoyable and indulgent way to go out of that comfort zone.
Melbourne is a young city shaped by many different migrant groups that have all brought their food culture with them. It means the city has a different café offering a different cuisine on every street corner. It’s home to huge Vietnamese, Indian and Italian populations as well as the World’s Oldest Continuous Chinatown, and before you ask, no the dumplings do not disappoint.
We forgot to mention Melbourne is quite good for coffee too… maybe you’ve heard that? Stay away from large chains and trust the hole in the wall establishments, they rarely disappoint and they’re the reason Starbucks only has 6 shops here. Want to see the birthplace of Melbourne coffee culture? Head to Pellegrinis Espresso on Bourke Street… oh what a place.
Something Melbourne does with every aspect of life is take what you already know, twist it and upgrade it. Take the food for example – you know eating out but you don’t know 10 different cuisines on a street!
Going out for drinks similar. It’s is the feel of something you know mixed with the unknown. Where is good to go? What are the best bars? Nightlife is important when arriving in a new country as it’s probably where you’ll be meeting a lot of people, so you need to choose the right spot. Don’t worry, there’s no shortage of them in Melbourne.
Melbourne is particularly famous for it’s vibrant yet rather hidden nightlife. It’s not known for its club scene but has a huge bar culture, with 200 of them on rooftops or down laneways. The bar scene here is one big fun yet competitive game. You’ve got pizza shops that have a secret menu taking you to a bar, bars accessed only by walking through fridges or bookcases, Japanese Whisky Bars, inner-city brewery bars and cocktail bars that used to be hospitals or brothels.
If you’re looking for a night out (what you know) where every bar is a stark contrast (twist and upgrade) to the last then you’re in the right city. All of that and I didn’t even mention Melbourne doesn’t have silly lockout laws like Sydney…..
If you’re after Happy Hours, then Sister Bella offers $10 jugs, and it’s a hidden bar, win! Chapel Street on a Sunday doesn’t disappoint either. Our number one Happy Hour tip would be to download the app Happiest Hour, turn on your location and away you go.
Something people often miss when travelling is the usual sport fix they’ve always grown up with.
Sticking with that theme of taking something you know, I give you AFL. Played on a cricket pitch in winter, 18 players per side, 6 points for scoring,1 for going close and a mix of rugby, gaelic football and a few other sports and you have the sport that grips a state for 6 months.
The home of the game is the MCG, (Melbourne Cricket Ground) and in Summer the G is the world’s most iconic cricket ground. It seats a cool 100,000 and hosts the Boxing Day Test every year.
The great thing about Melbourne is they also have all those sports you know and love too. Melbourne boasts 2 rugby teams (1 union and 1 league), 2 soccer teams and is home to the first F1 Grand Prix of the year as well as the first major Tennis tournament of the year. It also hosts the world’s richest handicap horse race on the first Tuesday of every November.
Don’t like sport? That’s fine, you like public holidays right? Melbourne is the only country in the world that has TWO public holidays for sporting events. The first is the Grand Final Parade Day (AFL) in September and the second is for the Melbourne Cup (horse race) in November.
5. Getting Around (It’s Easy…And Sometimes Free)
One of the hardest things about being in a new city is getting around. People always comment on how easy that is in Melbourne and it’s down to two major things.
Firstly is the grid system of streets. The grid going North is easily remembered thanks to the streets going King, William, Queen and Elizabeth. East to West is even easier with the major streets all having a smaller version, if you’re on a small street then you’re in between two big ones. EG East to West=Collins Street, Little Collins Street, Bourke Street, Little Bourke Street etc.
The second reason is the trams. With over 250km of track it’s actually the world’s largest tram network. The fact they rule the roads here means it is so easy to get not only around the city but also to different suburbs such as St Kilda, Brunswick, South Melbourne and Collingwood. It’s often quicker to tram it than drive it!
Not only is it easy, Melbourne has a rare yet fantastic initiative that all tourists love….travelling on trams in the CBD is FREE! Yes, that’s right backpackers, FREE. This means you can get to all the major City spots without spending a cent, we love it and I know you love it!