Monday, 11 August 2014

Melbourne 3 ways

As a traveller you can attack travel in many ways; solo, with friends, lovers, locals, tourists only, on a budget, with expense. You can escape to the country or basque in the hustle of a bustling night space. For me, I say why not do all of them?

I've travelled around before, domestically and internationally, chosen a style and stuck with it but nothing beats doing it all in one trip. this daring palette of literature I endeavour to plate up a hunger for truly adventurous travelling and open minded experiences. Get ready, your about to dive into Melbourne 3 ways.

Melbourne- sightseeing style
Ever had a dining experience that awakened all of your senses, kept your taste buds entertained all night leaving you with memories that lasted beyond the occasion? This is what the Great Ocean Road will provide.

The Great Ocean Road is a stunning stretch of the Victorian coastline about 1 hour and 50 minutes from Melbourne's Tullamarine Airport. Whilst it technically begins at Torquay I highly recommend beginning your seaside journey with a quick stop off at Geelong Waterfront. A coffee at Baveras Brasserie on Cunningham's Pier cannot be missed. The staff are friendly and the view stunning. Here you are bound to set a relaxing tone for your special holiday.

Baveras Brasserie stunningly located at the edge of Cunningham's Pier

Beyond here you'll find Torquay on the fringe of the Great Ocean Road- its the first glimpse of the coastline to come. It also boasts the world's largest surf museum, Surf World, that would interest anybody- the display demonstrates the interesting innovations that saw the development of surfboard technology over time; well worth the $12 entry fee. In Torquay you'll also find a cafe restaurant right on the beach, Bomboras, that boasts a mean chocolate chip cookie, lovely wooden deckchairs and of course a very relaxing view. Make sure you head to the observatory deck on top of the cafe too to snap up some pictures of the bay.

Torquay- where the awes begin

After Torquay you'll encounter Angelsea which is a small yet quaint town, you will also encounter several beautiful little specialist cafes and wineries just off the main road- experience them. In fact you will find there are many places throughout the entireity of the Great Ocean Road that you will want to stop off at so I suggest you have an idea of how far you want to drive, your must sees and how much time you want to spend at each place, then you'll know how much 'play' time you have because on the Great Ocean Road you will want to be flexible.
Speaking of stop offs if you are worried that you might not be able to capture the images you find on Google fear not- the road has many landings to park your car and soak up the views. Do pull over and soak it up, also make sure you get off the beaten track, some of my best experiences were stopping where no one was (and where no signs labelled the destination) because you saw completely unspoilt views of the magnificent landscape that is The Great Ocean Road.

A secret unspoilt view of the precious landscape.
Now onto Bells Beach. Well to many the name says it all, surfing mecca of Australia where surfing is made famous every year by the Quicksilver and Ripcurl Pro Surfing competitions. What is not explained to Australians or Internationals alike is that the locals are one with the ocean here. They know it inside out, they live it, breathe it, love it and most of all aren't afraid of the ocean's sheer power. When I visited I spoke to a father of  a boy about 13years of age and I asked him about the temperature of the water and whether he was worried about the waves (about 1.8metres and dumping heavily at the edge of the beach). He informed me that it was typically 13 degrees in winter and that he never feared the water or its power because they had grown up learning about it, understanding how to time the waves, the dangers of the sea and what to do should anything happen. Surfers of all ages frequent the water all year around here and you can see why, the sets never stop rolling in and the water is stunning. You will encounter males, females, teenagers, 60year olds, young children, nonchalantly removing their working attire to get amongst the waves- in their droves. It is something else. For non or amateur surfers its pleasurable within itself sitting on the dunes and cliffs and witnessing the talent carve up the waves, completing tricks we only dream about. Next stop?

Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia

Lorne. Lorne is a lovely town that is probably the most picturesque with the most facilities until you get to St Petersburgh. It has great little shops, the beautiful and easily accessible Erskine Waterfalls and a local pub with postcard views. Enjoy a beer there or take a drive further along the main road to Lorne Pier to soak it all in. Unfortunately however you will pay a lot more for meals in Lorne because it is a high tourist area which is made popular by tourists frequently. Don't skip it, just be prepared for some more hefty prices.
Picture perfect Lorne
Erskine Waterfalls, just 5 minutes outside of Lorne, super peaceful

After Lorne there are several lovely little towns, many of which would make for excellent beverage stops if you can take turns driving and are lighter on the wallet. If going solo and driving back on The Great Ocean Road on your return to Melbourne make sure you have Wye River on your list. Locals enjoy soccer on the beach in the afternoons with branches as goal posts and you can meander across the road later for a refreshment at the local which has elevated views of the ocean.
Wye would you pass up these views? -Wye River Pub, Great Ocean Road, Victoria. 

