View from Melbourne SouthBank

Love at First Sight: Visiting Melbourne

We departed New Zealand from Christchurch in the early hours of the morning; as we sped through the dark, silent streets we both felt strange. The city with its broken buildings, cordoned-off areas and sparsely populated streets had echoed so strongly with the memory of that final, devastating earthquake – it was impossible to stop imagining all that had happened there. We flew off from our wonderful first month of travel in New Zealand reminded of the terrible danger that lies beneath the beauty of this incredible country.

Arriving in Melbourne

What makes a place special? How is it that one person can be so mesmerised and besotted with somewhere while the next person can’t wait to leave? Who knows what the secret it, sometimes you just connect with a place – that’s how I felt about Melbourne.

View of Melbourne from the Skydeck

View of Melbourne from the Eureka Skydeck

The moment I stepped off the plane I felt it, a stirring of excitement in my gut. After the small, disappointing cities I’d encountered in New Zealand I was itching to feel the full force of the city again; to be hit smack in the face with a shot of pure, concentrated city – I’m talking about the kind of hit I’d get from standing in the middle of Piccadilly Circus in London – that was what I wanted.

I got my hit.

Stepping off the train at Southern Cross station it surrounded me, like a kind of homecoming; movement, people, great swirls of colour and noise; the smell of exhaust fumes and fast-food restaurants – the city, alive and pulsing in the early-evening darkness.

Melbourne Streets

We joined a swarm of people crossing the road; swept along by a familiar tide as we walked the streets, my face craned up to glimpse a patch of sky squeezed between the spiky tops of tall buildings. The shine of glass and metal; lights of all kinds – neon signs, the harsh artificial glare of shops, the soft glow of streetlamps and searching car headlights.

View from Melbourne SouthBank

There were people everywhere, the noise of their voices a constant murmur mingled with the rumbling of trains and traffic, footsteps and music. I couldn’t take the smile from my face as we stumbled upon Federation Square; we stood there in what felt like the very heart of the city and I knew I was in love.

Federation Square, Melbourne

Federation Square, Melbourne

Our Week Visiting Melbourne

My feelings for Melbourne only solidified throughout the week we spent exploring the laneways, wandering along the Southbank, lazing in the botanical gardens, visiting the museums and riding the tram. I began to realise the things I had most been missing about London; sitting on the train eavesdropping on the conversations of strangers, the anonymity of walking through the streets having endless new faces to watch, the sense of stories and lives unfolding all around me.

Sunset at St Kilda, Melbourne

Sunset at St Kilda, Melbourne

As you can see from our pictures of Melbourne, we kept discovering new things to love: the beach at St Kilda and the way the sun set over the water all orange and pink. Having lunch in the park, watching backpackers play Frisbee while office workers ate lunch and couples walked their dogs. Trawling through Queen Victoria Market, listening to the calls of the fruit and vegetable sellers.

View of the Melbourne Skyline

View of the Melbourne Skyline

One afternoon we visited Jen, an old school friend of Andrews who’s been living in Australia for years. We took the train out to her suburb to eat the delicious lunch she and her husband had prepared and to meet their new baby. As we sat and talked we couldn’t help but compare our old lives in London with theirs in Melbourne; the size and airiness of their rental property, the weather, the experience of living close to the beach and the city. Andrew and I both felt it rising – that bubble of possibility: we could have this life too – we could live in Melbourne.

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

The Window of Travel

I’m beginning to see that one of my favourite things about travel is getting to peek into the lives of other people, to look through all these other windows and see the differences and similarities in how we all live. None of us have time to experience all the billions of lives we could have lived had we been born in another country or at another time; but life is still too large to live it all in the same way – the best we can do is catch a glimpse and wonder at the possibilities. Travel is allowing us to do this. I don’t know whether, one day, we will decide to live a while in Melbourne, but if we don’t I’m glad to have felt for a moment what our lives there could have been like.

Amy riding the Tram in Melbourne

Me riding the Tram in Melbourne

Top things to see in Melbourne

There are plenty of free things to do in Melbourne, as well as tons of sights to see and hundreds of restaurants and bars to visit – here are our top picks of things to do in Melbourne:

  • Visit St Kilda
  • Hang out in Federation Square
  • Explore the Laneways
  • Stroll through the botanic gardens
  • Grab a drink on the Southbank
  • Ride the free city circle tram
  • Go to Queen Victoria Market
  • Visit the Melbourne museum
  • Go up the sky tower

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Travelling in Australia doesn’t come cheap and as with any big city, searching for affordable places to stay can be frustrating and tedious. You can easily find places to stay in backpacker hostels, mid-range guesthouses or more luxurious hotels. Accommodation prices often depend on location; if you want to be in the heart of the city you’ll end up paying more to be close to the action while choosing to stay on the outskirts of the city or even in the suburbs will cost less but mean you’re a train journey away from the main sights. We had a brilliant time staying with Caz and Taryn in Spotswood. We found them through AirB&B and paid a lot less for our week there than we would have done at a hostel in central Melbourne.

