Melbourne - Places to See

Exploring Melbourne
It is quite impossible to list everything that is available to the visitor arriving in Melbourne. However, in the larger context of the city, here is a fairly comprehensive list of the attractions all within walking distance of Flinders Street Station which is the psychological centre of the city.

An Overview of the City
There is an observation deck on Level 55 of Melbourne's Rialto Towers Observation Deck. It offers spectacular views over Melbourne as well as telescopes, guided tours and a kiosk. It is open from 11.00 a.m. - 11.30 p.m. every day of the year except Good Friday and Christmas Day. The views down the Yarra River and across Port Phillip are particularly impressive.

In the City Centre

Flinders Street Station
Completed in 1899 and located in the heart of the city, Flinders Street Station is a meeting place for Melbournians. There was a competition for the design and this attractive domed building was the winner.

Collins Street
In many ways the heart of the Melbourne. Well worth walking from one end to the other as it combines classic Victorian business architecture (the Old Treasury Building is an excellent example of Renaissance Revival architectural style) and modern skyscrapers (the Rialto Building). At the eastern end it is predominantly fashion shops (a kind of Victorian equivalent of 5th Avenue or, as some people would have it, the 'Paris' end of the street) and at the western end it is the business centre of the city. The Melbourne Club, established in 1839, is a symbol of the city's quiet and conservative approach to business.

Museum of Victoria and State Library of Victoria
Located eight blocks north of Flinders Street station at 328 Swanston Street, both the Museum and Library are well worth visiting. The Museum is recognised as having the finest collection of Aboriginal artefacts of any institution in Australia. Not surprisingly it has many interactive displays and regularly has special exhibitions. The State Library, opened in 1856 and extended in 1911, it has one of the largest concrete domes in the world. It is also notable for its unusual and attractive octagonal reading room.

Old Melbourne Gaol
Only two blocks away from the Museum and Library on Russell Street is the Old Melbourne Gaol. It is a very fine, if frightening, example of 19th century penal culture. During its life it saw the executions of 135 prisoners including, most famously, the hanging of Ned Kelly, Australia's most famous bushranger. It is open from 9.30 a.m. - 4.30 p.m. Contact (03) 8663 7228 for more details.

Rialto Towers Observation Deck
At 525 Collins St is Rialto Towers where visitors can pay for a ride to the top of the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. There are panoramic views and the entry fee includes an award-winning sight-and-sound experience, tel: (03) 9629 8222.

Walking along the Yarra
In spite of the cynicism of some the Yarra River (it was described in 1886 as 'Its banks are of mud, and its stagnant waters a mixture of sludge and filth') may be slightly muddy but it also happens to be attractive and there are many excellent walks along its banks. A pleasant walk is to cross the bridge at Flinders Street station, turn left and continue along the banks of the river through Alexandra Gardens to the excellent Royal Botanic Gardens. The river commonly has canoeists training and the banks, particularly on weekends, play host to many locals who come to sit under the trees and have picnics and barbecues.

Melbourne Aquarium
On the bank of the Yarra, at the corner of King St and Queenswharf Rd, is the Melbourne Aquarium where clear walk-through tunnels on four different levels offer viewers different marine environments, including an oceanarium, rock pools and billabongs. There are 3200 animals from 150 different species and three simulator rides which simulate dives with sharks and rides with dolphins. The complex is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., tel: (03) 9620 0999.

Southgate Arts and Leisure Precinct and Crown Entertainment Complex
The southern bank of the Yarra River has undergone considerable development over the past decade. The Southgate Arts and Leisure Precinct is now an attractive kilometre-long stretch of upmarket shops, cafes and restaurants opposite the CBD. It provides access to the tour boats that ply the Yarra, local motels and St Kilda Road with its numerous arts centres, galleries and attractions. The Crown Entertainment Complex and its riverside promenade are also popular attractions. For those who aren't planning on spending big there are usually street performers about, pleasant views, and take-away food outlets.

