Melbourne (aka MEL-bun), Australia’s Cultural Capital…

But shhh… don’t tell Sydney.

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On June 1st I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, Australia to meet up with my dear friend, Carrie, who flew in from the States just to travel Australia with me for ten days!  We spent five days in Melbourne and these were the highlights in order of awesomeness:

  1. The Great Ocean Road – The GOR is one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives and is also the world’s biggest war memorial.  It is a war memorial because it was built by WWI veterans and is dedicated to the soldiers who perished in the war.  It is 243 km (151 miles) long and passes many surf towns, stunning cliffs, waterfalls, rainforests, national parks, and the 12 Apostles rock formation.  If you fly through it, you can do the whole drive, to and from Melbourne, in one day.  We, however, did not fly.  We stopped a billion times and only went 75 km in five hours!  We didn’t even come close to the 12 Apostles before dark.  Oh well!  We had a great time anyway and saw so many beautiful vistas, koalas (I think we spotted 13 total), colorful, people-friendly birds (well, if you had bird seed), and one mob of kangaroo on a golf course.  Carrie drove the entire winding road there and back.  Thank god because I probably would have driven us to a watery death over the cliffs.  I can’t wait to see the rest of it some day.

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The Great Ocean Road animals:

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Cutie koala sitting in a tree. Photo cred: Carrie Meng

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Another koala! Photo cred: Carrie Meng

 

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A mob of kangaroo on a golf course

 

2.  The Mornington Peninsula/Cape Woolamai – The Mornington Peninsula is situated about an hour southeast of Melbourne.  It is known for its beaches, wineries, and tiny penguins.  It also has a fabulous hot springs park.  It is the jumping off point for Phillip Island, which is home to Cape Woolamai, a beautiful stretch of beach, cliffs, and sandstone rock formations jutting out from the water.  We (and by “we” I mean Carrie) drove down there and spent the day hiking the cliffs and then soaking at the amazing hot springs.  The Peninsula Hot Springs has more than a dozen pools, a Turkish steam room, a sauna, a reflexology walk, cold plunge pools, a cave pool, and more.  It’s really well done; such a great way to spend a winter evening.  We loved it.

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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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The Pinnacles, Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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The Pinnacles, Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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The Pinnacles, Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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Can I hitch a ride?

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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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Cape Woolamai, Phillip Island

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Mornington Peninsula beach boxes

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Peninsula Hot Springs hilltop pool

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Sunset view from the hilltop pool

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View from the hilltop pool

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Sunset view from the hilltop pool

 

3. The Melbourne Laneways – The laneways are little pedestrian-only streets and alleys that are scattered throughout Melbourne’s downtown.  Filled with trendy restaurants and bars, the laneways are busy day and night.  Some of the laneway walls are filled with street art, graffiti and huge murals.  You can spend an entire day exploring Melbourne’s quirky, hip laneways.  The most famous and popular ones are Centre Place, Hosier Lane, Degraves, and Hardware Lane.

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A Melbourne laneway: Centre Place

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A Melbourne laneway: Centre Place

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A Melbourne laneway in the rain

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A Melbourne laneway: Hosier Lane

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A video shoot in Hosier laneway

We also hit up the Botanic Gardens (free!), the Queen Victoria Market (a huge open-air, Asian-style marketplace, but much more expensive!), St. Kilda (Melbourne’s beach town, would be awesome in the summertime), the Olympic Park, and the Shrine of Remembrance (a memorial for Australian soldiers, free but not very interesting).
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Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens

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Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens

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Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens

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Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens

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Queen Victoria Market

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Queen Victoria Market

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Queen Victoria Market

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Luna Park & Palais Theatre in St. Kilda

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St. Kilda Beach

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St. Kilda Beach

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AAMI Park

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Shrine of Remembrance

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City view from the Shrine of Remembrance

We stayed at a great Air Bnb, which didn’t start off great because the first night we didn’t have heat and it was only 6 degrees (43F) outside, AND our hosts kept all their windows open all night.  Needless to say, we were FREEZING.  The next day, we asked them about a heater and they gave us the one from their bedroom.  After that, our stay there was perfect.  They lived in a great part of the city, only one block from the tram line.  Nik was from Macedonia and Maria was from Colombia and they are the nicest, cutest couple ever.  We went out for dinner with them one night.  It was really nice to be staying with such lovely people.
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Freezing cold our first night at the Air BnB.  We slept in all our clothes.

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A few days later, dinner with our new friends (& Air BnB hosts), Nik and Maria

Carrie and I both loved Melbourne.  The city emits a certain vibe that we really liked.  It reminded me a lot of my favorite American city, Seattle, especially in the winter time when it is cold and drizzly much of the time.  It is very hipster, has great street art, delicious restaurants, fun bars, great public transportation (trams going everywhere!), a lot to see and do both in and around the city, and it is just a COOL place overall.
Two thumbs way up for Melbourne.  Now Sydney… that’s another story.
Here’s a few more random photos of our good times in Melbourne:
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Driving on the “wrong” side of the road

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Driving on the “wrong” side of the road

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Melbourne

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Bicycle cops pulled this lady over in her car… hahaha

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Brunswick Street by night

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Melbourne city skyline

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Southbank Bridge and the Melbourne city skyline

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Flinders Street Station in the fog and rain

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Brunswick Street

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In a bar

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Brunswick Street

 

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