There’s a lot to like about Melbourne. Considered by many as the cultural capital of Australia it’s immediately apparent from the art, architecture, cafes and gardens spread throughout the city. It’s quite possibly my favourite Australian city for many reasons but the main one, at least for me, is the shopping. Last week I crossed the ditch from New Zealand and spent a good 5 days there with it concluding on a high. What to know more?
Before we dig into all the amazing things Melbourne has to offer, I wanted to wind back the clock a bit to another huge event for my partner Lenaire and I. It was on this very trip we could use our Koru Club membership to access the Air New Zealand Premium Lounge at Auckland International Airport.
If you’ve never been in a premium lounge before try to think of a 4-to-5 star hotel with comfortable seating, WiFi, charging ports everywhere (awesome for me since my phone is constantly running out of battery) and a fancy buffet with all you can eat and drink (yes, alcohol included). It’s the best!
We managed to find a free Koru Club membership deal as a partnership arrangement through Lenaire’s job but after a quick Google search it showed at least two other ways to get it for free (mostly through flight related credit cards). If you have a credit card already, want to travel more, and “in style” there’s bound to be a similar option/arrangement for the premium lounges near you. Look them up.
We arrived into a very warm and sunny Melbourne at around 5:30 pm and one of the first things I always do is pick up a local/travel SIM card. This time around I went with an Optus prepaid SIM card with 10 GB of data and unlimited calls for $15 AUD.
As a former employee of a big Australian ISP, I know Optus has excellent coverage (98.5%) for populated areas (big cities like Melbourne) but I suggest going with Telstra if you’re heading to any remote/out-of-town areas.
We caught the SkyBus from the airport and were checked into our hotel (Mercure Treasury Gardens) by 7 pm. Our hotel package included a full buffet breakfast for all 5 days (fantastic value) and there was a free small bottle of water waiting in our room. Our room was directly opposite the lift but overall there was very little noise through our door, the walls or from the window.
In terms of location, this hotel’s probably about 2-3 blocks away from everything but it was one of the best value/priced hotels we could find for this trip and I didn’t mind the extra steps for my Health app.
Finally, the included WiFi was a nice bonus but it was very unreliable (couldn’t connect or constantly dropped out when it did) which is possibly my only gripe about our hotel stay. My mobile data was a lot faster and by the last day I was using my phone as a WiFi hotspot since I still had lots of data.
Whenever I put together a travel budget for our food I usually allocate $200 a day ($30 for breakfast, $50 for lunch and $120 for dinner). This isn’t a “hard and fast” rule but a rough guide we can adjust as needed. For this trip, our included breakfasts were so filling we didn’t need to eat until dinner so our breakfast, lunch and snack food money could go to… COFFEE and of course more shopping.
FYI: our dinners averaged in at about $80.
After breakfast we put together a shopping plan for the next three days:
- Bourke Street Mall (mid-to-high end department stores) – don’t buy anything
- The District and DFO South Wharf (discount/factory stores) – compare prices
- Go back to wherever had the best deals for what we wanted – buy buy buy
The plan was good… in theory. Suffice to say, Lenaire had a shopping bag for every day of our trip 😅 and who can blame her. Deals and hard-to-find items (back home) were everywhere.
For me, there was only one thing I was kind of interested in buying and that was a Gorilla Pod for my travel camera otherwise all I wanted to do was take photos.
Lots of photos!
And I did… starting with our walk from the hotel to Bourke Street Mall.
While in one of the big stores on Bourke Street Mall I found the Melbourne Official Visitors Guide. One of the things that caught my eye was a section on Melbourne’s street art community. It became my mission to find one or two of these streets. Union Lane was the closest as it was just off Bourke Street Mall and then there was Hosier Lane by Federation Square which is just a couple of blocks from our hotel.
🇦🇺 Side Mission: when you visit Melbourne look out for any street art with the spelling of Melbourne as “Melburn”.
From Hosier Lane we crossed over to the markets on Federation Square and then we called it a day.
For dinner we decided on room service (sirloin steak, chunky fries, asparagus and a chocolate lava cake) which was definitely, outside of the premium lounges and buffet breakfasts, the best meal we had for the entire trip.
Continuing on with our “plan” from Day Two we were up early for breakfast and then crossed the road to take a few photos of the Treasury Gardens.
The blurred water effect in the image above was accomplished by slowing the shutter speed (manual mode) on my Canon G7X Mark II. The default camera app on my phone can’t do this although you’ll find camera apps in the store that can.
From the Treasury Gardens we walked to the Spring St/Flinders St tram stop to catch the City Circle (free tourist tram) to The District Docklands.
Besides all the stores and Melbourne Star (ferris wheel) what I really like about The District, and I mentioned this on my Twitter, is the central seating with easily accessible power plugs to recharge your phone and devices.
