DES­TI­NA­TION ( DOL­LAR­WISE) AUS­TRALIA Mel­bourne for mi­sers

Lee Mylne sug­gests how to en­joy the Vic­to­rian cap­i­tal without break­ing the bank

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

IDE a tram: Catch­ing a tram is the quin­tes­sen­tial Mel­bourne ex­pe­ri­ence and usu­ally costs only a few dol­lars to get al­most any­where. But to see the city high­lights for free, jump aboard the City Cir­cle tram, a bur­gundy-and-cream coloured old rat­tler that goes around a loop tak­ing in Flin­ders, La Trobe and Spring streets and ven­tur­ing as far as Dock­lands. There’s a com­men­tary and, if you don’t get off, the whole cir­cuit takes about 45 min­utes. It runs ev­ery 12 min­utes, from 10am to 6pm (to 9pm on Thurs­days, Fri­days and Satur­days). www.metlinkmel­bourne.com.au. Out on a limb: Jut­ting into Port Phillip Bay, St Kilda Pier is a lively land­mark, its 700m length al­most never de­serted. Fish­er­men drop lines over the side, kids skip and run, and on a sunny day the wa­ters along­side are skimmed by sail-board­ers and kite-surfers. The kiosk at the end of the pier, re­built af­ter be­ing de­stroyed by fire in 2003, is a great place for an ice cream or drink. For some­thing more sub­stan­tial, try Lit­tle Blue, the restau­rant be­hind it, named for the pen­guins that make their home here. Be­hind the pier the break­wa­ter of­fers a place to sit and con­tem­plate the city sky­line. www.park­web.vic.gov.au. Pick a park: Whether it’s for a power walk around the Tan (a 3.8km loop around the Royal Botanic Gar­dens) or a lazy af­ter­noon un­der a tree with a book, Mel­bourne’s parks and gar­dens are well loved and well used. Choices in­clude the Fitzroy, Trea­sury, Queen Vic­to­ria, Alexan­dra, Flagstaff or Carl­ton gar­dens, as well as the vast ex­panse of the Royal Botanic Gar­dens, where for $18 you can also take a guided Abo­rig­i­nal Her­itage Walk through the an­ces­tral lands of the Boon­er­wrung and Woi­wur­rung peo­ple.

At the Royal Botanic Gar­dens Cran­bourne, about an hour’s drive from the city, you can wan­der in the fab­u­lous Aus­tralian Gar­den for just $9.50 en­try. www.rbg.vic.gov.au. Chap­ter and verse: Sit and read un­der the domed ceil­ing of the glo­ri­ous 19th-cen­tury State Li­brary of Vic­to­ria in Swanston Street, wan­der the gal­leries or just soak up the light. This beau­ti­ful ed­i­fice is made up of sev­eral ex­pan­sive spa­ces; be sure to take a look at the Red­mond Barry Read­ing Room, Queen’s Hall and the La Trobe Read­ing Room. For the best in­te­rior views, head to the Dome Gal­leries and the pub­lic view­ing plat­form on level six.

A per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tion, The Chang­ing Face of Vic­to­ria, tells the story of the state (and in­cludes gems such as bushranger Ned Kelly’s ar­mour). And it’s all free. www.slv.vic.gov.au. Art at­tack: The Na­tional Gallery of Vic­to­ria is di­vided into two lo­ca­tions. The Ian Pot­ter Cen­tre at Fed­er­a­tion Square has 20 gal­leries in which to lose your­self amid the largest col­lec­tion of Aus­tralian art in the coun­try. NGV In­ter­na­tional in St Kilda Road has four lev­els of gal­leries, with works by Monet, Manet, Rem­brandt, Pi­casso and oth­ers.

The col­lec­tion has more than 70,000 works in­clud­ing ce­ram­ics, sculp­ture, photography, de­sign and cos­tumes. Ad­mis­sion to both gal­leries is free and in­cludes a great pro­gram of no-cost talks, per­for­mances and films as well as a kids’ pro­gram. www.ngv.vic.gov.au. His­tory les­son: Phar Lap is the most pop­u­lar at­trac­tion at Mel­bourne Mu­seum but there’s plenty more to do and see for the whole fam­ily. The mu­seum is strong on Mel­bourne’s Abo­rig­i­nal and Euro­pean his­tory, and how the two en­twine, and gives a good sense of the city’s de­vel­op­ment. Don’t miss Bun­ji­laka, the award-winning Abo­rig­i­nal cul­tural cen­tre. Kids will en­joy the blue whale skele­ton, the bril­liant in­sect col­lec­tion (with live ex­hibits in­clud­ing ant colonies and big spi­ders) and the di­nosaur exhibit (which opens in April). En­try is $8 adults; free for chil­dren. www.mu­se­umvic­to­ria.com.au.

Lively land­mark: St Kilda Pier and Pavil­ion is one of Mel­bourne’s best loved and most serene spots

Dis­play case: The Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Build­ings Mon­u­men­tal site: En­try to the Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Build­ing, Aus­tralia’s first UN Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion World Her­itage site (along with the sur­round­ing Carl­ton Gar­dens), is by guided tour only. Built in 1878, it has been care­fully and beau­ti­fully re­stored. Your guide will out­line its his­tory and the many uses to which it has been put (in­clud­ing as a war­time bar­racks for ser­vice­men), paint­ing a pic­ture of a well-used and well-loved mon­u­ment.

Climb the stairs to the gallery un­der the dome for a closer look at the fres­coed walls and ceil­ings. Tours run daily at 2pm from the Mel­bourne Mu­seum and cost $5. www.mu­seum.vic.gov.au. Hard cell: The Old Mel­bourne Gaol’s Crime and Jus­tice Ex­pe­ri­ence re­ally lives up to its name. It’s a spooky old prison where you’ll see Ned Kelly’s death mask and the place where he was hanged al­most 130 years ago. You can ex­tend your stay by tak­ing part in a role-play visit to the ad­ja­cent for­mer City Watch House. You can even spend a few min­utes locked in a dark cell. On Satur­days, a free live per­for­mance of the Ned Kelly story is staged in the jail at 12.30pm and 2pm. Ad­mis­sion is $20. www.old­mel­bourne­gaol.com.au. Have a drink with Chloe: The up­stairs bar at Mel­bourne’s land­mark ho­tel Young & Jack­son, on the cor­ner of Flin­ders and Swanston streets, is the abode of Chloe, the city’s most fa­mous nude. Chloe was painted in Paris in 1875 by Jules Lefebvre and the por­trait has hung in Young & Jack­son since 1909, when it was con­sid­ered some­what scan­dalous. As Chloe’s fame grew, she be­came a favourite, es­pe­cially in war years when the pub’s po­si­tion op­po­site Flin­ders Street Sta­tion made it a place of last farewells for de­part­ing sol­diers.

Free tast­ings and talks about the ho­tel’s his­tory are run ev­ery Satur­day at 3pm in Chloe’s Bar. www.youn­gand­jack­sons.com.au. Road to dis­cov­ery: Wan­der­ing the cob­bled laneways and al­leys of Mel­bourne’s city cen­tre is sure to yield sur­prises. Brick walls cov­ered with graf­fiti art, tiny gal­leries, in­ter­est­ing bou­tiques and wel­com­ing cafes can be found tucked away in dead-end streets. Some lanes have be­come gal­leries in them­selves; ex­plore the stun­ning 19th-cen­tury Block and Royal ar­cades with their soar­ing ceil­ings, stained glass and fres­cos. The Cathe­dral Ar­cade, with its art deco de­sign, is also worth a look. Tours of the Block Ar­cade run on Thurs­days at 1pm, take about 21/ hours and cost $9, in­clud­ing

2 af­ter­noon tea. More: (03) 9654 5244. Sport­ing chance: Sports fans could prob­a­bly spend all day at the Na­tional Sports Mu­seum and Mel­bourne Cricket Ground, im­mersed in tales of tri­umph (and, in­evitably, loss), brought to life by a rich col­lec­tion of mem­o­ra­bilia. Trea­sures in­clude Don Brad­man’s baggy green cap, Ian Thorpe’s swim­suit, Hu­bert Op­per­man’s bi­cy­cle and Aus­tralia’s first Olympic gold medal, won by Ed­win Flack in 1896. The mu­seum, part of the MCG com­plex, has lots of in­ter­ac­tive ar­eas that are pop­u­lar with kids and fea­tures life-like holo­gram pre­sen­ta­tions of crick­eter Shane Warne and AFL star James Hird talk­ing about their re­spec­tive games. Ad­mis­sion is $15 ($22 if you want to tour the hal­lowed ground of the MCG). www.nsm.org.au. Ship to shore: Get out on the Yarra and jump aboard a ferry to the mar­itime port of Wil­liamstown on Port Phillip Bay. The hour-long cruise with com­men­tary takes you along the river from South­gate, un­der bridges, through Dock­lands and past work­ing docks. When you dis­em­bark at Gem Pier, ex­plore his­toric Wil­liamstown, a ship­build­ing vil­lage since 1860. On the water­front,

Brick-a-brac: Lanes and al­leys are full of life Nel­son Place is home to cafes, restau­rants, parks and in­ter­est­ing small shops. On the way back, there are great views of the Mel­bourne city sky­line.

The jour­ney costs $22 one-way; $29 round trip. www.mel­bcruises.com.au.

www.vis­it­mel­bourne.com Lee Mylne is the au­thor of From­mer’s Mel­bourne Day by Day (Wi­ley Pub­lish­ing Aus­tralia, $19.95), to be re­leased on April 1. This is the first in a se­ries of fea­tures on best-value op­tions in pop­u­lar Aus­tralian des­ti­na­tions. Next week: Dol­lar­wise Syd­ney.

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