Is Melbourne worth visiting?
September 8, 2017 1:38 PM   Subscribe

I've never been to Australia before (ie. I'm grossly ignorant about the country). Friends of mine have invited me to Melbourne but I'm on the other side of the world in Ottawa, Canada. It would take me more than 20 hrs of traveling to get there. So is Melbourne similar to say, Toronto? If it is, then I would likely pass. What is there that is compelling/exciting about Melbourne? What would I see or experience that I would not in other parts of the world?
posted by storybored to Travel & Transportation around Melbourne, Australia (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Doh! Forgot to mention timeframe: next March/April.
posted by storybored at 1:42 PM on September 8, 2017

Melbourne is an excellent city. I don't know that I would travel all the way to Australia to only visit Melbourne, but if I were invited to Australia by friends in Melbourne, I would go to Melbourne and some other places in Australia as well.

Melbourne is, say, the San Francisco of Australia. Not quite the Montreal of Australia. It's a Victorian-era literary and arts city with a major cafe culture.
posted by vunder at 1:47 PM on September 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

This depends on what you like to do when you visit places. In terms of comparison, I felt a similar vibe when I visited San Francisco.

Melbourne is a really great city. It's full of little lane ways with graffiti/street art, bars and food. It has some cool art galleries. It's fun to walk around. It has lots of live music. Full of cool people.

The Great Ocean Road is a couple of hours drive away. Nothing beats Australia's coast line (I am Australian and biased but I've visited the coast of lots of other countries). There's cool bushwalking nearby. You can also see the Fairy Penguins at Phillip Island. If you enjoy sports, Melbourne is the heart of the Australian Rules Football world.
posted by cholly at 1:51 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes!!! The food, the shopping, the architecture...I liked Melbourne much more than Sydney. I've recently found tickets from the US to Australia under $1000 so it's definitely affordable (comparatively speaking). Also echoing cholly that the Victorian countryside is also first-rate.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:08 PM on September 8, 2017

Because: Australia?! I've visited Toronto for 4 days, and Melboure for the same amount of time. They give me a totally different vibe. Also, you get Koalas. And don't miss the Great Ocean Road, I've done it twice from Adelaide to Melbourne, it's frakkin' awesome. Ideally, drive it at your own pace, I took tours both times and missed some sights.
posted by TrinsicWS at 2:09 PM on September 8, 2017

I haven't been to Melbourne but I've been to Australia. The major cities I spent the most time in were Brisbane & Cairns, and those were essentially similar to same-size cities in the US but with more Australian accents.
posted by aniola at 2:09 PM on September 8, 2017

Melbourne is home to The World's Best Croissant* and if that isn't reason to travel 20 hours, nothing is.

* according to this article from New York Times

posted by roger ackroyd at 2:10 PM on September 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

I was able to spend a few months in Melbourne a few years ago. On the surface, I did find the arts and culture vibe in Toronto (or Vancouver, or San Francisco) and Melbourne to be very similar, especially in the hipper parts of the urban core. There's a lot to do and see (and buy), and lots of great coffee. There are some funny differences, like they have parrots instead of pigeons, and more beautiful plants and flowers. The natural landscape in the region around Melbourne is vastly different from Ontario. It's extremely beautiful, and in my opinion, worth spending 20 hours on a plane should you have the time and money to do so. The Great Ocean Road and Wilson's Promontory are stunning, and easy day trips from Melbourne. You will see koalas, kangaroos, and other animals that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. If you have time to wander further afield there are a lot of unique things to see in Australia. Australia is about the same size as the US, so there's a lot of different landscapes.
posted by frau_grubach at 2:13 PM on September 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

You would get to experience Australia. Will it be different in any big OMG dramatic way to any major US city of a similar size, probably not. But the thousands of little differences are what make travel awesome. The delights of figuring out how another country does coffee, then comparing them all to find what you like. The fact the trees look & smell different. Flocks of parrots sweeping overhead. Just what does a meat pie taste like? Why do Australians make so many types of meat pies, can I eat all the types before I go home & not gain weight? Why is there a spider the size of my hand on that wall & no one is panicking. What does a kangaroo smell like? (curry powder for those interested). Meet a bunch of Australians, a group of people so damn friendly they make Americans look shy & retiring.

If going to Melbourne you also get to discover some amazing food. The Melbourne Food & Wine festival is around then as is the F1 Grand Prix (as an Adelaidien I'm still sore they stole it from us. . the bastards). Oh and the international comedy festival is on around then too.

Also Northern America has not mastered coffee like the little family owned coffee shops clustered in the streets of Melbourne have. I could spend a week just travelling from shop to shop & people watching.

And like others have said, don't miss the Great Ocean Road if you go. If you make it all the way to the end in South Australia, try to get out to Kangaroo Island.
posted by wwax at 2:27 PM on September 8, 2017 [11 favorites]

You don't even have to go to Phillip Island to see fairy penguins - there's a colony right in Melbourne, at the far end of a pier in St. Kilda. (Philip Island puts on a more impressive show, admittedly.)

