Sydney and Melbourne with a baby?
August 5, 2009 10:36 PM   Subscribe

Sydney and Melbourne with a 10-month-old in September. Any suggestions?

We're taking advantage of the cheap travel to AU from the US and taking our little family on a trip to Sydney and Melbourne. I haven't been in 15 years, SO has never been. 4 days in each city. (Hotel in Sydney: Menzies Hotel and hotel in Melbourne: Swanston Hotel Melbourne Grand Mercure to give you a sense of location.)

Any baby-friendly suggestions for activities and dining? Thankfully the baby is good natured and is pretty tolerant of museums and the like.

SO is into nature and photography. I like food, funky markets and interesting cultural stuff (ethnic neighborhoods, for example). Baby is into playgrounds.

We have a bunch of travel books and sites, but personal recommendations are great.
posted by k8t to Travel & Transportation around Melbourne, Australia (20 answers total)
The Collingwood Children's Farm might be good.
posted by sien at 11:04 PM on August 5, 2009

This may *not* be what you're looking to hear, but have you considered traveling to Oz without the wee one? Traveling, by whatever means, is tough on kids, let alone babies.

Flying from LAX to Sydney takes about 14 1/2 hours; more if you're flying into LAX from somewhere else. That's a long time to spend on a plane with a baby.

Why am I saying this? Because I travel all the time, and I've yet to take a flight anywhere without having a baby fuss & cry. I've made transcontinental trips - to Australia, natch - and I'm asking you, please, out of consideration for the other travelers on your trip - don't travel with the baby.

I'm asking a lot, I know. Think of it this way - it's a chance for Grandma & Grandpa to spend quality time with the kid!
posted by arkhangel at 11:08 PM on August 5, 2009

Response by poster: Arkhangel, are you going to breastfeed for me? Are you going to pay for the time my mom would take off work or the trip to get the baby there? How about the adjustment to being in a new place without parents with virtual strangers? Sounds great.

15 hours on a plane is like 15 houra anywhere else in that parents trade baby amusing on and off. Sometimes they are fussy. My baby has flown a lot and generally only cries if he falls down hard. If you're on our flight, please feel free to shoot me dirty looks.
posted by k8t at 11:17 PM on August 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: For those of you concerned - we intentionally are flying during our child's (night) 12 hour consistent sleep.
posted by k8t at 11:35 PM on August 5, 2009

Best answer: Sydney:

For nature and kids, lots of people seem to like Wendy's Secret Garden in Lavender Bay in North Sydney, as well as the Botanical Gardens and Mrs Macquarie's Chair which are great walking, and child friendly at all times except workday lunchtime, when the joggers emerge. Every small child loves the beach, obviously, but if you're coming soon, you'll find it too cold to enjoyably swim. There's a great walk between Bondi and Coogee beaches which is packed with strollers on the weekend.

I recommended the Powerhouse Museum amongst others in Effigy2000's ask which also has quite a lot of dining tips. Haymarket and Chinatown probably aren't as child-friendly as Glebe, Newtown and Kings Cross Eastern Suburbs.

There are the Rocks Markets which are decent but a bit overpriced compared to, say, the Rozelle markets.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:44 PM on August 5, 2009

Also, if you're willing to take half an hour's train trip towards the suburbs, the Olympic aquatic centre has the best kids' pool/playground I have ever seen in my entire life.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:55 PM on August 5, 2009

In Melbourne you should spend some time at the Queen Victoria Markets, my foodie brother and his wife love it.
posted by jacalata at 11:59 PM on August 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: some derail-ish don't fly with a baby comments removed, let's stick with the original question and leave the judgments to metatalk
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:14 AM on August 6, 2009

@mathowie: good. OP, I apologize for the derail-ish comment.
posted by arkhangel at 12:18 AM on August 6, 2009

In Melbourne

Seconding the Queen Victoria Markets, if for the smells alone. As a visitor/tourist in Melbourne, I also *loved* getting the tram out to St Kilda and just looking at the mountainous pastries cakes in the shop windows. I don't even like cake that much.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 12:19 AM on August 6, 2009

Best answer: There's a great little children's garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne. It's better for older kids, but your child will probably enjoy watching them play in the sprinklers (if it's warm enough). If you pack a spare nappy/diaper then he'll be able to play in the sprinklers too, or follow the little trickling stream that traipses around and through the garden. The main gardens themselves are gorgeous, and there are ducks and swans there, too.

You ought to visit the Victoria Market, especially on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday - the days when the "real" market is open. There's a profusion of fresh fruit and vegetables, a cheese/deli section, a butchers' section, a fishmarket and so forth. Very visual and olfactory, great for little senses.

Go to the Royal Melbourne Zoo. In Sydney, you might go to the Taronga Zoo. I like Melbourne's zoo better, but the Sydney one can be reached by ferry which is a good trip in itself.

Since you'll only be here for a few days I don't recommend the Healesville Sanctuary in Melbourne: it would take a day in itself. Otherwise you ought to see it.

Does anyone in your family like trains? If so, go on Puffing Billy. It will take a day, but it's worth it.

Have fun, and feel free to email me on this site if you have any further questions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:55 AM on August 6, 2009

For Melbourne:

Thirding the Queen Vic Market, but be aware of its hours when you plan how you will arrange your activities - it's closed on Wednesdays, for example, which seems to confuse a lot of visitors.

I really like the Healesville Sanctuary, but you'd have to judge how well your son would cope with the train + bus trip.

There are a couple of markets on specific days at Federation Square - I think it's produce on Fridays and books on Saturdays, though I haven't been lately so anyone feel free to correct me if that's changed.

Food and ethnic neighbourhoods: well, Richmond is only a couple of minutes by train from the city centre, and seems to me to be something of a hub for Asian food, especially Vietnamese restaurants and bakeries on Victoria Street (you'd want to get off at North Richmond station rather than Richmond, though). And you can find some nice places (mostly but not all Italian) on (and around! don't forget around!) Lygon St in Carlton.

Unfortunately I can't really think of much to recommend that your son would particularly enjoy, he's most likely too young for anything kid-focused that I know about, sorry.
posted by lwb at 1:04 AM on August 6, 2009

For Richmond (and any of the inner suburbs really) you are much better off taking a tram.

Definitely take the tram to St Kilda - you take the 96 tram, it will run you through the middle of the CBD and then past Albert Park (a big beautiful park - maybe you might like to stop here if you need a walk or something) and on to St Kilda. Walk along the Esplanade, down to Acland Street - have some lunch. They are used to children in the restaurants along there. For a nice afternoon walk - head north from St Kilda and walk along the beach up towards Port Melbourne (remember to wear sunscreen). It's a fairly long walk though - you might not want to try it with a 10 month old infant.

This article from the WSJ is a pretty good way to explore the laneways of the Melbourne CBD.

To be honest - Melbourne is the kind of city you have to spend a bit of time in to find its attractions - its not as obvious as Sydney (Bridge, Harbour, Bondi, etc).
posted by awfurby at 1:44 AM on August 6, 2009

Oh, yes, awfurby has a point about the tram to Richmond. Sorry - I almost never take trams, they're for me (not sure how else to describe it, but I can't seem to stand on them without falling all over the place)
posted by lwb at 1:54 AM on August 6, 2009

Best answer: Oh, I get all evengelical about telling people what to see in Sydney - I love this town so much.

You really have to get the ferry across the harbour (past the bridge and Opera House) to Taronga Zoo, and mingle with the kangaroos. Our son is a bit older, but the ferry, cable car, and zoo were all a massive thrill for him, and we love it too. Also... you can get some of the best pictures of Sydney from the zoo. The perfect backdrop for your holiday pictures. A trip there for a family is generally about AU$80, but well worth it.

I would also recommend Yum Cha at East Ocean in Chinatown. They're really good with kids there, but it's ideal to get there at about 11am on weekends, because the place is POPULAR. The food is wonderful dum sum, and very good value. Lunch for a couple will set you back about AU$50-60.

A morning or an afternoon in the Royal Botanical Gardens is well worth it. Again; views, views, views. Gorgeous gardens, all right in the city. Pack a lunch... every time we go we are just in awe of how beautiful the scene is. If you can take a blanket, you'll be able to let the baby enjoy the fresh air on the grass under a tree. Heavenly.

You have to walk right past the Art Gallery of New South Wales on the way to the botanical gardens and it's free, so drop in for an hour, have a coffee, then check out the Australian art - look for Boyd, Whitely, Dobel, Brack, Olsen, Lindsay, and much more. It's so inspiring.

Shopping on Oxford Street in Paddington is great, if you feel like lubricating the local economy. Lots of caf├ęs to stop along the way and take a break. I know how many breaks are required with a baby.

You're probably already aware of this, but Sydney in September can present rain and attendant cold, hot sun, and wind, sometimes all on the same day. Pack to ensure you have layers to take with you during the day so you can whip a hat off and put a coat on as the day changes. Sunscreen is always handy, even on overcast days.

Have a wonderful time, and don't let anyone tell you it's in any way discourteous to take your baby with you on your travels. Man, people can be intolerant! You have just as much right to travel, as a family, as anyone else.

I could probably go on about Sydney all day, so send me a message if you have any specific questions.
posted by lottie at 3:23 AM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

That's DIM sum. Yeesh.
posted by lottie at 3:25 AM on August 6, 2009

If you're around on a Saturday, Paddington has an awesome open-air market. You could work that into a Paddington shopping trip, and not be more than a few mintutes from the city.
posted by lottie at 3:40 AM on August 6, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much all! This is all fantastic!!
posted by k8t at 7:55 AM on August 6, 2009

Dim sum goes by the name of yum cha in Melbourne. Little Bourke st and neighbouring alleys have some great places for Chinese. Shark fin house is my favourite. Brunswick st has some good food, and some great shops, but I'd avoid Chapel st like the plague.
posted by jonathanstrange at 3:15 PM on August 6, 2009

Dim sum, yum cha - both mean the same kind of dining experience and both terms are used interchangeably wherever in the world there's a Chinatown that has restaurants that serve it.

It's definitely good for kids because you can make as much of a mess on your table as you like and no-one will care.

Seconding Shark Fin House in Melbourne - that's probably the default place to go. You should book though if you're trying to go on a weekend. Otherwise you'll have to wait for ages to get a table. West Lake is fine if you can't get into Shark Fin House.

The good thing for you is that your hotel is right near Little Bourke Street (which is where Chinatown is) so it's an easy walk for you.
posted by awfurby at 6:11 PM on August 6, 2009

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