- This goes for any city, really. Google ‘Whats on in Melbourne May‘ and look at sites like ‘Timeout‘. They outline various festivals, gigs, exhibitions, etc. I found fun events like Vintage Fashion Sale pop-up, Chinatown Pop-Up Market, Immigration Museum Exhibitions, and Beer Yoga.
- You need a Visa to go to Australia, which I did not know. I believe they recently changed this. It is very simple to do and can be done in just 20 minutes online. I did mine at the gate while boarding (although I do not recommend this).
- I am sure you have heard this before, but you must set up a travel notice with your bank. What you may have not heard before is that if you have a bigger bank like Bank of America or Wells Fargo, they have bank partnerships with other international banks. Google “Bank of America Partners in Australia” or whatever country you are going to and you can use your debit card at their partners’ ATMs without incurring a transaction fee. The transaction fee may show up initially but then the bank will waive the fee.
- A quick Google search of how to get from the airport to your AirBnb/hotel/hostel can save you a lot of money. I found the Airport Skybus for $30 roundtrip, whereas an Uber would have costed me $50 one-way. The Skybus took me right into the middle of the city, where I was able to take a tram to my AirBnb.
- Another great thing to research, which is new to most cities, is Bike Shares. Or scooter shares. Melbourne has a great Bike Share and is a bike-friendly city. Other cities such as Austin, TX and Atlanta, GA have scooter shares. More on the bike share later…
Just a Little Bit of Orientation…
- CBD (stands for Central Business District) – This is a literal 6.2 km square that is known as “the city of Melbourne”. In the CBD, the tram is free to ride. More on the tram later…
- Fitzroy – This is where I stayed, and is also known to be very hipster. It is also home to a lot of the music scene, nightlife, vintage shopping, and great restaurants. It is walking distance to the CBD and other suburbs, which makes it a great place to stay. Just north of Fitzroy is Northcote and Thornbury which is also hippie-ville. I loved it- lots of health food stores and fun vintage clothes.
- Carlton – This is close to the University of Melbourne, and I would argue the best place to get some authentic Italian food. It is right next to Fitzroy and close to the CBD as well. Another great place to stay.
- South Melbourne – I grouped this area all together, because it is south of the Yarra River. The Yarra basically cuts the city in half. This is more a business-y and residential district and close to the CBD. It has lots of parks and museums close by.
- St. Kilda – This is the well-known beach located south of the city. A great place to watch the sunset and see penguins.
How to Get Around…
Walk…This is the best way to learn the city and find little spots that you might miss if you were zooming by in a car or bike. Melbourne has a lot of great street art on side streets which are fun to meander through. It is relatively flat, and the weather is great year-round (no matter how much the locals claim how “cold” it is in the winter – think high 50’s and 60’s). You can always stop by a park (there are so many) to take a minute and relax when you feel your legs talking to you.
The Tram…The best way to learn the tram system is to try it out, especially in the CBD while it is free. I had to ride the tram from the Skybus (the shuttle that takes you from the airport to the Southern Cross Station, the central station in the city). I had no clue how to navigate the tram, so I just went to the nearest tram stop with the most people and hopped on. Funny enough, it ended up being the right tram. But this is not always the case- especially for me- so be ready to extend yourself grace and time to make funny mistakes. That’s the key- LAUGH about it and don’t be so hard on yourself. I just hopped on, figured out what NUMBER tram I was on, then looked at what the next stop was on the screen to tell me what DIRECTION I was going in, then found the stop that I needed to get off on. Again, be ready to make mistakes and have a good laugh when you do. Also, there are plenty of people willing to help. It was 5 am when I arrived, and a man so kindly came up and offered to help.
Bike Share…It was AUS$8 for one week and AUS$10 for one month subscription. You simply download the app and can hop on whenever you see one nearby. So, when you have exhausted your legs from walking or want to have a little fun and you spot a bike, the change of pace and windblown hair can turn the feelings of tiredness into a fresh start. A perk is most of the bikes have free helmets attached. To unlock a bike, you will need Wifi which can be problematic if you chose to forgo an international phone plan. This was not an issue in Melbourne, because they have free Wifi all over the CBD. If you plan to hop on a bike in a place such as St. Kilda or South Melbourne, you will have to use data.
Bike Rental…There is another option, if you don’t want to have to worry about docking the bike every 45 minutes. You can rent a bike from Freddy’s in the west park of the CBD for $30/day. They also do bike tours.
Day One…Saturday in Fitzroy
I wanted to make a note that it is Saturday, which means lots of markets and events are happening that may not happen during the week.
- Yoga…Of course, the first thing I do is find a yoga studio- especially after traveling for 30 hours. I chose Power Living!
- Begin your walk at Carlton Gardens. This contains Melbourne Museum (AUS$15) and Royal Exhibition Building (AUS$13). From there, walk down Gertrude Street until you turn left onto Brunswick Street.
- Brunswick Street…I wanted to orient myself with my new little town. I hopped into some vintage shops and other fun record stores.
- Industry Beans...I grabbed coffee here after a friend I had met at the yoga studio recommended it to me.
- Markets Galore…Fitzroy Mills Market, Rose Street Market, and more!
Note: the time change was very tough. It was a 14-hour shift for me. My stomach was confused as well as my body. When I was sleeping, I was awake and hungry. When I was awake, I was tired. A great investment was an eye mask – just be sure to set an alarm or else you will sleep through the entire day. It took me about three days to adjust. Be careful with caffeine, even if you want to nap, this may throw you off.