Of course there are plenty of locations you can choose to stay at throughout the 200 plus kilometre journey on The Great Ocean Road, it simply depends on your style. I chose to use Airbnb so that I can experience it the local way. AirBnb is an online website whereby people list rooms or whole houses for rent and they include breakfast, as your host is typically present you get local knowledge and breakfast included in the price. My accomodation was located in Skenes Creek just 6km north of Apollo Bay (Lorne side). It was a perfect location as it was easy to go to Lorne quickly, a super fast trek to Apollo Bay (and the ridiculously cheap and tasty fish and chips in the main street) and the turn off to Otways National Park and Treetop Adventures (and the 2hour fast track back road to Melbourne airport) was 700 metres down the road. Each day I woke up with a lovely view of Apollo Bay, breakfast and travel tips for a ridiculous $70 a night. Needless to say I highly recommend AirBnb. This was the first time I used AirBnb as a solo traveller and I will be doing it again. My host was a male who lived on his own but I wasn't worried at all (thanks to plenty of great reviews that gave me superb insight), he was helpful, entertaining and fun but I guess you can expect that from a piano playing fisherman.

The stunning view of Apollo Bay from my $70/night Airbnb accommodation.

Beyond Skenes Creek and Apollo Bay there is so much I could write about and in detail so instead I'm going to write a list of must-do stop offs on the way.

  • Apollo Bay Hotel- dinner approximately $24 for a main meal, food was tasty.
  • Apollo Bay Fish and Chips- located in the main street, too cheap and tasty to miss. Skip the fish and chips in Lorne and get twice the amount for half the cost here!
  • Cape Otway Lighthouse- the most important lighthouse for Australia. Wonderful views but you will definitely need a good jacket in winter and hats secured tightly as the wind gets up! It was 39 knots the day I walked up.
  • Lavers Hill- one of major final fuel stops prior to Port Stephenson, also has some cute cafes. Otway Treetop Escape is accessible from here, approximately 12km away.
  • Loch Ard Gorge and The Razor Back- MUST see. It is breathtaking. I sat there in awe, didn't speak, just captured it to memory until I realised I wasn't going to leave without an image of 'that' place. It was stunning. 
  • Gibson steps- many people stop here but few get on to the sand and enjoy the experience of being right near the cliffs and the first apostle. You have to do this. The water was surprisingly warm for the chilly 7 degrees I was experiencing on sand. I do recommend flip flops or thongs though.
Cape Otway Lighthouse

Gibson's Steps- a trek well worth the journey

Razor Back

So what if a driving tour and staying with locals isn't for you? Perhaps you just have time for Melbourne- you want to see a lot but save the pennies for those special purchases along the way or some crazy fun nights out? Then you'll want...Melbourne's budget beauties.

Melbourne's budget beauties
If you are off to Melbourne and would like to experience all the joys of the city whilst ensuring you are in a great location and have a nice place to stay there is 1 hotel that I can recommend with pure confidence that you will be in superb hands- Seasons Botanic Gardens. If you choose to stay here you will immediately feel at home when greeted by the receptionists. Located on St Kilda road, Google Maps will have you thinking it is well out of the city but it is in easy walking distance to everything you would want to see and bonus, you wake up in the morning looking at the Shrine of Remembrance and surrounding gardens.

Irrespective of wherever you decide to stay you should definitely use the following websites to make your holiday accommodation less expensive, leaving more money for experiences, shopping and special memorabilia. The websites to use for cheap accommodation are:
  • Hotel Club
Now for the exploring, there really is so much to be done and you can (if you want to) squeeze a lot in, in a day. Here are my tips:
  • Walk around the Botanic Gardens, have a picnic/take a book. Definitely take a camera
  • Visit the Shrine of Remembrance
  • Go to the AMCI centre in Federation Square- it is truly fantastic! I only went to the free exhibition however you can also pay ($15 or more) to see some superb shows. Don't miss the free exhibition! It was a highlight for me.
  • Art museums- all of them! They all have something special- again definitely do the free ones, if you want to see something specific pay for the special showcases.
  • Carlton Gardens- they are lovely (they also featured in Offspring!)
  • Take the free city circle tram, I'd recommend you do this first you'll get an idea of where you want to go in the next few days of your trip.
  • Take a walk in Southbank, it is very lovely- has art statues and a very lovely vibe- by now if you have done everything else you can enjoy a tasty feed in any of the delicious and ambient restaurants that line the bank. Also don't forget to take a snap of the city (the old and the new) from this side of the Yarra.
  • Go to Haigh's Chocolates on Collins Street and taste test some of their lovely chocolates for FREE!
  • Put some pennies on your myki and take a ride to St Kilda for a stroll along their beach and lovely café precinct
Melbourne from Southbank

