© 2012; 2005 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & Anne Vize. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

Melbourne on Your Own

By Anne Vize

if Australia is on your mind for a holiday, don't overlook Melbourne. Many visitors head straight for the bright lights of Sydney or north to the lure of the Great Barrier Reef, but to do this is to miss a city that has a lot to offer.

Situated on the Yarra River, about five kilometers from Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne is a well-planned city, tidy yet vibrant with distinctive neighborhoods, attractive Victorian architecture, and many gardens and parks. It has interesting museums and galleries, cultural, entertainment, and sports activities really, something to appeal to every sort of visitor, from history hounds to sports fans to outdoor enthusiasts.

For the solo traveler, Melbourne is relatively safe to explore alone, by day or night, and getting around is easy on public transport. A range of accommodation options can be found in both the central business district (CBD) and around the nearby suburb of St Kilda. From either of these locations, the Metlink network of trams, trains, and buses is definitely the way to see the sights of Melbourne.

Free City Circle Tram

A great way of getting your bearings when you first arrive in Melbourne is to hop on the free burgundy and gold-colored City Circle Tram. Operating between 10am and 6pm every day of the year except for Christmas day and Good Friday, the City Circle Tram runs a 30-minute circuit along Flinders, Spencer, and La Trobe Streets with stops at the four main city train stations: Flagstaff, Parliament, Melbourne Central, and Flinders Street stations.

Day One in Melbourne

Start early in the day with a trip to Melbourne Zoo. Catch Tram 55 from Flagstaff Station (William Street), or on Sunday take Tram 68 from Elizabeth Street. Melbourne Zoo is located only minutes from the city center. Get off at Royal Park Station. The zoo is modern and well designed, with a strong educational and conservation focus. Be sure and stop for an up-close and personal visit with the gorillas, and don't miss the newly created Trail of the Elephants exhibit.

After a couple of hours at the zoo, take Tram 55 to Queen Victoria Market, one of the largest fresh produce and other goods markets around. Here you will gain a true understanding of the term "multi-cultural Melbourne," as sellers here come from Greek, Italian, Vietnamese, and Chinese backgrounds, to name a few. Established in 1878, the market is a pleasant place to wander, and perhaps to pick up a snack for lunch. Entry to the market is free.

From the market, walk across Peel Street to the Flagstaff Gardens and sit under the trees while you enjoy your lunch.

Walk directly across the Flagstaff Gardens towards King Street, and catch Tram 2 as far as Collins Street. Here you will find the Rialto Tower, which has an observation deck giving you a bird's eye view of the whole city. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Dandenong Ranges to the southwest, and right across Port Phillip Bay.

From the Rialto, hop onto a number 11, 12, 42 or 109 tram, and travel as far as Swanston Street. Walk down Swanston Street towards the Yarra River, one of the iconic features of Melbourne. This walk takes you past the city square and the beautiful St Paul's Cathedral.

Ride then Walk

Cross over Flinders Street to arrive at the newly constructed Federation Square, with its sharp, modern features and masses of glasswork. The Ian Potter Gallery is housed within the square, and entry is free.

Princess Bridge leads you from Federation Square across the Yarra River. Here, during the Moomba Festival in March, enthusiastic competitors can be seen leaping into the water below wearing all manner of outlandish costumes in pursuit of cash prizes and a few moments of fame.

A walkway and bike path lead from here either west through the Southbank shopping and dining area or southeast through a spectacular system of gardens.

If you still have energy left for exploring on foot, it is worth walking through the gardens to the Shrine of Remembrance and eternal flame, which were created as a memorial to those who died during the wars.

Chinatown for Dinner

A good option for dinner if you feel like a cheap, interesting night out is to head back into the heart of the city and pay a visit to Chinatown in Little Bourke Street. There is a large range of Chinese restaurants here, selling everything from a bowl of noodles to a gourmet banquet. Most of the restaurants have menus in the window, so you can stroll along and decide where you would like to dine before going inside.

Day Two Melbourne

From city center, catch Tram 96, which runs along Spring Street, Bourke Street then Spencer Street to St Kilda Beach. Get off at St Kilda Pier and take a walk on the soft, white sand. This inner city beach is surprisingly clean. There is a pathway frequented by cyclists and roller-bladers as well as walkers, so keep a watch over your shoulder for passing traffic of all kinds.

Acland Street, two blocks from the beach, is famous for its coffee and cake shops, and you'll surely want to stop in somewhere in the interests of replacing all those calories you have just burnt off on your walk. On a Sunday, there is a great market in this area, full of handmade arts and crafts and souvenirs.