I will admit to massive bias, since I lived there and I'm very much a city person, but I'd visit Melbourne in a heartbeat. There are some excellent museums, theaters, and galleries, as well as lovely parks and gardens. The transit system is good, and neighborhoods are generally quite walkable. Plenty of excellent food, coffee, cocktails and wine available (craft beer was still rather young the last time I was there). It's also a quick trip to Adelaide, Sydney, and Hobart by plane, so it's not a bad base for seeing a few other Australian cities.
posted by EvaDestruction at 2:58 PM on September 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, and March/April may not be the ideal time to visit in terms of scenery since summer tends to scorch things, but you should dodge both the worst of the heat and the persistent gloomy weather that hits in winter. And I think the street fashion scene in Melbourne is particularly good in the autumn, myself.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:02 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can you perhaps go elsewhere as well once there? How long would you get to stay? It's a ton of travel, so if it's for a week...I'd say meh if just Melbourne. It's a lovely city. There are many closer to you. If you can see/do a bunch of other stuff that interests you, by all means, and if you can stay a couple weeks and transit around, go. The penguins were adorable (but no taking photos as an FYI).
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 3:35 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

We have parrots but not pigeons? That is unusual news to this Melbournian. Also, you'll only see a koala if you go to the zoo or get out of Melbourne, ditto kangaroo.

That out of the way, I think perhaps the most defining characteristic of Melbourne for me is the music scene. I've been to a lot of other cities and Melbourne has differing bits and pieces in common with all of them, but nowhere gets anywhere close in terms of live music.
posted by deadwax at 3:58 PM on September 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Comedy Festival will be on so that will be a good vibe in the city and it's a nice place to walk around generally for all of the reasons already mentioned. I would recommend travelling all that way for Melbourne, but not for Sydney.

Plus, lots of wineries in Victoria -
posted by heyjude at 4:31 PM on September 8, 2017

I wouldn't say Melbourne is spectacularly different from Toronto. But it's fun and worth a visit.
posted by bizarrenacle at 4:35 PM on September 8, 2017

Well if you travel out to Healesville Sanctuary (you can get there by train/bus) there are platypuses, Tasmanian devils, echidnas and wombats - which was enough to make my visit totally worthwhile.
posted by plasticpalacealice at 5:09 PM on September 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

I'd only visit Australia if I could do the countryside. I don't find the cities to be exceptionally different from what I can get here.
posted by decathexis at 5:34 PM on September 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

March/April is an excellent time to come to Melbourne. It should still be warm and relatively dry, but will not be as hot as summer.

I won't weigh in about why you should come because I'm very biased.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:31 PM on September 8, 2017

I spent a month in Melbourne while living in San Francisco and most of the things I loved about San Francisco were present in Melbourne, sometimes even more so. Great food, liberal/accepting politics, reasonable weather, good walkability, strong beer and cocktail culture. Also koalas, lyre birds, the Great Ocean Road...

The best thing about Australia though is the laid-back attitude there. People there, in my experience, are much friendlier, much more accepting, less socially anxious... I can't quite put my finger on it, but I made friends in Melbourne after one drunken night in the pub almost ten years ago and we still share inside jokes on Facebook.
posted by bendy at 10:53 PM on September 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

Great things about Melbourne:

the really beautiful old buildings;

live theatre, both mainstream and experimental;

excellent restaurants from a VERY wide range of ethnic cuisines;

the aquarium, with its King and Gentoo penguins and Giant Smooth Rays etc;

National Gallery of Victoria
, both its standing collection and special exhibitions;

the zoo
, with its butterfly house.
posted by Murderbot at 2:19 AM on September 9, 2017

Probably not. Depends on the need to spend time with those friends.

However, if you can extend the trip to visit other places, for sure visit friends/Melbourne, see some other cities (Sydney/Canberra), visit the Great Barrier Reef before it disappears, Kakadu, Uluru ... the list is endless, limited only by your sense of adventure/curiosity, time, and money.
posted by GeeEmm at 2:43 AM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Melbourne is Australia's coolest city but if you're coming that far I'd combine the trip with somewhere else. Melbourne's a great place to live but Sydney is more impressive for a short visit imho. The Reef and Uluru are astonishing natural wonders. Tasmania is lovely. Then there's New Zealand or Fiji/Vanuatu in the neighbourhood too. Something like that would really make it worth your while.
posted by moorooka at 6:10 AM on September 9, 2017

Yeah I'm not sure I'd sit on a plane for 20 hours just to see Melbourne, even though I love it. But 20 hours on a plane to see a new city with good friends? Sure. To take day trips out to other nearby places of interest? You betcha. To use as a base for further travel in the country? Absolutely.

The comedy festival is world-class, the coffee is great, and it's easy to experience a bunch of things unique to Oz when Melbourne is your starting point.
posted by harriet vane at 7:30 PM on September 9, 2017

I like Melbourne. I know nice people there. I'd never fly 20 hours to see it or them. It's a generic city with the same buildings, suburbs, stores and restaurants you'd find in any decently-sized city. It's impressive to Australians because it's a big city, and we only have a few of those. You're a little more spoiled for choice in North America, and a lot closer to more interesting places in Europe, or even east Asia.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:58 PM on September 10, 2017

Melbourne is my favourite city in Australia, which in the global scheme of things doesn't mean much. If you're visiting Australia because Australia then Melbourne is as good a base of operations as any, but if you're visiting Australia because Melbourne then I dunno. I'd visit America because America or Canada because Canada, but because New York or Toronto? Pass.

Really though, if you want to see quote-unquote Australia you'd be best off sticking to the east coast and doing (from N to S) Cairns (for access to the reef and rainforest, the city itself is awful), randomly inland from say Rockhampton to see the "outback" (which is mostly terrible), skip Brisbane (the worst), Sydney to see Australia's biggest city (Sydney is also awful, but big, and has ok seafood), Melbourne as a base station for venturing around Victoria and into Tasmania, and then you can go home.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:12 PM on September 19, 2017

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