Eerie Tours Ballarat (1 hr 15mins northwest of Melbourne) is an excellent alternative experience to have if you don't want to follow the tourist crowds to Sovereign Hill. With stories covering many eras in Ballarat's history, the awful tales are another view of the beautiful and world renowned town. With ghost stories and history stories all bases are covered.
People who enjoy seeing different things to the usual will love this tour, and everyone will be taken in by the guide's flamboyance and passion for his topic. This tour does not employ the use of cheap tricks or tacky cliches... history and strange occurrences are the basis for all stories. It is a pleasure to watch someone with a breadth of knowledge and tour guiding experience ploy his trade!
Aussie chow is essentially a mish-mash of external influences - Italian, Greek, Asian and in recent years, Northern African. This truly melting pot of culinary influences leave plenty of virgin grounds for one to go and fully explore what is essentially "Aussie" cooking.
I recently went for a North African cooking class. Well, I was there to replace another colleague who couldn't make it but hey, since it was already paid for by the company, why waste it?
The class was conducted by the "The Essential Ingredient" Cooking School inside Prahran Market where I have a chance to refresh my memory on Moroccan cooking (having already done a class in Marrakesh)
4 hours on getting my hands all dirty with squeezed tomatoes, chopped garlic, onions and bellpeppers before eventually sitting down as a class to eat the food.
As far as I know, there are other cooking classes available though there are other cooking schools as well for you to choose from.
This is one of my personal faves. Around 2-3km onwards from Healsville Sanctuary, along Badger Weir Rd (Route C505) is hte Badger Weir Picnic area. They have set up picnic tables and free gas barbecues for cooking your favourite local meats. There are many wild birds, (Chrimson Rosellas, King Parrots, Kookaburra) which tourists feed with seed despite the warning signs discouraging this practice. You can take awalk up to the weir which is not that spectular but the walk is the real pleasure. You can take the easy way along the "channel" with a nice easy path or you can take the forest walk (which I prefer) thorugh magnificent temperate rain forest. Very Special.
The egglets and I were fortunate to see the very rare lyrebird up here in the wild last year. Believe me, they are extremely hard to see even in captivity at the nearby Healesville Sanctuary.
Make sure if you plan to go to Healesville, do not miss a trip to Badger Wier.
Wanna catch an exhibition but not willing to split a buck? Fret not. The State Library does hold exhibitions from time to time and most importantly, for purse strings conscious folks, they are free!
The building itself is an architectural marvel, built in 1856 and designed by celebrated colonial architect Joseph Reed. The much-loved domed reading room, built later in 1913, is the dominant feature. Natural light actually pierces the dome after a renovation in 1990 and now floods the reading room. Seen in an askewed way, it kinda reminded me of a starship!
Do note that this is a Library afterall....so this is not a place for you to be ooo-ing and ahh-ing your way through.
Entry into the Library is free but you are not allowed to bring bags in. You'll have to deposit your bags into lockers and depending on the size of the lockers, cost you from A$1 - A$3 per 6 hours.
Hmmm....leave your bags in the hotel room then?
This is a most intriguing activity...possibly a great way to draw the crowds out on a cold miserable wintery day to see a side of Melbourne most folks will never do.
For 1 day, free of charge, a number of Melbourne's buildings open up sections that the public would never get to see on a given normal day. You'll get to wonder through these buildings, realise and experience a side of the city you probably never knew existed.
Take 2008, 8 buildings in the CBD participated in the inaugural Open House Day.
1) The 6-stars "green" CH2 (Council House 2)
2) Melbourne Town Hall
3) Capitol Theatre
4) Manchester Unity Building
5) Plaza Ballroom, Regent Theatre
6) The Chapter House, St. Paul's Cathedral
7) St.Paul's Cathedral
8) The Labyrinth, Federation Square
Certainly hope it would be repeated in 2009 and beyond on a grander scale.
The rites of becoming a honarary "Melburnian" is only complete after you have been to your first Footy match.
For the uninitiated, it is not something kinky.
The Australian Football League (AFL) governs the game of Australian Rules Football, or as it is commonly known, "Footy", a mutation from Rugby and extremely popular in the state of Victoria. It has a long history that could be traced back to 1857. It is a sport that tugs at the heartstrings of every Melburnian household, men and women; young and old. I have never seen women spoke so passionately and fiercely about sport in my entire life! It's almost like life and death.
This is a sport that occupies the Autumn and Winter calendars of Victoria. Families deck out in their team colours, chant and rally to support their teams in stadiums around Melbourne (as well as in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, as there are inter-state teams) - all 16 of them in the League, during the weekends.
And going to a match is always something special - lots of sights and sounds - as expressions and human emotions explode around you abundantly, always vibrant but never hostile. This is a family game, mind you.
There are 4 quarters to a game and it's a fight to the finish. Teams try to send as many balls through the posts (6 points through the middle, and 1 point through the sides ones) - nothing too complex!
