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This Wiki page is intended to be specific to the city of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. If you are seeking general information about traveling to or within Australia, please visit the Australia CS Wiki.
Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria, Australia. Happily, it was founded in 1835 by free settlers and not by convicts as many other Australian cities were, and thank goodness for that. This also helps explain Melbourne's cultural preeminence given a lively art and music scene, unmatched anywhere in Australia, especially Sydney. Also, in Victoria large glasses of beer are called 'Pints' and those half that size "Pots." Don't ask me why. Carlton Draft and Victoria Bitter (owned by Fosters - which no one here actually drinks) are the beers of choice in Victoria, although many prefer locally crafted beers, again don't ask me why, but I will help you drink them!
What do I do in an emergency?
Please look at the Melbourne Victoria Emergency Information wiki page for detailed information to help with most emergencies in Melbourne. One important detail to remember is that the national emergency services phone number is 000.
Now, as it happens, sometimes you might catch yourself out, maybe your wallet was stolen, you've got no money, you're desperate, you're stranded! Never fear, we can help here too. Melbourne has a large support community so check out the Stranded Travellers in Melbourne wiki for more information.
- 1 What do I do in an emergency?
- 2 What can I do in Melbourne?
- 2.1 Useful Websites on what to do in Melbourne
- 2.2 Top Nine Cheap Suggestions from Local CouchSurfers
- 2.3 Popular Food & Drink Specials with CouchSurfers
- 2.4 Nightlife, Music and Festivals
- 2.5 Dancing
- 2.6 Film/ Cinema
- 2.7 Shopping
- 2.8 Sports
- 2.9 Chloe - The Icon of Melbourne
- 2.10 Where To Stay If Not CouchSurfing
- 3 How to get around in Melbourne
- 4 How do I get to and from Melbourne
- 5 Exploring Melbourne & the State of Victoria?
- 6 Moving to Melbourne
- 7 CS Ambassadors in Melbourne
What can I do in Melbourne?
Useful Websites on what to do in Melbourne
Extensive and excellent up-to-date information on things to do in Melbourne & Victoria can be found through one of the many websites listed below, which will have you spoiled for choice on what to do and see during your time here. Official tourism information can be found at Visit Victoria.
You can find out more in person by visiting the following information services:
- Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square
- Melbourne Visitor Booth in the Bourke Street Mall
- Melbourne Mobility Centre at Federation Square
- City Ambassadors who wear hats and red shirts and are usually around Swanston Street
- Free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle
- Melbourne Greeter Service for free two-hour walking tours
- Free Things to do in Melbourne
- Free guided walks
Want to be in the Know?
Listed in order of the best to, well... the mediocre
- Three Thousand's weekly newsletter (with tons of contests) is a must for hipster-oriented events. They have a so-so iPhone app as well.
- Time Out Melbourne is a venerable publication around the world. In print form as well as having a weekly newsletter (and good iPhone app), it's handy.
- Broadsheet, while catering more to the well-heeled Melburnians, is a good way to get to know the city, and has a newsletter.
- That's Melbourne is the official City of Melbourne newsletter that comes out weekly, and shows city-sponsored events. Sign up for the newsletter.
- Milkbar Mag was founded in 2011, and has a weekly newsletter about events, as well as a very active Twitter account.
- Everguide has a more music-focused newsletter, and throws parties every now and then.
- Small Werld has a nice weekly newsletter to sign up for.
- Agenda Daily is similar to Broadsheet, but still worth checking out for events and must-dos.
- Whitehat has a weekly newsletter in text form that has tons of events, but isn't that easy on the eyes since it's in text form.
- My247's weekly newsletter ain't all that great, but they do have contests every now and then.
Top Nine Cheap Suggestions from Local CouchSurfers
(1) The aboriginal art (ground floor) and Australian art (1st floor - Ian Potter Gallery) inside Federation Square. Its all free.
(2) Opposite Federation Square is Hosier Lane, which is full of graffiti- some of it is really great to see.
(3) The Queen Victoria Market - large undercover market with all kinds of goodies, fruit/ vege/ organics, meats/ seafood, a fantastic deli section.
(4) Cheap Eats - Indian Food at 123 Swanson Street, just go upstairs and eat for around $6
(5) Chinatown - good cafes and food.
(6) Shrine of Remembrance - provides good views of the city from the very top.
(7) Fitzroy Gardens has Captain Cook's Cottage and a beautiful conservatory nearby and at night you can see wild possums (just remember to keep your distance).
(8) #96 tram ride to St Kilda, walk out onto pier and see little penguins at night.
(9) Free city circuit tram will take you all around the city centre get on and off it free of charge.
Other suggestions include:
- The Melbourne Aquarium
- A walk along the Yarra river
- A MCG ground tour.
- Brunswick / Smith Streets at night
--- Check the Melbourne group calendar for events. ---
Popular Food & Drink Specials with CouchSurfers
Details in this section are subject to change by venue management, if the offer no longer exists please notify a CS Melbourne group moderator so we can update this information.
Also check out this thread for more ideas.
- Free drinks via the BarBait app (on Smartphones)
- Drink specials via The Specials Board app (on Smartphones)
- Drink specials @ TheHappiestHour
- Top 5 ladies' nights (researched & written by CSer Theresa!) - also try U Bar on Tuesday from 9pm
- 5 cocktails for $20 @ Bar Nothing: 5 cocktails for $20, 3 cocktails for $12.50!
- $2 pints @ The Tongue and Groove (16 Grey Street, St Kilda): This is the cheapest bar in Melbourne - on a Monday, Thursday and Sunday (9pm-1am) they have $2 pints!
- Check out Time Out Melbourne's 2012 Cheap Eats info -- totally comprehensive guide (along with the under $20)
- Broadsheet's Collingwood under $10 list is great if you're on Smith Street
- $5 paella @ Claypots (213 Barkly St, St. Kilda). More info in this thread
- $1-$2 pinxtos, aka Basque tapas @ Naked for Satan (285 Brunswick St, Fitzroy): the price varies depending on what time you go
- $4 pizzas @ Bimbos (376 Brunswick St., Fitzroy) & Lucky Coq (179 Chapel St, Windsor): check website for days and times
- $1 tacos on Thurs. @ The Dan O'Connell (225 Canning St, cnr Princes St, Carlton): These are pretty basic (salad, cheese, beans, corn shell). But Melbourne University dweebs bring their own salsa, sour cream etc., the tacos do need jazzing up!
- $10 "all you can eat" @ Shanghai Dumpling House (Chinatown): they keep serving fried rice, greens, dumplings, noodles etc. until you ask them to stop
- free bbq @ [www.exfordhotel.com.au The Exford Hotel] (199 Russell St, CBD): Fridays, weather dependant, the pub serves free barbeque from 6pm
- cheap chicken parmas @ Parma.com, Parmadaze, and The Happiest Hour
- $6 ($5.50 concession) all-you-can-eat lunch @ Crossways (123 Swanston St., CBD): Hare Krishna vegetarian buffet
- $6.50 all-you-can-eat lunch @ Om Vegetarian (1/28 Elizabeth St, CBD): Indian vegetarian buffet
- Pay-as-you-feel vegetarian meals @ Lentil As Anything (Abbotsford, St. Kilda, Footscray): The pay-as-you-feel philosophy is simple – you are invited to pay what you think the food and the experience is worth – and to donate towards a philosophy that places human dignity above profit (it's definitely not the place to go & not pay, they are only just making ends meet each month so consider a standard menu's prices when considering how much to pay).
- Time Out Melbourne has a list of great international restaurants by cuisine
Free Wine Tastings:
- Black Hearts & Sparrows (North Fitzroy, Windsor, East Brunswick): 4:30—6:30pm on Saturdays
Nightlife, Music and Festivals
Melbourne is renowned for its nightlife and pub/ bar scene. Many venues around the City and suburbs have regular live music, including popular Australian and international acts. There are many sources of information, including Beat, also available as a free newspaper from many cafes and music stores around the City. For rave and techno try What's on in Melbourne or Likesofyou for underground. These also include festivals.
The links below will take you to the Region/Suburb page for some of Melbourne's popular nightlife districts.
Melbourne is known for its many festivals - there sometimes seems to be a different one every week! They are a good opportunity to experience something a little bit different. Here are some of the better known ones, but for a comprehensive listing, check the festivals listing on whitehat
- Big Day Out - Australia's biggest music festival: January
- Tropfest-short film festival: February
- St.Kilda Festival: February
- Melbourne Fashion Festival: March
- Melbourne Food and Wine Festival: March
- Moomba Festival: March
- Comedy Festival: April
- Flower and Garden Show: April
- Emerging Writer's Festival: late May
- International Film Festival: August
- Melbourne Writer's Festival: late August
- Fringe Festival: September
- International Arts Festival: October
- Spring Fling (biennial): October
- Spring Racing Carnival (dress up, don a big hat, get drunk &, oh yeah, then watch some horse racing): November
Busking/ Street Entertainment
Melbourne is very proactive towards street entertainment however some areas require you to get permits. For the City of Melbourne go to the Street Entertainment site. For other councils you will need to check their local information - Google will help you here.
Join the Confest CouchSurfing group!
