Melbourne proved easy to live in, another testament to Jonathan’s Airbnb research skills. We were walking distance from the beach, very handy on hot days, and also close to public transport. We drove into the center of the city on our first day to go to my eye doctor appointment and it was as nightmarish as in any big city. So was the price of parking. We learned the bus, tram, train system immediately, and had no trouble getting around in the city subsequently. In fact, there is virtually no down side to Melbourne apart from the big issue–it is difficult to emigrate. We met lots of young people from all around the world in Australia for a year or two, including a woman who arrived from England the day before, and a young man returning to France next month after two years working and traveling here. None knew of a legal way to emigrate apart from marrying an Australian. The young Frenchman said, “Yes, I could, but I am here with my girlfriend and she would object.”…..
Airbnb: Airbnb is legal here despite the scarcity of housing across Australia. We found lots of choice, though it was not inexpensive. The neighborhood we lived in, Elwood, was a good balance of proximity to the city and also the beach. Our Aribnb was a duplex that shared a wall with neighbors, though we rarely heard them. I liked having the chance to live in one of these older houses. Ours had been thoroughly renovated, so none of the Edwardian inconveniences remained.
Bus, tram, train: Melbourne has an integrated transit system that allows you to use one pass (Myki card, $6) to get around. A genius policy decision provides free transit in the heart of downtown for everyone, card or not. The system is not inexpensive, but there is a cap on the fare you pay each day at $8.80, a full fare round trip. When we went to the Botanical Garden in the evening to see a play, my tram ride was free because I’d been in and out of the city during the day. To pay, you scan your card on a device in the station or onboard, and you scan again when you get off. In the month of our visit, only one time did a conductor pass along the aisle of the train double-checking tickets. These checks are random and the fines are high, so people pay up.
Markets: So much shopping, so little time! The Queen Victoria market is probably the best known of the Melbourne markets, and it was full of delicious goods, but so is the South Melbourne market, which we hadn’t even heard of. There’s an equally large market in Footscray, just across from the railroad station. We are visiting during the summer and that means there are weekend markets in many neighborhoods. We went to a good sized spread at the Elwood elementary school, just two blocks from our house. There are more specialized markets that lean toward artisan items on Saturdays, Sundays (St. Kilda), monthly dates, and special events including the St. Kilda Festival, the Bright’n Sandy Festival (Brighton), and many others.
Parking: This is one reason people travel by public transport. We paid $16/hour in the city center, comparable to any other world city (and less than Chicago). Parking at the beach was $5.70/hour and the price per day is capped at the three hour price, so it isn’t bad for a full day outing. Beach-hopping is a bit pricey–not that it stopped us. It is always possible to look for free parking in the neighborhoods across from the beach, but some of these areas are now posted for residents-only parking.
People: We found people in and around Melbourne to be friendly and helpful. People were easy to talk to and we often ended up in conversation on the beach, in the store, anywhere we happened to be. We got our recommendations on where to stop along the Great Ocean Road from a couple we sat next to at Mozart by Moonlight. We felt very comfortable here.
Phone: We use the Optus phone service we began in Tasmania, and renew automatically every 28 days ($30). The pay as you go service is heavy on data. Apparently people who use this tend to watch video on their phone. The good news is this means we’ll never run out of data and can look up directions constantly. The phone battery runs down long before the data runs out.
Weather: Welcome to global warming. Some days it was 95, others topped out in the high 60s. I don’t think this is unusual anymore–call it the new normal. It can be difficult to have the right clothes at the right time. Dress for something between sunbathing and cross-country skiing. We tried, and mostly succeeded.
Places we visited and recommend:
- Lune Croissanterie, Fitzroy
- South Melbourne Market
- Queen Victoria Market
- Wineries, Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley
- St. Kilda farmer’s market
- Elwood school weekend market
- Melbourne arcades and laneways
- Any beach around Melbourne Bay (St. Kilda, Elwood, Frankston, Hampton, Mentone, Mornington, Mt. Eliza, Rye, Sandringham)
- Beaches on the ocean: St. Andrews, Torquay, Bell’s Beach
- Royal Botanical Garden–see an evening performance in the garden
- Walking the laneways and shopping arcades of downtown Melbourne
- Walking in any older neighborhood
- Brighton Bathing Boxes
- Healesville Sanctuary
- Great Ocean Road, Koala cafe stop is a short bird/koala walk
- Yarra Bend Park
- Lake Connewarra
- Federation Square, Australian Center for the Moving Image
- Melbourne Museum
- Heide Museum
- The National Opal Collection (store/museum, with a very pleasant, informative salesman who didn’t push us to buy)