Melbourne is known for its creative culture and ethnic variety, so when cheap tickets came up we decided to jump over the ditch and spend five days exploring Melbourne. We arrived with no clear plans and hoped that each day we would experience something new. We’d heard that Melbourne was a very ‘cash driven’ society so we got cash out in New Zealand when the exchange rates were good, so we didn’t use our credit cards therefore avoided hefty bank fees.
Below are some highlights from our trip and some helpful tips for using public transport.
Free Tram Zone is covered by a city circle tram and you can get on as many times as you like per day for free. We didn’t realize until our second day that you can actually catch any tram within the ‘free zone’ without needing a Myki card. Just make sure you get off when the automated message says “you are about to leave the free tram zone, please touch on your Myki card.” We heard that they have undercover people who get on the tram and check that you have touched on, and if you haven’t you can get an $80 fine on the spot. If you can’t pay the fine then and there you end up with a $300 fine in the post (apparently)! So be respectful of the rules.
Myki Card is a fantastic way to access public transport outside of the city square. If you want to head to St Kilda, the Zoo, Carlton or basically anywhere outside the Free tram zone, grab a Myki (my-key) card from any 7/11 or the information centre. Here is a link to the website. If you grab a visitors pack you get the physical card, a day worth of travel in zone 1 and 2 preloaded onto it and a protective sleeve for it. We loaded ours with an extra $7.90 (1 day worth) as we knew we wanted to visit the zoo. We also loaded another day onto it because we wanted to travel to St Kilda in a last minute decision. We used Myki for the train and tram system and were thoroughly impressed by how easy it was. I’d highly recommend getting one if you are planning on venturing out into the Melbourne suburbs.
SkyBus is a quick and easy method of transport from the airport to the city. We grabbed a ticket each for $19 outside the airport terminal and managed to get a seat on the second story. It was packed as it was rush hour, but only took about 30 minutes to get to the Southern Cross train station. We walked from there to our accommodation. You can also get on a Skybus that delivers you to the main hotels in the city- just jump onto their website to check if your hotel is eligible.
Melbourne Aquarium exceeded my expectations. It was a nice getaway from the heat and busy streets, and I liked that there was plenty to look at so a lot of people weren’t crowding around the same exhibit. All the tanks were beautiful and clean and well maintained. The signage was spot on and the layout/map was easy to follow so we didn’t miss anything. At $40 pp it isn’t a cheap attraction but if you grab one of the Melbourne catalogues there is a 20% discount voucher and if you book online you also get 20% off. The staff take your photos as you walk in, but these are very expensive to purchase so it’s best to take a look and pop them back on the shelf at the end of your visit. At the end of the day, you’re only going to put them in a drawer at home right?!
Cat café is a hidden gem for all the cat lovers. Located at 30 Guildford Lane is a quiet, spacious lounge area where you can enjoy the company of about 20 cats. It is a really novel experience and worth a visit if you need some peace and quiet! We had a drink and a slice, and let the cats do their thing. Some were very playful and others were tucked away asleep. If you are after a meal, pop into a café elsewhere as the council rules means that the cat café can only serve food that is wrapped- slices and cookies and coffees in takeaway cups or bottles of juice/fizzy. It is $12 to get in for an hour, you must book online as spaces fill up quickly and bring your camera!
Queen Victoria Market was a big highlight for me. I was expecting a carpark market, with car boot sales and stalls. But QVM certainly blew my expectations out of the water. We went on Wednesday (but it was closed) so we went back on Thursday morning hoping to grab some local produce for dinner. The stalls are all permanent in an indoor setting and around the edges are all the food and drink caravans. The fresh produce section was fantastic: beautiful organic fruit and vegetables, eggs and honey. The meat section was intense- vendors yelling out to come and buy their meat, specials for the day etc. We grabbed some fish, cheese, veges and some salts and then went over to the ‘craft’ section. Most of it was cheap and nasty, mass produced souvenirs and clothing but there were some nice handmade goods for sale at reasonable prices. Give yourself plenty of time or multiple opportunities to visit the market, and don’t forget to take a stack of cash!
Lygon Street is a very full on place. We caught the tram out to Lygon street in search for some food, and eventually stopped in at Donninis for some Italian cuisine. We ordered a litre of sparkling water (as we had already walked about 10km) and some of the spinach, ricotta and mascarpone ravioli. It was the best pasta I have ever eaten and the service was top notch too. A must!
Krimper is also located on Guildford lane and is a spectacular place to experience Melbourne’s exceptional food. I ordered the chocolate donuts and it was stunning. Chocolate mascarpone, pistachio nuts, cinnamon and sugar donuts with berry compote. It was so rich I could only get through half of it! Callum got a squid ink pulled pork burger which looked sensational. Their whole menu was great, and the banana oat smoothie was a winner!
Melbourne Zoo wasn’t always on the to do list but we sort of ran out of things to do so decided on Friday that we would visit the Melbourne Zoo. We hopped on the train and got off right across the road from the zoo. We paid $32.50 each and collected a map. It was nice and quiet when we arrived, but about an hour into it school groups began showing up and there must have been 1000 kids there, of all ages so that ruined it a bit for us. The kids didn’t respect rules and were very noisy, clogged up the paths and just generally were a hassle so we moved through quite quickly and got back on the train to the city. It was a lovely zoo, and I saw my first ‘real life’ koala, wombat, kangaroo and platypus.
St Kilda seemed to be where all the ‘Aussies’ hung out. We went out to St Kilda for the afternoon and down at the beach were plenty of topless men, bikini clad women, kids playing in the sand and dogs galore. The ocean was a horrible brown colour though, so only the dogs and one brave guy ventured into it! We got a gelato each, wandered down the waterfront and the pier. The Pier was very busy and I felt like one run in with a rogue child or person on a bike would have me over the edge! Prior to hitting the waterfront we went to Luna Park, which was packed! Kids everywhere, parents in tow and lots of rides! I’m not much of a thrill seeker so was happy to watch! It is cool because you can go into the theme park for free, so no pressure to go on the rides until you purchase the tickets! After a busy day we caught the tram back into the city for a much needed rest and to think about what we wanted for dinner.
Dex2Rose mixes science with food, using dry ice to create almost futuristic deserts. Callum surprised me with this one, he didn’t tell me where we were going so we left the apartment in search of ‘Racing Club Lane’ but we walked passed it a few times before eventually finding it.We took a seat and both ordered the Hot chocolate desert called ‘Mist in the woods.’ You can watch the youtube clip here.
Melbourne on a budget
- AirBnB – hotels are expensive
- Buy food at the market and cook it yourself
- Take coffee and tea with you
- Take your own snacks
- Don’t bother with cheap souvenirs
- Walk everywhere or get the free tram
- Check out places online in advance to see if they fit with your budget
- Only take carry on luggage, so you aren’t tempted to buy too much stuff that you really don’t need
What is your favorite thing to do in Melbourne?