Confest (from CONversation and FESTival) is held over a week twice annually, at New Years, and at Easter. It is popular with Couch Surfers, partly, because it is cheap (tickets are $80 for a week bought at the gate- no limit on tickets sold) and partly because it is a uniquely Australian festival that is quite magical. There is usually a CS camp at Confest with around 30 surfers.
The entry ticket is spent on facilities and to fund events and activities. No one gets paid, so all the money comes back to you as Confestors. Confest is located in a mature and beautiful area of protected river-red gums alongside the Edwards River. This is across the NSW border, approx. five & a half hours drive from Melbourne. Public transport stops about 100 km away in Deniliquin, but hitch-hiking is generally easy, and CSers often post their ride in the Melbourne group forum a few week's before.
You are asked to volunteer for two hours on your ticket. People who do enjoy Confest a lot more too. Bring a tent and food for week, musical instruments and good karma. Please take all rubbish you make with back you. Cook in one of the cooking circles, which are set up with gas cookers and water. All water on site is filtered and safe to drink.
Confest is now over 35 years old. It emerged in part from the mental heath sector and is informed by the work of controversial Scottish psychologist R.D Lange. The idea being, the world is a harsh and crazy place - so that so-called mental illness is simply a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Therefore, create a genuinely tolerant and supportive environment and people will naturally start to heal themselves, or at least the worst symptoms of mental illness will be alleviated. So, at Confest, you may see a naked man painted blue lying on the ground crying and screaming, and people will smile at him as they walk past and say, how wonderful, he is healing. Confest is also informed, in part, by a bunch of dirty hippies, both influences are currently still in play. In short, it can all be a bit anarchistic, with nothing quite working as you, or anyone else - like the organizers - might expect.
Still, it is a very tolerant place. There are no formal rules other than no dogs and a request to be drug and alcohol free on the ticket. Anything goes are long as other people don't feel aggrieved. Whatever conflict might occur is usually solved by negotiation, and in truth, Australians are a pretty tolerant lot. That said, there are fire wardens (and even an ancient fire engine), 24-hour first aid and duty volunteers. So Confest is pretty well run for a bunch of dirty hippies. There are about 2,500 Confesters at Easter and 1,500 at summer Confest.
Confest has no sound stage or center. There is no amplified music - but there are several acoustic areas and there is silent trance music using head-phones. It's more like a colorful crazy medieval village with lots of centers. All built a few days before hand - and then torn down again - so all very eco, or messy. There is usually Tranquility area with meditation, healing and massage workshops, the Arts village with the steam-tent, drawing, painting, body painting, photography, mud bath etc, the tee-pee village (still no real idea what the hell they do there but they do great free breakfasts and have a sacred fire) communal kitchens, gay village, nudist village (it's clothes optional anyway!?! but I think they just don't want to be left out) and the polyamorous village (although they tend to stick together). Plus the drumming and fire twirling circles, the Chai tent in the market, etc etc etc. Except in the market, which sells meals and some clothing, you cannot use money. No alcohol is sold. Everything else is reciprocal or based on giving. There are about 800 workshops over the five days. These range from juggling and tight-rope walking workshops to karma and meditation, to meet an alien, to be an alien, etc etc. Also Green and alternative issues, bio-stuff, save the hippie, etc. Some are life changing others, are considerably less so. You can leave a workshop any time you like.
But most of all, lots of nice interesting people. So it is really what you make of it yourself. You need to actively join in to make Confest your own or you will be very bored. I think Confest is about the most free you can realistically ever be. Also the most hot you can ever be too as temperatures reach the mid-forties C. in summer, but are much nicer at Easter.
This section is about getting your body moving in a fancy-shmancy way but if you're keen for the nightclub style groove-thang check out the Beat magazine.
First off, you can join the Melbourne CS Salsa Sub-group!
- Check out this website/directory: Melbourne Salsa (Facebook page).
- The Salsa Foundation runs many classes, some of which are FREE.
- Other groups include: Melbourne Latin Dance, Latin247, a monthly night in Coburg or Brunswick; Flavoured Rhythm; Salsa in the Park, which meet every Sunday at around 3pm - "I've been once and it was soo much fun," reports a CSer.
- Latin Lover lists a variety of different places to go for lessons and social nights.
The Salsa Foundation have free classes in the CBD Wednesday and Thursday at 600 Little Collins St @ 17:30. However these are more of a place to learn rather than a 'social night'.
Places to go social dancing (without a free class beforehand):
~Thursday @ The Spot
~Friday @ The Conga Room @ Sontano's Hilton or @ Amber Lounge in CBD
~Saturday @ The Spot or @ Copacobana
~Sunday @ The Night Cat
- Lindy Hop Melbourne has a calendar of events.
- Swing Patrol offers many classes/social dances throughout the week in various locations.
- Very Tango has a calendar of events.
Melbourne has a bevvy of cinemas, but films in Australia can break your budget. Try winning tickets through one of the mailing lists listed above in Useful Websites (Time Out and Three Thousand have giveaways almost weekly). You can hit up a discount night, go to a film club at a bar, try out one of the free screenings -- or splash out with an outdoor film.
- Mondays: Kino in the city for $7; Cinema Nova in Carlton for $9, or $6 before 4pm
- Tuesdays: any Palace cinema (other than Kino) for $7; Hoyts for $11
- Wednesdays: Astor Cinema for $9
- list of deals
Indie Film Nights:
Independent Film Nights in Bars (Bar Open, Loop, Bar 303, Long Play, Kent Street)
Indoor Free Films:
- Celebrate Southgate - upper level Southgate, Southbank
- Outside In Cinema - State Library of Victoria, Swanston Street
- Sunday Night Double Feature - Thousand Pound Bend, Lt. Lonsdale
- Rooftop Cinema - 6/252 Swanston Street, at the Rooftop Bar above Cookie/The Toff in Town
- St. Kilda Open Air Cinema - 10-18 Jacka Blvd, St. Kilda Beach
- Moonlight Cinema - Botanical Gardens
- Gasworks Backyard Cinema - corner of Graham & Pickles Street, Albert Park
- The Shadow Electric - Abbotsford Convent
- Coburg Drive-In - 155 Newlands Rd, Coburg
- Cameo Cinemas - Burwood Highway, Belgrave
- Movies in the Vinyard - Rochford Winery, Yarra Valley
On Tuesdays, Blockbuster have $2 New Release DVDs, Albert Park Movies Now have $1 DVDs, and Video Busters in Collingwood have $1 movies.
[Note: specials were accurate at the time of writing, but may change.]
Melbourne has shopping precincts, lanes, factory outlets, charity stores, boutiques and oh so much more!
Markets: Whitehat have put together an overview that details a comprehensive list of markets around Melbourne & outer suburbs. They've also done all the hard work listing the farmer's markets too! If you know of one not on their list, contact them with the new info so we can always be up-to-date.
Dumpster Diving: is quietly, slowly growing popularity in Melbourne. There's a relatively new facebook page, and a CS group, as well as a great write-up on Not Quite Nigella. Coles & Woolies may require keys- although many are quite lazy about actually locking up. The markets do not, just be aware of safety if diving while the crew is cleaning up. The suburban supermarkets are definitely better because they're hit less often, Aldi can be good for that reason too. I've not heard of police called but divers should expect to dive late at night to avoid unnecessary attention. Also, be mindful to stay out of the way of the dumpster trucks, they're doing their job. Always dive in pairs for safety reasons.
Op Shopping: you will notice as soon as you hit north of the Yarra river, that the folk there love their op-shop fashion. Charity stores or opportunity stores are a dime a dozen. Here's a list put together by Only Melbourne.
Secondhand Bookshops: books might be thought of as a dying fashion in competition to the Kindles & iPads of the technological world but I for one will always love the feel of an old paperback as I sip my cuppa tea. Check out this list for bookshops around town. Also Rue Bebelons cafe/ bar have just started a new book sharing program. The books are free for you to exchange with your already read books. There's a great selection. Also watch out on the Melbourne group forum for book swapping events that MelbourneExperience likes to put on occasionally.
Melbourne (okay, who am I kidding, AUSTRALIA) has a huge sports culture!
An extensive list of all things sport's can be found on the Only Melbourne site. To find out what sport is on, check out the City of Melbourne's What's On Sports page. And if you're a mega keen sports enthusiast why not round your fellow CSers up for a Melbourne Sports Tour?
AFL (also known as Aerial Ping Pong by Rugby supporters): this type of football has an elongated ball and they do a lot of bouncing, jumping and running, not a lot of tackling or brute force. Official website.
Rugby: this is the type of football where big beefy boys run, tackle, pound the crap out of each other and attempt to run. Offical website.
Soccer (what the rest of the world - except the US - know as FOOTBALL): this is the one with the round white & black ball, no tackles to be had (although they do fall & trip and crash into each other), a few punches if you're lucky, a lot of speed and skill (guess which football I support?!). Official website. CS Melbourne also has a futsal team CS United.
Cricket: long, hot summer days spent drinking in the sun watching the boys in white hit a ball with a flat stick and run back & forth. Offical website. And, funnily enough, I actually like it.
Basketball: an orange ball, mega tall people who like to swing off the hoop if they get the chance to slam-dunk. See this CS post for more on basketball courts, or check out Asphalt All-Stars for more info.
Swimming: whether you're into solo laps or splashing about, this is the ideal sport for keeping fit. Check out this CS thread for more information on public swimming pools around the city.
