Guide to Australia

Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!


Melbourne, Victoria's elegant capital, is truly one of the world's most varied cities, with a lifestyle envied by many. The city is not only the financial focal point of Australia; it is equally renowned for its tree-lined streets and for the delightful parklands and gardens that hug the Yarra River. With beaches and bayside suburbs lining Port Phillip Bay, and the Dandenong Ranges providing a backdrop to the north-east, this picturesque city has much to offer both residents and visitors. Visitors can book a Melbourne backpackers in the city centre or in St Kilda, Melbourne’s seaside suburb.


Melbourne Docklands - Yarra’s Edge at twilight in Victoria, Australia


The city is set out following a typical nineteenth-century pattern -there is a grid system of streets, all named after early settlers and dignitaries. The main streets leading away from the main railway station, Spencer Street Station, are King, William, Queen, and Elizabeth, then you reach the main shopping area of Swanston Street.


The architecture of Melbourne retains a mix of styles -the ANZ Bank building is in the Gothic style, the Town Hall is art deco, and there are many modern skyscrapers. There are several fine buildings in the city, many of which were financed by the gold rush of the mid- to late 1800s. Examples of such buildings include the Magistrates Court, the Town Hall, the State Library and the Exhibition Buildings, which have been restored and are surrounded by magnificent gardens. There are also some impressive churches, including St Paul's and St Patrick's cathedrals, both of which have undergone extensive renovations. Como House in Toorak is an elegant Victorian mansion surrounded by superb gardens, and the Block Arcade, built in the 1890s and fully restored, is a wonderful centre for shoppers. One of the more unusual buildings of Melbourne is the Adelphi Hotel, which has a swimming pool that juts out over Flinders Lane, offering swimmers a view of the busy streetscape below.


City of Melbourne Skyline and Southbank in Victoria, Australia


A great way to get to most of Melbourne's attractions is by taking a free Circle Tram ride. The Circle Trams are a distinctive burgundy colour, not the traditional green of other Melbourne trams, and they circle the city along Flinders, Spencer, LaTrobe and Spring Streets. For visitors, the numerous attractions in the city of Melbourne are perhaps best appreciated on a guided tour, which can be organised through the tourist office in the city. The Yarra River is an integral part of the city and a cruise along the waterway is another lovely way to view the city. For views of the city, try the Rialto Towers Observation Deck, Melbourne's tallest building, which offers a superb 360-degree view of the city and the surrounding area.


The original Government House, which occupied LaTrobe Cottage, and the present-day Government House can both be toured. The Melbourne Stock Exchange also offers tours, and the Bureau of Meteorology's self-guided tour presents an impressive display, which includes interactive television screens. The Old Melbourne Gaol depicts life in a nineteenth-century Australian prison. It is here that Victorian hangings took place, 135 in total, including the infamous bushranger Ned Kelly -death masks made of those hanged can be viewed.


Melbourne CBD seen from Southbank with Flinders Street Station in the foreground in Victoria, Australia


The Old Treasury building, one of the more significant nineteenth-century buildings in Melbourne, underwent a significant restoration in 1994. It features changing exhibitions representing various aspects of Australian history. Built in 1872, the Royal Mint hosts two major displays, one pertaining to the Royal Mint, the other set up by the Royal Historical Society of Melbourne, and providing a comprehensive history of Melbourne.


Melbourne has many parks, used by city dwellers and workers for relaxation, picnicking, or jogging in beautiful surroundings. The Royal Botanic Gardens, established in 1846, are world famous. With large exotic trees and some plants that are now 150 years old, these gardens are among Melbourne's finest. Set on the banks of the Yarra River, they are also home to a number of majestic black swans and flying foxes, or fruit bats. In the 32-ha (79-acre) Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens is a stone building that once stood in Great Ayrton, England. Built in 1755, it was Captain Cook's childhood home. The building was bought in 1933 by Sir Russell Grimwade and rebuilt in the gardens as a monument to the great explorer. Other beautiful parklands include the Queen Victoria Gardens, which feature a magnificent floral clock 9 m (30 feet) in diameter -more than 7000 plants are used to create this intricate floral display. The clock actually tells the time and is synchronised to chime with the clock on the Town Hall.


