Melbourne – Victoria, Australia
Melbourne has been high on my travel list – beautiful city, intense cafe culture, originator of food trends, and right by the ocean – this spot is full of amazing things. In addition to the city itself, there is so much going on in every direction around Melbourne. Wine country, national parks, gardens, The Great Ocean Road, and so much more to explore. It is easy to spend an entire two weeks just in Melbourne. Having only five days was certainly a challenge but it certainly gives plenty to look forward to for future trips.
After a 30 hour travel day, we were ready to explore. Landed in Melbourne, we grabbed our rental car (rented from Bargain Car Rental as it was half the cost of car rentals at the airport) and hopped in for a short ride on the left side of the road.
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Our Airbnb was located south of the central business district (CBD) across the Yarra River in Southbank. We have found that staying in a neighborhood outside the CBD comes with lots of character as well as better dining spots so we were happy to exchange some proximity convenience. The Airbnb was super comfortable and most importantly, included a secure parking space for the car rental and an in unit washer and dryer.
After much needed showers post 30 hours of traveling, we were ready to explore! To get started, we hopped in an Uber to get to our first destination quickly. We learned two things from our driver – it is not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day, and Melbourne is famous for the “hoop turn” which is a right turn from a left lane.
Our first stop was the Queen Victoria Market for their famous stalls for merchants, produce, specialty items, and food. We love exploring markets like these and this was no exception – this market is enormous. But apparently not enormous enough as we heard this was going to be renovated soon to accommodate more space. Shops for fruits and vegetables, fish and crustaceans, meats of all kinds, cheese stands, and so much more. While we were hungry, it became increasingly difficult to make a decision – classic paralysis by analysis. We decided to follow the locals on their lunch break to Boreks and I will be honest, we have no idea what Kevin was handed but it was delicious! I think it had some sort of mushroom and spinach mix (definitely not what he ordered) and the dough was fantastic. A great snack to start our foodie adventure through Melbourne.
From here we made our way a few blocks to the State Library of Victoria. While a library is a strange tourist spot, this library photographs extremely well and looks like a museum more than a library. It did not take long for Kevin to migrate to book shelves that sparked joy – I think any book can do that – but it was the design and architecture that really shined. I can’t believe people get to study and work here!
The La Trobe Reading Room is simply stunning from every angle. Viewing points are available from the floor, a few floors up, and the top floor. It has gone through a few different renovations and restorations but the original design is the same – windows atop the dome giving the best natural light as long as the sun is out which minimizes the need for artificial light. The seating arrangement on the floor optimizes the number of people that can be accommodated while still giving each patron privacy.
Ready for more snacking and for Kevin to break into the coffee scene, we headed around the corner and down an alley to Bakemono Bakers and we were drawn in by the smell alone. At our 2:45 PM arrival, the only item left was a plain croissant which we gladly purchased. Across the alley, Kevin ordered coffee from Little Rebel. This croissant is what dreams are made of – incredibly light, flaky, and packed with buttery goodness – definitely up there on one of the best executed croissants. The alley here is like many alleys in Melbourne as hideaways for these gems as well as graffiti art which is constantly changing. Coffee was also a hit for Kevin – I was happy we were in such a hot spot for coffee lovers so I did not expect him to have a bad cup this trip.
We continued our stroll through CBD and came across the arches for the Chinatown. Throughout the city, it is amazing how much Asian representation there is from so many cultures. There is a restaurant for practically every specialty and they overwhelm choices.
Our path brought us to the Parliament building and behind it, St Patrick’s Cathedral where we took a look inside. Unlike European cathedrals, St Patrick’s is modest in display with simple yellow color as the stain glass and exposed wood for the structure. Nothing ornate or fancy to distract people from the reason the church is there.
The next stop on our walk was Federation Square and this area is so fun! There is so much to do from shopping to dining and even just lounging at the square. We quickly realized we were right by the river and dove right in to explore.
Now this is what a waterfront should look like! Gorgeous skyline buildings, pedestrian access to cross over at multiple points, the ability to rent a watercraft to enjoy the water, and various bars and restaurants right on the river. And this entire area was so alive – it was a Friday evening after all. There was so much going on and Melbourne fully executed the waterfront design perfectly.
We walked along both sides of the river before making our way towards our dinner reservation while making sure to pass a few more CBD destinations. First was Hosier Lane for the impressive street art covering every nook along the street and connecting alleys. One thing we continued to note is how impressively clean the entire city was – even these back alley spots where it would be acceptable and expected to have a mess. I overheard people discussing that Hosier Lane changes almost daily – that every time they visit, the walls are completely different.
Nearby is St Paul’s Cathedral which was featuring an enormous live action globe. It was to showcase this art piece but it is also how we knew that this was definitely not a Catholic church!
