6 Weeks in Melbourne
November 11, 2004 2:37 AM   Subscribe

AustraliaFilter: I am heading down under to Melbourne for 6 weeks (including Xmas and New Year's). Any suggestions for places to go, things to do? (slightly more inside).

I'll be there on business, so only have evenings, weekends and the occasional holiday --I am also thinking of hitting Sydney for New Year's weekend.

Also, I am going to need to phone back to Europe and the US on a regular basis; any good tips on cheap phone rates or ISP access?
posted by costas to Travel & Transportation around Melbourne, Australia (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Aw, man. Where do I start? (Resident, here.)

If you're into live music, you'll be sorted. Melbourne's huge for live music. Gig listings come out every wednesday in the two street-press magazines, which you'll find for free at most venues and pubs in the city.

It'll also be the middle of summer, so the Royal Botanical Gardens will be worth visiting, as well as the Shrine of Rememberance.

If you're a culture fan, there's Federation Square, home to the National Gallery of Victoria, which is always worth a visit. On the other side of city is the Royal Exhibition Building (site of the first session of Austrlaian Parlament), which is now part of the Museum of Victoria

For Christmas, the Myer Windows are a Melbourne tradition, as well as Carols By Candelight at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Getting around is dead easy - buy yourself a weekly Zone 1 metcard and you can get almost anywhere worth going to via public transport.

There's also a gazillion restaurants, bars, cafes, clubs and pubs, depending on your taste. Let me know, and I might be able to make some reccomendations.

There's a pretty comprehensive list of goings-on at thatsmelbourne.com.au which you might find useful while you're here.

As for internet access and phone connection, your best bet would be to purchase an international dialling card (available from nearly every convenience store in the city, which you'll find at two of on every block). Internet access might be a bit difficult. I don't know if you'll have a wireless capable laptop or not. Your employer will probably be able to hook you up with access while you're in the office, but there's a few free hotspots around melbourne available that I know of. (Unfortunately, I don't have a laptop, so I'm not of much use.)

If you have any other questions, feel free to email me or grab me on AIM. I love this city, and am more than happy to share it with whoever comes along.
posted by cheaily at 3:25 AM on November 11, 2004

Response by poster: cheaily: wow, thanks... actually, I've already been to Melbourne once before for a couple of days and I gotta say it is the nicest city I've ever been in (and I've traveled a lot); I am jealous... What about day trips, what's close-by?

Also, any pointers for Sydney (never been)? I've checked out the hotel websites in .au for Sydney and the prices look reasonable but I got no clue what locations/neighborhoods are closer to the goings on there, esp. for New Years...

Thanks again!
posted by costas at 3:54 AM on November 11, 2004

I don't know much about sydney, other than it'll cost you a bomb. ;)

Most of the big NYE celebrations happen in darling harbour, but you should be able to get something anywhere near the city and get around by taxis
posted by cheaily at 4:07 AM on November 11, 2004

I'm also going to be in Sydney for just a few days the second week of December. Advice on good walk-around [i.e. cheap or free and informal] day trip things to do that are accessible via public transportation?
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 AM on November 11, 2004

Brain dump of things to do/see in Sydney:

  • Walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge from North Sydney to the city centre

  • Darling Harbour

  • Queen Victoria Building (shopping)

  • Centre Point Tower

  • Hyde Park

  • Taronga Zoo (fantastic view from the bird display to the city)

  • Manly (via ferry)

  • The Rocks (great markets on the weekends)

  • Bondi Beach

  • King's Cross (for the "seedy" side of life)

  • All of those are easy access, either by walking, trains or ferry. Sydney trains are cheap, clean, and are the best way to get around. They are really easy to navigate, with different routes that are colour-coded and there are giant maps in every station and carriage. Also, taking a ferry across the Harbour is a great way to see the city.

    Sydney is fairly expensive for hotels and whatnot, but there are great hostels around as well, especially near Central Station.

    George Street is the "main" drag of the city, with cinemas and typical American franchise food places. Check out Taco Bell, though, where they serve burgers and chips in addition to "mexican" food!

    There are a billion fantastic pubs in the area that cater to a wide range of tastes, from music to drinking to food. Pub food is usually pretty inexpensive and very tasty. Order a schooner of VB and you'll blend right in. Sydney Pub Guide

    North Sydney is more of business sector, but it does have nice areas to go check out near the Harbour.

    For New Year's, hanging out at the Harbour Bridge is a tradition - there are spectacular fireworks - but it is really crowded! Try to get on the North Sydney side near the North Sydney Olympic Pool in Milson's Point for great views with less people. Do NOT expect to get a taxi on NYE without an 1+ wait!

    Generally, Sydney is a really safe place to be, day or night, so walking around shouldn't be an issue and is probably the best way to get a general "feel" for what the city has to offer. Don't hesitate to ask the locals for directions and assistance; everyone is really friendly.

    Happy to provide more details or specific information, just email me. You'll have a great time - both in Melbourne and Sydney.

    More Resources:

    Discover Sydney

    posted by cyniczny at 8:46 AM on November 11, 2004

    Melbourne's also the nicest city I've ever been in there but I'm too broke to return. I was there years ago so some of these places might be gone.

    If you're into alternative music, check out Gas Light Records, Au-Go-Go Records, and Polyester. Excellent stores. CDs are (were?) very expensive when I was there but often the smaller labels will add bonus discs to disuade people from importing (for instance, my GBV Alien Lanes is a double instead of a single, which it was everywhere else).

