I had the hardest time figuring out how to start and design this post about my recent visit to Melbourne, Australia! Here’s the reason: This trip was a visit with my daughter Lauren who lives there. (Check out her music at El Tee Music and on Spotify under El Tee). It was more of a family visit combined with doing some fun local things rather than a touristy, sightseeing vacation*. I struggled with how to make it interesting to you while being authentic and not adding fake hype to make it a “what to do in Melbourne” travel post.
In the end, the post has become much longer than I’d planned – that seems to be the way with me! Still, it can be a fairly quick read if you skip over deeper explorations via links.
The important thing (to me) is that I had a great stay and visit with my daughter. She’s lived out of the US now for 9 years – 3 years in Paris and 6 years in Melbourne. That makes it challenging to meet for impromptu lunch dates and join weekend family dinners (which doesn’t happen much anyway since none of our four kids live within driving distance). Of course, we’ve seen Lauren over the years during her fairly regular visits home and a few visits by us to where she was living. But they haven’t been opportunities to spend much focused mom and daughter time together. So having one-on-one time with her for 9 days was a gift.
Note: The photo above is (obviously) a fun collage I created. We didn’t see any koalas, although we searched the trees. We just weren’t in the right area. In fact, Lauren has yet to see a live koala – after 6 years in the country!
Lauren planned a variety activities for us each day in the Melbourne area ranging from hikes, an art museum, and shopping to dinner in a new hip restaurant, a comedy show, and wine tasting, to name a few. She was my host, driver (no way I’m driving on the left side of the road), tour guide, and event planner.
Getting to Australia is . . . well, I’m not sure what the appropriate describing word is! Because of the time difference – Melbourne is 17 hours ahead of San Francisco – you basically lose two days. I left on March 30 and arrived on April 1. The return trip is even stranger because you arrive on the same day as you left but earlier. I left at 10:30 am on April 11 and arrived in SF at 6:30 am on April 11.
I hope you find some interesting tidbits in this post.
Australia is made up of six states: Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia. Each state has its own identity and special things about it.
Melbourne is in the state of Victoria, the smallest of the six and the most densely populated.
“Melbourne is the cultural capital of Australia, known for its music, art centres and museums, and celebration and expression of art. It has been ranked, year after year, the most ‘livable city’ and it’s not hard to see why. It is the ultimate place for hipsters and those who appreciate a good trendy café or cocktail bar. Everyone is extremely laid back and there are always good vibes floating throughout the city.” Source: thetravel.com:
“Melbourne is a vibrant city known for its abundance of music venues. In fact, a recent study found that Melbourne boasts one live music venue for every 9,503 residents, making Melbourne the live music capital of the world on a per-capita basis. (By comparison London has 245 venues – one per 34,350 residents, New York has 453 venues – one per 18,554 residents, and Los Angeles has 510 venues – one per 19,607 residents.)” Source: beat.com.au
I spent my visit in the city of Melbourne and some of the nearby towns. Melbourne has a palpable energy about it. People seem happy. My sense is that there’s overall acceptance for people being themselves and not a feeling of needing to conform with an accepted “norm.” Generally speaking, Australians, and Melburians in particular, are very friendly and kind.
When it comes to fashion, pretty much anything goes. As I planned my packing list before the trip, I wanted to bring clothes that I felt would be “Melbourne cool.” Having been there before, I realized that it didn’t really matter what I wore because Melburnians dress exactly how they’d like without adhering to any fashion rules that I could identify.
Crocs style is alive and well in Melbourne! I saw more Crocs than I’ve seen since the first wave of Crocs popularity in the early 2000s.
We did enjoyed a wide variety of activities during my stay (forunately, Lauren was able to take the week off). These may not be on most Melbourne visitors’ “must do” itineraries, but they’re worth mentioning.