Ultimate frisbee: I'm not sure when the good ol' faithful, picnic in the park, frisbee became it's own sport but it's definitely loads of fun. Check out Ultimate Victoria for more information about where and when you can play!
Yoga: Check out this thread on all the places offering free or cheap yoga classes.
Chloe - The Icon of Melbourne
She has graced magazine covers, had wine named after her and poems written to her. She has experienced fame and adoration and has won high acclaim from critics. Chloe has kept company with artists, poets, wharfies, Prime Ministers and drunks, soldiers, sailors, celebrities, bushies, laborers and art connoisseurs. Her history involves transformation, death, intrigue, love, war, depression and passion. And still she smiles down on Melbourne.
Chloe was brought to life in Paris in 1875 by the artist Jules-Joseph Lefebvre, a respected leading academic master of the painted nude figure in the late 1800's. Marie, a young Parisian woman, modeled for Lefebvre's Chloe at around the age of 19. Marie was a model who posed for several artists and, after throwing a party for her friends, spent her last money on poisonous matches, boiled these up, drank the concoction and painfully died. It is thought she was rejected and left destitute her long-term lover. Marie was about 21 years of age and left a small daughter, nothing is known of her fate. And we think of the French as a romantic people.
Chloe's debut at the Paris Salon - a showcase exhibition for the leading French academic masters and their prize works - was a raging success. Chloe won the Gold Medal of Honor, the greatest official award to be bestowed on a French artist and the first of three gold medals Chloe was to win. In 1879 she was the central figure in the French Gallery at the Sydney International Exhibition and at the Melbourne International Exhibition of 1880; Chloe scooped the pool, winning both the highest awards and acclamation.
Chloe was then purchased by Dr Thomas Fitzgerald of Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. However, while Chloe had won the highest of critical acclaim, she had not yet won the hearts of the Melbourne people. With new Sunday opening times in effect and a naked woman at the Gallery, the Presbyterian Assembly worked themselves up into a frenzy of religious protestation. Chloe remained with Dr Fitzgerald for a further 21 years causing scandal until his death in 1908.
In 1908, Messrs Young and Jackson, who had been successful in the gold fields of New Zealand, purchased and hung her above the bar, now named after her, in their hotel. Custom increased dramatically with the cultured viewing and criticism of a wholly new audience.
Chloe has kept soldiers company through two World Wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She has held a special place in the hearts of Australian soldiers, as witnessed each Anzac Day when more than 2,000 people visit Young and Jackson's to have a drink in her company. During the World Wars diggers came to drink with Chloe before being shipped out. Letters were written to her from the trenches of Turkey, France, and Papua New Guinea, swearing their true love and promising to return. Many diggers during both World Wars arranged to meet their mates afterward at Young and Jackson's, if they survived.
American GI's so in love with her during World War II that plans were made to abduct her. Another GI was so besotted with Chloe that he threw a glass of beer at her exclaiming that he would give her something to remember him by.
Having put up with each other for almost 100 years, Chloe and Y&J's have become inextricably linked as part of Melbourne's heritage. The National Trust and Heritage Victoria decreed several years ago that they remain bound together forever. Chloe is now raising money, for Challenge, a cancer support network.
Where To Stay If Not CouchSurfing
The following are ALL recommended by CSer's.
- Nomads All Nations on the corner of Spencer and Flinders streets; $20 for a 12 person dorm.
- Home @ The Mansion, is in three locations: City, St Kilda, and near the Great Ocean Road, Torquay. Rooms & rates vary.
- For an affordable long-stay hostel option, Home on Hoddle has two locations and good reviews (and I can personally vouch).
- Hostel Bookers can also recommend other hostels in Melbourne.
Hotels on the Cheap
There are quite a few hotels that run their room rates at well below normal prices when they're low on bookings. If staying with a friend or in a couple these offers can sometimes be cheaper than hostels - but you have to hunt for the bargains, and watch out for the fine print!
Camping/ Caravan Parks
Gypsy Car Camping in Melbourne - by Melbourne CS legend Cassie
- Legality - technically you cannot sleep in public places. So be quiet, polite, do not litter and move on if the police or members of the public ask you.
- Park near a public toilet to avoid police charging you with 'littering.'
- Avoid beaches and other more obvious camping places as these are more patrolled, and the locals are sick of free campers.
- Highly recommend are parks as they have toilets, water and BBQ's to cook on and no neighbors. Google maps is excellent as it identifies these facilities.
- Don't stay more than two nights in a row.
Two excellent Melbourne locations are Edinburgh Gardens, next to the toilets is very quiet and located in walking distance of the CBD; and Darebin Gardens (west, at the end of Separation St.) is a lovely spot with toilets, water, free BBQ and very quiet. Williamstown Beach has free showers.
The Melbourne CS group and CS.org do not advocate illegal activities, but we know you want to know so here's a guide packed full of information, and there's been a short discussion on CS already. One CSer recommended in Dec. 2012: "Quietly ask around at Loophole Community Centre in Thornbury."
How to get around in Melbourne
Maps and brochures are available for download. Please consider the environment before printing. There are also Smartphone apps available, Metlink, Train Trapper, & Tram Hunter.
Not only is it an excellent way to also see Melbourne and to explore the famous laneways and coffee shops, it's also the cheapest and easiest method to get around. A series of self-guided walks developed by Federation Square and the City of Melbourne are available, or you can just wander around, getting yourself lost & found.
Melbourne has an excellent integrated public transport system, of trains, trams and buses. You can get pretty much everywhere throughout Melbourne & surrounding suburbs using a combination of all services but the transport system is radial so getting across town is slow and painful; allow plenty of time.
The Myki card needs to be purchased prior to travelling on public transport. It can be purchased online, from any major premium train station (first or last on any route), retail outlets, 7-Eleven convenience stores, at the PTV Hub on the corner of Little Collins & Swanston St's, or by calling 13 6954 (13 myki).
Once you've purchased your card you then need to top up by putting funds on the card, and when travelling tap on the card on the yellow reader on the bus/ tram or at entrance gates of train stations, and then remember to tap off when you leave. They say you don't have to tap off on trams because it automatically calculates the lowest fare. I always tap on & off anyway just so I'm in the habit of doing it for all services.
DO NOT TRY TO RIDE FOR FREE! Melbourne has Ticket Inspectors trained by North Koreans under the guidance of Hannibal Lecter. Being Johnny-Foreigner-I-don't-speak-no-English will not save you! The fines are BIG ($180) and will follow you to the grave so just BUY a ticket. The Age newspaper published an interesting story: Ticket inspectors rated as less than fare that links to the The Revenue Protection Plan that discusses how Metlink raise revenue. Brutal is best, apparently.
On a more positive note, the tourist City Circle Line is free and well worth the ride, so take it!
If you need to plan your route use the Public Transport Victoria Journey Planner, it is recommended that you also cross reference with a Google map of where you're going.
Melbourne has a good system of bike paths. This, if the weather is good, is the ideal way (I think) to travel. The city also has a strong bike culture - so that bikes are not so much freedom machines but political statements ridden with ‘attitude’ in approved gear (lycra or t-shirts with political slogans). There is a reasonable network of bike paths Bicycle Victoriais a useful source for cycling related information, and for bike paths and cycling routes. Google Maps now has a very good outline of Melbourne's bike tracks too.
Bikes can be hired from Melbourne Bike Share. The bike share helmets can be purchased at 7-11s for a low $10 price tag - and the label easily scratched off & replaced with a CS sticker!
Helmets, and front and rear lights are compulsory (fines are $320 in total), passing a stationary tram with its light flashing ($360). For ABC Radio Background Briefing on Helmets - http://www.abc.net.au/rn/backgroundbriefing/ Under Victorian cycling laws there are jail terms for cyclists and fines of more than $68,000 as cyclists face the same road rules as motorists should they fail to stop after an accident or are guilty of careless or dangerous riding.
* Hit or run resulting in serious injury or death: 5 years jail or up to a $68,052 fine or both * Dangerous riding: 12 months jail, or up to a $13,160 fine or both * Careless riding: $681 for first offense, $1361 for subsequent offenses * Riding through a RED light: $224 (law now operative) * $284 or seven days' prison if property is damaged by a cyclist and the rider does not immediately stop and offer assistance
An experience of one CouchSurfer (Sept 2010): "After just 4 days in Australia; Melbourne, my room mate lent me his bike and his helmet. I didn't want the helmet... Honestly, I lived and ridden my bike in several places around the world without a helmet, I'm simply not used to it and felt weird. I happily left home and (literally) 75 meters after, was stopped by 2 policemen on bike. Tried to explain that I just arrived, that I didn't know that wearing it was "by law", that I was a foreigner... My fine was $150. I've been here 2 months now... Didn't catch the bike anymore. I miss it...But yeah, they do actually fine you for it."
Melbourne has many bike lanes and bike paths and is an excellent city in which to cycle for work or pleasure. However, be warned, drivers may be a hazard as they sometime do not check for bikes before merging or opening car doors. Main roads, such as Sydney Rd. are not for the faint-hearted. There is also a lot of driver-cyclist road rage as drivers are not fond of cyclists, which is made worse when cyclists do not follow road rules and dodge traffic.
Play is safe, and follow the road laws!
