It has been a decade since I last stepped on the shores of Australia and frankly, the idea of returning to Australia has never been quite on the top of my list. Thanks to my company that paid for an all-expense annual staff retreat, I found myself flying to Australia’s cultural capital, Melbourne, for the very first time. And indeed, I found out for myself the wonders of what makes Melbourne recently crowned as the #1 ‘Most Livable City in The World‘!
City of Melbourne
Put together a juxtaposition of modern and Victorian architecture, beautiful gardens, an array of contemporary art galleries & museum and plenty of quirky cafes and you get the cosmopolitan city of Melbourne. The city is simply a wonderland for someone who enjoys exploring every nook and cranny of a new place. The many quaint cafes and boutique stores give life to the city laneways that are bustling with activities at any moment. Somehow, there’s always a sense of excitement as you never quite know what’s round the corner when you venture into Melbourne’s hive of busy laneways!
I love the free heritage tram (kinda reminds me of the beloved cable cars in San Francisco) that takes you to the different city landmarks around central Melbourne and the Docklands. A great teaser to the city at absolutely no cost!
Melbourne is a melting pot of art and creativity so it is not a surprise to see a diverse range of street art being exhibited around the city and its many neighbourhoods. The most famous and iconic street art laneway is Hosier Lane, where one cannot help but be dazzled by the stunning and vibrant displays of the artworks. My only regret from this trip was that I didn’t have the time to attend a street art tour, which would have given me the chance to meet the artists behind these works.
A beach-side town, St Kilda, offers a welcoming respite from the city. Think of it as the cool and hippy suburb of Melbourne. I love amusement parks of all sorts and even more so when it is a historical park that shares the same birth date as me … But 75 years apart! Luna Park, 1 of Australia’s most beloved family attraction, reminded me of another old-school amusement park in Coney Island that I was very fortunate to have visited before it ceased operations a mere few months after my visit (Astroland: 1962 – 2008). Sadly, I didn’t have the same luck to visit Luna Park as it was closed during my stay. 😦
Shopping at Queen Victoria Market
According to Wikitravel, “Queen Victoria Market, the only surviving 19th century market in Melbourne CBD, is significant to Melbourne’s culture and heritage and is named after Queen Victoria.” My dearest roomie, Christine, bought bags of fresh produce (fruits & nuts) for her family and yours truly was influenced as well. Just see the last pic of us posing with our very unglam purchases! :p My best purchases? Personalised dog tags for the 3 boys! 🙂
Becoming A Kid Again with the Farm Animals
The Great Ocean Road
A drive along the picturesque Great Ocean Road and visit to The Twelve Apostles is definitely 1 of the ‘Must Do’ in every tourist’s itinerary. The scenic coastal route is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world, complete with pristine beaches, steep cliffs and spectacular rock stacks. It was a pity that we were on a ridiculously tight schedule that basically left us with only a pathetic 20 mins to take in the absolutely tranquil view of The Twelve Apostles and mind you, we were on the road for at least 5-6 hours! Oh well, the downside of a tour group.
Penguin Parade – Phillip Island
Sitting out in the cold with the wind blowing against us wasn’t exactly what we would typically sign up for but it was certainly worth the shivers to see the world’s smallest penguins waddling along the beach. It was funny how the few of us would shriek with excitement every time we spotted a penguin emerging from the sea. However, nothing beats the thrilling experience of getting up-close to these tiny creatures as they made their way home to the burrows.
We also made a pit stop at The Nobbies, where we caught the sight of many seagulls but none of the seals. The views of the rugged coastlines were incredible and I truly felt at peace, listening to the therapeutic sounds of the crashing waves. In fact, The Nobbies has surpassed my expectations and is definitely 1 of the more memorable places that I have visited in Australia.
As far as possible, I would like to inject some sort of adventure for my holidays and I’m glad that my sister and her boyfriend were game to join me for a moonlight kayak experience. 🙂 I have kayaked several times before during my schooling years but this would mark the 1st time that I would be kayaking when night falls and I must say that it was absolutely the highlight of the trip!
I would highly recommend anyone who has a sense of adventure to sign up for this tour when visiting Melbourne. It was a great way to see the city from a different perspective and some of the unique experiences include cruising under the many low-lying bridges, and even having a fish and chips dinner on the kayak! More on the moonlight kayak experience in a separate post.
To add to our already interesting experience, it started raining at the start of our paddling journey thus we were drenched before we even really started! However, being caught in the rain had its consequences as I found myself suffering from a terrible bout of flu and was heavily drugged (with meds, of course) during the last few days of my retreat. Bummer.
The best thing that came out of my 1-week stay in Melbourne was definitely the opportunity to get closer to my sister who’s currently based in Melbourne. Since she left for Australia about 3yrs ago, we have barely kept in touch and pretty much lead our separate lives. Hence, it was really good to be able to rekindle our relationship and bond over the many meals, activities and new experiences.