I’ve read it a few times and heard it straight from the mouths of locals: Sydney is like your mistress but Melbourne is the wife you come home to. And after being in Melbourne for even just a short five days, I can easily see the truth behind that statement. Although Sydney attracts tourists with its famous landmarks and iconic name, Melbourne is the city that you’d be keen to stay in long after the newness wears off.
Melbourne is essentially known for its cafés and shops, so I gave myself lots of time to do some exploring and indulge in the local culture properly. On my first day in the city the weather was not what one would consider ideal, as it had been raining most of the day and there was a wet chill in the air. However, coming from so many weeks of intense heat in Brisbane, the cooler change was much welcomed. Plus I took it as an opportunity to explore the indoor mall DFO as I waited for the rain to subside.
The DFO is a large outlet mall that offers a variety of shops, including many brands that I recognized from home. It’s especially great for finding athletic ware and home goods, as each of those have nearly an entire floor dedicated to them. Luckily the home goods stores were closed by the time I made my way to them, because looking from the window I would have ended up with a load of bedroom decor that I most certainly do not have the room in my suitcase for!
Here they also have a store called Typo, which specializes in all Pinterest-worthy stationary, accessories, and wall decor that you could ever want! I made a few lovely purchases, but I had to leave before buying the entire store out.
After shopping I explored South Wharf a bit until I found a place to eat at what ended up being my favorite restaurant in the city. It’s called Plus 5 and is seated right along the river pier offering amazing views of the city, especially at sunset. It’s a cute, cozy restaurant with a warm atmosphere, and one of the few places along the wharf that wasn’t packed to the brim on a Friday night. I ordered a hot chocolate, a delicious pizza, and a heavenly panna cotta for dessert. I’d never had panna cotta before, but it’s essentially like a rich, cheesecake pudding. If you ever have the opportunity to try it, you must! I introduced it to my housemate when we went out once I got back and she devoured it as fast as I did the first time. It’s seriously the best.
Later on my trip I explored Chapel St. and Bourke St., both popular shopping destinations with nearly a mile each of various stores, boutiques, and eateries. If you’re going to spend a day shopping, I recommend starting at Chapel St. then taking the train back to Bourke St. and finishing there with dinner. Chapel offers unique boutiques and stores that you likely won’t find anywhere else, but Bourke is a bit bigger so it offers more popular stores as well as a variety of places to eat for every budget. Instead of a café, this time I opted for a cute video-game themed burger joint in an effort to save money, and the difference in price was not reflected in the flavor of the food. In an expensive country like Australia, it’s nice knowing that even the cheaper restaurants still offer quality food, so you don’t have to break your bank trying to eat at all the cafés in Melbourne.
Another popular tourist destination is the Sea Life Aquarium located in the city. I almost skipped it, but at last minute decided to go and I think it was worth it just to say I’ve been. It’s set up in numbered zones, so it’s easy to keep track of where you’ve been, and I found that I could navigate through and see everything in about an hour and a half. It certainly wasn’t the largest aquarium I’ve been to, but the animals it did showcase were all very unique in appearance so I was able to see many new things, including a massive saltwater crocodile, which is much larger than the gators back in the states. The best feature though, is the arched glass walkway in which you can see huge sharks, rays, and fish floating on all sides of you. That definitely made the experience worth it.
On my last day, the weather was hot and sunny once again, so I took the day to explore Melbourne’s too popular beaches: Brighton and St. Kilda. Brighton is famous for it’s colorful beach houses, assumedly modeled after the ones in Brighton beach in the U.K. Although the beach itself isn’t the best, it’s a great place to stop and get pictures to say you’ve been. Aside from admiring the elegant resort-like homes that overlook the beach, there isn’t much else to do here, however. St. Kilda, on the other hand, is the more stereotypical image of a beach town. I loved it because once the sand ended there was a large walkway then a huge stretch of short green grass, meaning you had the option of not lying in the sand, which was nice. There’s also an array of restaurants lining the beach, an ice cream stand, a spa, and a large pier you can walk along to see further out into the sea. Away from the beach towards the main road there are several side streets with even more food options to choose from and every ethnicity of food you could crave. And further down are (no surprise) even more shops. It’s the kind of beach that could keep entertained for the whole day.
Of all the places I’ve seen in Australia so far, I think Melbourne was most impressive. Simply because of the vast variety of things to do from city, to sea, to nature, everything seems to be accessible from the city centre. I concur with the many others who say Melbourne is their favorite city in the country, it’s charm is just unmatchable!