Royal Botanic Gardens and La Trobe Cottage
A pleasant 10-15 minute walk from the centre of the city, the Royal Botanic Gardens have evolved over 150 years into one of Australia's premier gardens. Highlights include the Ornamental Lake, the National Herbarium of Victoria, the Old Melbourne Observatory, the Australian Rainforest Walk, the Water Conservation Garden, extensive flowerbeds, plant specimens which were gathered by the botanist Joseph Banks who travelled to Australia with Captain Cook, shaded paths, extensive lawns, woodland areas, fern gullies, the Separation Tree (a red gum where the people of Melbourne celebrated in 1850 when they heard that Victoria was to be separated from New South Wales) and La Trobe Cottage which was once the home of Charles La Trobe, the first Governor of Victoria. The cottage was actually prefabricated and transported to Melbourne where it was assembled in 1839. The gardens cover an area of 36 hectares and include over 12,000 specimens. They were established in 1846 and developed by Ferdinand von Mueller.

Located on the southern bank of the Yarra, on the eastern side of St Kilda Rd, they are open from 7.30 a.m. to 8.30 p.m., from November to March, closing at 5.30 p.m. for the rest of the year, tel: (03) 9252 3200.

Victorian Arts Centre
Located at 100 St Kilda Road (just a short walk across the bridge from Flinders Street Station), the Victorian Arts Centre is notable for its mini-Eiffel Tower (a distinctive city landmark). There are guided tours of the complex and at night it offers a rich variety of cultural experiences as it is also the Melbourne home of the Australian Ballet, the Australian Opera, the Victorian State Opera, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Melbourne Theatre Company. It also includes restaurants and a Performing Arts Museum. Contact (03) 9281 8000 for details.

The National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is Australia's oldest and most-frequently visited art gallery. It boasts over 70,000 items in its permanent collection, including textiles, photography, sculpture, drawings and painting. The international collection includes old and new European masters, Greek and Roman antiquities, exhibitions of modern Asian and Oceanic artists and Rajasthani and Chinese paintings.

The Australian collection focuses on indigenous Australian art, both historical and contemporary, and non-indigenous works, tracing the depiction of landscape and early colonial culture. Australian classics include Tom Roberts 'Shearing the Rams' and Frederick McCubbin's 'The Pioneer'. The NGV regularly hosts major overseas exhibitions and its facilities include an excellent art bookshop and a restaurant.

It is currently housed at 285 Russell St, between Latrobe and Little Lonsdale Sts. In mid-2002 the Ian Potter Centre will open at Federation Square, It will house the gallery's Australian collection and, in mid-2003, the international art collection will return to the gallery's former abode at 180 St Kilda Rd, just beyond the Victorian Arts Centre. The Gallery is currently open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every day except Christmas Day, Anzac Day and Good Friday. Contact (03) 9208 0203.

Shrine of Remembrance
Located just off St Kilda Road (it is easy to see from the road), and just south of the National Gallery, is the Shrine of Remembrance which honours those soldiers who died in the two World Wars. Building commenced in 1927 and its Egyptian and Greek motifs reflect the way Australians remembered World War I. It has been designed so that on Armistice Day (11th day of the 11th month) if the sun is shining a shaft of light hits the word 'LOVE' on the Stone of Remembrance.

Cook's Cottage and Fitzroy Gardens
Four blocks to the east of Flinders Street Station are the Treasury Gardens and the Fitzroy Gardens. Both offer a cool respite from the city on hot summer days. The huge stands of trees in Fitzroy Gardens are particularly impressive. The gardens were designed in 1857 by Latrobe Bateman who, coincidentally, also designed the Union Jack pattern.