We continued wandering down different streets admiring the architecture of various buildings, the artwork on the walls, and everything else we enjoyed.
The jet lag was hitting us hard as we approached our dinner spot – Farmer’s Daughters – an hour before our reservations, hoping they could seat us early. While they could not seat us a full hour early, they could accommodate a half hour (thank god) and sent us to their rooftop bar area to relax while we waited for our table – perfect. Rooftop bar was a lovely way to round out this day – we each enjoyed a drink surrounded by lush plants and skyline, before heading to our first meal in Melbourne.
Read the full dining review for Farmer’s Daughters here!
What an amazing first day in Melbourne! Exhausted but happy from an amazing meal, we claimed victory on jet lag and passed out immediately.
While we woke up a bit earlier than we needed to (3AM thanks to jet lag), we were satisfied with the amount of sleep and decided to take advantage of the early hours. Unfortunately, finding cafes that opened as early was tough and then finding one open on the weekends became an unexpected challenge. Kevin found Queenie’s and it was the perfect way to start the morning. Kevin got a coffee and we shared their Vietnamese breakfast sandwich of eggs, meat, sauce and that perfectly baked roll. Sometimes going with the flow really pays off!
Our first stop was the Shrine of Remembrance. At the top of the stairs there is a stunning view of the CBD and we were lucky enough to watch hot air balloons travel across the sky. It was too early to go inside the Shrine but we admired the exterior and read the plaques outlining its significance dedicated to the many Australian lives lost during both world wars.
We made our way to the Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria to continue our morning stroll and my goodness the map of the gardens is intense – there is so much to see!
Read about the Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria and see all the photos here!
We returned back to the Airbnb to change clothes, grab the car, and head into Australian countryside – an afternoon wine tasting in the Yarra Valley! We were so excited to explore the wine regions in Australia as we knew there were some great wines that are produced in these areas.
Read about the Yarra Valley wine region here!
We made our way back to Melbourne and since we had the car, I took the opportunity to have dinner at a stop a ways outside of downtown that was so well rated, it was hard to pass up. Dexter is a BBQ joint located in Preston that once I found while trip planning, I wanted to make every attempt to make it happen. They have bone marrow mash on the menu – how could we let that go? Luckily, parking was easy and we were able to be seated early. The smell when we walked in just validated this was such a good decision.
The menu made decisions challenging but we decided to split a few things.
- We ordered a Hot Meat Donut because neither of us had ever heard of that before – it was unfortunately spicy but Kevin said it was amazing with the sugar coating on the outside balanced with the spicy pulled meat on the inside. Why had no one made this before? That was how good it was – I wish it wasn’t spicy. I feel like I missed out!
- We split a platter of the Caramel Short Rib with pickles, bone marrow mash, slaw, and fried bread. The portion was perfect for us to share and my good everything was fantastic. The short rib was perfect – unbelievably tender and so flavorful without being too fatty. The bone marrow mash was as wonderful as I dreamed it would be and the fried bread was the surprise delight. All of this together made a dang good plate of BBQ and well worth the praise.
- With broccolini on the menu, we had to order these as well and these were impressive – prepared to a bright green and snap to them, the broccoli were delicious and swimming in a goma dressing which paired wonderfully.
- When we glanced at desserts, we knew we had to save space for the Milk and Cookies – freshly baked chocolate chip cookies served with milk ice cream. Oh my goodness these were fantastic – a scoop of milk ice cream with a chunk of warm chocolate chip cookie? Stop it. So amazing and the perfect way to end this meal!
With only day two of jet lag, we were dragging for the final ride back to the Airbnb and happy to have another early bed and long sleep ahead. What a fantastic second day in Melbourne!
Today we actually needed that early morning wake up so we leaned in on the jet lag and made it out and out by 6AM for today’s day trip to Mornington Peninsula. There is so much to do here that a day is just not enough to do it all. We prioritized hiking and wine for our visit but will make sure to include all there is to do here if you have the opportunity to explore Mornington Peninsula yourself.
Read about our day trip to Mornington Peninsula here!
Once back in Melbourne, we freshened up and made our way to dinner at Hope St Radio. I found this place as the young chef was named as “up and coming” in multiple spots and the concept of the restaurant certainly intrigued us – apparently a DJ plays each night!
Read the dining review for Hope St Radio here!
Another wonderful day exploring Melbourne – it is amazing how much there is to do around the city!
Our final day in Melbourne! We planned on exploring parts we missed earlier in the trip as well as a few more food stops in this delicious city. We also took the opportunity to figure out the tram system. There is a section in the CBD that allows for free rides along the tram system which is incredible for a metropolitan city. Today was a rainy weather day so it was a great reason to take advantage. A few places that we wanted to visit were outside the free area so we had to do a bit of reading to figure out logistics. Their physical card came with a fee to purchase and it was for a 7 day pass. While they allow for electronic payment of the phone through Google Pay, a MyKi card has to be added to the wallet, loaded up with credit, and then could be used. Once we figured all this out, it was very easy to take on and off the trams and get around the city effortlessly.