Bike-about Melbourne

Energetic types can rent a bike and helmet from a number of bike shops located in St Kilda or nearby Elwood. A path winds along the beach through many of the inner suburbs. A ride from St Kilda to Beaumaris will take around 30-45 minutes, and you can finish with a coffee at the Rickett's Point teahouse before heading back again. Keep to your left as you ride. It is considered good manners to ring your bell as you approach another cyclist or pedestrian.

If you feel like a shorter ride, pay a visit to the historic Rippon Lea mansion and gardens. It's only 15 minutes or so by bike from St Kilda pier. Take the bike path heading south until you reach a small canal at Elwood. The path forks here; you take the left fork heading inland until you reach Elwood College at the corner of Glenhuntly Road.

Turn left into Glenhuntly, continue until you reach a major intersection at Nepean Highway and Hotham Street. Rippon Lea is on Hotham Street and is well signposted. Spend and hour or two looking through the mansion and gardens. This is a fine stop for a picnic lunch or afternoon tea.

After returning your bike in St Kilda, catch Tram 16 back into the city. Get off at Flinders Street just after crossing the Yarra River, head west 3 blocks to William Street. Here you find the Immigration Museum. Its collection of memorabilia related to the early times of Melbourne offers a good insight into the waves of settlement since the 1700s. Allow a couple of hours to get the most out of the museum.

Take in a Game

Alternatively, you might join thousands of fans at an Australian Rules football game if you are in town during the season. Between March and September, games are usually played on Friday nights or weekends at several venues around Melbourne.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is one popular place to catch a game. Take a train from Flinders Street Station to Richmond Station then a short walk across the parklands to the ground.

During summer (December through February), the MCG also hosts world class cricket games, which generally run as either one-day games or a series played over five days. If you happen to be in Melbourne over Christmas season, the Boxing Day test is a big event.

Carlton Italian District

You will have built up an appetite after a day of sightseeing, peddling a bike, or cheering "footy," and Lygon Street, in Carlton, is the place for pizza, pasta, gelatis, and a feel for the influence of Italian culture on Melbourne's development. At night, Lygon Street really comes to life, and there are bars and clubs to suit every budget.

To get to Lygon Street from the MCG, catch the train back to Flinders Street Station (on the corner of Flinders and Swanston), then catch any northbound tram on Swanston Street numbered 1, 3, 5, 6, or 8. Get off at stop 4 (Queensberry Street), walk east for two blocks along Queensberry and you will be at Lygon Street.

If you've spent the afternoon in the Immigration Museum, get to Lygon Street by walking back along Flinders Street to Swanston Street, then catch one of the above numbered trams.

Day Three – Dandenong Ranges

Approximately 30 kilometers from Melbourne CBD is the Dandenong Ranges National Park. To get the most out of your day, catch a train from Flinders Street Station to Belgrave at about 8.30am so you reach Belgrave by 9.30am.

From here you can explore a completely different side to Melbourne. This is where the country meets the city, and the area is home to stunning mountain ash trees as well as the famous lyrebirds, which learn to mimic any sounds they hear.

Take a ride on the old Puffing Billy train, which twists its way from Belgrave through the forest to Emerald then on to Gembrook. This train ride is popular with visitors and locals alike. Passengers often sit with their feet hanging out the open windows and wave to people along the way.

Emerald Lake Park is one of the turning points for Puffing Billy, a peaceful place to enjoy a walk around the lake or a drink before setting out on the return trip.

The trip from Belgrave to Emerald Lake Park on Puffing Billy takes around one hour each way and costs A$29.50 for an adult ticket. The first Puffing Billy train leaves Belgrave at 10.30am, and the last train back to Belgrave is normally at 4.45pm. During summer bush fire season, a limited timetable may be in effect, so be sure and check times locally to be sure you don't get caught out and miss the last train home.

Before catching the train back to Melbourne, be sure to take a bushwalk in the nearby Sherbrooke Forest, provided the risk of bush fire is low. From Belgrave Station walk along the Old Monbulk Road. A well marked walking track leads across Monbulk Creek and into the heart of the forest. You can walk just a short distance or take a longer walk into the forest if you are confident walking alone, but do remember that this is not a loop track, so take note of when the train returns to the city so you can be sure you do not walk too far!

If You Go to Melbourne

Planning

Information, maps, accommodation: Melbourne Visitor Information Centre. www.visitmelbourne.com.

