Melbourne was, for the 6th year running, named the most “live able”city in the world, from a report by the Economist. This ranking was derived from 30 factors related to safety, health care, educational resources, infrastructure and the environment”, and apparently they came out tops.
We decided to start off our trip by taking the overnight flight from Singapore to arrive in Melbourne the following morning saving some time in the process and letting our bodies recover before our road trip the following Monday.
From the airport, most people opt for the following to arrive in the city:
- Self Drive
- Sky Bus (https://www.skybus.com.au/)
I wouldn’t usually recommend 1 especially after a long / overnight flight, and certainly not 3 as well due to the high cost but if you are travelling in a group of four it is likely cheaper to take the taxi, since the cost of the Sky Bus from the airport is higher.
It costs about AUD19.00 one way for a single person for the Sky Bus, whereas we spent AUD65 on a taxi for 4. Like most airport shuttles, the Sky Bus will drop you off to most hotels (Sky Bus will stop at Southern Cross Station, and they will bring you there on a smaller shuttle). If you are using Airbnb like I did, you can easily check the location of your apartment to see the proximity to the hotels they go to (https://www.skybus.com.au/free-hotel-transfer-service/participating-hotels/). The journey on the taxi took about 30 minutes, so expect the Skybus to take probably 15 minutes more.
Anyway, we arrived in Melbourne City close to 12pm and we were fortunate enough to be able to check in our nice little apartment at The Istana, a condominium that seemed to serve Asian tenants exclusively.
Unfortunately, I don’t have photos of the apartment but you can check them yourself – pictures are identical to what you would get.
I’ll do a separate post on why Airbnb is such a fantastic idea for travellers these days – it really helped me to bring down the costs of our trip.
We didn’t get to do much on the first day since I wanted my folks to take it easy on opening day especially after a mostly sleepless night on the plane, so our main jobs were to get connected and to explore a bit before having an early night.
Internet connection was always going to be critical on our trip since we were going to be heavily reliant on google maps (for those without a data connection, you can consider the app maps.me which has pretty comprehensive offline maps and navigation tools). In Australia by and large there are 3 main telco companies
- Yes Optus
The various data plans were rather complex, so I went with the Telstra, which offered 2GB and substantial talk time. The data was always going to be the most important for me, so I needed one that had enough to last me 2 weeks.
You can buy sim cards almost everywhere, from the telco shops (Yes Optus has one in the airport), electronic stores (JB Hi Fi), to supermarkets like Woolworths and Coles. I would suggest doing at the telco stores since the staff can help you to activate it and provide some after sales service in case something goes wrong.
We did a simple lunch at the Emporium food court since we were going to have a more pricey dinner at Miss Katie’s Crab Shack, a Louisiana style seafood place somewhat similar to Dancing Crab in Singapore.
Since it was relatively early, we decided to takeaway back to our apartment. We opted for the Seafood Boil, Fried Chicken Waffles, and Soft Shell Crab burger.
The taste? Not too bad but slightly overrated. Ironically the Fried Chicken Waffles turned out to be the best dish.
Day 2 was spent mostly at Queen Victoria Market, arguably the most recognized market in Melbourne. It’s open Tuesdays and Thursdays – Sunday, but I would recommend going on the weekends which I believe most stores are open and when the market is the busiest.
It’s a good mix of fresh produce, local food stuffs, and the usual tourist shops selling t-shirts and souvenirs.
What I was particularly impressed with was the cleanliness of the fresh food area, something you rarely see back home in Singapore. The floor was hardly even wet and you would struggle to smell the seafood and poultry in the air.
Unlike Borough market, the food stalls are relatively lesser but we did try out some of the recommended food over there, like the American Doughnut Kitchen.
Fresh, warm, jam-filled doughnuts coated with icing sugar that was pretty good value for money (AUD5.50 for 5)
Before dinner, we took a walk at Degraves Street, known largely for its cafes and people watching.
Right at the entrance of the street we encountered probably the best doughnut we’ve ever had in our lives – Doughnut Time. I’ve never seen any doughnut stuffed with so much filling that it’s almost criminal.
The drawback though, was the price. At AUD6 it’s probably not something you would have on a regular basis. Still, it’s something you definitely shouldn’t miss when you see it.
We capped off the day exploring Chinatown, and having dinner at one of the more popular dumpling spots in Melbourne, Shandong Mama