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After an incredible three days in Sydney, we had to continue our Australian adventure. We boarded a flight and headed off to explore Melbourne, often regarded as the cultural capital of Australia. The city is home to top notch restaurants and cafes, unique street art and bustling night-life.
Unfortunately, we only had two days in Melbourne because we used it as a connection to the Great Ocean Road. That being said, we packed as much as we could into those two days and absolutely loved our time in Melbourne.
Planning a Trip to Melbourne
Now would be a great time financially to visit Melbourne because of the Australian dollar to US dollar conversion $1.00 USD = $1.59 AUD. Put simply, for every $1 American dollar, you get about $1.5 Australian dollars. It’s not Thailand cheap, but it’s nice to know your money goes a little bit further “down under”.
Australia’s national currency is Australian dollars (AUD). They come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Coins come in 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents and one and two dollar denominations.
If you find yourself short on cash, there are currency exchanges and ATMs in just about any populated area. If you aren’t planning to use paper currency, your debit card and most major US credit cards work in Australia. We didn’t have any issues, but when in doubt, just ask the merchant.
Where to stay in Melbourne
Lodging in Melbourne is similar to most big cities. It really depends on the time of year, season and current events. We visited in March during the Australian Grand Prix which definitely increased the price of accommodations.
If you are looking to stay in Melbourne on the cheap, a low budget hostel will cost you about $30-$60 a night. We walked by Nomads Melbourne Backpacker a few times, and it looked pretty awesome. It also has pretty good reviews too!
If you’re over the hostel life, a low budget hotel will cost you around $40-$70 per night. Based off reviews, one of the best low budget hotels is the City Centre Budget Hotel.
If you don’t want to splurge completely and are interested in some nice amenities, Melbourne has a ton of mid-price hotels. The cost of a mid-price hotel in Melbourne, like their low budget counterparts, varies on location. In the Central Business District, you’ll spend approximately $65-$90 per night. One of the top rated hotels on hotels.com and Expedia is Ibis Melbourne Central.
Melbourne, being the cultural capital of Australia, has no shortage of luxury hotels. If you’ve got money to spend, and you want to stay at the best hotels in Melbourne, it will set you back approximately $100-$200 per night. Treasury on Collins was voted Trip Advisor’s 2019 Traveler’s Choice Top Luxury Hotel in Melbourne. Check it out!
We personally like staying in AirBnBs, so we can be fully immersed in the local culture. In Melbourne, we stayed in a cute little high rise studio right in the CBD. The location was ideal. We could walk or ride a free tram just about anywhere we wanted to go.
Internet/Cell Phone Service
Melbourne is known for its coffee scene, and boy, is it good! Luckily for you, while enjoying a cappuccino (or two), most of the cafes have wifi internet access. If you’re interested in having the internet outside of a cafe, you’ll need to research some cheap data options. We actually didn’t utilize a data plan in Australia and found we didn’t really need it. We solely relied on using downloaded Google Maps.
Best Time to Visit Melbourne
The best time to visit Melbourne is March-May and September-November. These are known as the shoulder seasons, meaning less crowds, cheaper prices, lower airfare and still great weather. We visited Melbourne in March, and it was perfect!
Weather in Melbourne
The seasons in Melbourne are the opposite of the United States. US summers are Australia’s winters and so on. Melbourne summers are warm, and winters are cold and windy. Fall is typically foggy in the morning, clearing by the afternoon. Spring is when you’d expect the most rainfall. Temperature ranges from 40°F to 80°F. Also, Melbourne is one of the cloudiest cities, so just be aware it might be gray during your visit.
Visa Requirements for Australia
You must have a valid passport if you are planning on visiting Australia. If you are from Brunei, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States, you need to apply for an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). This will allow you to enter Australia as many times as you would like for 12 months. Each visit cannot last longer than three months.
Melbourne Airport (MEL) , also known as Tullamarine Airport, is the second busiest airport in Australia. The airport supports both domestic and international flights. This airport features direct routes to 33 domestic destinations and numerous international destinations in Asia, Canada, North America, South America, and Europe.