Melbourne Greeter Service: a free 2-4 hour walking orientation of the city for visitors and tourists. The service is offered 7 days a week (excluding Good Friday & Christmas Day) at 9:30am departing from the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square. Orientations are conducted in a number of languages. Contact: Tel. +61-(03) 9658-9658. Melbourne Greeter.

City Ambassadors, dressed in distinctive red uniforms, rove the retail center of the city, dispensing directions.

Metlink: Flinders Street Station, on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, is the hub of Melbourne's train system.

The system is divided into three fare zones. Zone 1 comprises the central business district (CBD) and surrounding areas; zone 2 the inner suburbs, and zone 3 covers outer areas of Melbourne. As a rough guide to costs, a whole day ticket for all three zones currently costs A$12.40 (C$11.50; US$9) for an adult fare.

Metcards can be purchased as whole day travel passes or in two-hour blocks. The same ticket is used throughout the network. Tickets are sold at many local retail outlets such as milk bars and news agents, or they can be purchased from machines at train stations and on trams and buses.

Transport Information: Tel. 131 638. TTY Tel. +61(03)-9619-2727; www.metlinkmelbourne.com.au.

Sightseeing

See Melbourne & Beyond Smartvisit Card. Two (A$99), 3 (A$129), or 7-day (A$189) passes allow entry to over 50 leading attractions across Melbourne and the surrounding regions. Purchase at Visitor Information Centre.

Summer Fun in the Parks is a free program of "musical, fanciful, magical, and educational activities for everyone." www.thatsmelbourne.com.au.

Sightseeing Notes Day One

Federation Square: Corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets. The complex covers an entire block and includes: The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia (housing the world's largest and most comprehensive collection of Australian art in the world), Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Australian Racing Museum, Melbourne Visitor Centre.

Melbourne Zoo: Elliott Avenue, Parkville VIC 3052. Tel. +61(03)9285- 9300. Admission: A$20. Complimentary guided tours available daily between 10am and 3pm.

Queen Victoria Market: Victoria Street, North Melbourne VIC 3051. Tel. +61-(03)9320-5822. Open: varied hours, call first.

Rialto Tower, Melbourne Observation Deck: Level 55, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne VIC 3000. Open: Daily between 10am-10pm. Admission: A$12.50, includes film about Melbourne.

Sightseeing Notes Day Two

Rippon Lea Estate: 192 Hotham Street, Elsternwick VIC 3185. Tel. +61-(03)9523- 6095. Open: 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday, except Christmas day, Good Friday. Admission: A$11.

Immigration Museum: Old Customs House, 400 Flinders Street. Tel. +61-(03)9927-2700 Open: 10am to 5pm daily except Good Friday and Christmas day. Admission: A$6.

Melbourne Cricket Grounds: MCG Yarra Park, East Melbourne VIC 3002. Tel. +61-(03)9657-8858; www.mcg.org.au. Guided tours daily 10am and 3pm. Australian Football: www.afl.com.au. Note: Afternoon games usually start at about 2pm, and evening games at about 7pm.Tickets can be bought at the gate and cost around A$20 for non-reserved seating.

Dandenong Ranges National Park: www.parkweb.vic.gov.au. Bushwalking Caution: As a solo, you'd be smart to make sure you let someone know where you are walking (perhaps advise someone at your accommodation before leaving) and when you plan to return. Take a drink-bottle of water, wear a sunhat and sunscreen in summer, and be prepared for changes in weather conditions.

Puffing Billy: Old Monbulk Road, Belgrave 3160. Tel. +61-(03)- 9754-6800; www.puffingbilly.com.au. Varied timetables and prices from A$12.80.

Other Melbourne Sights

Arts Centre: 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne VIC 3004. www.theartscentre.net.au. Includes: Theatres Building, the Hamer Hall, and Sidney Myer Music Bowl. Open: daily guided tours, evening shows.

Crown Entertainment Complex. 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank VIC 3006. Tel. 1800-818-088; www.crowncasino.com.au. Shopping, dining, casino.

Melbourne's Golden Mile Heritage Trail: History and architecture of early Melbourne. Walk is 4 kms; takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours. Guided and self-guided tours arranged at the Visitor Information Centre.

Melbourne Museum: Carlton Gardens, 11 Nicholson Street, Carlton VIC 3053. Tel. +61-(03)8341-7777; www.melbourne.museum.vic.gov.au. Modernist architecture is an Australian icon – the "world's first museum for the Internet age is interactive, innovative, and fun." Open: 10am-5pm daily, except Christmas day and Good Friday. Admission: A$6.

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