Melbourne in the morning
I was looking forward to finding out all I could about Melbourne so I decided to take a tour of this splendid city with the locals at Australian Natural Treasures Touring. The four-hour city tour was a great way to get to know the city, its people, culture, architecture and sporting prowess. Our driver Jeremy was also our guide for the day and being a local resident he was both passionate and knowledgeable about his city.
Docklands – Melbourne
Melbourne has been voted the worlds most liveable city for three consecutive years. I was picked up from outside my hotel in The Docklands, a rejuvenated area of the city which reflects the modern style of living within the city. I was staying in an apartment on the 22nd floor overlooking the docks. By day the view was terrific, at night it was simply stunning with the lights of the city producing a wonderful backdrop to the sparkling waters below us.
Looking out over the city from Melbourne Star
We set off in a modern, comfortable, air-conditioned Toyota Hiace Commuter 12-Seater minibus. As my wife and I we were the only passengers that day there was ample room for us to stretch out. The van was in pristine condition both inside and out and provided the best level of comfort possible for us both.
Jeremy described why he thought Melbourne was so special; its cultural diversity, the superb range of shopping, the fantastic food & wine in its restaurants, its sporting calendar, numerous artistic and musical events, the beautiful parks and gardens and it’s modern and classic historical buildings. There was so much to see we struggled to see it all in the four hours!
Highway crossing the Yarra River
We started the morning by leisurely driving the streets of cosmopolitan Brunswick and Carlton with our guide explaining what makes this area the heartbeat of this young city. We took a short stroll around the Queen Victoria Market which is popular with both tourists and locals showcasing a vast assortment of goods in a very vibrant atmosphere. Our journey then took in the many streets and boulevards of Melbourne city which highlighted the historical, cultural and geographical changes of the city over the last two hundred years.
MCG – Melbourne Cricket Ground
Melbourne was described as the `sporting capital of the world` in one journal I read and I had no reason to argue with that after touring the city which is home to the unique game of Australian Rules Football. Many other International sporting events are staged annually at various arenas around the city. International Test Cricket at the world famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), the Australian Open Tennis Finals at Melbourne Park and the Australian Grand Prix circuit at Albert Park. What surprised me was all of these major sporting events take place within a mile or two from the city centre.
I love coming home to Melbourne. The first thing I do is have a coffee. It’s just so much better here than anywhere else. It’s better than in Italy and I travel a lot. I crave it.
We stopped for a coffee in the “Italian Precinct” of Lygon Street which is home to a large concentration of Italian restaurants and is reputed to have been the birthplace of Melbourne’s “cafe culture”. The Italian café we went to could quite easily have been in Milan, Melbourne’s twin Italian city with a constant stream of lyrical Italian being shouted across the counters and framed pictures and football pennants of Juventus Football Club adorning the walls. The coffee was good too!
Italian Cafe – Lygon Street
We drove past the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Shrine of Remembrance before making our way down to Port Phillip Bay via the Grand Prix circuit. We drove down the esplanade and stopped off at the beautiful seaside suburb of St Kilda for some important photographs looking back across the water to the city from the jetty. Before returning to the city we came back along St Kilda Road, Melbourne’s finest boulevard.
Our Guide at the MCG
We were dropped off in the city centre so that we could take a look at the local street art at Hosier Street. I was disappointed with Hosier Street, the street art was not as interesting or as well executed as I expected it to be. I also visited Flinders Street Railway station, the main station building completed in 1909 is a cultural icon of Melbourne. Its prominent dome, arched entrance, tower and clocks are one of the city’s most recognisable landmarks alongside the controversial Federation Square (Fed Square) and the incredible Ian Potter Museum.
The Potter as it is known throughout the city presented a fantastic exhibition of historical and contemporary art as part of the University of Melbourne Art Collection.The indigenous art of the aboriginal peoples and pieces of Modern Australian Art made this one of the best galleries I visited in Australia.
I went for lunch at a pub called Young & Jackson to pay homage to Chloe! Chloe is a painting of a 19 year old girl who had caused quite a stir in 1875. Apparently many Australian soldiers visited Chloe before leaving to fight in the 1st World War. Many of the soldiers never returned so she was the last naked Australian woman they would have seen. Those that survived the war would visit Chloe at the pub on their return. A sensual painting to inspire the troops she later became adopted as a celebrated ANZAC icon beauty.
I could not have wished for a better introduction to the city of Melbourne. The tour covered almost every aspect of the city and by the end of it I knew a great deal more not only about Melbourne but about the history of Australia.
The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant
There wasn’t anything our guide did not know about his city and he provided an excellent well educated conversation laced with humour and friendliness. Ant touring not only do city tours they are one of the premier tour guides for the Great Ocean Road, Daylesford and Macedon Wine & Food tours, Steam trains and great wines, Melbourne to Adelaide as well as many different private tours to suit your own itinerary and interests.
If in Melbourne and you want an excellent tour of the city or if you are looking for a tour of the Great Ocean Road for two or three days I would recommend you check out ANT Touring.