Australia Adventure: Melbourne Walkabout

In Aboriginal culture, a walkabout historically referred to a boy’s rite of passage into manhood. Today it refers to a nomadic lifestyle, and after walking all over Brisbane, Cairns, and Sydney, it felt pretty spot-on for the way we’d been seeing the sights of Australia’s east coast.

Our walkabout continued in Melbourne, where we stayed at the Radisson in the city’s central business district. It was across the street from Flagstaff Gardens, which is the city’s oldest park, and next door to Melbourne’s famous Queen Victoria Market. Locals call it the Queen Vic, and at 17 acres, it is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere.


A clever Christmas tree made of pallets at the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia

The Queen Vic has aisle after aisle of merchandise for sale at competitive prices. You’ll find everything from clothing and housewares to fresh produce and meat. It’s open to the public every day but Mondays and Wednesdays, and there are plenty of food stalls (including a famous hot doughnut van) that facilitate making a day of it.

After taking a turn around the market, we walked across town to view the Royal Botanic Gardens. This perfectly manicured 94-acre park is located on the south bank of the Yarra River and features over 10,000 species of native Australian and exotic plants. It’s free to tour the gardens, which open at 7:30 a.m. every day and close at dusk.


The living clock at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens


You’ll see the Queen Victoria Gardens in the lower righthand corner of the map of Melbourne’s central business district. Just across the Yarra River is Federation Square, where we had a snack at Riverland Bar and watched the boat races. While the beers we tried were hit or miss, Riverland had a pretty solid cheese plate that featured manchego, l’artisan extravagant (an Australian cow’s milk triple cream), an excellent Mossvale Blue, freshly-baked lavosh, fig preserves, and crisp pear slices.


Boat races on the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia

Making our way back across town, Daniel and Shea spotted Dogman and Rabbitgirl Have Tea. This huge bronze sculpture by Australian artists Gillie and Marc is just around the corner from the Supreme Court of Victoria. (Make of that what you will.)

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“Dogman and Rabbitgirl Have Tea” by Gillie and Marc (photo: Daniel Smith)

They also found Coop’s Shot Tower, which was a working munitions production facility until 1961. The structure, which was built in 1888, is now part of a mall in Melbourne’s central business district.

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Coop’s Shot Tower in Melbourne’s central business district (photo: Daniel Smith)

In the same part of town, we discovered several very good restaurants, including Chinatown’s Hutong Dumpling Bar. Their soup dumplings were solid, as was the hot flower tea.

We also enjoyed the thin crust pizza at A25 Pizzeria in South Yarra, where we were treated to delectable tiramisu for dessert.


A chic neon mural featuring the timeless Sophia Loren at A25 Pizzeria in Melbourne, Australia


A dramatic nightfall over downtown Melbourne, Australia, viewed from the rooftop pool of the Radisson Flagstaff Gardens

After a few fun days in Melbourne, Daniel and Shea surprised us with a day trip to Mornington Peninsula, which is the heart of Australia’s wine country. Read all about our tour of the wineries and gardens in our next post!

Today’s expat evaluation: +1 for a vibrant public market, +1 for public gardens