Simple pleasures in the city
The Shrine of Remembrance, your view from Seasons Botanic Gardens.

Want to spend your last few moments in sheer luxury? Then for your last few nights in Melbourne swap the budget for some style.

Melbourne in style
Now before I go on let's be clear Melbourne has a lot of style. The city boasts culture from all over the world so you can indulge in whatever in is that you desire but for me Melbourne in style is about soaking up the loveliness on offer and taking time. So for this itinerary be prepared for comfort, style and a slow pace.

For those who don't know Melbourne is a city who's laneways are the life of the party, so it is here you will find many hidden treasures that make you feel like your discovery is special. Don't get me wrong however there is plenty to discover outside of these laneways as well. Either way here's my top tips for Melbourne in style.
  • Begin your day with a breakfast at Top Paddock where you can take the time to enjoy a delicious Eggs Benedict or get a little brave with some of their alternate menu choices.
  • Heading into the city for some exploration? Take a step back in time and enjoy the luxury of old English charm with a tour of Melbourne city by a horse drawn carriage.
  • For brunch head to Manchester Press and enjoy a seriously smooth coffee, ambient surrounds and great food. This little space is popular so try and beat popular eating times. You'll find this gem on Rankin Lane. It is also not far from Bourke Street Mall where all your shopping needs are sure to be catered for with high end boutiques in quaint laneways.
  • After brunch why not head to the Royal Exhibition Building learn about this World Heritage listed site and check out any exhibitions of interest. A truly stunning building that runs regular tours at a surprisingly small cost, you'll also be able to explore the beauty of the Carlton Gardens just outside.
  • Post brunch, its time to indulge in a lovely lunch. For me nothing says 'Melbourne' like Lygon Street and the Italian that is on offer. Stroll along the street and make your choice and enjoy a bottle of wine while you let the Italian chefs do what they do best...cook authentic Italian food.
  • When your done you can choose to stay in the city or head out to St Kilda and splurge on a 1.5hour treatment by the Spa Dreamtime crew that will leave you in blissful peace and ready for a relaxed night out.
  • Back in Melbourne and feeling a little peckish try one of these three places, Lindt Chocolate Café in Southbank, Gelato Messino for a cheap but ridiculously tantalising tastebud sesh or Burch and Purchese Sweet Studio. Enjoy there or take your treats with you to Hosier Lane to witness some amazing Graffiti artwork.
  • Come dusk there's one thing you are going to want to make a priority- Eureka Skydeck. Most hotels do provide discounts but for the view it really is still worth the full price. Check it out and definitely walk out on to the ledge to get the adrenaline pumping- you'll also force yourself to soak up the view, because no cameras are allowed. Why dusk? The view is perfect, you see the lushness of the city's parks and lights starting to brighten the sky just as the sun falls to sleep. Perfect.
  • Post here you can choose to eat at the restaurant on site, go somewhere else you discovered earlier in the day or head back to your hotel, enjoy a bath/spa soak and get ready for the last final stop off to make the day special...the cocktail bar. 1806 is a cocktail and wine bar with an amazing range of cocktails, liked by many Melbournians and known for its ambience, staff knowledge and great service. A great way to end a superb day I say.

Bourke Street Mall, a shopper's paradise.
Royal exhibition building tulips straight.jpg
Royal Exhibition Building & Carlton Gardens, Melbourne

Manchester Press, Rankin Lane, Melbourne, Victoria.
    So there you have it, Melbourne 3 different ways, with expense and style, sightseeing with local knowledge and on a budget. It really is possible to do it all, and it opens yourself up to meeting a very wide range of people- from homeless to hipsters and even potential moguls; for me that is what travel is about- immersing yourself in culture and taking away all the good everyone has to offer. I hope you enjoyed the post and that you make the locations mentioned a part of your 'to do travel list' for the future. Till next time...

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