The Bike Shed at CERES
The Bike Shed at Ceres is an iconic Melbourne organisation, providing reliable and affordable bikes for over twenty years. It is run by unpaid volunteers, and famous as being somewhat eccentric; bargain, and the price goes up. Be rude or demanding and you will be ignored or even abused (all complaints to the CERES office 100m up the hill). That said, The Bike Shed is also CERES (the Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies) most popular site group, assisting about a thousand people each month. The volunteers may also give one another 'man hugs' for no apparent reason, yell at each other or even possibly invite you for a beer once the Shed closes. People may turn up and play music. They can also be very helpful and are a nexus of the Melbourne bike culture.
The Bike Shed's purpose is to skill you to fix your own bike - not fix it for you. If you need help that is fine, if you want your bike fixed you will just be left to stand there, not matter how cute you think you are. This is probably the source of much confusion and conflict. Also the volunteers don't wear uniforms or identification and usually help several people at once. So, at first, the place appears totally anarchistic when it is (usually) quite structured. Most people come away with good bikes and enjoy the experience as, in its own way, uniquely Australian. Bike Shed Volunteers have a range of skills and training from ultra-expert to novice. Some even work in bike shops, some are university academics and some are just quite odd.
The Bike Shed locationcan be a site to see with its much photographed bike wheel dome.
Melbourne is not an easy city to drive in because of the trams, their rights on the road, and also simply learning how to do a hook-turn in the CBD. It's important to ensure you check out the VicRoads website before attempting to drive in Australia/ this state, in case there are road rules you're unfamiliar with, like driving on the left. You might also like to participate in the TAC DriveSmart program to gain more confidence or take a safety driving course.
We also have a few toll highways, managed by Citylink and parking can be difficult to work out. Do not get caught without a valid ticket - the 'Grey Ghosts' (parking inspectors) are everywhere at all hours of the day & night! Parking permits are required in most areas/ suburbs of Melbourne whether there is signage or not. Each council manages their own parking permits so you will need to Google what council your home is in to find out where to get your permit.
How do I get to and from Melbourne
Getting to and from the Airports Cheap!
Melbourne is served by two airports. Melbourne (Tullamarine) is the largest and most popular, and is home to Melbourne's International terminal. Melbourne (Avalon) is the base for some JetStar flights, as well as being a Qantas maintainence base and training runway. NOTE: You can follow this thread for more illumination on transport from the airport!
Melbourne (Tullamarine Airport)
Several Couch Surfers have been told at Tullamarine Information there is no public bus. THIS IS INCORRECT!
- BUS ROUTE 901! It's possibly the longest metropolitan bus route in the world but the 901 'smart' bus from Frankston to Melbourne Airport runs frequently every day from 5am to midnight. You will need a Zone 2 met ticket (plus Zone 1 if going to city via train) or sufficient funds on your Myki card. Stops regularly at Broadmeadows/ Epping Station, and starts and finishes near the Tiger Terminal 4. While it will take longer depending on where you're travelling from and may require you to use connecting public transport, it will save you $10-$13 each way by not taking skybus. Here's the Timetable and Route Map.
- Skybus : Approximately 20 min from the city center ($16 one way, $26 return) takes you to Southern Cross Station (on Spencer Street), with free transfers to City hotels & backpackers accommodation. At the Skybus ticket counter you can pick up a free copy of the Melbourne in Spring/ Summer/ Autumn/ Winter magazine that contains a city map, tram & train map and a few vouchers.
- You could catch a taxi, which would usually cost around $40 to $70, depending on the driver, weather, time of day, traffic and other factors.
- There are other bus rotes to consider (478, 479, 500) from the airport. To locate the bus stop: As you leave the airport terminal, go down to the concourse, where all buses leave from and look for the yellow 'VLine' sign indicating both the '477' and the '478' bus numbers. The sign is normal bus sign sized and attached to one of the steel poles holding up the overhead shelter itself. It is furthermost of the two dedicated lanes for buses. The sign itself is about in line with the big blue words that say 'INTERNATIONAL' over the terminal itself. For timetable & route information visit Public Transport Victoria.
For information about showers at the airport, check this thread.
Melbourne (Avalon Airport)
- The Sunbus Shuttle takes approximately 1 hour to get to Melbourne & costs about $19-25 AUD depending on where you want to go on the fixed route, from there you can take public transport to your final destination.
- A taxi from Melbourne - Avalon is way too much to even consider on the average traveler's budget.
- You can also take the train from Spencer Street Station to Lara Station (on Geelong Vline route), then catch a short taxi ride to Avalon.
There is loads of information on hitch hiking in Australia on the Hitchwiki site. And though no one ever seems to be prosecuted for hitch hiking (we even rang the police who just laughed) there are laws in different states, here are some we could find:
Western Australia: A person shall not, while on a carriageway or median strip solicit contributions, employment or a ride from an occupant of a vehicle;
Queensland: Hitch hiking from median strips, traffic islands, painted islands and the road shoulder has been banned. Hitch hiking from one of these areas attracts a fine of $30, consistent with the existing fine for hitch hiking from a road.
Victoria: A person must not stand on, or move onto, a road to hitchhike.
It may be possible to leave Melbourne as crew on a sailing yacht. See the following sites:
However, to quote one CSer, "It's not just about the free ride, in the same way that CS is not just about the free place to sleep, so it's important to have some common ground other than sailing...It is quite repulsive how many of the skippers on Findacrew and 7knots advertise for romantic partners... at least you can walk out the door when you're on land... we don't have that in the crew networks, which makes it very difficult to filter out personal interests such as non-drinkers, vegans, sailors with solar and turbine generators etc... The situation is not helped by the fact that many of the people owning boats are in general much more conservative than those willing to volunteer as crew."
The CS group Boat Hitch-hiking is a gold mine of practical information.
Hiring Vehicles and Vans
To hire vehicles you can try these companies:
From Melbourne, CouchSurfers have found the cheapest cars for rent are:
- Rent a Bomb (old cars, but the less expansive ones), from $35 AUD/day (manual transmission, with automatic transmission cars are more expansive)
- Europcar, from $39 AUD/day if you take a small car about 3 days in advance. We get one just 1 day in advance for 45 AUD.
- We've rent one with Thrifty once, for 2 days, at $139 AUD so that's more expansive.
- VroomVroom will search all the car rental sites for the best deal.
Car Relocations Interstate
There is also the possibility of relocation where companies provide a vehicle to be returned to another city, the petrol and a set number of days for completion. You must be flexible with your travel plans, as very occasionally the cars/ campervans are cancelled last-minute. however, if you are able to get one, it is one of the most economical ways to traverse the large distances of Australia, and a lot of fun to boot!
You DO NOT need a 4WD!!!
Australia has an excellent system of paved/ bitumen roads even in the most remote areas. So that a two wheel drive vehicle is cheaper and will use a lot less fuel, which given the distances in Australia means a huge saving. Furthermore, most hire companies have exclusion clauses so you are not allowed off road - being subject to large financial penalty and are also completely UNINSURED! Given the fine red dust that off-road travel generates, which gets into the interior, air-conditioning and body work, it is obvious that you have been off-road. Don't try it. In general a van is the most convenient form of transport.
For more information see the CS Australia Getting Around wiki.
Buying a Vehicle
When looking to buy a car it is important that you check a few things first. Like, what to do if you want to buy, sell or transfer ownership of a vehicle, and work out how safe your car is or will be. It is also essential that you check the Personal Property Securities Register to see if the car has been previously involved in poor credit management, an accident, or is written-off. You should also confirm the ownership of the vehicle's registration before paying for the vehicle.
There is Pickles Auction every week: for cheap ex-Government or legally repossessed vehicles. There are a few things you have to be aware of like registration and getting a temporary driving license but otherwise there's nothing sinister about it other than making sure you do your homework and know how much you should be paying for the car. make sure you read up on the VicRoads website.
There is also a car yard directly opposite Somerset Road intersection, next to Mitubishi Motors Sydney Road. This sells cheap cars that have hail damage (hail can be the size of goal balls and fatal) some cars are in pretty bad nick with 50 or more dints, which will attract rust quicker if untreated, so choose wisely. However the cars are cheap and mechanically often in very good condition. Stock number will of course depend on recent weather conditions.
Registering a Vehicle Out of State
If you have brought your vehicle out of state. To register in another state usually means you need a roadworthy (expensive mechanical) test. However you can can simply re-register online. For instance, if your vehicle is registered in NSW and you are now in Victoria, use NSW Government. It does not matter if you have NSW plates whilst driving in Victoria or anywhere else in Australia, it just means the car is registered in NSW. For other states you will need to Google search the correct registration authority.
In Victoria, you can register through VicRoads.
In case you need to use a jack to prop the car up you should back it up with extra support in case it fails/ falls; do not go under the car while it is only supported by the jack and make sure it is completely stable and on firm ground. If you are really stuck use the spare tyre jammed under the vehicle as a support.
Floods and Cars
Half of deaths in Australian floods occur in vehicles as a result of crossing flooded areas, despite public warnings. The average car is 6-8m (2) in surface area and a displacement of only 10-20cm of water above the chassis (the bottom of the vehicle) will cause the car to be washed away. People underestimate the force of water. Four-wheel drives are even more prone to being washed away as they have a larger surface area, despite their greater weight. The next most common cause of drowning is swimming in flooded areas (sourced from Australian Science 'Floods and Cars' June 2010). Watch this phenomenal footage of just how dangerous floods are!