The central attraction here is 'Cook's Cottage'. When Melbourne celebrated its centenary in 1934 the cottage was moved, brick by brick, from Great Ayrton in Yorkshire. It was shipped in 253 crates. It came complete with a cutting from the ivy which had grown on the original building. Today the house is covered by the ivy. Those thinking that it is the home of Captain Cook are mistaken. It is actually the house of his parents. It is open from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. and is an integral part of most tours of the city.

Nearby, and surrounded by some particularly beautiful flower beds, is the Conservatory which holds regular exhibitions.

Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building
On the northern side of Central Melbourne, on Rathdowne St, are Carlton Gardens. They contain the domed Royal Exhibition Building which was erected in 1880 for the Great Exhibition and which, for 27 years, housed the State Parliament.

Melbourne Museum
Adjacent the Exhibition Building, in Carlton Gardens, is the enormous Melbourne Museum; a $290 million project which aims to provide visitors with a dynamic, sophisticated, high-tech, multimedia environment for "exploration, education and fun". Included are regular live performances, 3D IMAX and immersion reality theatres, living exhibits, night programs and public art.

The museum boasts six galleries. Bunjilaka is an Aboriginal centre which explores the culture, history and perspectives of south-east Australian Kooris through storytelling, art, cultural objects, discussions and performances. The Forest Gallery is a living interpretation gallery which recreates a Victorian temperate forest environment. It includes 8,000 plants from 120 different species, together with snakes, frogs, fish, birds and hundreds of insect species. The Mind and Body Gallery explores human physiology and medical history while the Evolution Gallery examines life on earth, micro to macro, from a Darwinian perspective. The Australia Gallery has a heavy bias towards the history of Melbourne while the wonderful Children's Museum is a gigantic and colourful playground full of visually interesting and stimulting attractions and activities. There are also places to eat, a two-level museum shop, an amphitheatre, a theatrette and underground parking. The museum is open daily all year round from 10.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., tel: (03) 8341 7777.

Queen Victoria Market
The 'Queen Vic' is both an historic landmark and a shopping institution which dates back to 1866 (the facade was added in 1878). Part of the complex sits on Melbourne's first cemetery. Traditionally a wholesale fresh fruit, vegetable and seafood market, it now combines these with a vast range of shopping possibilities in food, clothing, toys, trinkets, new-age items and other produce. It is situated on the northern side of town, on Victoria St, by the Peel St corner. The markets are open from 6.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Fridays, 6.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. on Saturdays and 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. on Sundays.

Melbourne Cricket Ground, the Australian Gallery of Sport and the Olympic Museum
The MCG is known and loved by cricket fans around the world. It can lay claim to being the home of cricket in Australia. It was here, as early as 1862, that the first international cricket match was held and in 1877 the first England-Australia test was also held on this ground. It is a ten-minute walk from Captain Cook's Cottage.

The main attraction is the Australian Gallery of Sport & Olympic Museum which documents Australian Sporting History and its cultural significance through a vast quantity of interesting sporting memorabilia, including the 1956 Olympic cauldron and wild olive branches awarded in the 1896 Athens Olympics. Audio tours are also available. The complex is accessible via the Members Entrance of the MCG in Yarra Park, East Melbourne and it isopen daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03) 9657 8879.

Historic Melbourne
Melbourne has a vast number of historically significant buildings. People interested in exploring the history of the city should obtain a free brochure 'A Cultural Guide to Melbourne and Victoria - Arts Museums Heritage' which has a brief description of many of the city's historic highlights and provides an easy-to-read map.

Similarly the National Trust put out a brochure titled 'Properties You Can Visit in Victoria' which provides detailed information on Como in South Yarra, the First Government House in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Government House, the Gulf Station at Yarra Glen, the Melbourne Maritime Museum in South Melbourne, Old Melbourne Gaol and Rippon Lea at Elsternwick. It is free and can be obtained from the National Trust Gift Shop, 38 Jackson Street, Toorak. Contact: (03) 9241 9385.

Suburban Melbourne
Again there is now way of doing the city justice. Here are a few of the most popular destinations in suburban Melbourne.