    If the band Dirty Three is playing (assuming they're still together), RUN to see them.

    I went to an animal sanctuary that I forget the name of. It started with an H. Damn, sucks that I can't recall this. It was a terrific day out.

    Bell's Beach for watching the surfers (or surfing yourself if that's your thing). Squishy beach was nice and has some amazing large rocks you can climb which are lovely to make out on if you're, um, equipped to do so.

    Remember that on the subway YOU have to open the doors. Don't stand in front of them like an idiot (me) waiting for them to open. The train will just leave. :)

    Eat out as much as you can--I was there a month and never had a bad meal. Lots of great small veggie places. You can bring your own wine to the restaurants and don't have to tip. What more could you want!
    posted by dobbs at 9:20 AM on November 11, 2004

    Pretty much what cyniczny said: If you're in Sydney for New Year, you want to have a view of the Harbour Bridge (and note that Darling Harbour is not the same thing as Sydney Harbour). If you don't mind the crowds you could even attempt to the area around the Opera House for the ultimate Sydney New Year.

    In The Mix and Resident Advisor are good sites to research gigs and events, but they are geared towards dance parties and clubs. In the past there have been large dance parties around the harbour that should give you both a good night and a view of the fireworks.

    I know that a "backpacker resort" opened in Sydney this year, offering accommodation that might more comfortable than other hostels. if you're interested email me and I'll try and chase down a link.

    jessamyn, one thing I would really recommend is the cliff walk between Bondi and Coogee. Its free, easily accessible by public transport from either end, can be done in an afternoon, and there's great swimming and cafe's along the way.
    posted by arha at 3:36 PM on November 11, 2004

    Costa, I'm a Sydney resident, and have only been to Melbourne a couple of times, but a day/weekend trip I can thoroughly recommend is a drive down the Great Ocean Road along the coastline south-west of Melbourne.

    Spend Saturday driving down to some of the coastal towns like Lorne and Apollo Bay, and then visit the Twelve Apostles on Sunday, driving back through the dairy country to Melbourne in the afternoon. (You could probably do all this in one day if you left early and split the driving with someone.)

    As for Sydney, I concur with all that is said above, but my one piece of advice is to GET OUT OF THE CITY. Sydney at her best is a beautiful beautiful city, but I see so many tourists wandering around the same bits over and over, all within 20 minutes walking distance of their hotel in the CBD.

    My advice is "do" Sydney Harbour as quickly as possible and move on. One suggested walk ...

    + Catch the train to Milson's Point station - just on the northern side of the Harbour Bridge - and then walk back *towards* the city (i.e. don't walk across the bridge away from the city and catch the train back). This is where you take all the pretty shots of the Opera House, harbour and the city you want.
    + Walk down into Circular Quay and go to the Museum of Contemporary Art (if so inclined; I'm not, it's usually crap) and wander around to the Opera House.
    + Walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens to ...
    + The State Gallery of NSW on the eastern side of the Domain [Again, only if art's your thing. If it is, it's a must-see. The Australian collection encompasses all major Australian art movements, and the new Asian wing is excellent.)

    By ferry, Taronga Zoo and Manly are also good bets (and as cyniczny said, ferries are a great way to see the city).

    I also concur with arha's recommendation on the Bondi/Coogee cliff walk.

    Try to avoid Darling Harbour (on the Western side of the CBD). It's essentially a large shopping mall-cum-tourist trap, with a few attractions (admittedly the aquarium is pretty good). Though cyniczny's suggestion for NYE could be a good idea (just be warned, that everywhere in the city is going to be jam-packed).

    Further to GETTING OUT OF THE CITY, Jessamyn, I suggest you take advantage of the Blue Mountains ExplorerLink Ticket. The Blue Mountains (actually, they're probably not mountains ... more like a raised plateau with deep gorges) form the western boundary of the Sydney basin, and have some spectacular bushland, geological features, waterfalls etc.

    The link ticket is A$36 from Central, which gets you to Katoomba in two hours, with all day access to a bus that does a one-hour loop of all the major lookouts etc through the Blue Mountains.

    The general plan is to catch the earliest train you can from Central, sleep on the train (don't worry, you're only missing western Sydney suburbia), spend the day hopping on and off the Tour Bus, maybe do one of the shorter hikes, have dinner in Katoomba or Leura, and catch a late train back to Central (again, with the sleeping).

    It's a really easy way to see the Australian "bush" if you're stuck in Sydney, you can do it all by public transport, and it's dramatically beautiful, to boot.

    Oh, and on Sydney trains, the doors open for you. :)
    posted by bright cold day at 6:09 PM on November 11, 2004


    If you like the Dirty Three (I have only heard good reports) the guitarist is having an art exhibition at Mario's in Brunswick Street. Brunswick Street used to be realy grungy but it is now yuppiefied a bit. Sill worth checking out, though. There is a plethora of eateries in Brunswick Street itself or around the corner in Johnson Street (where we have a 'Spanish Quarter'). An any number of bars in the same area. Go to the Napier, the Labour In Vain or the Rob Roy to sample some of the local 'culture'.

    It's also a short distance from Lygon Street wher there is Italian food and culture.

    As a resident I could go on but email me at the address on my profile page and I would be happy to help you out, take you on a tour. You, cheaily and I could have a Melbourne Meetup of sorts.
    posted by bdave at 7:33 PM on November 11, 2004

    Response by poster: Wow, this is all great info. Thanks everybody!
    posted by costas at 11:43 PM on November 11, 2004

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