This is the post you’ve been waiting for, my overview of Melbourne, which concludes The Classic Rock Lifestyle: Australia series. Soon enough, I’ll get back to what you’re really here for, the overviews of 60s and 70s music from different countries and taking a look at the different influences.
Long before I knew I was going to Australia, I would talk to Australians about where they would recommend I visit. High in a lot of people’s recommendations was the World’s Most Liveable City for seven years in a row, Melbourne. Why did people recommend Melbourne over Sydney? It has a European/San Francisco feel to it, it is an arty city with lots of character, there are so many great vintage shops, it’s less expensive than Sydney, and there are so many great cafes.
What did I take away from my short time in Melbourne? Let’s go!
I did not spend enough time in Melbourne and I regret it. If I had more money, I would have spent another two days here and I would have done the Great Ocean Road. I also would have gotten to spend more time with my friend, Fei, who showed us some of the best vintage shops in the city. This post will be more focussed on the vintage side of things than the restaurants and other sights.
Overall, I’m very happy with when my husband, Eoin, and I visited Melbourne. We lucked out with the weather and we were welcomed with sunshine. Just before we arrived and just after we left, it was raining. A lot of people say the weather is similar to Ireland, but I can’t say that’s the case. Ireland is the rainiest place I’ve ever lived. I won’t say that Ireland has the worst weather of any place I’ve called home, because I’d say that belongs to Chicago and Toronto because of the blizzards and bitter cold. Melbourne’s weather I would say is closer to England’s. Thanks to Ireland, England deals with less rain. You can think of Ireland as Britain’s umbrella (and historically a lot of other things to Britain, namely their farm).
Getting to Melbourne/A Transport Primer:
Getting to the city from the airport was very easy. We took the SkyBus express bus to St Kilda, where we were staying. There is also a Skybus that goes to Southern Cross Station and one that goes to Frankston, if you’re not going to St Kilda. There is no need to buy tickets ahead of time. A round trip ticket only saves you a dollar, but it is an open return that is valid for the next 3 months. If you’re disorganised, buy the one way because if you lose the ticket, it’s like losing cash.
While you’re in Melbourne there are many different public transport options: bus, tram, and train. You must buy a myki card before boarding, as cash is not an option. The good news is that you can get a myki at most shops or stations. The bad news is that you’re out $6 when you get a myki and it’s not like Chicago’s Ventra Card where you get that money back as credit to use when you register it. With the myki, you can pay as you go or get a pass. There are daily fare caps and they’re way lower than Sydney’s.
If you’re in Melbourne’s city centre, you’ll find the free tram zone, which is an area where you can ride the tram for free. Your trip must start and finish within that area, although there are people who cheat the fare system. Like Dublin’s Luas and the YRT/Viva in the suburbs of Toronto, the public transport system runs on proof of payment, random checks that you paid your fare. The free tram zone is a nice thing that reduces congestion in the city centre and it’s eco friendly. More cities should do this.
Let’s get to the fun part, the sightseeing. Isn’t that what you’re in Melbourne for?
Sightseeing: The City Centre and Beyond
Melbourne has a lot to offer and there are some great day trip options. As my husband and I were only here for three days, we didn’t see everything.
We saw a lot in the city centre and we went on one day trip to Phillip Island, famous for the Penguin Parade. If we had time, we would have loved to do the Great Ocean Road, well there’s always next time. First, we’ll talk about the city centre.
Melbourne is on the Yarra River and you’ll see skyscrapers along it, making for some great pictures. Also on the Yarra River is the Royal Botanic Gardens, which is really big. You can get nice views of the skyline in the Alexandra Gardens. You can also find the Shrine of Remembrance in the Royal Botanic Gardens and if you go to the top, you can get nice views of the city.
Melbourne has some very interesting, colourful, and modern architecture mixed with some older architecture. RMIT is located in the city centre and the buildings look very cool. Here are some architecture highlights from Melbourne:
Federation Square is very cool and always has something going on. When we were in Melbourne, there were see-saws there and they weren’t just for kids. There’s also a cafe, some cinemas, and the National Gallery of Victoria.
