I had a wonderful time in Melbourne. The city felt really comfortable to explore and was simple to get around. I did take 3 day trips to the Great Ocean Road, Grampians and Dandenong, the first 2 via a tour and the last one involved renting a car.
I was really lucky to be able to visit during the Night Noodle Festival and got to try quite a few of Asian fusion treats, including some flying noodles (which tasted surprisingly good!) which I just got to share with you. This fascinated me to no end!
Melbourne’s architecture is a mish mash of modern skyscrapers and traditional old fashioned buildings such as Flinders St station and St Paul Cathedral. It was very interesting to walk along certain streets and see some street art too. Ac/dc lane, Hosier lane and Stevenson lane were some of my favourites.
I took a day trip to the Great Ocean Road (via Klook) and it involved a lot of driving, so do come prepared! The view was stunning and I did a double take, as it just looked like it came out of a postcard. The water was so blue, a refreshing change from what I’d usually see in Singapore and neighbouring countries. Besides the Twelve Apostles, we also got to see Loch Ard Gorge, Kennett River and Memorial Arch. After lunch which was at Apollo Bay, I got some chocolate ice cream from Dooley’s Ice Cream and my goodness, it was absolutely heavenly. Their award winning chocolate ice cream definitely deserved its title and I highly recommend that you treat yourself with some.
The other tour I did was to the Grampians (via Viator). We visited Halls gap, MacKenzie Falls and the Boroka Lookout, among many others. It was really beautiful! There was also a short hike through the Grand Canyon, which was slightly intense but definitely doable. We had some older people in the tour group and while they were panting quite heavily, they were strong and carried on! I’ve never been to the Grand Canyons in the US so I can’t compare, but this definitely makes visiting it high up on my list now.
My last road trip was with two of my friends who lived in Melbourne! They offered to bring me around and I appreciated the company. These places (with the exception of the Redwood Forest) are accessible via trains so you don’t have to rent a car if you’re on a solo trip! We rented a car from Thrifty at Southern Cross Station and after a quick brunch (I forgot what that cute cafe was called!), we headed to the Redwood Forest as it was along the way towards the Dandenong Ranges. The redwood trees were majestic, to say the least! They were extremely tall and I felt like I was in some sort of fairy tale. It was so peaceful and beautiful, and definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
After, we drove on towards Dandenong Ranges to attempt the Kokoda Memorial Track or also known as the 1000 steps. If you’re taking the train, take the train to Upper Ferntree Gully station and you can access the forest from the station. There are other ways to get to Dandeong, and you can check them out here. The 1000 steps track was quite strenuous and while I doubt it was truly a thousand steps, we definitely had to take mini breaks as we descended up. The stairs aren’t too steep and narrow, so it didn’t cause me to feel dizzy like some stairs do. Regardless, remember to bring tons of water, sunscreen, snacks and wear a hat! Our second last stop was at Brighton Beach (take the train to Brighton Beach Railway Station if you’re using public transport) to see the iconic bath houses! We timed it so that we could see the sun set and it was absolutely perfect. I bought a punnet of strawberries and we just snacked on them while the sun slowly disappeared into the horizon.
Then, our last stop was St. Kilda to see the penguins at the pier! If you’re taking public transport, you can take tram 96 to get here from the city! As we arrived an hour-ish after sunset (which is the time the penguins will slowly arrive at the dock), the crowds at the pier have dissipated and we got to really see these fairy penguins up close! They are so cute and fluffy, unlike the Emperor penguins which honestly scare me a little. I couldn’t snap a good pic as it was dark and we can’t use flash as that would scare the penguins! According to many people I’ve spoken to, the encounters with the penguins at St. Kilda’s pier is way better than that of Philip Island. This is definitely worth checking out.
Besides these day tours, I mostly spent my time exploring the city. I visited the Eureka Skydeck and it was pretty cool to see the city from above. The queue was really long and the ticket was quite pricey, so it isn’t something that I think you must do as the views, while cool, are nothing special. You’re mostly going up to level 88 (the lift was exceptionally fast!) and walking around an air conditioned room to see the view. If that’s your thing, or if you have kids, then definitely go ahead! I also visited Queen Victoria Market to get some knick-knacks. If you’re there, get yourself some jam-filled doughnut balls from American Doughnut Kitchen! They. were. good.
Food wise, I would definitely recommend Grand Trailer Park Taverna for their burgers. It was really delicious and juicy. Royal Stacks was pretty decent for their burgers too. These two burger places were the recommendations from the tour guides of my two tours, and I wasn’t disappointed. I also tried the Xiao Long Bao from Shanghai Street Xiao Long Bao and Dumpling and it was really good too (not as good as Ding Tai Fung imo though!). The queue at the outlet at Chinatown is really long but they have a few more outlets elsewhere so you can check those out. If you’re craving some hot soup, I’d check out Taiwanese Beef Noodles at Taiwan Café opposite QV mall. That was definitely one of the best beef noodles I’ve ever had, including those that I’ve had on Taiwan! Crepes from Roule Galette work really well for dessert. I got their Yeti (AUD 10) as I love anything with bananas and it was a real treat! Their homemade salted caramel was extremely delicious too.
While on tours, I also had recommendations to head over to Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar for pasta as well but I ran out of time. I heard that there isn’t a menu, they just name you their daily pastas and you tell them what you want. It also smelt really delicious when I was there getting my coffee to go. If you do have time, I do think it’s worth checking out!
Overall, Melbourne stuck me as a city that was easy to navigate and live in. The large variety of food and cultural areas are definitely worth going back to explore again!