One of the most exciting aspects of our trip to Australia was we already had friends in Melbourne! Well Beth did at least… She had the amazing opportunity to student teach for a semester in Melbourne three years ago. It was an amazing experience for her and I have to admit I was jealous. I was stuck back in Indiana finishing up my undergrad. We had been dating for two years when she visited. Anyway, now I know why she had such a great experience. All the people she stayed with and met were so welcoming and fun! Now I have some Australian friends too!
One of the families was even nice enough to let us stay with them. Thank you Margot and Wayne! It was a really great experience to get a local view of the area and extremely fun chatting with them. I learned a lot of things that I would have not on a typical vacation, like inside scoop on the city, politics, daily life, and so much more. They even made me a fan of Australian Rules Football, (footy). It is a fun sport to watch and I will have to figure out a way to watch it back in the USA.
Day 1 – Downtown Melbourne
As for our adventures we were quite busy. We landed at about 8:30 AM Melbourne time on a Saturday so we had a full day to explore. Thankfully we were able to book business class award tickets to Australia on United. Totally worth it, didn’t have too much jetlag honestly. Our friends were nice enough to pick us up from the airport and we drove back to their place to drop off our luggage. At the house, we met their daughters and one of the daughter’s boyfriend. They were just a couple years younger than us so it was great hanging out with them. All of them wanted to show us around Melbourne so we drove off to downtown.
First up was getting to the top of the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel. From the top it gave us a perspective of the city and the massive Port Phillip bay. Although it was a typical tourist attraction, it was well worth it and a great way to get a feel for Melbourne. After that we ventured out towards the river where we grabbed lunch in front of Etihad stadium. Then it was back to their car to drive around downtown and then onto the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. It was a Saturday so weddings were in full force and it was quite tempting to try and crash one. Wandering through the park, it was apparent why Melbourne is known as Australia’s garden city. It was a really busy first day and we crashed early and got an insane 12 hours of sleep that night.
Day 2 – Arthur’s Seat
On to our second day! The family we were staying with took us down the beautiful Mornington Peninsula to the Enchanted Adventure Garden. The plan was to do the high ropes course but we underestimated how busy it was going to be, being that it was Easter Sunday. So we were only able to signup for the zip line which was still really fun! We also explored the gardens which had multiple mazes, tube slides (basically summer version of snow tubing!), and we even played a life sized version of chutes and ladders. Afterwards we went to the scenic overlook at Arthur’s Seat which has incredible views of the bay. Beth and I don’t live anywhere near water so it was heaven to us.
Of course staring at the water also meant we had to drive down and head to the beach! It wasn’t exactly swimming weather but it was in the low 70s and we waded through the shallow bay waters at Rosebud and looked back towards the shore at the many beach boxes. Brighton Beach near Melbourne is famously know for the beach boxes but they are common all around Port Phillip. That night another one of the families Beth stayed with came over and it was nice for her to catch up.
Day 3 – Yarra Valley
Did I mention how welcoming all of our Australia friends were? Well the next day another family took Beth and I on a wine adventure through the Yarra Valley. We headed up into the valley which is north of the city and was surround by rising hills and mountains. Quite a bit different than the bay but amazingly peaceful and beautiful. The family toured us around the area stopping at their favorite wineries, there are over a hundred in the region! The wines were surprisingly a lot different than what I typically drink. One thing that stood out was that many of the wineries had sparkling dry reds. I honestly didn’t even know such a wine existed! It was shockingly really good! Even the typical Rieslings had a different bite to them. Outside of wine we stopped at a cheesery which was my favorite stop of the day. Back at home we do have a decent wine region but no cheeseries to speak of. Every sample was delicious. Another great stop was the chocolaterie which was another amazing treat for us. After finishing all of tastings we drove back towards the bay and had a wonderful dinner with a large group of our friends in Mordiallic.