Breakfast was the first priority as we made our way back to Bakemono to see their full selection of pastries. We have been talking about that croissant since we had it so we did not mind a repeat visit. We ordered a croissant with ham and cheese, a spinach and ricotta danish, and a blueberry danish. I convinced Kevin to save coffee for the next spot so we carried our goodies to coffee. We arrived in quite a long line at Patricia’s Coffee Roasters as the morning rush into work was in full swing. Clearly, this was a good spot well worth the wait. Since it is situated down an alley – as all good things in Melbourne are – there were milk cartons situated to sit. It was time to dig into the goodies!
Kevin loved his coffee – all the coffee on this trip has been exceptional and the cafe scene is really incredible. The pastries from Bakemono were all equally outstanding. The ham and cheese croissant had an onion marmalade in the middle and it really added a fun new flavor to this traditional pastry. The spinach and ricotta danish was the perfect savory balance with the buttery, flaky crust, and that blueberry danish is what dreams are made of. While it was a bit cumbersome to eat, we dove right in trying to balance the blueberries on top for as long as possible. The custard and berry jam on the inside was divine – the perfect pastry. Best breakfast!
We hopped on the tram and made our way to the Docklands. I can only imagine how active this spot is when the weather is warmer. We also found one of the two stadiums in Melbourne where sports like rugby, Australian football, and cricket are played.
Continuing on, we hopped aboard another tram and headed to the popular area of St Kilda. We could see the rain making its way through the city from this vantage point. The pier was under construction but we were able to walk out to the end. One popular attraction is seeing the smallest breed of penguins – the fairy penguin – and visitors can catch a glimpse at sunset each night. Unfortunately the construction at the pier had the viewing section closed so no penguins for us this trip.
We walked on the boardwalk and imaged how active this area is during the warmer months but there was a bit less going on than I expected, even if it was a rainy cold day. Places we expected to be open were all closed on Mondays or for the season.
We decided to head to a different part of the city for lunch, hopped on the tram and ended up in Fitzroy just as the rain started to ramp up. We ran into Saigon Street Eats and knew immediately this was a good decision. We could not decide on what to eat so we took advantage of sharing the lunch platter that included a banh mi sandwich, spring rolls, and pho – all of which were delicious. The banh mi especially was so yummy – the bread was perfectly crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the sauce on the meat really shined.
With no end in sight to the rain, we decided to hop in and out doing our own little food tour. The next stop was Messina Gelato – even though it was cold and rainy, it was a reprieve from the rain. We kept it simple sharing a cup of the milk chocolate peanut butter fudge and it was amazing with its creamy consistency and huge chunks of fudge.
The next stop was Proud Mary for their well rated coffee and these guys take their coffee very seriously with their extensive list of beans and pour over options. Kevin ended up with an intense coffee that came with wine equivalent tasting notes. I got a hot chocolate to warm up and it was unfortunately quite disappointing but their coffee game is on point.
We were starting to notice a trend – Mondays are definitely the slow day in Melbourne as many places we wanted to go were closed. Be mindful if you are in the city on a Monday as it really is difficult to find open establishments. There are a bunch of breweries in the area but none of those were open either. Kevin found Section 8 where we grabbed a beer before we returned back to the Airbnb.
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Packing light means laundry so we ran a load of laundry while packing up for our departure in the morning. We struggled to find a spot for dinner that was open (Monday blues!) but Kevin found The Alps Wine Bar a short tram ride away and boy did it hit the spot – the wine display was serious business with a Belle ladder and all!
We ordered a bottle of Skin in Bones Australian Pinot Noir along with prosciutto with chips (literal chips), and cheese plate (Charles Arnaud 18 Month Comte, D’Argental Lingot, and Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue). Chocolate mousse and hazelnuts caught our eye and after we finished it, we learned it was vegan! We would have never guessed it was vegan and we were very impressed – we are going to have to try this at home. Everything was wonderful – we were so happy to have found this spot.
With that, we returned to the Airbnb, finished packing and turned in as we had a very early departure in the morning. Next stop, the Great Ocean Road.
People speak so highly of Melbourne and it really does live up to the hype. The city is incredibly clean, the buildings are very modern, the waterfront is so well utilized, the cafe scene is off the charts, the tram system is free in the CBD, there are beautiful gardens, and we felt extremely safe. For a major metropolitan city, it was strange to feel so safe honestly. And there are just so many options for day trips around Melbourne. Melbourne, you are gorgeous and we cannot wait to see you again.
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