- Lovely nature walks at La La Falls in the Warburton area and a Warrandyte State Park in the Melbourne suburb of Warrandyte. On our Warrandyte walk, we spotted quite a bit of unusually shaped scat and discovered that it was from wombats, nocturnal, cute marsupials native to Australia. On our drive home through the Warburton area at dusk’s arrival, we spotted mobs (that’s a group of them) of kangaroos out for their evening forage. They’re kind of the like common deer in the US but more fun to see for a non-Australian.
- Wine tasting in the Yarra Valley at Pimpernel Vineyards and TarraWarra Estate. Little local info – winery tasting rooms in Australia are called: the Cellar Door.
- Spent two nights at a hotel in the “downtown” city of Melbourne – referred to as the cbd, or central business district. We shopped and ate and enjoyed the hotel stay.
- Went to a comedy show while in Melbourne cbd – my visit overlapped with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, “Australia’s largest ticketed cultural event, and one of the top three largest comedy festivals in the world.”
- Visited Heide, a public art museum and sculpture park. Exhibits on display featured art by Catherine Opie, Paul Yore and Albert Tucker, and Sara Ujmaia.
- Frequented a number of coffee cafes in the Brunswick area of Melbourne and beyond (more on that below).
- Experienced Hope Street Radio, an edgy, energetic, modern restaurant that’s really a radio station and bar. It was very lively and quite loud. Fun small plates for sharing and in the corner, a community table behind which the radio DJ delivers music to the patrons and the radio audience.
- And I got to tag along to a gathering of Lauren’s friends at a local bar – some I’d met when we visited in 2020 and other friends I hadn’t met. It was fun!
We sort of played tourists/visitors in her hometown, something most of us don’t spend a lot of time doing in our own home base.
Out & About Melbourne & Beyond
Melbourne has more coffee shops per person than any other city, which is one of the reasons the city has been nicknamed the coffee capital of the world. Coffee is part of the city’s culture and you’ll find a coffee cafe on almost every block. We frequented a number of coffee shops when we visited in 2020, as well as during this recent visit. The coffee brands/cafes pictured below are a few of our faves. Dive deeper in Melbourne coffee culture here.
Melbourne’s weather is notable for the fact that it pretty much lacks seasonal consistency. There’s no such thing as putting away winter clothes when the season changes to summer because it’s very likely there will more than a bit of winter-like weather mixed in.
As Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, fall is in full swing. We had some pretty chilly days, some rain, and a couple of spring-like days mixed in.
I was happy to have a quick stopover in the 80 degree (f) city of Brisbane, Queensland before heading home.
Brisbane, Queensland – for a Minute!
My flight back to San Francisco was out of Brisbane, in the state of Queensland, about 1,000 miles north of Melbourne (I won’t go into the details of why I wasn’t able to get a direct flight out of Melbourne). This gave me a reason to spend a little time in another Australian city – very little! I had about four hours after I arrived before nightfall and then a morning flight back to the US.
I was very happy to get to warm and tropical-like weather. Brisbane, as well as most of Queensland, is known for subtropical climate – very different from the climate in the southern states of New South Wales (where Sydney is the capital) and Victoria (where Melbourne is).
I love seeing signs that let me know I’m not in the US. Like these:
- Look after your mate.
- Direct to boot.
- Please take your rubbish home.
I enjoy hearing and seeing wording we don’t typically use at home. Like “heaps” – a common Aussie term for “a lot.” I love that word! I may start using it.
A Few Packing Tips
After packing for two 10-15 day trips within about six weeks (Maui in February and Melbourne in April), I’ve picked up some packing tips.
First – I’m done with over-packing (I think!). Although on this trip I did actually wear everything I brought except for two tank tops (was never warm enough), I still could have pared down what I packed. Especially in the shoe department.
Shoes take up a lot of room in a suitcase, so it’s ideal if you can bring a pair of shoes that works for most of your activities. I had a pair of boots that I like a lot and wanted to bring – and did bring. But, really, I could have done without them, and I doubt that anyone but me really noticed them.
