Melbourne, Queen of the Desert

Melbourne was the ideal vision of what I thought Australia would be like. The airport is located out in the bush, a reddish-hued desert with hardly anything else in sight. Leaving via bus, my first glimpse of the city was the silver skyscrapers far in the distance shimmering in the waves of heat.

Thankfully, though, Melbourne not only looks good from afar but it delivers on its title as Australia’s cultural capital. Here are just of my few favorite stops when I’m in the city.

Bourke Street. Photo credit - mugley.

Bourke Street. Photo credit - mugley.

Shopping in Melbourne

I just love the cute pedestrian streets and Victorian arcades found in the Commercial Business District (CBD – or downtown city center) of Melbourne. Bourke Street Mall is lined with the major retailers, including a surprising amount of fun and funky of clothes at mass discounter Target. The Collins Street arcade is so charming and worth a stroll through even if it is just to window browse. Brunswick Street over in Fitzroy is the place to be for alternative, vintage, and edgy goods.

The pier at St Kilda. Photo credit - strandedmike.

The pier at St Kilda. Photo credit - strandedmike.

Beach-side revelries

If you can tear yourself away from the pleasures of central Melbourne, you’ll discover another piece of heaven in Saint Kilda, the city’s beach town, only a 20 minute tram ride away. As if the stunning coastal view wasn’t enough, the neighborhood is a bustling area full of cafes, pubs and clubs. Fitzroy Street is the epicenter of the action – on this one street you’ll find high end dining, cheap takeaways, and a host of other bars and coffee shops.

The Royal Park in Melbourne. Photo credit - woowoowoo.

The Royal Park in Melbourne. Photo credit - woowoowoo.

Melbourne’s Parks and Outdoor Space

Melbourne is blessed with excellent weather year-round – sometimes too good, in fact. If you’ve had enough sun or heat but still want to take advantage of the outdoors, then go explore one of the many great parks in the city. The Royal Park and Princes Park make up the largest area, and this is where you can find the zoo. But nestled around the CBD are a number of smaller and just as enjoyable green spaces – my favorites include the Royal Botanic Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens.

A wide variety of cuisines. Photo credit - avixyz.

A wide variety of cuisines. Photo credit - avixyz.

Gastronomical Affair

I’m not alone in saying that Melbourne is one of the most gastronomic-friendly destinations in the world. Thanks to a long history of migrants settling in the city, cuisines from all over the world are well-represented, including Italian, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Middle Eastern. You’ll struggle to find restaurants serving “Australian food” so opt for what the locals enjoy, such as going out for dim sum on a Sunday or visiting one of the famous Indonesian restaurants.

The majestic Twelve Apostles. Photo credit - ccdoh1.

The majestic Twelve Apostles. Photo credit - ccdoh1.

Exploring Further Beyond Melbourne

Just wandering the streets of Melbourne reveals all sorts of new and interesting sights. Let your feet lead you and see what you find – indeed many of the city’s best restaurants and bars are hidden away down alleys and dead end streets.

If you have extra time, I would recommend a day trip to the Great Ocean Road if you can, where you can see such great coastal sights as the Twelve Apostles. Further afield is the Grampians National Park, which offers great hiking and camping.

Visiting Australia? You may want to check out our list of 7 Australian Sidetrips you can enjoy, or 5 Ways to Travel Australia. We also have travel tales on the Ayres Rock and relaxing through the Riverland.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.

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