We flew into Melbourne from Sydney (one of the most popular passenger air routes in the world) on TigerAir. TigerAir Australia is one of Australia’s budget airlines, as it only cost us $90 per person. Just be careful. Like most budget airlines, you’ll have to pay for baggage.
Melbourne has a robust public transportation system, including trains, trams, and buses. We took all three during our visit, and if you’re planning your activities in and around Melbourne, know that you can get it done easily with public transportation.
Melbourne also has taxis and Ubers, but be wary. Our Uber from the airport to our AirBnB was outrageous due to toll charges and extra fees. It really shocked us because none of it was listed when booking the ride, and it was not displayed at the expected price. Uber at your own peril! If you are going to the CBD from the airport, take the Skybus if you want a significantly cheaper option.
Best Things to Do in Melbourne
Melbourne is a vibrant city with a multitude of sights and activities (and coffee!). We’re grateful for the experiences that we were able to share in this trendy town. Below are some of our favorite things to do on a quick visit to Melbourne, Australia.
St. Kilda is a suburb of Melbourne, located approximately 6 kilometers away from the CBD. You can easily get to St. Kilda, from the CBD, via tram, train, rail, bus, or bike. St. Kilda is known for its Esplanade, Luna Park, Windsurfing, and Penguins.
St. Kilda Esplanade Market
Each Sunday, the St. Kilda Esplanade Market brings together artists, craft-makers, collectors and shoppers. Wander around the 140+ stalls in search of bargains on one-of-a-kind souvenirs, art, jewelry, and more!
Luna Park Melbourne is an amusement park located in St. Kilda. The park opened in 1912 and has been operating ever since. Like the park in Sydney, its Melbourne counterpart also has a very creepy clown face entrance. But don’t let that sway you from checking out the park. The amusement park has a bunch of rides and attractions that are great for the whole family.
The entrance fee to Luna Park is $5.00, however, you have to pay additional fees to go on the rides. Tickets can either be purchased individually or in an unlimited format. Pricing varies on the age of the rider. For pricing details, click here
St. Kilda Pier
Strolling along the St. Kilda Pier is an absolute must. The pier itself is awesome, but the views of Melbourne’s skyline are even better. Kate and I both sat on the pier mesmerized by the kite surfers speeding by. When the sun began to set, it was time for our favorite attraction!
St. Kilda Penguins
Just after sunset, Melbourne’s favorite residents, the fairy penguins, waddle into their homes after a long day at sea. These little penguins live at the breakwater located at the end of the pier and can be viewed by the public every night for free. There are plenty of signs along the pier that will direct you to the right location.
It was an incredible experience watching the penguins swim up and waddle around. Just know that you won’t be alone watching them. A sizable crowd of penguin paparazzi will also be enjoying them with you, but that is part of the fun. It was fun to hear the excitement people had when another penguin was spotted.
As mentioned above, the penguins can be viewed year-round but the best time of year to see them is March-May because they are moulting and need to stay on land for approximately three weeks. The best time to see them is one hour after sunset. This was definitely my favorite experience in Melbourne!
Brighton Bathing Boxes
If you’ve got time, the Brighton Bathing Boxes are definitely worth seeing. Located about 13 kilometers away from the CBD, you can easily reach the colorful boxes by train, bus, taxi or Uber. The easiest option to get to this photogenic spot is by car, whether that is your car, a taxi or an Uber.
We took the train there, and it doubled the time it would have taken by car, but it is definitely doable. If you are taking the train, get off at the Middle Brighton Station. From there, it is a 1.2 kilometer walk. The Brighton Bathing Boxes are located on the esplanade in Middle Brighton, between Wellington Street and Dendy Street.
Once you arrive, you’ll see 82 colorful beach huts that line the sand. Every single box has a different paint job and color scheme, and they are all so unique. They don’t offer any luxurious amenities, however, they do offer a great place to relax and soak in the views of Port Phillip Bay. If you are interested in looking inside the boxes, click here.
