Oz Journeys: Magnificent Melbourne and Beyond

"The world will never starve for want of wonders:
but only for want of wonder."

-- GK Chesterton

It took me a little while to shake off my jetlag. But, as soon as I did, I was in awe of the things I saw and experienced in my first trip Down Under, which began in Melbourne.

Oz Journeys: Magnificent Melbourne and Beyond

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by shaicoggins on July 28, 2003

Some Spots To Stop By In The City:
- Queen Victoria Market
- Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex
- Treasury and Fitzroy Gardens
- Rialto Towers Building
- Captain Cook's Cottage
- Princess Theatre
- Victoria Parliament House
- Yarra River
- Victorian Arts Centre
- Melbourne Museum

Some Nearby Places To Visit:
- Healesville Sanctuary at the Yarra Valley
- Dandenongs

Things To Do:
- Watch the fountain/fireballs show at night at the Crown Casino and Entertainment Centre (outside)
- Walk through the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens
- Look at the city skyline at the Observation Deck of the Rialto Tower
- Shop/browse for stuff and/or eat at the Queen Victoria Market
- Ride the free city tram for a quick "hop on and hop off" personal tour
- Take a river cruise
- Catch a Day Tour of the Dandenongs and take a ride on the century-old steam train, Puffing Billy

NOTE:Visit the Australian state of Victoria's official guide for more information. ${QuickSuggestions}

- Being 'down under', the seasons in Australia (located in the Southern Hemisphere) are opposite to that of the USA, the UK, etc. So, make sure to pack the right kind of clothes for the right time of the year.

- It's handy to know some Aussie slang before coming over. English is the country's language, but it is not always the way you expect to be. For example, if someone asks: "Would you like to come for a barbie?", you are not being invited to a doll party but a barbecue. Check out this site on Aussie Slang if you want to learn more. ${BestWay} GETTING THERE:
Book a flight through your travel agent and/or national carrier. You can also check if Qantas Airlines (Australia's national carrier) flies from and to your local destination.

Within the city centre, public transportation and walking are your best options. Trams, trains, and buses have regular schedules.

If you're taking off to the outer parts of the city, you might consider booking a package tour/day tour. Otherwise, renting a car to drive is a good idea.

Queensbury Hill YHA Hostel

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by shaicoggins on July 30, 2003

If you're on a low to medium budget travel, staying at the YHA is often a good way to go about it. This particular hostel in Melbourne is great because it even has single, double/twin, or family rooms with ensuite, in case you prefer not to do it "the backpacker way". There is even a self-contained apartment available. For backpackers, there are 4-bed, 6-bed, and 8-bed shared rooms.

During our stay there, we opted for a double/twin room with ensuite. The room was clean and the ensuite were working fine. It also came with reverse cycle airconditioning, so it's good for heating or cooling. Nothing fancy, of course.

There's even a place where you can cook and/or have a barbecue, as well as a small cafe/restaurant to buy food if you're not too choosy about your meal. Other facilities include: an in-house tour desk, internet/email section, games room, reading room, TV and video areas.

Apart from the affordable rates, the best perk about this hostel is that it is within walking distance to Queen Victoria Market (good shopping and eating place) and the Melbourne Zoo. It is also quite conveniently located for public transportation.

For more info and online booking, visit this page at the YHA web site.

Queensbury Hill YHA Hostel
78 Howard Street
Melbourne, Australia, 3051

Cafe Greco

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by shaicoggins on July 30, 2003

On a lovely evening, it is best to find a seat in their al fresco dining area overlooking the Yarra River and the city skyline. And, if you're there during the fireballs show of the Crown Casino, you get a great view as well.

This is what my husband and I did during our trip there, and we had a great time. Although it was a bit busy, the atmosphere was still conducive to conversation and the service was not compromised.

They serve main courses and cocktails, but we only had coffee, hot chocolate, and dessert. They were lovely, but admittedly, not that extraordinary.

Overall, we felt it was definitely worth the stop!

Cafe Greco
Shop 18, Crown Casino Complex
Melbourne, Australia
+613 9686 9733

Melbourne Bar and Bistro

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by shaicoggins on August 2, 2003

We would've never found out about this place, if it weren't for the cheerful cab driver who took us from the airport to our hostel. He recommended it as a great place to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to eating.

There were set meals and an eat-all-you can buffet (for only AU$6 per person!). So, you can have your pick. The food choices are mostly Asian (noodles, fried/steamed rice, stir-fries, dimsum, etc.) and Western (stews, fried chicken, etc.): a good East-meets-West dining experience. The food quality is acceptable to good.

The decor and surroundings aren't posh, so there's no need to dress up if you don't feel like it. There are video games and a bar area. Yes, the place can get a bit loud.

Overall, if you simply want to have a relaxed, affordable meal - this is one of the places you can go to.

Melbourne Bar and Bistro
168 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne, Australia
+61 9650 6888

Puffing Billy w/ Oz Wildlife (Gray Line Bus Tour)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by shaicoggins on August 2, 2003

Although our day started off with an unexpected excitement, which involved running after a cab in the middle of Melbourne city (when we thought we left our bag with our passports and camera in the cab) due to a mix-up with the bus tour company and the hostel's reception desk, the whole day turned out very well.

