Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, is often touted as the cultural capital with a large array of museums, architecture, shopping, parks and theatres. Locals are also sports mad with the Formula 1 Grand Prix, Australian Open tennis, Melbourne Cup Carnival and Paspaley Polo in the City all held annually in Melbourne.
Ride the City Circle Tram
Get your bearings on the City Circle Tram which travels central Melbourne and the Docklands area. As well as being an important part of the city’s heritage, the tram is also a free service! Designed to introduce travellers to the key sites, there is also an onboard audio commentary as you pass the various landmarks and attractions. Sights include the City Museum, Aquarium, Parliament House and Federation Square. Hop on and off when you want to explore and rather usefully, the tram connects with the city’s bus and train network.
Wander the exquisite Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Gardens will make keen gardeners jealous with the carefully manicured grounds spanning 38 urban hectares. Located on the banks of the Yarra River, there are over 50,000 plants on display. Opened in 1846, the Melbourne Botanic Gardens are widely considered to be the best example in the world. Boasting specialist collections of camellias, cacti, ferns, eucalypts and viburnum, the park offers a peaceful retreat from the city. There is also an Australian Forest Walk, Tropical Glasshouse and California Garden. Perfect for picnics and weddings, the Botanic Gardens are also free to explore!
Enjoy world-class sports events and facilities in Melbourne
To say that the residents of Melbourne are sports mad would be something of an understatement -Melbourne is THE capital of sporting adventures in Australia! Kicking off with the Australian Open Tennis Championship each January, the year continues with the Formula 1 Grand Prix in March, This year has a whole host of events; Synchronized Swimming National Championships (4 – 7 April), 2013 Whittlesea Cycling Challenge (2 June), the Australian Football League Finals Series (6 – 28 September) and the Melbourne Cup. Whether you’re into horse racing, cricket, marathon running, swimming, ice hockey, motorsports, polo, extreme machines or cycling, it’s time to get involved.
And if you prefer spectator sports, then catch a cricket match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which also offers tours of the stadium, including an on-site museum. Or catch a rugby match at the atmospheric AAMI Park which hosts regularly games in the curiously shaped stadium.
Sample the superb local wines on a vineyard tour
Melbourne and the greater Victoria region is home to some world class vineyards, it’d be a shame to miss out on a winery tour. The main five wine regions within easy reach of Melbourne are; Yarra Valley, Mornington peninsula, Geelong, Sunbury and Macedon Ranges. Yarra Valley is the oldest wine region in Victoria and has been turning out top notch wines since 1838. Mornington peninsula has a real passion for the famous local pinot noir, pinot grigio and a delicious cool-climate chardonnay. Geelong is more European in style with the Chardonnay and Shiraz influenced by the volcanic soils. Sunbury is the closest wine region to Melbourne and Macedon Ranges is home to some fine boutique wine producers.
Learn a little at the local Museums
Dubbed the cultural capital of Melbourne, you’d expect plenty of interesting museums – and you won’t be disappointed! Australia’s oldest museum, the National Gallery of Victoria, opened in 1861 and has a wide array of sculptures and seasonal exhibits. The Shrine of Remembrance offers an insight into the local military history, the Immigration Museum provides a fascinating overview of how settlers integrated and the circular Scienceworks Museum presents science-themed activities in a really interesting way for all the family.
Soak up the Cultural Landmarks and Architecture in Melbourne
Aside from the abundance of galleries, museums and theatres, there is also a wealth of architectural wonders and cultural landmarks across Melbourne. Much of the architecture is Victorian-era, such as the reading-room dome of the State Library of Victoria, which houses over 2 million books and is the countries’ leading resource library, a fact which bestowed the honour of UNESCO City of Literature on Melbourne in 2009. The city also boasts two stunning cathedrals in the shape of St. Paul’s and St. Patrick’s. The Anglican St. Paul’s Cathedral has been rebuilt and modified many times, although the original site dates back to 1852 and is built in Gothic style. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Roma Catholic and was finally completed in 1939 in high Gothic Revival style. St Patrick’s is both the tallest and largest church in Australia. Don’t miss the eerie 19th century Old Melbourne Gaol, the handsome Old Treasury Building which dates back to 1862 and Cooks’ Cottage (owned by Captain James Cook’s parents), which was built in England in 1755 and dismantled, shipped and reconstructed in Melbourne in 1934.
Admire the views from the Eureka Skydeck 88
Take the journey up the Eureka Tower, which is the tallest residential building in the entire southern hemisphere. And a prime spot on the observation Skydeck offers superb panoramic views over Melbourne. For an extra thrill, upgrade to a pass to ‘The Edge’, a glass cube that puts you three meters outside of the tower, aerating to hover unsuspended over Melbourne! Opened in October 2006, the Eureka Tower stands at 297 metres (975 feet) tall with 91 storeys plus basement.
By Julie Bowman