Days 4 – 6 – Great Ocean Road
So in the middle of the week it was time for Beth and I to venture out on our own to the Great Ocean Road! That is for another post coming soon… But it was quite funny having all of friends tell us how to drive on the left side of the road, they had been giving tips all week long. We did appreciate it!
Day 7 – Healsville Animal Sanctuary & Footy Game
After finishing up our road trip on the Great Ocean Road, Beth and I made it back to Margot and Wayne’s place for our last two full days in Melbourne. On that Friday, a couple of us went up to the Healsville Animal Sanctuary which is known for having native Australian animals. During our drive on the Great Ocean Road we did see wild kangaroos and koalas but we wanted to get more up close and personal with the animals and we did…
One of the unique parts of the Healsville Animal Sanctuary is they let you pet the animals in an open pen. This is only for a couple of the animals like kangaroos, wallabies (basically a small kangaroo), and some birds. Anyway the kangaroos were not cooperating as you are not suppose to go off the path and they were being lazy and laying in the sun. But we found a wallaby who was friendly enough to let us pet him or so we thought… I had no problems petting the wallaby but when Beth went up to pet it he wasn’t too keen on it. At first the wallaby let Beth pet him but all of the sudden he didn’t like it and grabbed her arm and scratched her. So basically she got attacked by a wallaby! So I think that makes her Australian now. The picture above is after being attacked. We put the wallaby is in timeout! Mischievous little guy.
One of the things I was most excited to do in Melbourne was to go to an Australian Rules Football game (footy). Melbourne is the footy capital of the world with most of the teams being based there. The weekend we arrived was the opening weekend and I had watched a couple games with the family. I learned the rules pretty fast and I have to say I really liked the sport. So we decided to go to the Friday night game at the Melbourne Circket Ground, MCG, between Collingwood and Richmond. Collingwood was the team we were cheering for as that was our friend’s teams. We partook in their pregame tradition of eating meat pies and then headed to the train that went into the city. My first impressions of the MCG was how freaking huge the stadium was. It not only has 100k seats, but also a massive field. The field size of footy is unregulated but the MCG has one of the largest playing fields with an oval size of 172 m by 147 m. Way bigger than an American football field.
And for a sport analysis of the game, as told by an amateur…
The game was close the entire time. Richmond was dominating offensively but they could not get any goals (6 points) but settled for many behinds (1 point). This let Collingwood stay in the game until the very end when it looked like Richmond was about to pull away. Richmond was up by about 20 points in the 4th quarter. Somehow Collingwood staged a comeback and was down by 5 points with just a couple minutes left. They managed to get a goal with literally just seconds left in the game to win by a total of 1 point. By the far most exciting game of the season up until then and we were there along with 72k other people! Almost all of those people joined us on the train back home so it took forever… But it was well worth it and a great experience!
Day 8 – Last Day in Melbourne
The final full day in Melbourne was really our only somewhat lazy day of the entire trip. We were pretty go go go the entire time. We still managed to get out and go checkout the Dandenong market to buy some souvenirs and sample some food. Beth had to show me where she student taught at so we stopped by the school. Luckily Margot works there so she got us in on that Saturday. We also said our goodbyes to the water and laid out at Edithvale beach for a couple hours. For dinner we had a grand ole bash at the greyhound racing track at Sandown with almost all of our friends. Kind of ironic as Sandown was the same place Beth had her last meal in Melbourne three years ago. We said our goodbyes to all of our friends, as the next morning we were taking a flight to Queenstown, New Zealand.
Final Thoughts on Melbourne
We absolutely loved the Melbourne area it is pretty amazing how much is available. There are beaches, mountains, a great city, many cultures, gardens, and so much more all within easy reach. It is no wonder why it is rated as one of the best cities to live in the world. Honestly, it would be tempting to live there the only problem is it is so far away and expensive too! With all that said the people truly made the trip. Having such wonderful friends show us around Melbourne and make us feel part of their families was an amazing experience. Both Beth and I would love to come back again. In the mean time any of our friends are welcome to come and visit us in the USA! We can show you around Indianapolis and some of our other favorite parts of the country!