Melbourne is a city oozing genuine charm. Sophisticated without pretense, hip but not too self-consciously so, Melbourne appeals to visitors interested in an authentic slice of Australian urban life. Built on a coastal plain at the top of the horseshoe-shaped Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne ranks high on all kinds of quality of life surveys, attributes that make it a must-see if you’ve made the trek to this part of the world.Photo courtesy of GordonBellPhotography
Beyond the usual attractions, there are things about this likable city sure to surprise. Explore one or all of these 10 things you didn't know about Australia's most Oz-some destination.
1. What's a laneway?
Investigate the lane less traveled with this hyperlocal approach to the warren of secret galleries, hidden shops and cafes that dot Melbourne’s 135 "laneways," local speak for atmospheric neighborhood alleyways. Meltours works with in-the-know local guides determined to reveal the city’s underbelly along back alleys, hidden spaces and obscure addresses. A laneway in Melbourne — Photo courtesy of _TC Photography_
2. Spy the best skyline views
Although it's located just minutes from Melbourne’s central business district, a visit to Sandridge Beach in Port Phillip transports you to another world. Located close to the Tasmanian ferry terminal, Sandridge Beach delivers spectacular views of Melbourne’s skyline. Long a gay-friendly spot, Sangridge also attracts dog-walkers and families for sunset viewing and picnicking.
3. Need to tee off?
Golf addicts will be pleased to know that the closest putting ops to town are at the Heritage Golf and Country Club, two exceptional golf courses adjacent to the Yarra Valley Lodge. About 45 minutes away, the courses are designed by golfing icon Jack Nicklaus, as well as artisan designer, Tony Cashmore. Before or after you play, enjoy a drink or munch at the on-site restaurant and soak up the beauty of the Yarra Valley.
4. Discover Degraves Street
If you are visiting Melbourne for the first time, you simply can't leave until you've experienced Degraves, a crowded alleyway in Melbourne that draws hordes of locals and tourists alike. Grab a seat at one of the many outdoor cafes for unparalleled people watching. Some of Melbourne’s best coffee cafes and quirkiest shops are here.Degraves Street — Photo courtesy of Alpha
5. Head here for retail therapy
Pay a visit to Sydney Road, the longest continual stretch of retail therapy in the Southern Hemisphere. Globally charged and internationally eclectic, you’re as likely to hear Hindi and French as you are Arabic and Turkish along this busy street. Fashionistas in search of funky frocks, upcycled duds and novelty treasures will find much to please. Keep walking and you’ll see the old Pentridge Prison, now a mixed residential project that retains a brooding air.
6. Where to take a spin
If you seek an adventure on two wheels, rent a bike and visit Lilydale to Warburton Rail Trail, the closest cycling opp to downtown. Super accessible, the easy-grade, 40-kilometer (nearly 25-mile) trail snakes its way through the Yarra Valley and follows the historic railway route through lush landscapes, wine lands and forested vistas, before winding up in Warburton, an old mining town reborn, thanks to the spike in recreational cycling.
7. Seek out local sounds
Like New Orleans, Nashville and Berlin, Melbourne is a city defined by its music scene. Live music is everywhere in Melbourne, from the surprisingly accomplished street buskers to a slew of live music venues that spotlight acts every night of the week. Head to clubs in St. Kilda and just north of downtown, where the likes of Skyhooks, Hunters & Collectors and Nick Cave found their sound. A few spots to try include the Northcote Social Club, Tote, The Gasometer Hotel, the Old Bar and the Public Bar to experience the next big thing in indie, punk, rock and acoustic artists.Live music at the Esplanade Hotel, St Kilda — Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
8. Where the trucks roll
An average of 20 food trucks roll tasty cuisine all over downtown, providing fun and reasonably-priced dining options on the go. Check Where The Truck to find the best parking spots to visit Gourmet Pies for savory pies, La Revolucion for a new take on the humble hot dog and Nuoc Mama’s for excellent Vietnamese cuisine.
9. Connect with cricket
Even if you don’t know much about cricket, take a tour of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, a huge 100,000-seat venue that has played host to the biggest football and cricket matches in Australian history, as well as performers like Madonna, Michael Jackson and the Rolling Stones. Tour guides are fun and informative, taking you behind the scenes and on the field of this brilliant venue.Fans watch a cricket match at MCG — Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
10. Drink and draw
It might take one or two tipples to unleash your inner van Gogh, but Cocktails and Canvas sets the stage with themed classes, candlelight art, yoga and painting and dining options lubricated with plenty of cocktails, local wine and craft beer. You don’t have to be experienced to give it a try. It's super fun with a group of mates, even if you’ve all just met.
If you go: Here's all you need to know to get to and around Melbourne.