Royal Melbourne Zoological Gardens
Ten minutes north of the city, at Elliott Avenue, Parkville, is the outstanding Melbourne Zoo. Founded in 1862, it covers 55 acres and is recognised as being at the forefront of contemporary thinking about the humane housing of zoo animals. One of the great attractions is the lion display where, in a neat inversion, the people are in the cage and the lions wander around outside. The Zoo has established bioclimatic zones such as Asian and African rainforests and an Australian Bush Zone which recreate the appropriate environs for such creatures as pygmy hippopotamuses, gorillas, Sumatran tigers, mandrills, koalas, echidnas, goannas, kangaroos, Asian otters, an underground wombat burrow and about 350 other species. There is also a beautiful Butterfly House with over 1000 butterflies, a platypus house, an underground wombat burrow, a walk-through aviary and a seal pool. For details of opening times contact (03) 9285 9300.

The zoo is open daily from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and, in the summer, it remains open, on selected evenings, until 9.30 p.m. for Zoo Twilights when musicians play at the bandstand and visitors can bring a picnic dinner, pre-order a hampster or choose freshly cooked items from the Zoo-B-Cue. In winter there are guided nocturnal tours for small groups. The zoo also offers special Zoo School tours, overnight camping programs, early-entry breakfast tours and after-hours 'Rainforest Ramble' cocktail parties.

Acland Street, St Kilda
St Kilda is one of Melbourne's most chic suburbs - a neat mixture of beachside resort and pleasant cafes. Acland Street is ideal for a walk as it is rich in food shops with a decidedly international flavour - cake shops, bistros, coffee houses, bars and cafes. While there make sure you go to the beachfront.

Rippon Lea, St Kilda
Located at 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick is the huge Romanesque mansion of Frederick Thomas Sargood. It took nearly two decades (from the late 1860s to 1187) to complete. Today the 33 room house with its extensive gardens and ornamental lake is one of the most impressive residential houses in Australia. It is run by the National Trust and is open daily from 10.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. Contact (03) 9523 9150 for additional information.

Como, South Yarra
South Yarra and Toorak are generally recognised as Melbourne's expensive suburbs. Traditionally the home of the city's wealthy business people, and the residence of the wealthy farmers and graziers when they came to the city, the two suburbs are well worth visiting to see what 'class' means in Melbourne. If you want to inspect a house in the area, Como, now owned and operated by the National Trust, is a typical grand residence. Built for Edward E. Williams, the colonial advocate, in 1847 it was added to in 1855 by John Brown (a merchant and master builder) and again in 1874 for the pastoralist Charles Armytage. It is a classic example of the affluence that Melbourne enjoyed during the gold rush era. It is located on Como Avenue, South Yarra. For more information contact (03) 9241 2500.

Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Indisputably the trendiest part of Melbourne Brunswick Street is pure 'inner city hip' characterised by cafes, bars, alternative theatre venues, record shops, left-field clothes shops and an ambience which is tolerant of minorities and eccentrics. It is one of the most vibrant parts of the city.

Lygon Street, Carlton
A little piece of Italy in the heart of suburban Melbourne. It is claimed (another claim that is hard to prove) that nowhere outside Rome will the traveller find a greater concentration of pasta restaurants. Certainly there is a wonderful sense of excitement and exuberance and the street is always well patronised as Melbournians know they will eat well when they make the trip to Lygon Street.

Carlton BrewHouse
Fosters Lager and VB (Victoria Bitter) are two of Australia's most famous beers. They are known throughout the world and are hugely popular in both Australia and Europe. They also happen to be brewed in Melbourne. It is now possible to visit the Carlton BrewHouse to, as the publicity says, 'experience the pride, spirit and tradition of one of the world's greatest breweries'.

To quote the brochure: 'The Carlton BrewHouse and Brewery Tour presents the age old art of brewing in an innovative and entertaining way ... At the BrewHouse you can explore the historic memorabilia while visiting one of the most modern breweries in the world.'

