Street Art, Aussie Wine & Little Penguins: 48 Hours in Melbourne
The first question everyone asked me about my trip down under: which did you prefer, Sydney or Melbourne? I loved every place I went to, but the art, culture and the whole vibe of Melbourne ultimately made it my favourite stop.
QUEEN VICTORIA MARKETS
Our first stop was the Queen Vic Market in the central business district (CBD). The market covers some 17 acres, so there’s a lot of ground to cover. But it’s a great place for cheap souvenirs (hello $10 Australian hoodie), stocking up on clothes when you’re starting to run out of clean ones ($13 dresses) and grabbing free samples of cheese!
NATIONAL GALLERY OF VICTORIA
Stopping for photos at iconic Flinders Street station, we crossed the Princes Bridge to the massive National Gallery of Victoria. The gallery hosted an art books fair with an Australian zine showcase, so I picked up a couple of cute postcards before we headed to the Escher x Nendo exhibition. We also explored the main collection; I especially enjoyed the fashion section, and this gorgeous Tiffany lamp.
ARBORY BAR & LORD OF THE FRIES
The weather was gorgeous, and for me, there’s no better way to enjoy it than drinking local wine at a riverside bar. We shared a bottle of Mornington Peninsula chardonnay at Arbory Bar & Eatery, overlooking the Yarra before wandering the laneways.
At this point, we’d well and truly walked off brunch, so we stopped at Lord of the Fries. This fast food outlet has branches all across Melbourne, and all the food is vegan. The ‘chicken’ nuggets are even gluten free. What else would you expect from one of Australia’s biggest hipster cities?
Wandering the laneways is a must-do in Melbourne; the street art is incredible and ever-changing, the most famous of which is on Hosier Street. It was a five minute walk from the Arbory, so we spent a while here posing and snapping, where I assured myself I don’t have a future as an Instagram model.
By dinner time, we’d taken our 15,000th steps, and decided to treat ourselves to the $69 banquet at Supernormal, accompanied by another bottle of wine — this time, the Hillside Riesling from SA’s Clare Valley. (Are you detecting a theme here?) The food was incredible, and they didn’t bat an eyelid at my bestie’s gluten-free request, with alternatives ready and available for all seven courses. Dropping nearly $100 each was an extravagant meal for us, but we left with no regrets. I still dream about that lobster roll.
FITZROY & ROSE STREET MARKET
The next morning, recovered from our food coma, we got the tram to one of Melbourne’s cooler suburbs, Fitzroy. The Rose Street Artists’ Market is open from 10am-4pm on weekends, so we stopped in at Industry Beans just up the road for a cup of the famous Melbourne java, then wandered to the market around half 10. This was one of the best markets I’ve been to; cute, little independent stalls with really good deals. I came away with two pairs of earrings and a bag full of hand-drawn greeting cards.
STROLL & SHOPS
From there, we hopped back on the 11 tram from Leicester Street to George Street, to visit kitschy boutique Third Drawer Down, and second hand bookstore Page Two. We passed a Bonds Outlet on Smith Street and I had to pop in – not only to treat myself, but also to grab one of their sought-after zip-up onesies for my newborn nephew!
LYGON ST & BRUNETTI’S
If you’re into Italian food (who isn’t?), eating at Lygon Street is a must. It was definitely lunch time by now, so we got the 207 bus from Smith Street/Johnston Street to Faraday Street/Lygon Street (important to remember: while you only touch on when taking the tram, you have to touch off as well when getting the bus) and ate al fresco at Papa Gino’s. I couldn’t leave Lygon Street without going to the flagship branch of Melbourne’s Italian dessert chain, Brunetti’s, for cannoli, and it didn’t disappoint.
With only so much time in Melbourne, we didn’t have time to go wine tasting in the Yarra Valley; we had to get creative! After some diligent googling, we found Milk & Cow Fromagerie, who pairs flights of wine with their amazing cheeses. We killed two birds with one stone; heaps of Aussie wine, AND mounds of cheese. Plus some French, Italian, and Kiwi delicacies for good measure.
IMPERIAL HOTEL HARRY POTTER ROOFTOP
Feeling a little woozy, we didn’t want to miss out on the Imperial Hotel rooftop. To celebrate Harry Potter and the Cursed Child playing at the Princess Theatre next door, the Imperial converted their rooftop bar into ‘Vertic Alley.’ There’s plenty of nerd porn with the Wizarding Wheezes, Bourke Street Wands and themed cocktails, but we realised we definitely should have booked a booth to enjoy it properly; we stayed long enough to take a few photos, and moved on.
ST KILDA PIER & THE LITTLE PENGUINS
It’s a good thing we didn’t get too comfy at the Imperial, we still had to get to St. Kilda for sunset! At the end of March, sunset was at about half 7, so we got on the 96 tram from Spring Street/Bourke Street and strolled the pier. The sunset here is gorgeous, but the real event are the penguins that return to their homes among the rocks at night.
These cuties (literally called ‘little penguins’) are the smallest species of penguin in the world, only growing to about 33cm/13in tall, and they only live in southern parts of Australia and New Zealand.
You could potentially wait a while to see your first penguin, and it’s hard to get good photos because you can’t use a flash, but the St. Kilda volunteers shine red torches on them to help you see. Besides, it’s not always about the photos. I definitely recommend getting dinner first, or take food with you; once these little darlings come out, you won’t want to leave.
I left Melbourne exhausted, but so happy with how much we saw. If you’re planning your trip, don’t fret about not having enough time – just make sure you pack comfy shoes!