Melbourne is the coastal capital of the southeastern Australian state of Victoria. It is the second-most populous city in Australia and Oceania.
We took a direct flight from KL to Melbourne (about 8.5hrs) and landed in Tullmarine airport, about 30 minutes from the CBD. Best way to get from the airport to the city if you’re a solo traveler and do not have many bags is via bus (SkyBus – AUD18 per pax), but if you’re traveling in a group/ family, I’d suggest taking an Uber (roughly AUD 50-60).
If you are comfortable driving in Australia, you can also rent a car from the airport. There were an array of car rentals around the airport vicinity such as Hertz, Budget, Avis, etc. A friend recommended me Apex car rentals, they are known for the affordability and amazing insurance policies. I will get more into this later in the blog.
We stayed in the Mercure Welcome Melbourne, which is located right smack in the city, on Little Bourke Street. It is just a few steps away from Myers, David Jones, The Emporium and tons of restaurants and bars. If you are planning to do lots of shopping, or if you just like being in the midst of all the buzz and having food options, this is a great place to stay. The surrounding area was very safe and the hotel was clean. There is also a tram stop right outside the hotel. For me, the deciding factor when choosing a hotel is access to public transportation, late night food options and shopping accessibility.
Trams are mostly free if you’re in the CBD vicinity. However, venturing out of the CBD would require you to buy a myki card (available at 7-Eleven).
Day 1 – Queen Victoria Market, Flinders St Station
Melbourne’s iconic Queen Vic Market turns 140 years old this year, and is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. A must visit, especially if you like food-tasting! Great place to buy produce, souvenirs, handicrafts and food.
You must snap a photo in front of Flinders St Station. This place is iconic! If you have time to check it out in the evening, you should. The station is up in lights and is also great for a photo-op.
Day 2 – Yarra Valley
We rented out a car for a few days to explore outside the CBD. As mentioned, we were recommended to book through Apex. In comparison to other car rentals, Apex had the most affordable and best coverage policy for international drivers. Do note that cars from Apex are 3-4 years old, and newer cars may not be readily available. If you don’t mind, this is an excellent rental company to consider.
Yarra Valley is one of Melbourne’s favourite retreats offering good food, fine wine, welcoming accommodation and unique attractions in natural surroundings. The drive to Yarra Valley was very relaxing and easy-going. It took about an hour via the freeway. Tons of great photo ops along the way. Tons of cattle, sheep and goats. Spotted some horses & alpacas too.
Our first stop was the famous Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & ice creamery. Similar to the Margaret Chocolate Factory in Perth, shoppers are spoilt for choice. Find chocolates of all kinds, from chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, ice cream and even chocolate lip balms. Great place for gifts for friends and family.
Our next stop was the Yarra Valley Dairy Farmhouse. Named after one of the early settlers and vignerons, Hubert de Castella, the property is now used for producing our fine quality farmhouse cheeses in what is known as one of the premium wine and dairy regions of Australia.
I’m not of a wine person, although Yarra Valley is known to be one of the best places for wine tasting. There are tons of wineries along the way. Fruit and vegetable farms are also abundant. We were interested in visiting the Lavender farm but the bushes were yet to bloom.
Day 3 – Luna Park, St Kilda Pier Brighton Beach, The Hemp Kitchen & Phillip Island
Luna Park is a historic amusement park located on the foreshore of Port Phillip Bay in St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria. Unfortunately, the day I visited, they were doing some renovation work and the park was closed. Still managed to snap a photo in front of the iconic entrance.
A short walk from Luna Park, is St Kilda pier. This is a great spot if you’re up for a morning walk or run. Scenic, peaceful and quiet. Providing panoramic views of the Melbourne skyline and Port Phillip Bay, the pier is a popular destination for strolling, cycling, rollerblading and fishing.
For lunch, we stopped by The Hemp Kitchen (yes, HEMP). If you’re health junkie, or feeling adventurous, I highly recommend this spot for some food.
Next we headed to Brighton Beach to check out the Bathing Boxes. 82 distinctive multi-coloured beach huts lining the foreshore of one of Melbourne’s most exclusive neighborhoods. They were built more than 100 years ago when Australians were a little more modest and were used by women for privacy when changing into swimwear.
Next, we were back on the road headed to catch the Penguin Parade at Phillip Island in the evening. It was a pretty long drive from St Kilda (2+ hours), but we took turns driving so it wasn’t that bad.
Unfortunately no photos or videos were allowed at the Penguin Parade, but they do have an app where you can see the fairy penguins cross the beach nightly. We weren’t too keen on the other attractions in Phillip Island as we were strapped for time, but there is plenty to do. Phillip Island is a great spot for families with young children. More info here.
