Most of my time spent exploring Melbourne to get my bearings involved lots of walking, lots of getting lost, and lots of gardens. Melbourne has many really beautiful (and surprisingly big) gardens across the city. In the midst of a bustling CBD it’s a refreshing break to sit among the flowers and trees with a fountain in the background.
Exploring Melbourne CBD
Just a short walk from my Franklin Street hostel, I visited the Victoria State Library, which along with its vast collection of books and historical exhibitions, is a fantastic piece of architecture with its memorable domed ceiling. You only get the real feeling of what it’s like once inside the spacious 6 storey structure, and of course being a library the hushed quiet made for a peaceful visit.
Unfortunately my camera broke the day before, so I found a great place to get a replacement, and luckily all my photos are safe. It’s annoying when these things happen, but I’m glad it did at the beginning of the trip. I then made my way to the north of the my hostel, where Queen Victoria Market was a treat to look around. It’s very well known in Melbourne, and it seems often people do their general food shop there rather than at supermarkets, something I find quite charming and quaint for a bustling urban city, and a great way to support local businesses instead of larger chains.
The aim of these few days was to cover as much ground as possible across the city, and I definitely think I succeeded as I went to an array of parks including Flagstaff Gardens, Carlton Gardens (which is home to the magnificent Exhibition Building), Treasury Gardens and Fitzroy Gardens. Each park has its own style and features, it’s easy to get completely lost in each one and forget you’re even in the city. I ended the day by meeting the most wonderful Aussie for a drink at a rooftop bar overlooking Parliament Building. She gave me some really useful tips for the rest of my travels, and we chatted so easily and for so long I definitely was grateful for such an interesting person to talk to after spending so long in my own company.
The next couple of days saw me meeting my soon-to-be-host family prior to staying with them for an initial meeting, they were an incredibly kind couple who were lovely enough to allow me to stay with them for a week in Melbourne. It was great to meet them before completely invading their home, and it was certainly a more unusual activity for a first meeting.
The activity for the day, along with a couple of their neighbours, was to do the Kokoda Memorial Walk, otherwise known as 1000 Steps. Now, it sounds fairly daunting, but I was not nearly prepared enough for how steep some of those steps were going to be. Some of them hardly qualified as steps, I swear some might even call a few of them low walls. Nonetheless, we made it to the top of One Tree Hill, where a well deserved rest and picnic was in order while we sat in the sunshine watching the kookaburras diving for scraps of food. The walk down seemed to fly by compared to going up, and I certainly slept well that night!
Great Ocean Road & the 12 Apostles
I was up bright and early to catch another Gray Line tour bus taking me along the Great Ocean Road. Using the same tour company as for my Phillip Island day trip, we were treated to a sassy tour guide who was absolutely the king of rhetorical questions, coming out with such gems as ‘Some of you may be wondering when we’ll reach our destination, but my questions is: is there ever really a destination?’. The philosopher in me was loving it.
The long drive took us through many wonderful places, with familiar names such as Anglesea (where the driver treated us to Bush Billy Tea, Vegemite and Lamington cakes), Aireys Inlet (where the lighthouse from the kid’s TV show Round the Twist was filmed!) and many, many others. A few key points were the Memorial Arch, showing the start of the GOR which was constructed by ex-servicemen from the war to commemorate those who made the long journey to fight but never returned. The road itself was built in the 1930s, so was much younger than I had expected. We then took the winding road around Mount Defiance, beyond which the road had only recently reopened as this has been the site of some truly devastating bushfires recently, meaning the surroundings were bare and black, and any trees that did remain somehow looked out of place standing alone.
We stopped for lunch in the popular holiday resort of Apollo Bay which was my first chance to sit in some sand on the beach, and what a beautiful day it was too. After yet more driving through rainforest and along the coastline, we reached Port Campbell National Park which is where we found the main attraction of the day. The 12 Apostles are certainly glorious to behold, I felt so in awe to see such magnificent natural pillars standing amongst the violent waves, it was easy to see how a few of the Apostles had succumbed to collapsing in the end.
Onwards along the coast line we reached Loch Ard Gorge which is the site of a famous shipwreck, where just two people of the entire crew survived and sheltered in the caves. The beautiful blue ocean and bright yellow stone of the rocks in the area are so stunning, and each peak of rock seems to carry its own story making it hard to choose where to take yourself next! I chose to take a look at London Arch out of curiosity for how it could have gained its name after my home city. previously known as London Bridge the rock connected to the mainland had once collapsed leaving some shocked tourists stranded awaiting a helicopter rescue… I didn’t want to linger too long after reading that!
After a final stop off at Port Campbell I think everyone was sufficiently exhausted from the day, and we began the long journey home, and arrived back in Melbourne in the early evening.
Have you driven the Great Ocean Road? What’s your favourite spot in Melbourne? Let me know!