They say you’re either a Sydney person or a Melbourne person. I suppose that’s probably true to some extent — you’re going to prefer one to the other — but that doesn’t mean you can’t still like them both. After spending nearly a week in Melbourne, on and off, I have to admit it’s hard to decide which city I like more.
Weather is a big thing for me so Melbourne loses a few points for that. It’s known for getting four seasons in two hours; in fact a commercial on TV here that shows things that make Melbourne what it is features one part saying “Jacket on. Jacket off. Jacket on. Jacket off.” Sydney has the warmth and sunshine going for it, as well as the iconic symbol aspect with things like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Melbourne is less touristy, but at the same time seems like it has more things to do, if you were spending a lot of time there (or living there). I have to agree it seems to have more culture than Sydney.
The people in Melbourne also seem friendlier. Despite being a huge city, it has a bit more of that small city vibe. You’re more likely to find yourself falling into conversation with the person next to you on the tram in Melbourne than on the bus in Sydney. Everyone we met from Melbourne was almost too friendly for words. We even have two pretty solid examples of that. One, we were able to keep all our extra luggage (big suitcases, etc.) at a friend of a friend’s house for two weeks while we travelled around. Two, on our Uluru tour in the Outback, there was a couple from Melbourne who were doing a couple weeks of travelling and actually offered for us to stay in their home in Melbourne when we returned there after the tour! Talk about friendly!
That personal touch is also evident in their tourism approach, as there are tourist information volunteers all over the place downtown, which is a really nice touch.
And one last comparison I’ll make on Melbourne and Sydney is transportation. The nice thing about Melbourne (particularly being a tourist) is that you buy a two hour ticket valid on all forms of transportation (though it is a bit expensive at $3.80 a ticket). This is a bit pricier than just a quick bus trip in Sydney, though, so it depends on your purposes if it’s a good deal or not.
Now on to what we actually did in Melbourne. We spent our first few days in St. Kilda. What a great area! The streets are full of cafes and the beach is really nice, especially at sunset. There are a lot of kitesurfers who look pretty cool on the water at sunset. There are some really cool streets in the area, too, that are a bit cool/hippie-ish, like Acland and Carlisle Streets. We were also there for the AFL Grand Final, which St. Kilda was in so all the streets lined without outdoor cafes and bars were packed with people (it was also a pretty warm, sunny day so that probably helped). It was cool to experience.
We also spent time walking around downtown, visiting a few museums and monuments. The Australian Centre for the Moving Image had an exhibit on Tim Burton that looked really cool, but unfortunately it was a bit out of our price range, but we were still able to walk through the free part of the museum and see some things like the Batmobile. We also tried to check out ABBA World, but that also was crazy expensive (who actually pays all that to get in?), so they suggested we could just browse the gift shop — which seemed to be what everyone else was doing too!
One other thing we did in Melbourne that I thought was really cool was the Queen Victoria Market. It’s the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere, and it is huge! We might have totally missed out on it, but the guy whose house we were keeping our bags at happened to work at a bread shop in the market so we went to visit him. The markets seemed to go on forever, with everything you could ever imagine wanting. We bought some delicious shallot bread and a nice dip from another shop and had a quick picnic before wandering around the rest of the market looking at shoes, clothing, wines, DVDs, etc.
Overall, I really enjoyed Melbourne and would definitely not mind spending a lot more time there. I felt like we barely scraped the surface of all there is to do, and it certainly seems like a great place for making friends!
Hungry for more? Check out my tips on Eating Out in Melbourne.
Added Tip: One last tip for anyone who is planning a trip to Melbourne that involves flying in or out of the airport (Tullamarine). Everyone tries to convince you that the SkyBus is the cheapest option to/from the airport, but that isn’t true. You can save almost $10 by using public transportation, and from what I could tell no one knows about this. For one thing, the bus company and Tiger seem to be in a bit of a battle so the buses have to drop off and pick up a bit down the road. That means when you’re arriving you would never know they were there unless someone told you. But if you walk past the Tiger terminal you will see one or two buses facing away down the road. You can hop on those (there was never more than two more people on the bus with us!) and take it to Broadmeadows Station. From there, get the train to Southern Cross, Flinders, or whichever station is nearest where you’re staying. If you’re staying a bit further out, like in St. Kilda, you might need to hop another tram or bus, but all of this is included in one 2-hour Zone 1+2 transportation ticket ($5.80). If going to the airport, just do the reverse.
Pint On Punt Hostel – $20/nt for 6 bed dorm (we were put in a 4 bed at no extra charge) – I can’t say anything bad about this place really. The room was a bit small but comfortable. The linens were clean, the mattress and pillows pretty comfy, and though I’m sure the bar is noisy we couldn’t hear it at all. The shared bathrooms were clean and we had our own sink in the room. The location isn’t bad either, very close to the St. Kilda Junction tram stop.
Bev & Mick’s (West Melbourne) – $20/nt for 8 bed dorm (there were only two other people in ours) – There is nothing that good I can say about this place, except the staff seemed pretty friendly. We were only there for one night and for our purposes it was terrible. We arrived at the airport at 5am but they told us they didn’t open until 10am. So we sat in the airport for a few hours. I just couldn’t believe any hostel reception didn’t open until that late, so when we got to the city around 9:30 I figured it would be OK. Nope. It was pouring rain so we went to a cafe until 10:15, went back and still no one was there. FInally someone let us in, but they weren’t staff. So we waited another 45 minutes until the reception guy finally arrived (apologized about traffic but we were exhausted so I was pretty annoyed). He did let us just go grab beds instead of filling out all the paperwork first. The place was pretty dumpy. They had a bunch of just weird rules. And that night we could barely sleep because the music from the bar downstairs was ridiculously loud in our room. It was terrible. It seems mostly long-term livers there (it’s only $80/week) and they seemed to really love it, but for us it was the worst.