And the atmosphere on the trains can be electric as train loads of winning team supporters could break out into jubilant songs and cheers, which well, could colour your memories of Melbourne a shade sparkling!
Although not open to the public the Old Colonists Association is a great spot to take in some of the history of Melbourne.
The Old Colonists Association was founded in part by George Coppin who was a business man, philanthropist, member of parliament, founder of Sorrentoand many other notable institutions can be traced back to Mr Coppin.
He founded Old Colonists Association as a retirement home for the acting fraternity and the first cottages on the estate are still called "Founders Cottages" and can be viewed from Rushall Crescent, which adjoins the estate. A short walk along Coppin Avenue passes the oldest of the cottages, which date from 1869.
If you are interested in a guided tour of the estate, contact details below.
20 Rushall Crescent, Fitzroy North 3068
Close to Queens Parade where there is a tram to/from city
If you are looking foward to snow in Melbourne, rent a car in Melbourne (see my transportation tips for more details) and head towards Mount Buller. It is aout 4 hours drive from Melbourne city. But it only snows during the month of June/July (Av. temperature:-2 degrees celcius). Up at the village, there are many snow activities like snowboarding, skiing, sliding etc. Do becareful when you are driving at the top of the mountain as the roads are narow and may be slippery when icy.
If your into art, the 'Rose St Artists MArket' is fab.
With all different mediums, textiles, styles and ideas its a great way to catch the 'up & coming' talent in Melbourne.
Not only can you browse around, there is heaps of gear to buy.
Not as famous as Victoria Market, The South Melbourne Market, opened in 1867 is still one of Melbourne's most popular markets. It hosts a huge range of stalls including food, clothing, footwear, giftwear and produces.
Being less touristy, it goes by the moniker "The Local Economy", and Melbournians can go about their daily purchase without brushing shoulders with the "you"s and "me"s.
The surrounding Clarendon area is also home to much of Melbourne's alternative lifestyle culture. Incidentally, though not necessarily coincidental, it is also home to a number of cafes, restaurants and lifestyle shops.
The South Melbourne Market is located at the intersection of Cecil and Coventry Streets in South Melbourne.
Normal Opening Times:
Wednesday, Saturday & Sunday: 8.00am - 4.00pm
Friday: 8.00am - 6.00pm
CLOSED: Monday, Tuesday & Thursday & some Public Holidays.
To get to the Market:
* The City - catch the St Kilda light rail No 96 from Bourke Street, and get off at the South Melbourne Market stop. Ask your friendly light rail conductor if you are unsure.
* The City - catch the No 112 from Collins Street which take you along Clarendon Sreet, and get off on the corner of York St.
* The City - catch the No 109 from Collins Street which takes you to the corner of Clarendon Sreet and Normanby Road. Then transfer onto the No 96 or walk up Clarendon Sreet.
* St Kilda- catch the Fitzoy Street / St Kilda Beach tram No 12 from the corner of Park Street and Fitzroy Street St Kilda, which travels along Clarendon Street, and stops at York Street on the corner of Dorcas Street.
Side notes: If you are a lover of eggs and coffee, check out Cafe Sweethearts (which served great eggs!) and St.Ali Cafe (tucked incognito along Yarra Place).
Melbourne is home to long stretches of beaches, just an hour by trains from the city. They don't attract many tourists since they tend to be local beaches (and guidebooks tend to leave them out) but hey, if you are just dying to be roasted alive in front of the locals, well, slap on some sunblock, grab your trunks/costumes (and in the cases of some South Asian tourists, just their daks) and go spend some money on a train ticket!
The 2 train lines you should be considering will be the Sandringham and the Frankston Lines.
The Sandringham Line is home to Brighton Beach. Have you seen the 08 cover of the Lonely Planet Victoria? On it, it's a picture of an Australian flag painted onto a beach shack. Well, these (A$100000 and rising) shacks are on Brighton Beach.
Beaches littered the last few stations of the Frankston Line. So take your pick and pray for good sunny weather!
Come and discover the immigration history of Australia right down to settlement by the Europeans.
Located in the stately Old Customs House, the museum re-creates the real-life stories of coming to Australia with a rich mix of moving images, personal and community voices, memories and memorabilia.
As Australia grasps with its identity, walk steps backwards towards how Australia becomes what it is today: British settlements, Gold-rush triggered population explosions, "The White Australia Policy", The waves of Romanised and Grecianised immigration and finally, the arrival of the Asians.
There is a gallery, created to replicate the bunks in the ships that carried immigrants to their new homes, and relive their dread, sadness, misery and hope.
Read about personal experiences. I almost cracked into laughter reading about the story of an Italian wife, worried that there would be no condoms in Australia and had a suitcase of them. Read about racist treachery as you try "The Diction Test", used to deter no English speakers from entering "White Australia" of the 40s and 50s. Read about aboriginal sadness at the loss of their land. I remember the passage (in gist) that goes ..."As Australia celebrates its bi-centennial, the Aboriginal groups mourned".....
