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If Sydney is Australia’s beating heart, then Melbourne is its vibrant soul. The cultural capital and second largest city in Australia, Melbourne exudes its aesthetic energy in every cup of coffee, architectural marvel and street art installation it has on offer (and that’s just one city block!). Take one stroll down its elegant tree-lined streets and you’ll find that it’s no small wonder that Melbourne is consistently ranked among the world’s most livable cities.
Melbourne is the city of secrets, one that prides itself on discovery and exploration of its many alleys and hidden venues. Though alleys in many metropolitan cities conjure a feeling of stashing away its dirtier inner-workings in plain sight, Melbourne’s labyrinth of alleys, or more lovingly referred to in local parlance as Laneways, invite discovery. Within its maze of laneways hold some of Melbourne’s best bars and cafes, shopping walks and graffiti-adorned urban art galleries. Not that your intrepid visitor is not welcome in these local hotspots – you’re just expected to put in the work to find them like everyone else. Part of the joy of life in Melbourne is cracking its cosmopolitan exterior and discovering the cultural mélange just off the main streets. Oh, and there will be plenty to find within. Melbourne is at the cutting edge of cuisine and coffee, with a penchant for tucking away its best in the unlikeliest of places. From world renowned cuisine served in humble cafés, indulgent degustation menus plated in outdoor spaces from food trucks, to community minded kitchen co-ops designed to break the conventional restaurant model; Melbourne is constantly looking to surprise and innovate.
Melbourne is a city best explored on foot, yet it’s largely defined by its hodgepodge of distinct local suburbs. This may seem incongruous at first, but it’s resolved by its extensive network of trams, trains and buses that make even its furthest suburbs easily accessible for travelers of all speeds. The free tram circling Melbourne’s Central Business District (or CBD) is a tourist staple as well as a commuting gem for the thrifty local. It’s a city that moves with purpose, but encourages you to hop off and explore when a little café, park or art installation piques your interest. Explore Melbourne’s alternative side in ultra-trendy Fitzroy, flush with vintage stores and excellent bars. Marvel at the flashy entertainment-rich Southbank along the Yarra River where large towers along the Crown Casino send plumes of live flame into the sky every night of the week. Hop a tram to the glamorous Docklands and ride the Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel and catch the best views the city has to offer. Or if you’re young at heart and have party on the mind head to St. Kilda’s wild clubs, where you can party quite literally from Friday night until Monday morning without ever leaving the club (though we’ll forgive you if you want to call it a night after one – rather than three).
When you’re feeling well fed, caffeinated and all cultured out, the fabulous St. Kilda Beach serves as oasis from the bustle of city life. Take a dip in the cool, crystalline ocean before joining the throngs of bronzed bodies sunbathing on the warm sand – all a short tram ride from the CBD. While Melbourne enjoys its own natural coastal beauty, it also serves as the gateway to three of Australia’s most stunning outdoor getaways. Phillip Island, a breezy local beach destination where you can witness the nightly Penguin Parade – an adorable march of local Blue Penguins returning to their nests for the evening. Yarra Valley, a wine-lovers paradise of expansive vineyards and local wineries producing world renowned wines just an hour from Melbourne. Finally, the absolutely essential Australian road trip – The Great Ocean Road, 150 miles of pristine winding coastal road delivering you to everything from hidden sandy beaches tucked away around every bend, to the stunning Twelve Apostles – a series of limestone stacks standing triumphantly on the coast, slowly eroding back into the ocean.