We booked this day tour through the tour desk of our hostel (Queensbury Hill YHA), which we found as a great way of booking day tours. The tour fee included: pick-up and return from/to accomodation; breakfast/morning tea, train ride, lunch, and entrance fee to the animal sanctuary.

The tour began with a drive from the city to the Dandenongs. Then, there was an Aussie-style breakfast/morning tea at a small picnic area at the Dandenongs (with billy tea, biscuits, vegemite, and lamingtons). There was even a 'bonus' attraction of hand-feeding the birds(rosellas and lorikeets) that dropped by on our picnic.

Then, we were off to the Puffing Billy. This 100-year-old working steam train is a sight to behold, even if you're not a trainspotter. Anyway, we boarded the train from Belgrave station and went through wooden tracks, residential areas, and forest areas to the next station (Menze's Creek) where we got off and meet our bus tour guide cum driver. Kids in particular seemed to enjoy this activity.

After the train ride, the tour bus went through the vineyards at Yarra Valley. Then, the tour stopped at Ferguson's Winery for lunch. After lunch, you can even buy some local wines and souvenirs at the shop adjacent to the restaurant.

After lunch, it was off to Healesville Sanctuary, the last stop. Here, we feasted our eyes on Australian wildlife like kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, echidnas, platypuses, tasmanian devils, and koalas. It was great, as we've never seen them in real life before.

So yes, it's definitely a day tour you won't want to miss.

Puffing Billy Railway
Old Monbulk Road
Melbourne, Australia, 3160
+61 (0)3 9754 6800

The Rialto Towers Observation Deck

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by shaicoggins on August 1, 2003

One great way to see the Melbourne, either in the day time or night time (for a more romantic atmosphere), is by going up to Level 55 of the Rialto Towers. It is open from 10am until late at night.

The popular observation deck boasts of a 360 degrees view of the city. For a small fee (about AU$12 for adults and AU$7 for children), you get a 20-minute video show called 'Melbourne The Living City', binoculars for viewing, and a computer viewing system.

Other than amazing views of the city, you can also stop by a souvenir shop that even sells postcards and local stamps so you can send greetings to your loved ones with an official Rialto Towers mark. Yes, there's even a postbox to drop your mail in. There is also a small cafe/restaurant where you can have coffee or a meal while enjoying the views.

For more information, visit the Rialto Towers Observation Deck web site.

Rialto Towers & Observation Deck
525 Collins Street
Melbourne, Australia, 3000
+61 (0)3 9629 8222

Queen Victoria Market

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by shaicoggins on July 30, 2003

Even without spending a single cent, a visit to Queen Victoria Market is worth the time and effort. Its colours, sights, sounds, and energy are just so active and fun.

And, if you do decide to shell out some dollars, it's still fine because you can find great bargains everywhere. In fact, I managed to buy my wool and cashmere black coat from this market (which I still use even after more than two years) for a good price. You might even want to try haggling!

There are also plenty of places to grab a bite - from fish and chips to pizza to Asian food. Just walk around and find what you fancy.

Some of the shops open as early as 6 am, so you can even have breakfast there if you like. It's also interesting to watch the place brighten up.

Apart from the usual array of clothes, fruits, flowers and such, you can even find quaint butcher shops, seafood stalls, chocolate shops, and more around the area. No wonder this is a *must see* place in Melbourne!

Queen Victoria Market
513 Elizabeth St
Melbourne, Australia, 3000
+61 (0)3 9320 5822

Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by shaicoggins on July 29, 2003

Melbourne is renowned for its lovely gardens. The Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens are just two of the beautiful gardens people can walk through in the city area. These gardens are just near the Victoria Parliament House, the old Treasury buildings, and the lovely Windsor Hotel.

The gardens are filled with huge trees, plants, and flowers (in spring/summer). There are also ornamental ponds and memorials to various significant events/people. It is a great place to walk through, have a picnic, and take photos. In fact, during our visit, there were at least two wedding parties having photo shoots in the area. In the Fitzroy Gardens, you might want to consider stopping by Captain Cook's cottage (Capt. James Cook is the Englishman who's considered to be Australia's founder). The cottage was transported from England and re-built in Melbourne. There's a small fee to enter the cottage. For a truly European feel, stopping for high tea (with scones, pastries, cakes, and more) at the Windsor Hotel near the gardens might be an option. However, the tea can be a bit pricey!

Fitzroy Gardens and Captain Cook's Cottage
Wellington Parade
Melbourne, Australia, 3002
+61 (3) 9419 4677

Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by shaicoggins on July 30, 2003

Since most of Melbourne was still shut by the time my husband and I arrived, and we still can't check-in our room at the YHA, our first stop was the Crown Casino after leaving our luggage at the hostel. Crown is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week except on Christmas, Good Friday and Anzac Day. We walked around and had a small breakfast there before heading back to our hostel to check-in.

At nightfall, we decided to go back to the casino for more exploring and to try out one of the cafes. It was perfect timing because when we arrived by the grounds, there was fireballs show (gas bridages), which apparently shows every hour, on the hour, from Monday to Friday (9pm to midnight) and on Saturday and Sunday (8pm to midnight), unless weather does not permit it. It was a great show! There were lots of stuff to see and to try in the complex, even if you're not gamblers (like us). However, we didn't really have enough time to experience it all. But, it's definitely a good place to check out if you're in town.

For more information, just visit their official website.

Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Melbourne, Australia, 3000
+61 (3) 9292 8888


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