Bar Recommendations in/near Fitzroy:
Naked for Satan
Restaurant/Cafe Recommendations in/near Fitzroy:
Moroccan Soup Bar
Pidapipo (ice cream)
Day Two…Sunday in CBD
Today, I began in the city center and worked my way out. You can start from any place- take and leave what you prefer!
- Degraves Espresso Bar and Degraves Street Art
- Walk East on Flinders Lane to Centre Place Street Art
- Old Treasury Building
- Parliament. It was election weekend, so I was able to go in and tour the entire building!
- Walk West on Bourke Street
- Bourke Street Market
- Flagstaff Gardens
- Queen Victoria Market (9 am – 4 pm. They also have a Night Market on Wednesdays)
- Seven Seeds Cafe
- Walk up Lygon Street
- Readings Bookstore
Bar recommendations in/near CBD: Section 8, Berlin Bar, Croft Arbory, Goldilocks, Saint & Rogue, Magic Mountain Saloon, Collins Quarter, Captain Melville, Beneath Driver Lane, Cricketers, Toff in Town, Rooftop Cinema, Spleen Bar (Free live comedy), Carlton Club
Restaurant recommendations in/near CBD: Hardwood Societe, Chin Chin, Hu Tong, Rice Paper Scissors, Shanghai St Dumpling, Hawker Chan, Mamasita, Supernormal, Cumulus, Coda, Tonka, Movida, Red Spice Rd, Burma Lane, Seamstress, Long Room, Izakaya Chuji, 8bit, Madame Brussels, Nando’s (fast food), Vapiano
Cafe recommendations in/near CBD: Higher Ground, Hash Specialty, Degraves St Espresso Bar
Day Three…CBD and St. Kilda
- Immigration Museum – free for students if you bring your student ID. Otherwise, AUS$15.
- Flinders St. Station
- ACMI Museum – Free. They had a Virtual Reality Exhibit, which was very cool. This was great while it rained, as they play movies upstairs.
- Federation Square
- Birrarung Marr Park – I read that sometimes people will just set up a barbecue in the park, and anyone is welcomed to join. I did not see any (might have been because it was Monday).
- National Gallery of Victoria – Free
- Eureka Sky deck – Great view of the city.
- Royal Botanic Gardens
- Shrine of Remembrance
- St. Kilda – Acland St is where all of the shops are (Monarch, Europa, Pontoon to name a few good ones), and Hotel Esplanade usually has live music. The Bay Trail is the trail that takes you all the way up to Port Melbourne from St. Kilda, but I stuck around St. Kilda for sunset and penguins.
Other things in “South Melbourne”/below the Yarra River:
South Melbourne Market, Prahran Market, Chapel St in Prahran
Hurricane Handsome (Cafe)
Bond Store (Cafe)
Ponyfish Island (Bar)
Day Four…Northcote and Thornbury
- I spent most of the day laying in the sun in Edinburgh Gardens, which is in Fitzroy. This is a popular, local spot with lots of pups, families, pick-up basketball, and overlooks the skyline.
- Then, I walked to High Street in Northcote where all of the shops are.
- I turned around after checking out Welcome to Thornbury, which is a food truck park. There is also a modern art museum called Heide MOMA (AUS$20), but it is quite a far walk from here.
- That night, I met up with a friend in Carlton for dinner at DOC, an amazing pizza place and lively nightlife scene.
After dinner, I went to Lost & Found, which is a backpackers bar in the CBD. It is attached to a Backpackers hostel and has fun events every night. I went without knowing anyone and met a ton of friends from all over the world, who I met up with later in the week! After a few games with great prizes (like vouchers to different excursions throughout Australia), we went to Chuckle Park Bar (AUS$5 cover cash-only). It was a fun club with European EDM- interesting to say the least.
Day 5…Collingwood and Abbotsford
Collingwood is a suburb of Melbourne just east of Fitzroy. It is very similar to Fitzroy with its vintage shopping, cute coffee shops, and beer. Abbotsford is just a little further east of Collingwood.
- Walk along Johnston Street until you come to the main road of Collingwood, Smith Street – literally parallel to Brunswick just a few blocks away.
- Continue along Johnston Street until you see signs that take you to Abbotsford Convent. Here, you can meander around the convent. I highly recommend stopping at Lentil As Everything- vegan/vegetarian, pay what you want, and all donations go to refugees. The food is AMAZING! And you may even catch sight of a wedding in the convent.
- Next to Abbotsford Convent is Collingwood Children’s Farm and the Farm Cafe along a beautiful trail worth walking or biking along the Yarra River called Main Yarra Trail. You can take this trail all the way up to Thornbury or all the way south to the Royal Botanic Gardens.
That evening, I had the pleasure of joining a friend at an AFL game at the MCG. Australian Football is a mixture between football, soccer, and rugby. It is very fast-paced and intense! If you are able to go, do it even if it is down-pouring rain!
Day Trip Options…
You are going to need a car for these.
- The Great Ocean Road
- You Yangs
- Bells Beach
- Wilson’s Promenade
- Philip Island
- Mornington Peninsula
- Lorne Beach
- Otway National Park
- “Entree” means appetizer. “Main” is the main course. This might be confusing for Americans.
- “Pie” means a meat pie, unless they specify that it is sweet such as “apple”.
- “Arcade” is a type of mall. There are several throughout the CBD.
- WALK ON THE LEFT of the sidewalks. And before you cross the road, make sure you look in the right direction to check for cars AND TRAMS! Pedestrians are supposed to yield to trams.
Want more Australia? Check out this East Coast backpacking itinerary.
Have a layover on the Big Island, Hawai’i? Check out this one-week itinerary.