I finally enjoyed the opportunity to fly to Melbourne to visit the city where our oldest is now living and marvel at the creative, bustling hive that it is. There are more people living in Melbourne than the whole of New Zealand, so my initial response to arriving in the central city was one of sensory overload! The streets were humming with people, from day break to well after sunset and the number of places to visit and things to do is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming!
I travelled on a 9.00am Monday morning flight from Wellington, New Zealand, direct to Melbourne, Australia, using my brand new New Zealand passport (finally got around to applying for citizenship after 20+ years of living in New Zealand!). I wasn’t alone on the flight, as I was joined by my youngest daughter and a friend of my oldest’s – from way back (they met when they were 7 years old!). The three of us touched down in Melbourne around 4 hours later and grabbed an Uber into the city.
I was very grateful my oldest was there to greet us on arriving at the inner-city apartment I’d booked, alleviating the need to scour trip adviser and bust out google maps on the first day! It was so great to see their beaming smile, which I hadn’t seen since February when they left to start University. First stop on the tour was a lunch, before a tour of the halls of residence (I was in awe of the grand piano in the ‘theatre’ room of ‘Little Hall’). We then hopped on the tram down toward the University of Melbourne Southbank Campus (we disembarked before reaching the campus, in the free tram ride zone and then crossed the Yarra River to walk to the campus).
Here’s some highlights of the time we had, before heading back to Wellington on the Friday evening.
The National Gallery of Victoria International (NGV), located close to the Yarra River and the University of Melbourne Southbank Campus, where my oldest spends time creating and designing, is a huge building (from the perspective of a person visiting from Wellington!) housing an incredible collection of international art.
Founded in 1861, it is Australia’s oldest and most visited art museum, with art across two sites; the NGV International and the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia. A third site, NGV Contemporary, is planned to open in 2028 and will be Australia’s largest contemporary gallery.
We only saw a small part of the collection, but what we saw was incredible and left me wanting more time to sit and appreciate the art.
On the opposite side of the river is another interesting place of creativity – the ACMI museum – Australia’s national museum of screen culture, located in Fed Square. ‘The Story of the Moving Image‘ free exhibition was a highlight for my youngest, who is passionate about digital art, animation and game design.
Outside the ACMI, Fed Square itself had a great feel of creativity to it, with an interactive screen encouraging passers by to jump around and deck shares for people to take a rest and watch people jump around! Whilst we were there we saw a crazy looking ‘eyeball’ sculpture, created by ‘Cool Shit‘.
Walking through the city of Melbourne I loved all the architecture, from Victorian to modern times. Opposite Fed Square is the gorgeous Flinders Street Railway Station on one side and St Paul’s Cathedral on another. The railway station opened in 1843 and stretches over two whole city blocks.
St Paul’s Cathedral had the breathtaking ‘Gaia‘ exhibition on when we visited, by Luke Jerram.
From Victorian to the modern day, this RMIT building caught our eye on numerous occasions, as it was near where we were staying. The building itself dates back to the late 1880s, but has had a fascinating addition to it!
Close to this building is the stunning State Library of Victoria, which I wish we had taken the time to visit (next time!). The library was established in 1854 as the Melbourne Public Library, making it Australia’s oldest public library and one of the first free libraries in the world.
Whilst in Melbourne we had to take the opportunity to see a show. There are a number of beautiful theatres and on this occasion we visited ‘The Princess Theatre’ to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
A highlight of Melbourne, aside from the wonderful art, theatres and architecture, was definitely the food! As well as the central city there are amazing cafes to try in the suburbs of Fitzroy and Brunswick, which we enjoyed during our visit.
My favourite food was the delicious brunches we enjoyed. Outside of the central city, and past the Melbourne museum, which we walked past on the way, is the suburb of Fitzroy, where we enjoyed a wonderful brunch at Stagger Lee’s on Brunswick Street on the morning of my oldest’s 19th Birthday! The look on my face sums up how happy I was with my brunch!
Something I’d never heard of before was ‘hot pot’ and there were so many of these restaurants in the central city. You choose a number of dishes which you then cook in a central pot in the centre of the table, filled with your choice of soup, which is kept heated. I’m not a big eater of meat though and there weren’t a lot of vegetarian options (at least at the one we went to), still I enjoyed the experience!
There wasn’t enough time in our short stay to do everything we wanted and we visited on the busy school holidays, without planning ahead to book for a slot for things like the aquarium. I would have enjoyed visiting the Melbourne Museum, the zoo and St Kilda beach, but that would be nicer on a warm summer’s day! And I would definitely like to do a day trip to the Melbourne vineyards, an hour out from the central city (need to bring one of my friends along for the ride on my next trip!).
I was really impressed with the incredibly beautiful Royal Exhibition Building, located in the Carlton Gardens. It is a World Heritage-listed building built in 1879–1880 as part of the international exhibition movement, which presented over 50 exhibitions between 1851 and 1915 around the globe.
On our last day in Melbourne we met up for brunch, once again, before bidding my oldest farewell and taking a stroll alongside the Yarra River. Unfortunately it was an overcast, winter’s day, but we enjoyed observing the sculptures alongside the river and imagining people sitting out on the riverside cafes and bars on warm summer days.
My husband has visited Melbourne a couple of times this year, with work, and took a photo of the river on a sunnier day looking more appealing (though I was impressed to see on group taking a little tourist motor boat out for a cruise when we were there!).
Alongside the river, on the south bank, are the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, which we took a gentle amble through. I’m borrowing a photo of that my husband took of the gardens, on a sunnier day, as it was rather grey when we visited. I didn’t realise, at the time of our visit, that there was a special winter garden ticketed event, ‘Lightscape’, illuminating 1.8km of trails after dark, which would have been great to have seen.
We did venture out to visit the Winter Markets on the Wednesday evening of our stay, at the Queen Victoria Markets, with fire-pits dotted around to warm the thronging masses of people – though those participating in the silent disco looked plenty warm enough!
There is so much to do in Melbourne and something to suit everyone, the only thing you need is a whole lot of energy, a good pair of walking shoes (or hop on and off the trams) and a big appetite for all the wonderful food! I’m already looking forward to my next visit (though I think I’ll go when the weather’s warmed up a bit!).