I ended up bringing and wearing:
- 4 pairs/styles of jeans: crop straight, skinny, wide flare, and black
- a “dressier” pair of black pants
- 2 jogger style pants
- 2 pairs of leggings
- 8 tops that I could layer, knowing that the temps could be varied (didn’t wear 2 tank tops)
- 2 jackets
- pjs and travel robe (linked below)
- 2 pairs of boots, a pair of slip on sneakers, sandals that I never wore (you never know what weather you’ll get in the shoulder seasons), lace white sneakers, and athletic shoes
Here’s are some bullet point packing tips:
- Rolling clothes is by far the best way to fit your clothes in the suitcase efficiently. To roll: lay clothing flat and maybe fold in sleeves, then simply roll.
- I love using packing cubes because everything is so organized, but packing cubes leave a significant amount of unused space – nooks and crannies mostly, but spaces that could fit a rolled shirt or pair of pants. I’ll stick to packing cubes when I have less to fit into my suitcase, but I’m going to commit to rolling my clothes when I’m packing a significant amount.
- My checked size suitcase is a soft sided one. I. Don’t. Like. It. I’m now on the lookout for a lightweight, clamshell/50-50 split opening suitcase. It’s not that I don’t like a soft case but rather that once it’s packed, the weight distribution is off and the suitcase has a tendency to tip. A hard side suitcase with two equal sides makes for a better balanced bag and likely one that’s easier to pack in an organized way. I’m in the market for a 26-ish inch suitcase. (If you have a suitcase you love, let me know.)
- A tip for making sure your liquid skin care and body care products don’t leek: Remove the cap of the product (e.g., shampoo, lotion, etc.) and put a small piece of plastic cling wrap (from the kitchen) over the bottle opening. Then close the container with it’s cap over the wrap. No leaking!!
- Want to arrive at your destination with unwrinkled clothing? Simply roll or fold them with a dry cleaning plastic bag or tissue paper (the gift wrap kind). I use dry cleaning bags and roll or fold so that the plastic is between the layers of the clothing. It works!
- I’m still pondering what I think is my preferred carry-on: backpack, mini roller bag, or tote with straps. I’ve tried them all. I like not having to lug a tote around on my shoulder while waiting to board a flight or after deplaning, so I tried a backpack for my Melbourne trip. The issue with me is that my carry-on (by carry-on I mean the thing I use for my electronics, reading materials, etc. – things I want access to on the flight) gets a bit heavy. So a solution that keeps my hands and shoulders free is ideal. I have a mini roller back that actually works great but then I deal with rolling my suitcase and my mini roller bag until I check in the suitcase. Not a huge deal I guess. I do like the idea of nothing hanging off of my body. What’s your preferred carry-on?
I’m sure those of you compact packers are rolling your eyes right now! I’ve come to terms with the obvious fact that I’m never going to be a light packer.
Some Recent Purchases for Travel
I’ve made a couple of recent purchases in preparation for travel that have been helpful. Each item below is hyperlinked:
- Travel Robe (It was nice to have a robe to throw on after showering.)
- Handheld Steamer (Can be held upright or facing down like an iron.)
- Travel Makeup Case (significantly sized down from my previous case)
- Apple World Travel Adapter Kit (I didn’t trust an off-brand for my Macbook)
- Beach Towel Chair Clips (Maui trip)
- Pill Organizer (small) (Works well for keeping meds in one place – I used it for ibuprofen, acetophetamine, allergy meds.)
- Supplements Organizer (expanded) (I like this for my supplements because each day is in its own sorter and I can throw a day’s worth into my purse.)
- BEIS Backpack BEIS is a fairly new brand of travel bags. The linked backpack is sturdy, very roomy, and opens flat for easy packing. It holds a lot (too much!).
- Beach Towel/Blanket (XL) (Sand just falls right off.)
- Memory Foam Travel Pillow
- Electronics Accessories Organizer (I brought a larger organizer to Melbourne but I’m sizing down for next time.)
- Travel Mirror (I think this one has all the things I need but haven’t yet purchased.)