  • Molly - Yonderblog
    Posted at 02:48h, 03 May Reply

    Melbourne is such a great city! We fell in love with it, too and it became our home for six months!

    • Amy
      Posted at 02:55h, 03 May Reply

      Another Melbourne fan! We’re jealous that you stayed for six months – perhaps we’ll do the same one day once we’ve travelled Asia.

  • Alli Campbell
    Posted at 03:58h, 03 May Reply

    So thrilled you loved melbourne! I’m currently sitting on a tram to have lunch on spring st though, so I may be a little biased. Love this city! Next time make sure you check out north of the river – Gertrude st fitzroy, smith st collingwood, rathdowne st Carlton north, high st northcote.

    And I so agree with you about travel giving you a peek into other lives, thinking ‘I could live here…’ It’s one of the best bits about it 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 07:44h, 03 May Reply

      Thanks for the tips Alli, we’ll check out those places next time we’re there – I wish we’d had time to discover more of Melbourne this time around.

  • Mig
    Posted at 15:53h, 03 May Reply

    Traveling does allow us to peek into the lives of other cultures. It’s quite fascinating to see how other people live day to day. To get a better understanding of the other cultures, I’m pursuing volunteer opportunities in the places I visit for a full immersion.

    • Amy
      Posted at 23:27h, 03 May Reply

      Volunteering sounds like a great way of really getting involved Mig – we’re looking forward to doing the same in a few months’ time.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 04:07h, 06 May Reply

    One day Tony & I will make it to Australia, and when we do, Melbourne is very much at the top of the places I want to visit! I know that Sydney gets most of the attention, but from what I’ve read and heard, I think Melbourne sounds more fun and more like the kind of city I would enjoy. So glad to hear that you guys enjoyed your time there so much!

    Also, I completely agree that one of the best things about traveling long-term and having the opportunity to go slowly is the chance you get to try on different lives. I’ll admit that the number of places we have visited where we have seriously thought we could live there long-term, never mind permanently, has been really small, BUT I always feel that we have spent enough time in most places that when we leave, we have had a really good primer of what it might like to live there. It’s very different from what you experience when you only have a 2 week vacation and just dash about madly from one tourist attraction to the next!

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:16h, 06 May Reply

      We definitely loved Melbourne more than Sydney – it just seemed to have more character (I’m sure Sydney fans will disagree with that though!). Melbourne has been the first place we’ve visited so far that we think we could really live in; I don’t expect there will be too many places like that on our travels – we’ll see!

  • Bethaney - Flashpacker Family
    Posted at 02:44h, 08 May Reply

    I didn’t fall in love with Melbourne on my first visit…. the weather was against me! It was hollowing with wind and pouring with rain for the week I was there. A bit of a shock to the system after the sunny Sunshine Coast. A lot of my friends have moved there though so I have lots of excuses to visit for a second time. 🙂

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:59h, 08 May Reply

      Yep, we have had better weather elsewhere in Australia I have to say! A lifetime of dealing with the British weather meant that Melbourne’s coolness didn’t faze us though.

  • Suzanne Fluhr (Just One Boomer)
    Posted at 04:21h, 08 May Reply

    I’m really sorry to learn that Christchurch remains so devastated. We visited there in 2002 when it was a lovely small city. We obviously still have much of Australia to visit. We’ve only been to Sydney, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and Perth.

    • Amy
      Posted at 04:24h, 08 May Reply

      We have so much of Australia left to see too Suzanne, but we’ll have to save it for another trip. Yes, unfortunately Christchurch was still quite devastated, nonetheless there were plenty of signs of rebuilding and many people were still going about their normal lives with unbreakable spirit, which was impressive to see.

  • Sarah
    Posted at 07:13h, 14 November Reply

    When we first visited Australia, we visited first Melbourne. I never regret we did that. It is a lively city with many entertainment to offer such as museums, zoos and parks. I’m looking forward to visit this City again.

    • Amy
      Posted at 09:51h, 14 November Reply

      We still dream of visiting Melbourne again some day Sarah, it’s such an incredible city!

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