Day 4 – Dandenong Ranges, Botanic Garden & Puffing Billy
We decided to make the most of our time while we still had our rental car, so we headed to the Dandenong Ranges to visit theThe Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden and do some quaint window shopping in nearby town, Olinda.
The Dandenong Ranges Botanic Garden (formerly the National Rhododendron Garden) is host to brilliantly colored blooms of over 15,000 rhododendrons, 12,000 azaleas, 3,000 camellias, 250,000 daffodils and countless cherries. Seasonal changes ensure the gardens are a delight all year around. If you love nature, the sound of birds and cool, crisp air, you MUST visit this place. We went first thing in the morning, and enjoyed the stunning colors of the flowers blooming.
A few minutes away, we booked a short ride with Puffing Billy to experience Australia’s premier preserved steam railway. The Puffing Billy Railway is a 2 ft 6 in narrow gauge heritage railway in the Dandenong Ranges in Melbourne, Australia. There are a few routes available, depending on the time you have and what you’d like to see, but tickets are recommended to be booked in advance. More info here.
Day 5 – Lune Croissanterie, Fitzroy Gardens & Conservatory, Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, Shrine of Remembrance
Our first destination for Day 5 was to one of the most talked about bakeries, Lune Croissanterie. Lune is unique; designed to inspire a commitment to precision in each exquisite detail, during every stage of the croissant-making process.
Once we got our fuel for the day, we headed to the Fitzroy Gardens to check out Cook’s Cottage, Tudor House and The Fairies Tree.
We also made our way to the Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens to see even more flowers ( WE REALLY LOVE FLOWERS!) and also, it was such a beautiful day with great weather, perfect for a casual stroll in the gardens.
Right before, we also managed to come across the Shrine of Remembrance. The Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, located in Kings Domain on St Kilda Road. It was built to honour the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I, but is now a memorial to all Australians who have served in war.
Day 6 – Higher Ground, Outlet Malls, Rare Steakhouse
For breakfast, we headed to an uber-trendy spot called The Higher Ground. I love this place – the food is AMAZING (if you like Kale, get the seared kale with egg!) and the atmosphere is nice. Super popular spot for locals and tourists! Great place to meet friends, unwind and catch up with family back home. I have my handy pocket wifi from Wiyo with me at all times (pictured below). Wiyo is available from both KLIA & KLIA2. I honestly cannot live without my pocket wifi. It is a necessity when I travel.
Next, we headed of to do some retail therapy! Finally! Our schedule has been packed with lots of fun things, but I was ready to spend some cash! LOL.
I did not take photos while shopping but I highly suggest visiting DPO & Spencer Outlet if you have time.
For dinner, we decided to treat ourselves to some good ol’ Aussie steak so we headed down to Rare Steakhouse Uptown. All I can say is WOW. CAN’T WAIT TO EAT THERE AGAIN. Service was average but the quality of beef was impeccable. We discovered this spot after googling a ton of steakhouses in Melbourne and this one had the best reviews. Our hotel concierge also told us this was THE place for meats. 9/10.
On the way back we stopped by Crown Casino for some photos. Fancy place but we didn’t spend much time there (because we weren’t feeling lucky).
Day 7 – Great Ocean Road
On our last full day, we decided to take a tour to explore the Great Ocean Road. We took the Great Ocean Road Reverse tour as it was curated as such to avoid huge crowds of tourists & other tour buses!
We headed through the town of Colac before saw the famous 12 Apostles, explore the shipwreck coast and visit Loch Ard Gorge. We also took a rainforest walk in the Great Otway National Park, explore the seaside township of Apollo Bay and visit Kennett River to view some Australian wildlife such as koalas, Kookaburras and parrots! Along the way, we were stunned by the beautiful surf coast, lined with perfect untouched beaches. Lastly, we stopped by the Historic Memorial Arch on the heritage listed Great Ocean Road.
We were too tired to drive on our own, as you would spend about 7-8 hours driving for a full return day trip. However, if you have the luxury time, it’d be nice to spend a night at one of the little coastal towns and take it easy.
Day 8 – CBD Shopping
Since we booked a midnight flight, we had one last day to catch up on some shopping. It was a pretty relaxed day for us as we didn’t want to tire ourselves out too much. I stocked up on lots of goodies from the Discount Chemist (if you haven’t been, you need to! This is always my first stop for drugstore skincare and makeup as well as vitamins and supplements!). We also wandered around the laneways and arcades in the CBD such as the Block Arcade, Degraves Street, Royal Arcade, etc. More info here.
I highly recommend stopping by the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade for some tea and dessert. Amazing cakes on display (there is always a line to get in) and the interior takes you back to the turn of the century. Love the atmosphere.