Heat and Dust
Most of Australia seems to need a good clean, as much is covered in a fine red dust. This will pass inevitably through your vehicle air-conditioning unit into the car's interior. It will also get into the fuel filter and air-cleaner. Check that both are clean in any vehicle you purchase, failure to do this may lead to vehicle failure and poor fuel consumption. Additionally, the extreme heat will evaporate the water in the vehicles battery. Check regularly and refill with distilled water.
Dawn/ Dusk Driving & Animals
It is extremely dangerous to drive on wide open highways or poorly lit areas from dusk (from sun down) to dawn (sun rise) because it makes it extremely hard to see wild animals movement. Kangaroos, emus, and other wild animals are active and do not stop to check for vehicles approaching. If you hit an animal (road kill) DO NOT stop as you will be causing a hazard to other vehicles. Hitting an animal WILL cause major damage to your vehicle.
Exploring Melbourne & the State of Victoria?
What are the areas of Melbourne?
Greater Melbourne covers an area in excess of 8,800 square km and is comprised of a number of regions. Each region contains a number of suburbs, each with its own cultural and historical identity.
But be warned it does matter what side of the river you live on, as this rather cheeky Sydney Morning Herald article writes.
- Includes Melbourne, Docklands, Southbank, North Melbourne, East Melbourne, West Melbourne, Central Business District (CBD).
North, East and West Melbourne are on the perimeter of the CDB, which made a lot more sense when the city was first founded and the CBD was the port. Thanks to massive reclamation of the sea it is now some distance from the water. The Old Customs House - now Immigration Museum - in Flinders street was once on the sea front.
A glance at a map and it’s obvious that Melbourne is a planned colonial city: a tidy, balanced grid of neatly angled streets laid out by Robert Hoddle supposedly one afternoon in 1837, however, beneath this sense of everything in its place restraint lies a restless creative energy constantly pushing back at the city’s seeming conservatism. The CBD is made up of precincts – distinct enclaves each with its own flavour and charm. Some are just a lane or two, while others cover the banks of the Yarra River or a busy CBD street.
Some of Melbourne’s most interesting hidden gems crop up on old industrial land. By the late 19th century, the lower reaches of the Yarra and the Maribyrnong were lined with a number of smelly polluting industries. Perhaps none were as smelly as the glue factories near the abattoirs, where animal carcases were rendered down to make glue. It therefore comes as a shock to round the corner on the cycle path through this semi-derelict area and come face to face with a giant gold statue. Meet the Heavenly Queen – Mazu was a much revered Queen during the Sung Dynasty (10th century) who watched over and protected her people. Had she been constructed in the early days of Melbourne she would from her lofty elevation been able to see not only the Maribyrnong at her feet but the nearby Yarra River before it was filled in and a new channel dug miles away. Apart from the statue, the complex is planned to contain a temple (now well advanced), other buildings and a garden in the Chinese style. Take the pedestrian and bicycle path or Joseph Road. There are workmen from China who probably don’t have any English but plenty of goodwill in the Taoist tradition who are turning an ugly bend in the river into a beautiful place of quiet contemplation. You can see some photographs at Heavenly Queen
Victoria Market on Elizabeth St, just outside of the CBD in North Melbourne is a CouchSurfers food heaven! Bananas are often sold for under $1.00 a kilo and there are bargains galore. Closed Monday and Wednesday. Also good for dumpster diving, but be aware to stay outside the stall boundary lines because it's considered private property, and also stay clear of the forklift drivers who get antsy if you get in their way.
Melbourne lanes and arcades are part of the inner city culture of this city. Two great sites for more information are:
- Includes Carlton, Brunswick, Fitzroy, Collingwood, Coburg, Northcote
Considered to be Melbourne's more bohemian, environmentally-conscientious communities, they are firmly rooted in their mediterranean history. From Lygon Street's Italian community, to Northcote's Greek, Lebanese and Turkish, and while Fitzroy is home to the rich hippies of Melbourne, the more ecclectic can now be found alongside African, and meditteranean communities in Brunswick.
- Includes St Kilda, South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, Albert Park, Elwood
St Kilda is an inner city suburb of Melbourne, 6 km south from the city centre. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, St Kilda served a similar function for Melburnians as did Coney Island to the residents of New York City and its history draws an interesting parallel. Densely populated postwar St Kilda became Melbourne's red-light district, home to low-cost rooming houses. Since the late 1960s, St Kilda was a bohemian area of Melbourne, home to artists, musicians and many of the city's subcultures, including the punks, Les-Gay-Bi-Trans groups and was the birthplace of Melbourne's Techno scene at The Pure, at the rear of the Palace nightclub. While some of these groups still maintain a presence in St Kilda, in recent years the district has experienced rapid gentrification pushing many lower socio-economic groups out to other areas. St Kilda is home to many of Melbourne's famous visitor attractions including Luna Park, the Esplanade Hotel, Acland Street and Fitzroy Street. It is home to St Kilda Beach, Melbourne's most famous beach, several renowned theatres and several of Melbourne's big events and festivals.
- Includes Richmond, Hawthorn, South Yarra, Prahran, Windsor
This region is divided by the river and is remarkably different on both sides. If you're looking for the best Vietnamese restaurants, look no further than Victoria Street, Richmond but for the upper class definitely visit Chapel Street, which runs through South Yarra, Prahan and Windsor. It's home to the most expensive clothing brands in the world and to the Jam Factory, an iconic shopping centre and cinema complex. In the lower end of Chapel Street, you'll find the wonderfully ecclectic Chapel St Bazaar, worth a visit, just for it's randomness.
- Includes Kensington, Footscray, Flemington, Yarraville
Footscray, usually said by Melburnian's with an old Greek woman's accent as "Foot-es-cray" from it's Greek history, it is now home to many Asian and African communities. While it used to have a bad reputation for a strong drug dealing and do-not-go-to after dark culture, it is now getting much safer thanks to vamped police patrols and security enhancements from the local council.
- Includes Tullamarine (Melbourne Airport), St Albans, Keilor, Essendon, Sunbury, Broadmeadows, Craigieburn
Ahhh the western suburbs... how they cop a bad rap, perhaps quite deservably, for being a bit rough around the edges, which may only be so because of their proximity to the airport and lower socio-economic areas of Melbourne surrounds, and not actually the people therein (many of whom I know to be lovely).
- Includes Epping, Eltham, Heidelberg, Greensborough, Bundoora, Reservoir, Preston
Bundoora is host to La Trobe university and the area surrounding it is home to many students. Other areas are typical family suburbs, all with their own shopping complexes, schools and limited reasons for actually going to the CBD.
- Includes Glen Waverley, Lilydale, Box Hill, Doncaster, Blackburn, Camberwell, Wantirna
Camberwell is quite interesting for its Sunday Market, which has been running since 1976.
Lilydale hosts the $3.10 wine tasting round trip. To go, get a Sunday Saver ticket for $3.10 (or use your myki). Take train to Lilydale Station from Melbourne CBD. Get off at Lilydale Station. Take the 685 Bus from the station to Healesville. Look at McKenzie Bus website to find bus schedule. Tell bus driver to drop you off at Yerring Station Vineyard. They have about 12 wines you can taste, from white to red, for free. Bring a packed lunch and sit out on the deck enjoying magnificent view of the vineyards and valley. There are also some art works to check out too.
- Includes Werribee, Hoppers Crossing, Sunshine
Little can be said about these areas, except that if you can find a reason to go, you can find a better reason not to. That said, CSers have cycled from Werribee to Williamstown along the partially completed bike trail, it's a long ride through some smelly but interesting countryside, do not attempt it without a GPS-enabled smartphone.
- Includes Mt Dandenong, Mount Evelyn, Olinda, Sassafras, Belgrave, Monbulk, Silvan
The William Ricketts Sanctuary is situated in cool a ferny glade, it is a place of beauty and tranquility. William Ricketts (1898–1993) was a self-taught Australian potter and sculptor. From 1934, until his death in 1993, he built a sculpture park as his major artistic work - over some fifty years. In doing so, he expressed his deeply felt connections to the earthly mother and the spirit of the land. The sculptures are mystical in intention, reflecting an eclectic mix of the classical sculpture, medieval Hieronymus Bosch like fantastic imagery, that illustrates moral and religious concepts, the English pre-Raphaelite movement is reflected along with a cloying sentimentality that romanticizes the Aboriginal. Yet, William Ricketts' obvious sincerity leaves the sanctuary as a place for quiet reflection and for contemplation of the essence of his vision. It's free and well worth the visit.
The Annual Tesselaar Tulip Festival is held in October, what should be a great event is in reality a tawdry and over-priced ($18 entry) tourist trap. Overall a great disappointment. Best avoided.
- Includes Clayton, Dandenong, Narre Warren, Cranbourne, Noble Park, Berwick, Hampton Park
The Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne is one of Victoria's most precious areas of native bushland and offers nature-lovers the chance to explore 363 hectares of untouched heathland, wetlands and woodlands. These expansive natural gardens are also home to thriving bird and animal life, including several rare endangered species.
The Dandenong Ranges Point website has a lot of information about how to get around this stunning part of Victoria. One of the best (& free), not to forget challenging things to do is the 1000 Steps Kokoda Walk, which commemorates the sacrifices made by Australian soldiers during the Second World War along the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea.
