Right next door to the Hilton, where I was staying was one of Melbourne’s top sites and the temple for sports-mad Melbournians: the Melbourne Cricket Ground (also known as the MCG or just the “G”). Seating almost 100,000 fans, the G was the site of the first Australian Rules football game in 1858 and the first Test cricket match between Australia and England in 1877. It’s massive and I can only imagine what the atmosphere is like around here on a match day. From the G, I wound my way over to the Yarra River and walked along the water all the way to the Docklands area and Victoria Harbor. Along the way I passed several of Melbourne’s beautiful bridges. The most interesting of which was the Sandridge Bridge. From there, I cut over to the modern steel and glass wonderland that is Federation Square. This is Melbourne’s central meeting place and on a beautiful summer day like today it was overflowing with people. The square is home to the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Center for the Moving Image (ACMI) and is the site for regular cultural events and sports telecasts.
Philip island was a long drive from the bus we boarded from Federation square in the heart of the city. We also spotted wallabies hopping about along the way in the plains! Philip island is the coastal home to many little penguins (the world's smallest penguins) where each night at sunset, they return ashore after a day of fishing. It was really amazing to have witnessed this magical procession at Summerland beach, even though photography was banned. But I couldn't resist not sneaking a few of shots of the rainbow gradient sky, which isn't very apparent in the picture because I hesitated and the sun was setting. Photography is banned because the light caused by flashes blinds the penguins for life, although some tourists still go ahead and take their selfish flash shots which is very unfortunate. Made our way down to one of the park ranges early morning to have breakfast, and where I had the best marmite crackers ever....and where mumsie fed canaries with some bird food provided at the side. They're really intuitive! Pitstop at a wine vineyard, and had an expensive Italian meal because there was no other restaurant in plain sight (and we were hungry), the pasta was good at least! Pelicans are such mesmerizing yet awkward looking creatures, which makes them really beautiful. They don't smell very nice though, and I was almost certain they were gonna bite me after my snaps so I scurried away.
Queen Victoria Market
Greeted by glorious fruit, handicraft and busking street opera singers (What a dream) belting out classics like Phantom of the Opera pieces was reinvigorating, especially since we were tired out from the flight there. With the large variety of delicacies and handicraft, Queen Victoria market reminded me of London's Borough market, except that the latter has more upmarket gourmet cuisine. If you want to know, the Market stalls are open everyday, other than Mondays and Wednesdays :) (During the summer months, a night market filled with live entertainment, bars and dining and such can be found on Wednesday evenings) We made a lunch pit stop for cheesy tortellini and smoked chicken sandwiches. Of all choices, my sister had to settle for prata...Asian cuisine is slightly more expensive there so I suggest you settle for local food if you ever visit.
Port Campbell National Park
Touring across Australia has never stopped to marvel me with its numerous seen and unseen wonders. But what's the most amazing, specially as we toured across the Great Ocean Road and Port Campbell National Park, were the 12 Apostles! A wonder still hidden from much of the world, we saw it while touring across the Great Ocean Road by air on a helicopter. While the majestic Grampians and Victorian flora and fauna are truly picturesque too, we just couldn't get enough of our tour of the 12 Apostles and extended it, going further towards Philip Islands. Like it is said, the 12 Apostles are truly a pilgrimage, "paying dawn and dusk homage" at the "Wild heart" of Australia's Great Ocean Road! HOW TO GET THERE: The 12 Apostles are located 275 km west of Melbourne, approximately a four-hour drive along the Great Ocean Road. While you can reach there by coast, a day's tour in a helicopter gave us the best experience!
We travelled down to Federation square the very next morning. Even though the temperatures reported comfortable levels of about 12 degrees, it was awfully cold in the morning (think icy cold gush) so we marched out in our winter overalls. The mist that shrouded the town that morning was hauntingly beautiful, as if the scene came out from a film set. While it was slightly tormenting to sacrifice my gloves for these shots, they were worth it. Federation Square has been international recognized for its award-winning architectural design since 2002, serving as a cultural and entertainment precinct which lies in the heart of Melbourne, there are an array of eateries and shops along the parameters for both locals and tourist alike. We also managed to bag some souvenirs in the gift shops around the area (not exactly the cheapest, but uniquely Aussie for sure) It's a very tourist friendly area, and if you ever lose your way or require any assistance or map, the Melbourne Visitor center is located at the corner Swanston and Flinders streets, opposite Flinders Street Station. I left my pair of gloves there and had to walk all the way back, thank goodness it was kept safe! You can also checkout ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image) as they have occasional film festivals and exhibitions that may be worth the buck. They recently featured Woody Allen and Jazz on Film! While we were sitting on the amphitheater-shaped steps, we were entertained by a stand-up comedian who was busking around the area with the help of his crew. A crowd naturally formed, and I really love the light-heartedness of busking in the vicinity - the zest for which cannot be compared to the busking scene in Singapore so it was indeed a refreshing change of culture! We had a complimentary APT (Australia Pacific Touring) day tour to catch (to familiarize ourselves with the outskirts of the city), so we headed down to the other end of Federation square - most of Melbourne's tours depart daily from R
Great Ocean Road
Great Ocean Road, AustraliaThis 243 kilometer stretch of road links the Australian cities of Torquay and Allansford. It was built in 1919 and dedicated to soldiers killed during World War I, which makes this the largest war memorial in the world. The road’s beauty and varied terrain brings in many tourists from Australia and around the world for a taste of its tarmac. The scenery will take your breath away!