“Ride My See-Saw” – The Moody Blues
Melbourne is also famous for its graffiti. Near Federation Square is AC/DC Lane and a bunch of other alleys with graffiti. AC/DC Lane is really just a photo stop (which I missed because I didn’t have time). Apparently there is Yellow Submarine graffiti in St Kilda. I wasn’t able to find it though, but I saw it on Flickr. Any locals please let me know where it is! 🙂
Other neighbourhoods like Brunswick, Richmond, and Fitzroy are worth checking out for vintage shops and restaurants, but I’ll get to that later. The neighbourhood we stayed in, St Kilda has Luna Park, the Esplanade, and a nice community garden.
While we were in Melbourne, we saw Pond. When I booked the honeymoon I didn’t know what their Australian tour dates were, so we got lucky. The gig sold out and it was a lot of fun. Singer Nick Allbrook crowd surfed multiple times. I also really enjoyed one of their opening acts, Body Type. If you like psychedelic rock with a bit of modern electronic in it, you’ll like Pond.
Body Type are excellent and here’s their latest single, “Silver”. It’s worth listening to.
Another cool thing we did in Melbourne was go to a screening of A New Understanding: The Science of Psilocybin. The documentary was about how psychedelic mushrooms can help treat medical conditions and relieve pain. The people profiled in this documentary had anxiety, depression, or physical pain from terminal illnesses. The documentary made me think a lot about this issue.
Onto the Penguin Parade. My friend Fei knew that I liked penguins so she suggested we go to Phillip Island to see the Penguin Parade. We all went on the tour and it was a long day and we got back very late.
On the way to the Penguin Parade, we stopped at this horrible animal park (it was more like a roadside zoo), where the koalas and kangaroos did not have much space. The park also had a section where you could take a picture next to a koala, which is very bad for the koala since they are wild animals and shouldn’t be touched. Koalas require a lot of sleep (22 hours a day) and constantly having chatter, people coming in and out, and pictures taken constantly is cruel. The koalas should be in peace and have space.
The Taronga Zoo does have a koala picture option, but it is limited to 2 hours a day, which is much better for the koala than having pictures all day. The kangaroos and wallabies looked very deprived, sick, and sad. The park did not limit how many people could buy kangaroo food and it led to kangaroos overeating. In the kangaroo area there was almost no staff to monitor guests. I didn’t approach any kangaroos since I felt that it isn’t right. Kangaroos deserve space away from people. Don’t be selfish, don’t take selfies with kangaroos. Give them space and watch them from a distance.
Also, some animals were not allowed to eat the kangaroo food and there were few signs and almost no monitoring. I saw a man feeding a pony the kangaroo food. There was no clear signage unless you went to a different side of the pony’s pen.
Stopping there drove home the point that the best place to see animals is in the wild. On the way to the Nobbies, we saw wild wallabies with shiny coats. They looked much happier and healthier than the captive wallabies in the animal park. The Nobbies were beautiful and it reminded me so much of Ireland.
Funny story about the Penguin Parade. We were given our tickets when we got there, but we didn’t hear the bus driver when they said “people with standard tickets get your tickets first”. Fei, Eoin, and I walked up to the bus driver after a bunch of people left and we asked when do we get our tickets. We only paid for the standard tickets. The bus driver was very nice and said that the tour company had a mixup and there might not be enough standard tickets, meaning that we could get upgraded tickets. We waited for the rest of the passengers to get off the bus and we got premium tickets on a smaller viewing platform that was closer to the penguins. That’s the best mistake we made on this trip and a nice little honeymoon present for me and my husband. The general viewing area is the boardwalk and a bunch of bleachers that face the sea. The premium area was a smaller area that was fenced off and closer to the penguins. Under the premium area is the underground viewing area with windows so you can see the penguins walking at eye level.
There is a Penguin Parade visitor’s centre with a gift shop, a movie, a cafe, and a small exhibit. I bought a penguin plushie with a jumper on it and a penguin magnet.
Melbourne is more affordable than Sydney for vintage clothing, from what I saw and there were lots of op shops (thrift or charity shops), especially along Chapel Street in Windsor and in Brunswick. You can find some great bargains. Two shops that caught my eye on Chapel Street are Shag Vintage and Chapel Street Bazaar. In Brunswick we went to a vintage clothing $10 and under warehouse sale. Sadly, I didn’t find much. I saw this cool dress from either the 60s or 70s for only $10, but it did not fit around my shoulders or chest. There were a lot of cool op shops on Sydney St in Brunswick. One big bric-à-brac shop that stood out to me was the Lost and Found Market. There was a huge variety of vintage stuff in there and I could stay there all day. It reminded me of going to my great aunt’s house. The midcentury scent and aesthetic and everything.