- Includes Frankston, Seaford, Dromana, Portsea, Rosebud, Rye, Cape Schanck
Along the Mornington Peninsula is some of the most beautiful scenery of Victoria. You can take the Queenscliff-Sorrento ferry from Sorrento to Queenscliff on the Bellarine Peninsula (other side of Geelong towards the Great Ocean Road). A great way to start your GOR trip!
Around the State
For cost and environmental reasons, public transport is a good option for traveling around Victoria (and Australia). VLine offers tour packages as well as the usual travel routes. V-line tickets are often cheap, especially for students.
Bendigo is one of Australia's oldest, grandest cities. For a few brief years during the 1850s and 60s, it was one of the world's richest cities. That wealth was reflected in many opulent buildings which now line the main streets. And the gold that created those riches are still visible in reefs under the ground - one mine is literally around 800 metres below the city's main centre. It takes around an hour and 15 minutes to drive to Bendigo, or two hours on the train.
Geelong & the Bellarine Peninsula is about one hour west of Melbourne via the Princes Freeway. The waterfront is worth a walk - gorgeous at sunset. The Bellarine Peninsula has a wealth of hidden secrets to explore, including a tourist railway & some great lighthouses at Queenscliff and Airey's Inlet. There's also really good beaches at Torquay, Anglesea and Lorne. Torquay is the the birth place of Rip Curl, Quicksilver and Billabong surf brands and the home of Bells Beach, the most renown surf town in Australia. There is a definite surf culture down there, with surf lessons available. If this is your very first time and want to get into it quickly try Anglesea, which is the next main town down the coast. The waves are more friendly for beginners so you're more likely to get on your feet, or at least your knees sooner.
You Yangs are some granite hills between Melbourne and Geelong. They provide a good view towards Geelong and Melbourne. "Big Rock" is nice. No 4WD needed - easy roads, which make for a good day trip.
Brisbane Ranges National Park only shares the name with the known city. It is located in the middle of the triangle Melbourne-Geelong-Ballarat. The National park offers some hikes including a three day hike. The Anakie Gorge Walk is easy & nice. 40% of the National Park burned a few years ago, but nature is coming back with all its power. Most of the roads are easy to drive with any 'normal' car. Some parts may be a bit tricky after heavy rain - there are some steeper valleys.
Cathedral Ranges State Park is a small park north of Healesville next to Maroondah Hwy. It features a great hike along a ridge with light rock climbing (no ropes needed; beware: not for people who have claustrophobia - there is a tight rift to squeeze through). The park is the start for an easy 4WD-only track up mountain to 1145m height - good for newbies.
Yarra Ranges National Park/ The Black Spur has breathtaking mountain ash trees with masses of ferns at their feet. Maroondah Hwy curls through these hills with down to 35km/h sections. A dangerous road, so watch out, especially if you are on a motorcycle. Not as long as Great Ocean Road, but definitely worth seeing. You can stop in at the Healesville Sanctuary on the way through . Other sights worth seeing in Healesville include the Judith Eardley Save the Wildlife Bookshop, and the Cherry Tree Fish & Chip Shop which has the best potato cakes in Victoria.
Daylesford & Hepburn Springs is the centre of Victoria's alternative complementary therapies. Massage, counseling, second hand books, rowing a boat on a lake, snazzy restaurants, old convents converted into gallery and restaurant, Tarot readings, natural springs, bath house, cheap accommodation, etc. all set in an old growth forest of gum trees and gentle hills. Getting there: Calder Highway to Woodend, then turn north west. Not far from Daylesford is beautiful Castelmaine, also worth a look.
There is some surprisingly good SCUBA diving on the Victorian coastline. The Portsea Hole is a great boat dive, amongst several options including a beautiful wreck (non penetrative), and the Rye Pier a pleasant enough shore dive for macro life.
Snorkel Dive with Seals in Melbourne Bay ($85 trip and gear hire) has been highly recommended by CouchSurfers. Snorkelling with the attention-loving big brown-eyed seals (actually sea lions) is amazing fun (and much better than scuba diving) as they are attracted to the movement so you really can swim with seals as they come incredibly close. Be warned though, they do not like to be touched. This trip includes two dives, including the array of wonderful Australian fish at Popes Eye sanctuary, which sometimes includes dolphins.
The Great Ocean Road
Firstly, join the official CouchSurfing Great Ocean Road (GOR) group to find people to travel with!
There are several ways to do this trip. Organized tours costing about $150 for two nights/ three days. CouchSurfers have found Wild Wombat Escapes offers small number, good value, one day tours including lunch and hostel pick-up for $95. Chris, who runs it, is apparently very nice, knowledgable and genuine. Self-drive can be for as little as petrol, if camping rough or by V/Line public transport for $31 Melbourne-Warrnambool one way, with a range of tour options including the Grampians for an additional $23.90.
The best time to see the Great Ocean Road is during wet and overcast weather or even storms when the waves create a majestic atmosphere. Wet weather and indirect light bring out the full colors of the limestone. In strong sunlight and blue sky the limestone tends to look flat and rather dull. In summer there are also hordes of flies (and tourists) so insect repellent and mesh face screens are required.
For organized tours, check tourist travel websites such as Great Ocean Road Tours from Melbourne.
For public transport, V/Line Apollo Bay offer a service starting at 9am South Cross Station Melbourne arriving Warrnambool 16.55 h and stopping at all the major Great Ocean Rd sites. Please note, this is NOT a tourist service but a regular bus service. The stops are only for 10 to 20 minutes at each site. Do NOT delay the bus! That said, it is adequate to see the sites if you are rushed or broke. The trip is not guided, although the drivers tend to be pretty helpful. You can also join the bus or leave the bus at these stops.
Self-drive Suggested Itinerary #1
This was provided courtesy of the legendary Mr. Melbournexperience.
- Everyone meets at Southern Cross around 7:30 am. Coffee/ breakfast at Gloria Jeans opposite.
- Fill up at the Todd Road service centre, from here on we split the fuel bill.
- Stop at Aldi on the Princes Fwy, just north of Geelong. I get 2 lunches, 1 breakfast, we divide the bill.
- I then go on the Great Ocean Road. I normally try to see the lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, Erskine Falls, and maybe Beauchamp Falls. See koalas at Kennett River, ask the general store for directions.
- Dinner in Apollo Bay we eat out, that's each individual's cost. I then drive after dark to Johanna Beach and camp there for free.
- If you have the energy you can go further to Melba Gully and see glow-worms in the dark.
- The next morning it's breakfast at the campsite. Then if anyone needs nicer toilets stop at the service station general store at Laver's Hill.
- Then it's the Gibson Steps, 12 Apostles (a collection of eight miocene limestone rock stacks), and Loch Ard Gorge. Then I have lunch at Port Campbell, and I go to Waves restaurant for a fantastic take away coffee.
- There's also a nice souvenir shop opposite if you want something.
- Then back on the Great Ocean Road, seeing all the sights, like the Arch, London Bridge, The Grotto, Bay of Martyrs, Worm Bay - it's hard to see the turn off point, and Bay of Islands, then I turn off towards Colac, I don't normally go to Warrnambool. If you have time to get to Port Fairy it's nice for its old buildings, but there's not much on the scenery side.
- I'm normally back to the Todd Rd Service Station by about 9pm, and we fill up again and divide the fuel there.
- I normally do it in 2 days, but it's better in 3 if you can.
Also, a little after the Great Ocean Road, there is the highly recommended Tower Hill, some 16 km after Warnambool. This is a very large extinct volcanic creator, which you drive down into, in a Jurassic Park-like scenario. There are three shallow lakes, native bush, a circular drive, walks, the inner mound and a profusion of semi-tame wildlife including koala, emu, wallaby, kangaroo, tourists and bird life. Entry is free. There is also whale watching (Southern Right whales) in season, July to October, near Warrnambol itself. This is free, with excellent views from the shore viewing platform as the whales swim just beyond the waves with their young and will breech (surface).
Self-drive Suggested Itinerary #2
A few of you have email me about travel suggestions and advice so I thought it would be more beneficial to post it up here for others to view also. My advice is to plan for a three-day trip by car. This is a general itinerary most suited to travelers who want to see as much of GOR in a short space of time, but depending on what you want to see and do whilst on your trip, you will have to of course modify accordingly:
Start: My place, the unofficial start of GOR (hehe)
- If you have some spare time then maybe take an hour to walk through Geelong, especially the foreshore, and check out some of the cafes (I recommend GO) and bars (Bev's, Edge, Mr.Hyde's).
- Torquay - awesome little town with nice beaches and cafes to wet your whistle. You can get surf lesions here if you're keen.
- Bells Beach just so you can say you have been there but if your time restricted then maybe give it a miss.
- Anglesea golf course where you can check out the kangaroos most mornings and evenings grazing on the greens.
- Airley's Lighthouse where you can see the table rocks and spectacular coast line. Also amazing bird life and sunsets.
- Teddy's Lookout, Lorne! Make sure you don't miss this.
- Erskin Falls which is within the Otway National Park. Just make sure to check out both the top and bottom of the waterfall. It's about 10km out of Lorne so don't worry if you feels like have been driving for too long and must have passed it because you probably haven't. It's well signposted.