Opening hours and admission prices
Open daily 10am - 5pm
Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Adults $6, Concessions and Children free entry.
Additional charges may apply for temporary exhibitions.
Melbourne has plenty of architectural gems. Sown downright in your face; some shyly hiding away from sight.
There are too many, so I will just throw in a few that I have not mentioned in the other sections.
MELBOURNE ARTS CENTRE
The Arts Centre consists of two buildings - The Theatres Building and Hamer Hall.
Hamer Hall opened in 1982 while The Theatres Building opened two years later.
You can do a tour of this iconic complex (have not done it myself) with its antenna like structure.
Time: Monday to Saturday at 11am (including public holidays); Sunday (backstage tours) at 12.15pm.
Pricing: Adults: $11, Concessions: $7.50, Family: $27.50 (2 adults & 2+ children), Sundays $13.50.
PARLIAMENT OF THE STATE OF VICTORIA
You can't miss this imposing building along Spring Street on the far eastern flank of the inner city. Forever popular as a site for wedding shots. Work started in 1856 and additions were made till 1929.
You can do a tour of the building too (not done this yet) when Parliament is not sitting.
Public tours take place at 10.00 am, 11.00 am, 12 noon, 2.00 pm, 3.00 pm and 3.45 pm from the Vestibule.
MELBOURNE CITY BATHS
The Melbourne City Baths was first opened in 1860. In Melbourne’s founding years, a bathroom in the home was a luxury only the wealthy could afford and, for most, a weekly wash or dip in Port Phillip Bay or the Yarra sufficed. Unhygienic conditions eventually saw the bath being built for the poor. The architect was a well-known architect J J Clark, who also designed Melbourne’s Treasury Building. Melbourne City Baths is now a health, fitness and wellness centre with swimming pools, spas, saunas, gyms etc.
Melbourne has a number of museums and this little museum, tucked inside the building of the Old Treasury on the far eastern flank of the inner city, is a little gem.
Perhaps for museum aficionados only, this could be a place to wear away a couple of hours as you explore the displays explaining the rise of Melbourne into the city as it is today. The 4 permanent displays are "Making Melbourne", "Built On Gold", "Gold & Prosperity" and "Growing Up In The Old Treasury" which kinda sort of tell you that Gold is heavily featured in Melbourne's growth if you are not that dense! (You will see more than your bite size nuggets of glimmering gold, though don't expect them to be real....not by a million chance)
You'll see clothes, cutleries and other daily items put of display and learn a little bit about history as well. Bet you didn't know that Melbourne was once nicknamed Smellbourne due to extremely bad sewage systems in the 1880s. And then, there was the room, purportedly the scene for the discussion of federation among the states of Australia.
I like the "Growing Up In The Old Treasury" displays as you step back in time and relive the childhood memories of the Maynard family. John Maynard was the Old Treasury’s caretaker. From 1916 to 1928, John, his wife Emma and their eight children lived beneath the Governor’s office in one of Melbourne’s most prestigious Government buildings. Walk through the living rooms of their home, faithfully recreated from family records and recollections. You'll see real books, yellowed with age, still on the bookshelves and newspapers from the era, (protected of course) lying on the table.
The museum is located at Spring Street (top end of Collins Street).
Open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. 10am to 4pm, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays.
Closed on Good Friday, Boxing Day & Christmas Day.
Admission, All Areas (circa 2008)
Adult $8.50; Concession $5.00; Family $18.00
Seasonal Exhibitions (circa 2008)
Adult $5.00; Concession $3.00; Family $10.00
You couldn't tell the difference between a Van Gogh and a Monet? Heck, you don't even know who these creatures are? Too high brow? Too arty farty?
Or you are arty farty but too cheapskate to shell out a few bucks to go visit a museum or a gallery?
Fret not. Melbourne to the rescue.
Hidden among the little lanes around Bourke Street is Union Lane (look for the street sign announcing Union La; for Singaporeans, it will be Union La Lah ya?) and in between 2 buildings decked with things you must shell out money to buy, it's an entire street of graffiti.
Not the rough edgy "if you want her or him, phone XXX" kind, mind you...but high standard graffiti art that really put some of those so called contemporary artists/painters out there to absolute shame.
Take a stroll down this lane, it's bright enough, so no worries about muggers...and experience a tidal wave of colours enveloped you in.
You get your fair dosage of art (see, you got style) for the day, see a less known side of Melbourne and wouldn't even have to pay a single cent.
And for the even more adventurous, well, don't let alley ways and lanes deter you from finding and seeking out little delights. Sometimes, you may never know what you'll stumble upon.....though of course, a note, don't throw caution too entirely to the winds.