The BrewHouse includes: 'The Centre's Icebreaker - A Hundred Years of Cheers, is a sensory experience which will transport you through a century of beer ... you can test your beer appreciation skills and create the perfect beer in an interactive module.'

There are also sections on Carlton's association with sport, on Victoria's pubs and publicans, on beer ads and promotions and on the evolution of transportation from the Carlton Clydesdale Team to the modern nationwide distribution networks.

There are also brewery tours personally escorted by CUB guides. These include a complimentary tasting of the famous CUB draught beers.

Getting There
The Carlton BrewHouse is 4km from Melbourne. Tram 42 or 109 can be caught in Collins Street. Alight at stop 22 in Victoria Street, Abbotsford, for a short walk to the Centre. Bus and Car Parking are available.

Notes for the Visitor
Wear flat, covered shoes. There are numerous stairs within the Brewery which is an operational worksite. Therefore workplace safety is a major priority. Booking is essential. For tour times and admission charges contact tel: (03) 9420 6800 or fax: (03) 9429 4995.

Some Basic Information About the City
Melbourne is known for its changeable weather what ever the season so be prepared for cool weather even in the middle of summer.

Getting Around the City
Melbourne's international and domestic airport (Tullamarine) is 22 km north east of the city centre. The Tullamarine freeway makes it a fairly quick and painless trip. Skybus shuttle service runs every half hour between the airport and Franklin St. depot in the city. Like all big airports it caters well for the international traveller. Many car rental firms have desks at both the international and domestic terminals, taxis are easily procurable. The major bus companies, Bus Australia, tel: (03) 9670-2211 and Greyhound/Pioneer, tel: (03) 9664 7888 have an extensive network for interstate travellers. Interstate train travel is easy and frequent for information and bookings, tel: (03) 9619 5000.

Melbourne's public transport , the Met, is an integrated system incorporating bus, suburban railway and the famous trams. Trams are the cornerstone of the public transport system. They clearly marked and easy to use. Melbourne is laid out in a grid pattern, north-south, east-west and the trams run accordingly. The City Circle Tram, painted cream and burgundy, runs around the Central Business District every 10 minutes. It is free.

The transport Information Centre will help with any queries they offer a 'Discover Melbourne' kit which is informative and well worth getting tel: (03) 9617-0900. There are plenty of taxis in the city and car rental firms are well represented.

Where to Eat
Melbourne is considered, at least by Melbournians, to be the culinary capital of Australia. The variety of restaurants is endless. The central business district has many excellent restaurants but it is worth noting that the outlying areas also have superb eating houses. There are a number of food guides put out to help the confused traveller. Dining in Melbourne is put out by the Melbourne Tourism Authority not only tells you the names and the types of restaurants there are but includes a map to show you there location. The Age Newspaper also produces a Good Food Guide for Melbourne and can be picked up at most newsagencies.

Like any large city Melbourne has a wide range of tours. Not surprisingly most of the city hotels have all the information for the traveller to make a considered judgment as to the tour to suit their needs and budget. Some of the well known ones include:

* AAT Kings Coaches offer a large selection of coach tours around Melbourne and further afield in modern air conditioned coaches, tel: (03) 9666-3363

* City Explorer is a double-decker bus which operates hourly from Flinders St. Station and calls at the main points of interest around the city.

* City River Cruises; M.V. Melba Star gives the sightseer a wonderful 1 hour cruise on the Yarra River. Luncheon and dinner service also available, tel: (03) 9650-2214

* Kestral Helicopter Tours offers a variety of tours by helicopter, a wonderful way to see Melbourne and her surrounds, tel: (03) 9629-4452.

* Melbourne Out and About Heritage Walks offer a conducted historical walk through Melbourne with informative talks about this beautiful Victorian city and her architecture, tel: (03) 9241-1085.