- Cora Lynn Cascade trail - this is one the way to/from Erskin falls. You need to park in the banana leaf (I think it's called) picnic area. It's about a 4-5km hike each way but well worthwhile!!! Once you make it to the cascades, keep following the stream till it opens up into bushland. Stunning is all I can say. Probably a good place to propose to your partner for all you romantics out there.
- Grey river road in Kennett River is a great place to do some koala spotting.
- Apollo Bay harbour.
- Mariners Lookout where you will be greeted by Roger the goat and Patrick the pony.
- If you can spare some time then you can take the scenic drive through the back of town to Mariners Falls. A bit minuscule compared with Erskin so don't expect too much. WARNING: the road leading there is very narrow, tortuous and loose gravel so not for the faint hearted, inexperienced driver or speed demon as we almost got run off the road several times by stupid, inconsiderate, dick drivers who have no concept of other road users! They also have an awesome weekend market on the foreshore where you can pick up awesome local produce and knick knacks.
- Johanna beach! Good place to camp for the night and chill out on the beach. Great sunsets and surf. The waves are pretty hectic so only for really experienced swimmers and surfers and maybe use the buddy system. Drive down red Johanna and back on blue Johanna.
- Princetown picnic area. Just past the town there will be a sign for a campsite and picnic area where you will find a lake with a bridge overpass. Just park near the lake before the bridge as another sleeping alternative to spend the night star gazing. I love just staring at the stars so I found this breathtaking as it's pitch black out there so you can see the the whole Milky Way really clearly. Bring a telescope if you're keen, you won't be disappointed (unless there are clouds of course).
- Gibson's Steps which are just before the 12 Apostles and the place that will give you your first glimpse of what to expect. Takes you all the way down to the beach where the sand is soft, the sun is warm and the water alluring.
- Now what you have all been waiting for, The 12 Apostles (minus a few). Great sunsets, but get there early as there are always crowds from 5am. I suggest just after sunset so you get some sunlight peeking over the cliff face onto the Apostles. Better yet, I think sunset is a better option.
- Loch Ard Gorge and surrounds (Thunder Cave)
- The Grotto
- London Bridge
- The Blowhole
- Bay of Martyrs and the Bay of Islands!!! These were actually the the highlight of my trip. Needless to say, make sure you stop that car and get the hell out for a look and a photo.
- Port Campbell. Great little town where you can stop for lunch and a chat to reflect over the awesome sights you have just witnessed.
- Warrnambool. Quite a big town/city where you can re-stock on supplies, get a feed and relax for a bit. There is a major train station with trains that takes you all the way back to Melbourne. In the winter months you can also see whales.
- Port Fairy. Beautiful town and home of the Folk Festival on Labour Day weekend. Deceptive when you drive through as the real beauty is deep within the heart of the town, so try and make some time to explore the town centre and beaches.
- Port Fairy Lighthouse. Although the lighthouse isn't anything special, the view is great. But even better is the drive there. It's not so much the tree line that's amazing but what's hiding in them. If you keep your eyes sharp, your sure to see koalas!! If you're lucky enough like we were you may even get to see a mum with its baby hanging on for dear life or one might be kind enough to come down and meet you. Truly memorable, even for an Aussie. Hence why I please urge you to drive slowly on the way. Forget the people who instantaneously slam on the breaks when they spot a koala, or the huddle of folks who clammer on the roadway recklessly taking photos without a care in the world, it's the slow-moving koalas who have come down for a forage and stroll you might also run into....so please take it easy, in both directions!
- OK, onto the home stretch now. Portland, including Cape Nelson and Cape Bridgewater where you can explore the petrified forest, windmill farms and marsh flies. Also check out the port and ships and do a spot of fishing of the pier/breakwater.
Note the rest of the itinerary is if you wish to continue onto Adelaide. I suggest doing it over another two days.
- If you're still keen to explore then i suggest heading west towards SA and the Discovery Bay with its beaches.
- Princess Margarett Limestone Caves which are apparently over 70,000 year old. It's a bit of a pain to get to from the GOR (about 13km over unsealed roads), so I suggest doing this on the way back from Mt. Gambier from the HWY as it's much closer and a more pleasant drive.
- Port McDonnell and Shell Beach where you can get up close with the marine life at low tide which are stuck in rock pools. Also some decent surf but its a (sharp) pebble beach with heaps of reef.
- Mt. Gambier where you can see the sinkhole, the something rather caves and Blue Lake.
- Beachport. Loved this town, especially the seemingly endless jetty and azur blue ocean.
- Encounter bay and the Coorongs. Awesome and worth a nights camp surrounded by nature and the water.
- Victor Harbour. Beautiful town and great surf. Make sure you try the fish and chips.
- From here you can head north to Adelaide (1hr).
Camping, Animals and Wildlife
ALWAYS GO INTO THE BUSH PREPARED & TELL FRIENDS/ FAMILY WHERE YOU'RE GOING!
In March 2011, Melbourne CouchSurfer Rachel Funari was declared missing presumed dead, bush-walking in Tasmania. It is understood she had intended only to go for an evening walk, leaving her walking gear in a backpacker's - we have now learned she fell from a cliff. Exhaustion, exposure, dehydration and disorientation are the real dangers anywhere in Australian wilderness. This section is dedicated to Rachel's memory.
Camping is a great way to experience nature and save on accommodation, some areas are assessable by public transport. Victoria has a range of natural landscapes, from high country wilderness to the desert outback of the west as well as lakes, beaches and rivers across the state. There can be grassed tent sites, camp kitchens and barbecues, toilet and shower amenities, laundry services and electricity or just grassed tent sites, so check first. The Only Melbourne site lists profiles of Melbourne caravan parks. And Coastal Camping Victoria lists those camping/ caravan sites around Victoria.
Bush camping - many state parks and reserves provide camping areas for public use. Car-based (non-4x4) camping is often a good option, while some sites can only be reached on foot.
Permits and bookings campgrounds are busy during peak holiday times. Most parks charge a fee for camping and some of the more popular parks require bookings well in advance. Some parks require campers to obtain camping permits, which can be purchased from Park Visitor Centres or at the campground you are intending to camp in. Restrictions also sometimes apply to camping in public areas such as roadside rest areas and foreshore reserves. Check with local authorities before camping overnight on public land that is not a designated camping area.
Victoria has many unique and interesting animals that live in our delicate environment. Tread lightly when you travel Australia, don't leave your rubbish behind, don't touch wild animals or try to feed them and be very very careful when using fire in the bush. Lastly, no matter how inviting never dive or even duck-dive in water. It will be muddy and the eucalyptus trees naturally drop their branches throughout the year. Many end up in rivers and wherever broken form sharp points that can impale, cut or blind. Unless they are very sure, locals will enter the water slowly and move feet first! Take the hint.
* Australian animals http://www.australianfauna.com/ * Australian birds http://birdsinbackyards.net/finder/birdlist.cfm * Australian marine life http://marinebio.org/Oceans/Creatures.asp
Contrary to popular belief dangerous Australian animals will not be waiting to get you at the airport, in your bed, in the dunny or lying in wait in other places thought up by your own paranoia Most Australian animals are happy to be left alone and you will find unless you are forcing your finger in an animal's face they are happy to stay out of your way. The eastern Brown Snake is one of the most common snakes in Victoria and one of the most deadly in the world. During early summer mornings they can be seen sunning themselves on Melbourne's bike paths. However, as wikipedia notes about the Eastern Brown Snake:
The Eastern Brown snake is diurnal (meaning it is active during the day). When highly agitated, they hold their necks high, appearing in an upright S-shape. Despite their fearsome reputation, brown snakes are reluctant to bite and react only to movement; standing still when in close proximity to one will result in it ignoring you. They are attracted to rural and farming areas, probably due to the large numbers of associated rodents. Such areas also normally provide shelter in the form of rubbish and other cover.
Most snakes and spiders do their best to stay out of your way. If you come across a snake, you have probably caught it by surprise sunning itself on a rock or a bush-track. Back away immediately until you are out of sight of the snake. If you live in a dirty house with rubbish and have a rat / mice problem you will probably attract snakes too. So cleaning rosters have their uses. That said, you will find insects, especially the mosquitos & flies to be the #1 irritation. Go figure.
* All about Australian Spiders http://australianmuseum.net.au/Spiders * Check out Australian Insects http://australianmuseum.net.au/Insects * Check out Australian Snakes http://australianmuseum.net.au/Reptiles
Moving to Melbourne
The following information is useful Australia-wide, also see the CS Australia wiki Studying & Volunteering information.
- Join the Melbourne Job Board group.
- Finding work (loads of great information), your rights and general information about working in Melbourne and Australia is on the Job Surfer wiki page.
- Volunteer farm work: see this thread for an enlightening range of comments and experiences. Also check out Travel Jobs, Free Spirit or GN Connections.
- Use employment search sites: Seek, My Career, Careers Online, JobSearch, Career One
- Register for these major recruitment agencies or do a search for your specific industry.
- Print out your cv and walk around doing a cv drop where you introduce yourself to business and apply directly - usually specific to retail or hospitality work.