Eureka Skydeck 88
On the last day, we decided to head up the Eureka tower aka Skydeck88, a 297.3 metre skyscraper in the Southbank precinct of Melbourne. It's the 10th tallest residential building in the world, and the highest public vantage point in a building in the Southern hemipshere. The view wasn't fantastic, but it did give us a glimpse of the landmarks we have been visiting in the past week.....the outside portion of the viewing platform was freezing though.
Next we went to The Nobbies where we wandered along the boardwalk around the rugged coastline. This place gives you a great view of offshore islands.In the end we went to the world famous Penguin Parade. The little penguins fish in the sea all the day and return to the shore just when it starts to get dark. It’s fun watching them gather at the shore and walk towards their nests. Approximately 900-1000 penguins participated in the parade. One must carry jackets as gets freezing cold at the night. Photography is not allowed as it may disturb the penguins.
Crown Melbourne is the largest casino in Australia and a large entertainment venue featuring nightclubs, restaurants, shopping outlets, hotels, as well as theatre and water shows within easy walking distance. You can start your night or end your night at Crown casino in Melbourne – it is up to you! Gamblers from around the world are welcome to enjoy more than 3.500 pokies. Indeed, you can easily get lost in an endless sea of pokies, hopefully in a good way. Catering to all manner of gamblers from Australia and other countries and meeting their different needs, this casino offers a great selection of gaming options, including a mix of pokie machines, table games and numerous other games across its huge gaming floor. To sum up, it is a great destination for everyone to hang out, have exciting gambling or dancing, enjoy food or theater, and spend a night.
Apollo Bay Fisherman Co-Op Society
We were craving for some fresh seafood and a quick search on tripadvisor brought us to Apollo Bay Fishermen’s Co-op on Breakwater Road. It’s a small shop tucked away from the town area, right beside the harbour. You can choose from a variety of fresh fish over the counter and sit outside by the bay, but beware the lurking seagulls nearby. We both enjoyed the food and ambience :)
Cape Otway Lightstation
The lighthouse was not really worth the 1hr detour since we didn’t want to pay the AU$19.50 entrance fee (we only found out upon arrival). Apparently you can have breathtaking views of the ocean (though not unique) and a historical tour of the area, with some very good kids activities. This is also a good place to spot wild koalas (although nothing beats Kennett River for me :) )
CERES Community Environment Park
I took the 96 tram for a morning’s stroll around the CERES Environmental Park. This is something you won't do if you are not from Melbourne. It is too local to be featured on some quick city guides. i moved along the park's markets, workshops. Even discovered a plant nursery and an outdoor cafe. It is such an amazing atmosphere. If you plan to go to Melbourne, this should feature among your must halts.
Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium
After you leave Melbourne Cricket ground, make your way in the state of Victoria to find yourself at The Melbourne Sea Aquarium. The bedazzling place has been featured in numerous movies and you need to feel the place yourself to understand why. During your time inside the tunnel that guides your way through the real aquatic habitat of Australia, you will actually realize the beauty and diversity of Australia.
Well I wanted to rest in the recluse of nature and serenity and that’s why I chose this particular lodging. It gives the vibe as if we are just staying at our home making it a home away from home. The hosts Pavi and Rita Sarin make the stay extremely comfortable being helpful hosts and cater to our special needs. There is fantastic view of the hills and of the tea plantations. However, for the perfect stay one needs to go at the right season otherwise service might dwindle.
River Crossing Lodge
Our journey in Africa began at Windhoek, Namibia where we stayed at River Crossing, a newly built boutique hotel located in a vast reserve just off the main airport road. After the long flight, we spent the day relaxing by the pool and taking in the incredible view of the African bush. In the evening we explored some of the many museums, galleries and markets that this cosmopolitan little city had to offer.
When in the city one may catch a film or see a band perform but being in the capital of the most sports mad place on earth, you have to go to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Tell a local you are heading to 'The G' and they will scribble directions for you with a proud wide smile. Whichever season you decide to visit this city you can always catch a game here. Summers are for cricket while winters for Australian football. The supporters are so passionate about their players, umpires and opponents that is hard to not be a part of the screaming-cheering-crazy-loud crowd! The energy here is intense and so infectious!