We Melburnians are fortunate souls. I felt this particularly keenly the other day as I cycled the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail for the first time. Surrounded by green, and with frequent easy access to public drinking taps, we cycled all the way from Brunswick to Tullamarine hardly ever seeing a car. I’ve long been a fan of the beautiful Merri Creek Trail, but the Moonee Ponds Creek Trail turns out to be equally lovely, even if it’s not quite as well maintained. As the trail winds along the creek, it takes you through stark industrial underpasses and lush parkland, including one of the prettiest picnic spots I’ve yet come across in Melbourne. The trail is 25km long, linking the Docklands with Tullamarine, with only a short on-road section in the quiet backstreets of Essendon. If you are in the mood for a full day’s ride, there are also connections to the Merri Creek trail and the Capital City Trail. For more information on the trail, visit the Moreland City Council website.
Heads up, people. The Queen Vic Night Market returns next Wednesday (5 November) for another season of yum food, cool tunes, twinkly lights and sweaty crowds. Yes, it’s full of overheating tourists and it can be nigh on impossible to find a seat, but come here on a balmy summer evening and you’ll feel like you’re on holiday (or perhaps you are on holiday — in which case, soak it up!). The market runs every Wednesday night until 25 March 2015 except Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. The Night Market Dates: 5 November 2014 — 25 March 2015 Time: 5pm–10am Where: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne
Recently I happened to be in Williamstown at dawn. As an inner-north dweller, I rarely see the sea — particularly not at this time of the morning — so my bleary eyes were stunned by the gorgeous views across the water. Williamstown itself, sunrise or no, is a super charming part of the world with its lovely historic buildings, large yacht club, botanic gardens and funny little beach located on the western side of the peninsula. Coming here feels like stepping into a far-off seaside town; it’s hard to believe it’s just 9km from Melbourne’s CBD. These photos were taken on a phone and they’re completely unedited, so what you see is truly what you get. Even if dawn isn’t your thing, this sunrise over the city really is worth the effort.
This isn’t going to be your average top ten list. Everyone can open a guide book and read about the Eureka Tower Skydeck, or the Melbourne Aquarium, or the latest glamorous restaurant. I’ll leave those ‘blockbuster’ attractions for you to discover on your own. Instead, this list is made up of personal recommendations from this Melbourne Local to you — specific aspects of Melbourne that resonate most strongly with me as a local. And, of course, they can all be done on a paper-thin budget. So, without further ado, let me present my top ten. 1. Walk the laneways. This is one of the first things I do with visitors. Melbourne’s laneways are one of its most characteristic features; this is where many of its most loved institutions — its street-side cafes, its hidden bars, its street art — can be found. So, try this short walking tour: Begin with the Platform Artists Group in Campbell Arcade, then make your way up through Degraves Street and into Centre Place. From here, ‘do The Block‘ in The Block Arcade, then …
Every Saturday, a hillside in the small township of St Andrews is overrun with falafel stands, vaguely tribal-looking jewellery stalls and general hippy-happiness. Like-minded types come from near and far to soak up the market’s relaxed atmosphere and sip tea in the Chai Tent, while a few music groups gather with violins, drums and earnest voices to serenade visitors. Located about 45 kilometres north-east of Melbourne between Hurstbridge and Kinglake, St Andrews is a picturesque little place, surrounded by rollings hills, farms and thick native bushland. It takes about an hour to drive here from Melbourne’s CBD, and luckily on Saturdays it is also accessible by public transport (take the train to Hurstbridge then catch the free shuttle bus to St Andrew’s Market). The scenery is as much a drawcard as the small market — those with cars should also take the opportunity to explore the surrounding area (nearby Kangaroo Ground is, well, a prime kangaroo ground). Even if you’re not particularly excited about palm readings and hessian clothes, the St Andrews Market is a …
Grab your dancing shoes, Melbourne, and practice that smouldering gaze because it’s time to tango. Every second Friday until March there are free tango classes in Federation Square led by performers from the Sidewalk Tango dance company. The classes are open to all skill levels and last for an hour and a half. For more info, check out this link, or visit Sidewalk Tango. The last class will take place on 21 March. Free tango classes Where: St Paul’s Court, Federation Square (or wet weather alternative) Dates: 24 January 2014, 7 February 2014, 21 February 2014, 7 March 2014, and 21 March 2014. Time: 5.30pm–7pm Tel: 9655 1900 Damage: free
If you’re new to Melbourne, one of the best ways to get to know the city is by tram. Melbourne is home to Australia’s only tram network, which is also the largest urban network in the world. Trams service not only the city but also the inner suburbs, so ‘tramming it’ is a great way to explore Melbourne’s different neighbourhoods. Here are three of my favourite tram routes to get you started: The Number 86: Bundoora RMIT — Waterfront City Docklands Jump on tram 86 on Elizabeth Street, near the GPO. You’ll travel past Parliament House, then up past the Carlton Gardens, which house the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building and the Melbourne Museum. Next you’ll travel along Gerturde Street, home to many boutique shops and restaurants, and Smith Street, a great spot for cheap shopping with its many factory outlets. Finally you’ll pass through Westgarth (look out for the lovely cinema) and up the hill to High Street in Northcote, famed for its great live music venues. Here I recommend finishing the trip — …
Melbourne’s beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens are not only regarded as the best botanical gardens in Australia, but also one of the finest in the world. Situated close to the CBD, the gardens cover 38 hectares and include over 10,000 native and exotic plant species. It’s free to visit the gardens, and from 14 December until 28 February you can also take free guided tours to learn about the gardens in a little more depth. The tours run every day except Mondays — a lovely way to spend a warm summer day. Royal Botanic Gardens Summer Discovery Walk When: 11am–12.30pm and 2pm–3.30pm Tuesday to Sunday (except 24 and 25 December and 1 January) Where: Meet at the Visitor Centre, Observatory Gate Address: Alexandra Avenue, Melbourne Damage: free
A few great Melbourne street art creations I’ve come across lately. (If anyone out there knows the names of the artists, please let me know and I’ll credit them.)
The 2013–14 season of the much-loved Night Market at Queen Victoria Market kicked off last week and will be rolling on all through the summer. If you’ve never visited this weekly shindig before, make sure you get there this year. You’ll find a mishmash of stalls selling everything from fashions to handicrafts to tarot readings, over 60 street food vendors and three stages showcasing local live music. Come here on a warm summer night and the place will be packed with locals and tourists soaking up the festive atmosphere. You can expect to pay between $8 and $15 for most stall meals, and there are a few licensed vendors selling alcoholic drinks, too. Check the Night Market website for weekly music line-ups and other details. The Night Market Dates: Running ever Wednesday until 26 February 2014 (excluding 25 December and 1 January) Time: 5pm–10am Where: Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne