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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Melbourne Road Trip

The weather of the world- most countries have their seasons in a year, but Melbourne has four seasons in a day. It might sound exaggerated but it is almost as true, a day can start off cloudy or rainy, sun and blue sky come through if you'd wait awhile; the weather can alternate between sunshine and rain, an October "Springmer" they called. Melbourne vaunted the town with a series of unique alleys and arcades that filled with al fresco eateries, cafe, street art, galleries, hidden boutique and heaps of lovely green spaces.

The vibrant city makes an excellent base for exploring Victoria, such as, The Great Ocean Road, Yarra Valley wineries, Phillip Island, Mornington and Dandenong Ranges.


Average Cost
Accomodation
   1. Hostel Dorm Room (Backpacker)- AUD28- AUD36
   2. Hostel Private Room (Twin)- AUD78- AUD105
   3. Three Stars Hotel (Queen)- AUD167- AUD189
*Personally recommend King Street Backpackers, Melbourne Connection Travellers Hostel and Melbourne YHA Central

Food
   1. Fast Food (McD, KFC)- well under AUD10
   2. Asian Food- AUD10 for a big portion fried rice
   3. Noodles bar (Ramen)- AUD15- AUD18
   4. Pizza and Pasta Parlors- AUD16- AUD22
*Thus, expect to pay AUD20 for most sit down restaurant

Transport
   1. SkyBus from Airport- AUD15 for return, AUD18 for single
   2. City Circle Tram- Free tourist tram operate around Melbourne CBD
   3. Yarra tram- Extensive tram network get you around Melbourne- Need MyKi Card
   4. Metro Trains- Operates in a metropolitan network- Need MyKi Card
   5. V/Line- Passenger rail/ coaches run in regional Victoria- Need MyKi Card
   6. Buses- Independent bus operators run Victorian metropolitan and regional- Need MyKi Card
   7. Melbourne Bike Share- Daily subscription AUD2.80
*The City had done an extremely good job integrating public transport system around free tram, extensive tram, train, bus, and bicycle.
*Get yourself a Myki Visitor Value Pack for AUD14 (inclusive AUD8 of travel value)
   - Myki is a card gives you access to trams, trains and buses (except SkyBus)
   - Unlike most public transport system, Melbourne capped a maximum daily fare at AUD7.16 for ZONE 1, AUD4.96 for ZONE 2
   - a 2 hours fare at AUD3.58 for ZONE 1 and AUD 2.48 for ZONE 2
   - here's a ZONES reference

It sounded confusing at first, it is actually pretty simple, for example:
"You wanted to travel from Melbourne CBD to St. Kilda, which both located at Zone 1, you plan to spend an evening at St. Kilda or Mornington Peninsula, and you manage to travel to and fro St. Kilda within 2 hours, it will cost you at AUD2.48 on the same day" 

"If you plan for a whole day out, Morning- afternoon to the Zoo and Museum then evening to St, Kilda and a night at Footscray, which all located at Zone 1, it will cost/capped you AUD7.16 and nothing more. With that, you can travel to any places in Zone 1 for AUD7.16 on the same day"

Activities- Things to do
   1. Road trip to The Great Ocean Road
   2. Penguin Parade at Phillip Island
   3. Wine Tasting at Yarra Valley
   4. Enjoy the State Library of Victoria
   5. Visit to St. Patrick Cathedral
   6. Journey through a world of wildlife at Melbourne Zoo
   7. Visit to ACMI/ Federation Square/Melbourne Information Centre/Yarra River
   8. Sunset view from Eureka Skydeck 88
   9. Watch a musical at Regent Theatre
  10. Wandering around Melbourne CBD
  11. Hitch a ride on Classic free City Circle Tram
  12. Evening stroll at Brighton Beach
  13. and yes, Picnic at Flagstaff Garden or Royal Botanic Gardens!!!

++Shot on Hasselblad 500c + Carl Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 & Nikon FA + Nikkor 20mm f2.8 ++ 

MELBOURNE CBD

Remember to grab yourself a visitor guide at the airport, extremely helpful stuff. Take a SkyBus from the airport which take your to Southern Cross Station in 20 minutes, do get a return ticket if you can, it stays valid for 3 months from the date of purchase and it's cheaper. Once you reach Southern Cross Station, you can easily navigate your way in Melbourne CBD with the map on visitor guide.

Melbourne is really something for everyone, no matter what's your budget or tastes are. The city is laid out on a grid line, easy to navigate, all you need is a city ambassador- the Map! It bends over backwards to impress tourists, the CBD offers so much to see, taste and listen. We checked in King Street Backpackers, then take our time exploring the city.

Tram it! Hop on route 35 City Circle Tram, it's free!

Great way to travel and mingle with locals and other visitors.

Explore CBD's narrow lane lined with intricate facades built in style

Federation Square, do visit the Visitor Information Centre here, they are extremely helpful, you might as well get yourself a MyKi card as well, the extension network to get around Melbourne- Zoo, St Kilda or Brighton Beach

THE GREAT OCEAN ROAD

We rest earlier for the night, out of the hostel the next morning, breakfast at Queen Victoria Market and head on to Franklin Street to fetch our rental car. Most of the reputable rental car service are located at Franklin Street, only a junction away from Queen Victoria Market (McDonald's side). I rented the car from Budget, it was cheaper that others at the time, I took a risk, turn out it wasn't as bad as most reviews claimed they are. 

Got myself a local sim card with 1GB internet, Waze my way out. Here we go! to the Great Ocean Road! If you're driving from Melbourne, here's your route- Melbourne > Geelong > Lorne > Apollo Bay > Princetown > 12 Apostles Visitor Facility > Port Campbell. We pre-booked a room at Port Campbell, Portside Motel- very decent place. 

Pit stop :) We actually took a inner route skip pass Geelong, right to Lorne

We parked our car at 12 apostles visitor facility, accessible to Gibson Steps and 12 Apostles viewing

The rugged splendor of 12 Apostles 

Magnificent rock stacks rise up majestically from Southern Ocean of Victoria coastline

Sunset at 12 Apostles, the limestone cliff created by constant erosion of 10-20 millions years ago

From the strategically located Port Campbell, you'll be able to access to Gibson Steps, 12 Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge, London Bridge and Bay of Islands. We manage to visit 12 Apostles and Loch Ard Gorge on the first day, and London Bridge on the next day. We spent a night in a tranquil Port Campbell, had a decent Pizza and Pasta at Nico's, got to say, the Seafood pasta is really great! Expensive though, but worth it. 

We head out the next morning, exploring Port Campbell surrounding and London Bridge. 

Port Campbell

Scenic drive of The Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road

London Bridge

Loch Ard Gorge

Cruising from Apollo Bay to Lorne

We head back to Melbourne from Port Campbell, checked in at Melbourne Central YHA, it's more expensive compare to King Street Backpackers with the same twin room but YHA is rather decent with a fresh refurbished rooms. 

PHILLIP ISLAND

We went to the same Budget rental car, this time for 3 days, you can also get a day trip to Phillip Island via public transport. 90 minutes drive from Melbourne into the spectacular coastal scenery and an abundance Australia wildlife. We pre-purchased a 3 parks pass (Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre and Churchill Island Heritage Farm), if you have extra budget, get the Ultimate Adventure Tour. Here's a recommended itinerary for around Phillip Island, we got our place at Cowes, Amaroo Caravan Park. Once you've cross over the bridge from mainland to Phillip Island, you'll reach Churchill Island Heritage Farm first, so that's can be your first stop or last stop before leaving Phillip Island, then the Koala Conservation Centre and evening at Penguin Parade. 

At the Churchill Island

YARRA VALLEY- HEALESVILLE

2 hours drive from Phillip Island to Yarra Valley, an enviable reputation as one of the great wine region. Wineries with stunning mountain views and pristine environment. We picked Domaine Chandon as our wineries visit, and lunch. Heavenly seating with a truly beautiful piece of vineyard, languish awhile with a glass of pinot noir and a platter of cheese. 

Wine tasting session of Domaine Chandon

Heavenly view with flavorsome food

Oak wine barrel Fermentation

Storm brewing above the vineyard, Methode traditionanelle wines made exclusively from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grape varieties, each imparting classic varietal flavors and finesse

Entrance into Domaine Chandon

Old homestead, renovated now an admin building for Domaine Chandon

Regal, towering oak tree 

Iceland Poppies (Papaver nudicaule), also called "Champagne Bubbles" are planted every year in front of homestead, within the front yard star shaped flower bed mirrors the logo of Domaine Chandon 

After the winery visit we checked in Sanctuary House Resort Resort Motel, Healesville, only 10 minutes drive away from Domaine Chandon. Healesville located in the famous Yarra Valley grape growing region, surrounded by mountains, forests and rolling hills dotted with wineries, fruits and berry farms. 

There are several things you can do at Healesville beside visiting wineries, it offers beautiful gardens, commercial centre along the tree-lined boulevard, Healesville Sanctuary specialize in native Australian animals and Yarra Valley railway.

Breakfast at Mocha and Lime, Healesville 

Quaint little shop with just the right atmosphere

Mocha and Lime

Healesville railway line, century old steam train bring you through beautiful winery, river and through tunnel

We decided to have a little romance of picking berries, half an hour drive from Healesville to Silvan, Blue Hills Berries and Cherries, there are numerous berry farms in the region, this happen to be one with a beautiful tree-lined. 

Blue Hills

Chemical free berry farm

Lovely tree-line at the farm

BACK TO MELBOURNE- EUREKA! 

Another one hour drive from Silvan back to Melbourne, we are off the rental car, checked in Melbourne Central YHA for the rest of our 3 more nights in Melbourne. The free City Circle Tram strategically located right outside Melbourne Central YHA, brilliantly convenient.

Wandering, enjoying the vibes of Melbourne. 

Melbourne Central Shopping Centre

City from above Eureka Skydeck 88

City night line

MELBOURNE ZOO- BRIGHTON BATHING BOXES

The visitor pack for MyKi card pre-loaded with AUD8 for tram system, I mentioned earlier on how the system works, as long as you're travelling within Zone 1, the charges will kept at a maximum AUD7.16 for a day, nothing more, regardless how many times you hop on and off on Yarra Tram, Zone 1 well covered the extension of Melbourne, Zoo, St Kilda and Brighton Beach. 

When you decided to travel on tram, make sure you put into good use. 

Journey through the world of wilderness, Melbourne Zoo has some of the most exquisite range of exhibition. I've been to Singapore Zoo, Beijing Zoo, and this is something special, it's large with great range of animals you don't see in other zoo. 

Banded Rock Rattlesnake

Beautiful garden setting of Melbourne Zoo

We took another train route from Melbourne Zoo to Brighton Beach- for the colorful bathing boxes, originally used as ladies' changing sheds in the 1800s. The vibrant boxes remain a pricey mystery to many, some ranged at AUD260,000 for an essential shed without electricity and water. Beautiful to look at, precious to hold. 

Striking colors of bathing boxes

Iconic Brighton Bathing Boxes

Sunset at Brighton Beach

QUEEN VICTORIA MARKET

We took the City Circle Tram outside YHA, drop off around Queen Street, brief stroll to Queen Victoria Market. A place more than just a city fresh food shopping mecca- it's a historical landmark of Melbourne. Spread over several city blocks, with 600 retailers, a true reflection of a metropolitan make up. Here, you can find everything from fruits to fashion. 

Burgundy and gold City Circle Tram offer free travel to city sights

A mock up nutcracker figure at QVM retailer

Queen Victoria Market

A must try! Get yourself a tray of Coffin Bay Oyster!

Seafood and Oyster spot at QVM

Seafood and Oyster spot at QVM

Fruit and vegetables supply at QVM

This deserve a special mention, some of the best coffee in Melbourne, Market Lane Coffee. A hidden gem of coffee place, I was draw in by the beautiful aroma of coffee, worth savoring!

CHURCHES- CHINATOWN

The reminder of Melbourne's rich history in numerous historical buildings and monuments around the city. Home to a number of outstanding and architecturally significant churches, among the best lavish Renaissance colonial churches.  

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Impressive stonework of decorated Gothic church

Absorb the tranquil sounds of water and spiritual quotes, seeking sanctuary beneath spires.

Step through the grand red gates of Melbourne's Chinatown and enter a whole new world of Asian Cuisine and hip fashion boutique. Explore the strip of 19th century buildings between Swanston and Spring street on Little Bourke Street.

Australia's oldest Chinatown

PICNIC AT FLAGSTAFF GARDENS

Small but nice, there are several lovely green spaces in Melbourne, but this is my favorite, you get to see sunset from the park! A hanging garden in the city, a picturesque place that reminds you of beauty and opulence, lush green grass perfect for picnic. 

The oldest park in Melbourne, dated back to 1840s.

Sunset skyline from Flagstaff Gardens

 An evening walkies with dogs :) 

Towards the light, sunlight creeps through the buildings, lead to a wonderfully dramatic long shadow

YOU MAY NEVER WANT TO LEAVE!
This is a city that gets under your skin, it has its way of weaving scent to your heartstrings and never let go.

JW.