The Hoddle Grid, Melbourne's original Central Business District in Victoria, Australia


The Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens are on the edge of the city, and with over 3500 animals, the zoo is considered one of the world's finest. During the summer months Melbourne Zoo holds a Twilight Jazz Festival, and patrons bring picnic hampers and enjoy the music in very unusual surroundings. Within an hour's drive of the city there are two other excellent wildlife parks: the Werribee Zoo and the Healesville Sanctuary. Life is never boring in this city -if there isn't a major sporting event scheduled, then there is probably a festival. Often there are both! A diverse mix of races and cultures sees Melbourne come alive with a variety of exciting and unusual carnivals year round.


The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival runs for approximately three weeks from mid-March, celebrating the diversity of Melbourne, Australia's culinary capital, through 120 outstanding events. This feast of a festival includes the internationally acclaimed Master Class, the Hawkers' Market and the World's Longest Lunch, plus Breakfast Week, Restaurant Week, Chocolate Week and many more delicious events. The Formula One Grand Prix and the Melbourne International Motor Show, both huge and exhilarating events in their own right, coincide with this festival.


NewQuay in Melbourne Docklands - Victoria, Australia


There are more festivals in March, including the Yarra Valley Grape Grazing Festival, which involves a number of wineries in the Yarra Valley Region. This region produces some of Australia's best wine, and during the festival food from a selection of restaurants is matched up with wines from the local wineries to create gastronomic delights. Jazz adds to the festival feel of this event.


Festivities head indoors during the winter months, with the Melbourne International Film Festival and Victoria State Opera season. Spring brings Melburnians outside again for the Royal Melbourne Show and a range of horticultural shows in September. The outdoor tradition flows through to Christmas, and thousands of Melburnians head to the Myer Music Bowl on Christmas Eve for the ever-popular 'Carols By Candlelight' concert.


Melbourne people's love of sport, whether it be football, tennis, car racing or a sport totally foreign to Victoria, such as rugby, is well documented. Many large sporting events are held in Melbourne.


Melbourne is the home of Australian Rules Football, and a visit to Melbourne should include a trip to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). As well as cricket being played in summer -notably the Boxing Day Test -the Aussie Rules Grand Final is held here on the third Saturday of every September. Tours of the venue are available and include a walk on the hallowed turf of the MCG. During Grand Final week the whole city has football fever; it is a great time to visit and there are a number of celebrations in the city.


Every January, Melbourne Park is the venue for the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tennis event of the year. The main feature of this impressive tennis venue is the centre court roof, which can be opened or closed. With Melbourne's reputation for having four seasons in one day, this has proved very useful. Melbourne Park is also the venue for concerts and productions all through the year, and the outside courts are available for hire.


Melbourne also hosts the first round of the Formula One Grand Prix season each year, in March, and this is another really exciting time to be in Melbourne -the Albert Park Lake area is transformed into an award-winning racetrack and thousands of people join in the festivities, which run over four days. Grand Prix ticket holders have free travel on the Melbourne trams, and after the racing each day the city comes alive as race-goers head towards the restaurants, clubs or the Melbourne International Motor Show.


Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens in Victoria, Australia


Horseracing is very popular in Melbourne, and there is excellent racing at the Autumn and Spring Racing carnivals. The Spring Carnival features the Melbourne Cup, Australia's most famous horse race -it is run on the first Tuesday in November, which is a public holiday for Victorians. The festivities that have developed around this horse race are fabulous, and it is an Australian tradition to have a bet on the race, even if you are not a regular punter. Thousands of Melburnians go along on race day and have some fun, with many dressing up in either their Sunday best -including, most importantly, a hat or fancy dress.


The annual 500cc Motorcycle Grand Prix is held at Phillip Island, to the south of Melbourne. The Australian International Airshow is an exciting biennial event held in Victoria, and features aircraft from all around the world, demonstrating the latest innovations in aviation and aerospace technology. The Airshow is held at the Avalon Airport near Geelong during February.