The boxes have stood for over 100 years and have a great view of Port Phillip Bay. From the beach, you will also have a great view of the city skyline of Melbourne. Wander around and find your favorite one. Below are some of our favorites!
PS. If you want to buy one, look forward to shelling out a whopping $300,000 AUD!
Queen Victoria Market
If you want it, they’ve got it at the Queen Victoria Market. I was shocked at how gigantic this market was. It makes sense though considering the Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the entire Southern Hemisphere. Kate and I browsed the vendors for a few hours, almost getting lost in the seven acre marketplace.
The Queen Victoria Market is located at the corner of Elizabeth and Victoria streets in Melbourne. Before you go, there are a few things you should know. The market is open everyday except Mondays, Wednesdays and most celebrated holidays. Additionally, get cash before you arrive or risk waiting for a long while before it’s your turn at one of the on-site ATMs. The vendors only accept cash, so don’t be that guy! Lastly, bring a bag, because the vendors are plastic free.
Once you finish roaming around the market, you have to get donuts from The American Doughnut Kitchen. They were incredible! If you are solo, definitely get the special for five donuts. Kate and I split the five between us two and wish we got more. Beware: the line will be long, but it is 100% worth it!
Explore Melbourne’s Coffee Scene
Melbourne’s coffee scene is not something to shrug about. I’ve had coffee straight from the source in Colombia and in fancy cafes in Vienna, and think Melbourne is even better. Melbourne was listed by CNN as one of the world’s best coffee cities, and it doesn’t disappoint! There are coffee shops all over the city, and it is actually difficult to find a bad one.
In one day, I repeat, ONE day, Kate had 4 lattes. I’m pretty sure my heart would have exploded! Our favorite coffee spot and all around breakfast spot was Operator 25. It was just a short walk away from our AirBnB. Little Rogue was a close second! If you’re interested in the best coffee shops in Melbourne, click here.
Free Tram Tour
The City Circle Tram (route number 35) is a hop on hop off tram that takes you throughout Melbourne’s Central Business District. Trams operate in both a clockwise and counterclockwise direction every 12 minutes. Sunday to Wednesday, you can ride between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00p.m. Thursday to Saturday, you can hop on between 10:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. To catch the City Circle Tram, wait at any marked tram stop along the City Circle Tram route.
We were planning on riding the tram our first morning there but I got pretty sick. I don’t know how Kate didn’t since she had 4 lattes in one day! After feeling a little better that afternoon, we rode the tram after checking out Docklands. Just know that you won’t be alone on the tram. It was packed! The tram also offers a free audio tour which is one of the main reasons why we took the tram. However, with the amount of people on the tram, you couldn’t hear the recording. It would be a cost effective way to see Melbourne if you can deal with the crowds.
Fun Fact: Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city outside of Greece. If you are hungry and in the CBD, you need to check out Stalactites. It is a delicious family-owned greek restaurant. I consumed the most delicious giro I have ever had!
Lastly, if you are looking for a nice dinner out and about, look no further than Southbank. Southbank is a bustling neighborhood located on the banks of the Yarra River. This area boasts beautiful pedestrian walkways, architecture and views of the city.
Southbank is also home to Crown Melbourne, the largest casino complex in the Southern Hemisphere. The complex takes up the equivalent of two city blocks! If you aren’t interested in gambling, Crown Melbourne also has theaters, nightclubs, a spa, arcade games, shops, bars and restaurants.
Southbank is more than just Crown Melbourne. It is home to some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants and bars. Kate and I ate before we got to Southbank, but had a fun time window shopping, walking around and checking out the area. After exploring, we grabbed a cheap (for Southbank standards) drink, at Munich Brauhaus Melbourne.
Although our time was short, we enjoyed Melbourne and what it had to offer. I mean, where else can you get the best Greek food of your life and also see wild penguins? Sadly, our time in Melbourne was over. It was time to grab a rental car, cross our fingers and not wreck by driving on the opposite side of the road, and set off to explore one of the world’s best road trips, The Great Ocean Road!
Book for the Trip
A friend recently introduced me to the Red Rising series and I can’t put it down!