In the city centre you can find vintage shops too. A couple of my favourite vintage shops I saw in the city centre were RetroStar Vintage, Out of the Closet Vintage, and Vintage Sole. These stores were all large and had a wide variety of things. What I like about the vintage stores here is that they have a lot of things from the 60s and 70s. Meanwhile in Ireland, a lot of vintage shops are very 80s and 90s dominated, which isn’t my style. If you have a higher budget, you can go to American Rag, which has a good selection of more American style vintage clothing. Another shop I really liked in the city centre was Metropolis Bookshop. There are so many books here and lots of them are those coffee table books with lots of pictures. Lots of quirky books and postcards here and lots of books about the 60s, 70s, and counterculture. This bookstore is located high up in a building so you either have to climb a lot of stairs or take the lift.
Some pictures of RetroStar and Out of the Closet
Regrettably, I did not go to any record stores because I was realising how broke I was at the end of the trip and I was exhausted and didn’t want to schlep any records home. I already have lots of records in America at my parents house, I have to focus on moving those overseas.
Lots of great vegetarian food in Melbourne. Here are a few of my favourite places I went:
Gong De Lin: Anyone who knows me well should know that I love Chinese food. It’s my favourite. I miss being able to eat a lot of my favourite dishes so whenever I go to a Chinese restaurant I’m often stuck having vegetable fried rice, egg rolls, and sweet and sour tofu. Not that it’s bad, but maybe I want to branch out. This restaurant has a lot of your favourite Chinese dishes, without any of the meat. The meat substitutes were excellent and Eoin really liked them, even thought he’s not a vegetarian. We ordered the Lemon “chicken” and a (supposedly) spicy mock meat and vegetable dish. I didn’t find the “spicy” dish spicy, but that’s because I put peri peri sauce on like everything so I’m used to it haha.
Nguyen Hot Bread: We didn’t make plans to go here, but we saw it and we liked the reasonable prices. I ordered a vegetarian banh mi and some veggie rice paper wraps. I found it was a good value.
Sister of Soul: This restaurant is in St Kilda. I loved the food here and it’s 100% vegetarian with lots of vegan options. There are also options for those who are Jain or Hare Krishna and cannot eat garlic or onions. I ordered avocado toast, okay get the millennial jokes out of your system, and my husband ordered the French Toast. I loved the avocado toast and I tasted a bit of my husband’s French Toast and I loved the vegan honeycomb that was served on the side. The French Toast came with vegan ice cream and that was good too, I liked dipping the strawberries in it (my husband is picky when it comes to strawberries). We came to this restaurant a second time and I ordered a pumpkin version of the avocado toast, which was good, but I liked the avocado toast better.
Misoya Sake Bar: Japanese food with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Fei and I ordered vegan ramen and Eoin had vegetarian ramen. We ordered gyoza as a starter and it was excellent. There were plenty of options to make your ramen spicier if you wanted.
Yong Green Food: While at the psilocybin documentary screening Fei heard someone talking about vegan food and introduced me to this person and this person recommended this restaurant in Fitzroy, which is a really cool neighbourhood with lots of bars and some record shops and charity shops. Yong Green Food is 100% vegetarian with lots of vegan options. If you’re a raw vegan, you’ll like it here. I had a raw vegan Pad Thai, which was excellent. We went here the last evening we were in Melbourne and loved it! Afterwards, for dessert, we went to Girls & Boys, which is a vegan ice cream shop.
The Goat in the Boat: While this wasn’t in Melbourne, we went here during a stop on the way back from Phillip Island. This Greek restaurant was very accommodating for my vegan diet and I loved the food, great way to end the day. I ordered a spiced pumpkin on sourdough. The price was reasonable too.
As always we drank a lot of chai and drank some smoothies. We also tried this sparkling apple cider vinegar drink that was pretty good.
Did I miss your favourite place in Melbourne? Let me know in the comments section! Hopefully I come back to Melbourne someday so I can explore it more in depth.