Melbourne is an ideal destination for shoppers, and has its own fashion festival in summer. In the centre of Melbourne there are a couple of splendid arcades where you can shop in beautiful and historic surroundings: the Block Arcade and the Royal Arcade. Large shopping complexes include Melbourne Central, which features a number of retail outlets, including the Japanese-owned department store Daimaru. This magnificent building has a large glass pyramid roof and shot tower. Nearby are the Myer and David Jones department stores. The Crown Entertainment Complex and Southgate also have an enormous range of exclusive shops, many of them outlets for overseas designer products. In the suburbs, you will find streets which are considered the places to shop for particular things -Chapel Street in South Yarra for fashion, Bridge Road, Richmond, for seconds outlets, High Street, Armadale, for exclusive boutiques and Maling Road, Canterbury, for antiques.


Queen Victoria Market is the place to go for fresh produce and a bargain. It has over 1000 traders offering everything from fresh fruit and seafood through to clothing and leather goods. This historic complex was established in 1878 and is the largest outdoor market in the world.


The city of Melbourne has a large migrant population, and the food and restaurants are influenced by this diversity of cultures: almost any international cuisine is available, and many innovative mixtures are created as well.


Though the central business district of Melbourne features many fine restaurants, the city is traditionally split into cultural sectors: Lygon Street in Carlton for Italian and Richmond for Vietnamese or Greek food, to name just two. Little Bourke Street is the home of Little China, where you will find superb Chinese cuisine. Melbourne loves to celebrate the Chinese New Year in February, and thousands of people head to the Chinatown precinct to bring in the new year. Large dragons wind their way through the crowd, with firecrackers popping and drums beating in the background.


The suburb of Southgate, an area situated on the banks of the Yarra, features restaurants and the Crown Entertainment Complex. This enormous complex includes the Crown Casino, theatres, a hotel and many shops, clubs and restaurants. On a sunny day in Melbourne you will see people sitting at restaurants on the edge of the Yarra from St Kilda Road all the way to Spencer Street. In the evenings, this part of town comes alive again, with clubs and restaurants open until the early hours.


Melbourne also boasts many fine art galleries, covering a range of styles and types of exhibitions. The main art gallery to see here is the National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road. The gallery's magnificent art collection is made up of paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs from Australia and overseas. The National Gallery of Victoria is also opening its NGV: Australian Art museum at Federation Square, a magnificent building showcasing the country's finest collection of Australian art.


Also on St Kilda Road is the Victorian Arts Centre, which includes a number of venues for the performing arts. A feature of this centre is the tall spire on the rooftop, which changes colours at night.


The Aboriginal Gallery of Dreamings, in Bourke Street, offers Melburnians and visitors alike the chance to view works of art created by Australia's Indigenous peoples, including dot paintings, boomerangs and didgeridoos. The centre has more than 2500 paintings.


The new Melbourne Museum, next to the Royal Exhibition Buildings, is Australia's largest and the world's most technologically advanced museum -the stunning modern $300 million building is an architectural feat in itself. The Museum's priceless collections, which include Aboriginal displays, the famous racehorse Phar Lap, and dinosaur displays, combined with performance, technology and interactive exhibitions, will surely inspire delight and wonder in its visitors.


The Immigration Museum, in the Old Customs House building on Flinders Street, is a contemporary museum that brings Victoria's immigration history to life through voices, images, memories and objects.


The Shrine of Remembrance, which stands proudly between Domain and St Kilda Roads, is, a memorial to the people who served Australia in the wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It features 42 books of remembrance, which contain the names of 116,000 Victorians who served overseas during World War I. A fascinating feature of the Shrine of Remembrance is the inner sanctuary and the stone of remembrance, which is lit by sunlight precisely at 11 am on 11 November -Remembrance Day- every year.


Scienceworks is a science and technology centre with interactive displays which are very popular with both children and adults alike. This centre is built around an old pumping station in Spotswood and is open every day. The Melbourne Planetarium is also to be found here -it is the only planetarium in the Southern Hemisphere with a state-of-the-art computer system that simulates the experience of moving through the universe.


The Melbourne Maritime Museum has, as its central exhibit, the tall ship Polly Woodside, which was built in Belfast in 1885.


When all the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Melbourne are combined and added to the sheer excitement of its many sporting and arts events and festivals, it's easy to see why Melbourne is such a popular holiday destination for Australian and overseas visitors -and why it is so much loved and enjoyed by those who live there.