For some reason the latest version of iOS is a total battery hog and places like this where you can charge your phone without hijacking someone’s vending machine (no, I don’t condone that) can be a godsend. This is especially true when you’ve taken TEN too many photos, also… if you need to call/find your travelling companion/s, yeah that 🤐
From The District we walked a very flat and warm 2 km/1.2 miles to DFO South Wharf. On a side note, in terms of weather and temperature we caught Melbourne in the perfect range of 21-25 °C (69-77 °F). In February it can get into the 40’s °C (104’s °F). No thanks!
There’s lots of photo stops between the two malls so I definitely recommend the walk, if possible.
So much for holding off until the 3rd shopping day (the “buy buy buy” part of that plan) 🙃 Plans are made to be broken, right? Sure!
From DFO South Wharf we walked back to the hotel to freshen up and then decided to come back this way for a free show, dinner and a drink (or four) at Crown Casino.
We had a half-day of shopping due to the main reason for this trip – the big concluding event I mentioned 1,400 words ago in the very first paragraph. That event was a concert featuring disco pioneers; Village People, Sister Sledge and KC & The Sunshine Band at Margaret Court Arena by Rod Laver Arena.
Before I talk about the concert here’s some of the places we visited throughout the day; Parliament House, Bourke Street Mall (again), Emporium Melbourne, State Library Victoria, QV Melbourne. I took as many photos as I could since Day Five would be our last day in Melbourne and Australia before flying back home to New Zealand 😭😊
Let’s get bad stuff out of the way first which is in no way the fault of the singers/artists and their performances. It starts with me making the unfortunate mistake of going to Margaret Court Arena on a completely empty stomach. I wrongly assumed we’d be able to get in the arena quickly, grab some food and be in our seats before the show started like with almost every other concert/event I’ve been to in the last ten years (New Zealand, Australia, and USA).
Unfortunately, someone had the brilliant idea to have three security guys manually scan every single person (thousands of people) with one of those wand metal-detector thingys. This meant it took over 45 minutes just to get into the arena and by then it was too late to wait in line for food. My advice? Grab a snack before you leave home/your hotel so you can enjoy the entertainment you paid for without the grumbling of your tummy drowning out the sound from the speakers 😵
After the concert started, the lines had died down and we’d eaten (the food was actually really good) it seemed, at least to me, the Melbourne crowd were super pumped for the Village People with everyone dancing and singing along to almost every song including… yes… “YMCA”.
Unfortunately the crowd looked like stunned mullets for the vast majority of Sister Sledge even though they were hitting some super high notes – amazing considering they’ve been doing this for 46 years. They introduced one of their sons (Thaddeus?) who sang the lead on “Lost in Music” but for me I was happy after hearing “Thinking of you” and “Frankie”.
KC & The Sunshine were the headline act and you really have to admire a lead singer (Harry Wayne Casey) who can sing and dance at 66. The song I was most looking forward to hearing LIVE was “Please don’t go” but “Boogie shoes”, “Keep it comin’ love” and “Give it up” were all done to perfection.
They say all things must come to end and for us Day Five meant going home. There were still a few good things to look forward to; Melbourne’s Air New Zealand Premium Lounge which is better than the one back home (they have spirits!) and on the other side we had the midnight screening of The Last Jedi which I did a non-spoiler review of on my Twitter.
Let’s close my longest post to date with a quick recap and some ideas for what you can see and do in Melbourne:
- Bourke Street Mall (mid-to-high end shopping) – a strip mall with really nice stores
- Melbourne Official Visitors Guide (events/attractions, discount vouchers) – how I found out about Melbourne’s street art
- Union, Rutledge & Hosier Lanes (street art) – beautifully painted but dodgy-looking streets which look fairly safe… during the day
- Federation Square & Flinders Street Station & St Paul’s Cathedral – photo stops
- Forum Melbourne also on Flinders Street – photo stops
- City Circle (free tourist tram) – transport
- The District Docklands (shopping/dining) – shop and recharge
- Melbourne Star (ferris wheel/attraction) – photo stop and ride
- Cow up a tree (art/sculpture) – photo stop
- Etihad Stadium (sports/events)
- DFO South Wharf (factory/discount shopping)
- Yarra River (river cruises/parks/dining/shopping)
- Arts Centre Melbourne
- Crown Casino (hotel/shopping/dining/entertainment)
- Parliament House & Treasury Gardens – photo stops
- Emporium Melbourne (shopping)
- State Library Victoria
- QV Melbourne (shopping)
- Margaret Court Arena (events)
- Select a hotel with included full buffet breakfast so you won’t need to eat until later (maybe dinner) reducing your daily food costs
- Take a power pack for your phone although The District Docklands and some coffee shops like Starbucks have charging ports for customers
- Art and sculptures are everywhere so have your camera ready
- Snack before any big events so you can get your meal after the lines have died down
- It’s great to have a plan but it’s more important to…
- Have fun!
Thanks for reading. Take care 😎