Melbourne is the state capital of Victoria and the second most populous state in Australia. Ian and I spent five days there, staying with friends whom Ian has known since they were teenagers.
The live in West Melbourne, close to the city centre, so we were in a brilliant location. For the most part, they acted as tour guides and chauffeurs which meant we got to see the real gems of the city and surrounding areas.
Rather than going through our itinerary in chronological order, I’ll categorise it by geographical area.
Queen Victoria Market
We went to Queen Victoria Market on our first morning there to get street food for brunch. The market has a wide selection of fresh produce, street food, donuts and pastries as well as arts and crafts. I always enjoy visiting an authentic market and this one ticked all of the boxes. The perfect way to spend a few hours.
St Kilda Beach
Melbourne has an excellent tram system and it’s free to travel within the central area. We took a short tram ride to St Kilda Beach on our first afternoon in Melbourne. The weather in Melbourne in February is usually glorious, and our stay was no exception, so it was lovely to have a paddle. St Kilda beach is beautiful with plenty of water activities and with a whole host of bars and restaurants close by.
Royal Botanic Gardens
I think the photos will do most of the talking here. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is an oasis with a punting lake and several cafes and places to have a pit stop. We wanted to spend two-three hours there so we asked in the visitor centre what was the best route for that. You could easily spend all day there but we had plans for the afternoon. I think what I loved even more than the plants and flowers was the gorgeous view of the Melbourne skyline.
It’s the River Yarra than runs through Melbourne and riverside culture is quite a thing. There are numerous bars and restaurants just a stone’s throw from the very centre of the city. We went there for pre-dinner drinks on our first evening and also walked along the banks on our way back from the National Gallery of Victoria. It has a real energy and vibe to it. I just wish we’d have had longer in the city to try more of the bars and eateries there.
National Gallery of Victoria
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t visit a gallery when the weather is so beautiful outside but I was drawn to the National Gallery of Victoria because it was hosting the Alexander McQueen: Mind Mythos Muse exhibition. (It finishes April 16th 2023 and heads elsewhere). The exhibition had more than 120 garments and accessories, insights into his sources of inspiration, plus videos and photographs from behind the scenes of his runway shows. It was fascinating, not just to someone who loves fashion like I do- Ian really enjoyed it too. The artistry and the passion evident in his work is really quite remarkable.
We didn’t have time to look at any other exhibitions in the NGV, but I will definitely reserve half a day to do so when we next visit.
Hosier Lane Street Art
Hosier Lane is renowned across the globe for its street art. There are guided tours and queues to get the best vantage points. We walked through after dinner on our first evening. It really is remarkable. there is so much talent there. It’s the sort of place where I’m sure you will see something new every time you look, so diverse and detailed is it. Our friend and hostess Pat is a food blogger so she loves to take photographs as much as I do. Imagine my delight.
Chin Chin Restaurant
Chin Chin is in the Central Business District of Melbourne and is an Asian fusion restaurant. The decor is fabulous and the food is to die for. Every dish was perfect and the wines were excellent. I could happily eat there every day. The joy of having a friend who is a food blogger means we got to enjoy the very best local cuisine.
Dinner at Kisumé was an experience I’ll never forget. Pat booked the Omakase (chef’s table), a 22-course intimate Japanese meal. It was amazing to watch such a talented chef at work. It was a masterclass of skill, precision and evident passion and a spectacle to behold. More than half of the courses featured fish, mainly raw, so this menu wouldn’t suit everyone but for those that do, it will be heaven on 22 plates. Kisumé has an extensive wine list. We opted for the wine flight- an indulgence at almost 200 Aus dollars- but my goodness, it was worth it. The pairings were absolutely spot on and with each new wine, the sommelier spoke about the wine and why it was chosen to compliment those particular dishes. The whole evening was an education and a joy.
The Mornington Peninsula is renowned for its coastline and its vineyards and is about an hours drive from the centre of Melbourne.
Cable Car Ride
Ian and I took a cable car, the Arthur’s Seat Eagle, to best see the views over Arthur’s Seat (a small mountainous area) and coastline. It was a very clear day so the views lived up to the hype. The ride lasted about 20 minutes one way and it was the perfect way to just sit and take in the views- it was so tranquil.
We started our visit at Montalto Winery with a tasting followed by a late lunch. The restaurant offers an ever-changing set-menu which showcases seasonal estate-grown heirloom produce alongside locally sourced ingredients from across the Mornington Peninsula. Again, this was a gastronomic delight and unbelievably, the first time I’d ever eaten oysters- I loved them.
Interestingly, of the four or five wines we tasted before the meal, my favourite white was a 2021 Moltalto Savagnin (Sauvignon). Those who know me know that I don’t like Sauvignon Blanc. It just goes to show that it’s always worth being open-minded. I ended up ordering it to go with my lunch and we even bought a bottle to bring home.
This was the cutest thing. Phillip Island is home to the world’s largest colony of Little Penguins. At the Phillip Island Penguin Parade, there are a few rows of stadium-type seating on the beach which enables the audience to see the penguins emerge from the sea at sunset to head to their burrows. So as not to upset or startle the penguins, photography and videography isn’t permitted so I don’t have any photos to share but it was a lovely experience. I think I expected the penguins to come out of the sea en-masse. They didn’t- they came in small groups- but they were so sweet and they make the cutest of noises. We could see them at much closer quarters as they headed into their burrows. The entrance fee helps with their conservation and there is a small in formation centre, gift shop and cafe.
King Valley Wine Region
Pizzini is a family owned winery in the King Valley wine region of Victoria. As the name might suggest it specialises in Italian wine varieties such as Pinot Grigio, Rubacuori Sangiovese and Prosecco. We tasted eight wines, guided by a very knowledgeable vigneron. Champagne will always be my choice of bubble. Latterly, Cava has been my second choice and Prosecco my third. This tasting has definitely opened my mind to trying Prosecco again. Still, nothing comes close to Champagne but of course, they are not really comparable.
Rutherglen Wine Region
Stanton & Killeen Winery
Stanton & Killeen is owned and managed by a mother and daughter team and has a focus on Portuguese varieties. It is particularly proud of its “sticky” (fortified) wines. I think this was my favourite of all the tastings we did because it was an opportunity to try eight fortified wines (as well as “normal” wines), and to learn more about the grapes and vintages.
Beechworth is a quaint and sleepy township famous as being the place where the infamous Ned Kelly was tried and jailed. We looked around the courthouse museum which has a fascinating history, (this took an hour maximum). There are few nice shops in Beechworth including the well-known Beechworth Honey Shop. We travelled from Melbourne to Beechworth via the Pizzini Winery on the way there and Stanton & Killeen on the way back. The journey takes more than three hours so we had an overnight stay in Beechworth followed by brunch in a quaint cafe.
Ian and I absolutely loved staying in Melbourne. I don’t think we could ever run out of things to do there. So long as our friends stay there, we will definitely visit again. I hope you enjoyed the summary of what we did in Melbourne in February. In this blog post you can see what I wore during our stay in Melbourne.