I fist visited Melbourne in late 1999 and before returning in 2015 was a little apprehensive as the expense was considerable. As I’d been here before wasn’t it a waste of time? OK. so my impressions had faded, but are there not one hundred and one other places which I should be seeing rather than going back to one I had seen before? But oh how wrong I can be. In the space of 15 years Melbourne has changed so much. The area along its iconic Yarra River has been completely redeveloped so it is now possible to walk or cycle miles and miles past bars (and really this is a place to be young and trendy and to eat and drink), restaurants, shopping centres, parks, office buildings, galleries and apartments. Street performers vie for space from groups on cycling and walking tours and this pedestrian zone is clean, well maintained and the perfect people watching space. As it follows the River on both sides it’s also difficult to get lost and there are numerous pedestrian and traffic bridges. Everything in this area seems to have been constructed in the last twenty years, with numerous tower blocks on either side of water. After spending five days here I did see a few people sleeping on the street, but in stark contrast to most major cities they were very, very few. There were no signs warning me to watch belongings or telling me of pick-pockets and never did I feel at all uneasy. Melbourne is a new, trendy, safe city where the old (maximum 150 year) architecture is lost and drawfed amongst the new. Numerous parks and gardens awash with office workers eating lunch and add to its charm and the tourists realization this is a working as well as a tourists city.
I drove from Sydney ( 12 hours direct, or take the slow coast road and snake amongst the eucalyptus forests, count the dead kangaroos on the road – and the live ones, and check out the smaller towns). Upon entering Melbourne it is impossible to avoid the toll roads, so order a Citylink Pass prior to arrival, or go on line after you’ve driven these roads and within 3 days pay the toll.
To match the development, accommodation is in abundance and there are a vast array of hotel/apartments to choose from, ideal for the single dame and as there are so many they are not that expensive. I paid $115.00 for a superb brand new studio on the 12th floor of a complex with bar, restaurant, decent pool and all modern requirements within the Central Business District, (parking an additional $20 a night, and watch for this as additional parking fees can be as high as $45).
I love walking and the tourism department of Melbourne has seven small fold out maps for various walking routes around e city which focus on different aspects (parks, designer stores, waterfront, lanes and allies) I spent one thoroughly enjoyable, but exhausting day completing four of these routes, they each vary in length from 2.5 to 4 kilometres and illustrate al the points of interest. Melbourne is famous for its trams and a delightful way to see the city is to take the tram. The service is free within the down town core and the circle tram is a great way to rest tired legs and see the city. In addition to the parks I really liked exploring the Botanical Gardens and walking along the rivers edge east of the city and away from e trendy bar areas, where there are still 101 suited young men escaping from their officers eating lunch on park benches. Is it wrong to notice young men at my age? The Treasury is well worth a visit (and is free) and the lanes and arcades are wonderful to get lost in. Arrive hungry as there are so many places to eat, indeed Melbourne is a real Mecca for foodies. Consider taking a River trip, one hour trips operate up and down the River, I took the boat to the community of Williamstown and wandered around for a couple of hours before heading back. Federation Square is the tourism centre with the information bureau and galleries. The Queen Victoria Market must be one of the most enticing food markets in Australia and in contrast to the rest of Melbourne does offer some food bargains. There is also a non-food area with a huge number of tourist shops. Finally consider renting a bike as the bike trails are well sign posted and laid out.
Bright, sunny, happy Melbourne. There is no rub or angst and as a new city it is easy to navigate and to not get lost. Eating can be very expensive, especially if from North America where each coffee is between 4 and 5 dollars and there is no such thing as a cheap eat. A really safe place for the single woman to explore.