- Contact some of these agencies directly:
Adecco: multiple industries, multiple locations around Victoria & Australia Candle ICT: IT Crewe Sharp: Medical DFP Recruitment Services Dixon Appointments Drake: multiple industries EBR - Ever Better Recruitment: GIS, IT, Spatial Ecareer Employment Services: IT Ethos Corporation: Executive ETX Consultants: IT, Accounting, Engineering, Administrative, Customer/Call Centre Support Experis Manpower Group (Australia): Engineering - mechanical, electrical, structural, industrial, aerospace and other related technical markets. Hays: multiple industries Hotel Staff: Hospitality Hudson: multiple industries Interpro: Software Development, Project Services, CRM / ERP, IT Infrastructure, Telecommunications, RDBMS / Data Warehouse/Business Intelligence JAV IT Group: IT Julia Ross: multiple industries Kelly Services: multiple industries Manpower Group: multiple industries McArthur: multiple industries Michael Page International Australia: multiple industries Morgan Consulting: Accounting, Business Support, Contact Centre, Financial Services, Healthcare & Medical, Human Resources Mosaic Recruitment: IT, Government and business support Murray Recruitment & Consulting: Executive, Senior professional and Technical staff Octopus: Hospitality, Events OfficeTeam: Business support, Administration Paragon Recruitment Services: IT Perform Recruitment: multiple industries Pinnacle Hospitality People: Hospitality PMC Recruitment & Consulting: Engineering, Construction, and Operations, Nursing. Primex Solutions: IT QPL Limited: multiple industries Robert Walters Pty Ltd: multiple industries Rowben Consulting: IT, Insurance, Superannuation, Administration, Business support Rusher Rogers Recruiting: IT, Administration, Not-for-profit, Legal SHK: Senior Management, Executive SKILLED Group: multiple industries, multiple locations around Victoria & Australia Staff Aid Services: Technical, IT Staffing: mX newspaper distribution Superior People: Business support, Administration TSS Westaff: Manufacturing, Government, Contact Centre, Business Services, Aviation, Banking and Financial Services, Office & Commercial, Engineering & Technical, Industrial WellsGray Recruitment: Business support, Administration Xpand Group: Technology, Media and Communications
Choosing a Superannuation Fund The Australian Securities & Investments Commission has a website called Money Smart which offers a comparison tool that you might find useful in choosing the right superannuation company. You can also read this thread for more advice.
Finding a home
You can find others to share a home through the Looking for a housemate in Melbourne group. There is quite a lot of talk about where the best suburb in Melbourne to live is. This thread discusses the pro's & con's of many inner & outer suburbs to help your choices. Also the CityHobo website will give you a more formal overview. Also, to see a breakdown of crime rates throughout Melbourne, check the 2011/2012 figures here.
Other places to find housemates are:
- Flatmate Finders (they charge a $20 fee if you successfully find a flat through them, which CouchSurfers have been successful doing)
- Oz Flatmates
- The window of Readings Bookstore on Lygon Street in Carlton
- at the coffeeshop at CERES in East Brunswick
Renting a new property, search:
- Rent Find
- Additionally, you can search the real estate agents directly, but there's usually no point since they list on the search sites.
- And if you want to be extra careful I'd recommend getting renter's insurance.
Here is one CSer's advice for renting an empty/ new property:
If you want to rent a new property, you should go for an inspection first, which is most of the time once per week for 15 minutes, and then fill a detailed form about you, your job, income, pets, friends, and habits, all supported with photocopied passport, driving licence, work badge, the more the better. Afterward you just wait another week or so for response from agency, because agency has to provide an ranking list of possible tenants to the property owner. If you are lucky (a strong candidate with excellent references) you will get the a call from agency that you are eligible for renting and you can go to sign the tenancy agreement. You might be thinking it is over, but it is not, commencement date may be in a week or 3 days or tomorrow, so you should wait until that time. And don't forget that you will need to pay a bond to the Rental Tenant's Bond Authority (RTBA), which is a full month's rent to secure the property against damage, paid to the real estate at the time you sign the lease and pay the first month's rent.
Buy, Sell or Exchange
- If you want or need something, your first stop should be the Melbourne 2nd hand Buy/ Sell/ Exchange CS group.
- Check out Gumtree for stuff to sell/ buy (be wary of the spammers, freeloaders, and people who enjoy wasting your time!)
- The Melbourne Freecycle Group is also a great way to find (or get rid of) stuff.
- The Brotherhood of St. Laurence in Brunswick (entrance from Barkly St) has a secondhand computer/ notebook room. All are quite cheap, and already fixed by their IT people, so "guaranteed."
- Every now and again, the CS Melbourne group hosts a clothing exchange event so be sure to look for that on the forum, or post the activity yourself.
Studying in Australia
- Deakin University
- Monash University
- RMIT University
- Swinburne University of Technology
- University of Ballarat
- University of Melbourne
- La Trobe University
- Victoria University
- Australian Catholic University (ACU)
TAFE's offer certificate and diploma level courses that often lead into tertiary study or stronger employment opportunities.
- English Australia
- CAE English
- Deakin University English Language Institute
- Swinburne University English courses
- Victoria University
- RMIT English Worldwide
- Monash College English for the Foundation Year
- Hawthorn English
- Kangan Institute of TAFE offers a good range of courses, also check other TAFE's with the link above.
- Lyceum English
- Also check out the awesome Road to IELTS program at the City Library.
And there are many many many more!!!
Choosing Bank Accounts
These are comments made by four CouchSurfers in September 2010. Terms and conditions may have be inaccurate or have altered.
- Are you a student? If so, ALL major banks will let you open up a student account, which is free of fees and charges. Some banks will require proof of study (i.e. current student card), but some will just take your word for it.
- ING Direct (it's an online bank) as they have NO FEES and they pay YOU to have an account but I think you have to be an Australian resident for tax purposes.
- ANZ & Commonwealth are all pretty on par. Keep in mind that you will need to provide an address from your home country, as well as an address in Australia. For most accounts, proof of address is not required. If you are applying for a credit card, a verified address and employment history is required (be prepared to be denied). When you are applying to open your account, you will need 2 forms of identification, unless you have entered the country less than 6 weeks before, so get onto it quick! You will be required to give a photocopy of your passport along with the immigration stamp confirming your arrival date. Opening banks in new countries is never fun..
- The BEST BANK isn't a bank, it's the credit unions. They have much better service usually.
- As of 2011, NAB accounts have no monthly fees.
- For the best interest rates (as of Feb. 2012), check out this thread in the Melbourne group.
The following is compiled from a discussion CSers had in Feb. '12:
- There are three major phone companies in Australia. The best coverage is Telstra, but is often a bit more expensive, and in the middle is Optus, with Vodaphone being the worst.
- There are small companies like TPG, which are cheap, but again, poor coverage. The cheaper companies just use another companies network, usually Optus or Vodafone, so their coverage will depend on which they use. (TPG use Optus, so their coverage should be the same as Optus. I've heard only bad things about TPG's customer service though.)
- Regarding the plan you choose to go on you need to sign up for a year or two, which doesn't suit most backpackers. Most travellers go with pre-paid mobiles and buy credit as needed. If you intend to travel in remote places go with Telstra, if you intend to stay within cities go with Optus. Avoid Vodaphone like you'd avoid that guy on the dance floor that looks hot from a distance but makes you gasp in horror when near! Optus pre-paid info and Telstra pre-paid info.
- There are a number of pay-as-you-go options. Amaysim (also uses the Optus network) is the best I've found, given that I want to be able to use my mobile overseas and most of the super cheapies don't allow that. Also check out Savvytel Lite(pre-paid).
- For international calls only, the cheapest is the Optus International Connect for Less prepaid sim. Others look cheaper but have a higher flagfall.
What is the weather like?
The climate in Melbourne is totally unpredictable, which is unsurprising in a flat place subject to southerly antarctic influences and northerly dry and hot desert winds. Temperatures can vary between 10 degrees celcius and the low 40's on the same day but usually the weather is mild and fresh, never humid, though often cloudy. Check current weather forecast on the Bureau of Meteorology's website or We Love Melbourne.
Newcomers either learn to love it, or never love it - Melburnians seem to deny the existence of weather totally. Large numbers of homes do not have central heating and a surprisingly large number of people continue to dress as if it were summer when it's the middle of winter! You will see a wide range of clothing on any single day; from flip-flops to Ugg boots, from singlets to scarves and from shorts to long-johns. So the choice is yours but the decision is never easy.
Internet / Wi-fi
Free Internet/ WiFi locations
The City Library and the State Library of Victoria allow free internet access - once you are a library member. This is easy to become if you have a letter confirming your address and another form of ID, such as a passport. The City Library allows an hour of free usage per day (more if you are a student), while the State Library has free 15-minute sessions, which you can join together providing there are not many other patrons waiting in line.
- Check out the City of Melbourne's free wifi list
- There is free wi-fi in restaurants listed on Urbanspoon
- Check the Wifi Hotspots from OnlyMelbourne
- ANZ-sponsored free wi-fi at various cafes, Cafescreen Cafes
- Hotspots List from the Herald Sun newspaper
- CouchSurfers have found that Mag Nation on Elizabeth Street has free wifi, and are happy to have people stay there all day without buying anything.
- Another recommendation is Big Mouth Cafe in St Kilda. Upstairs during the day it's pretty quiet (well it used to be, I'm assuming it still is). Then you can cross Acland St. to La Rouge and get cheap drinks when you're done studying :-)
Prepaid USB/ Post-paid Connections
Like mobile phones the three main Internet providers are Telstra, Optus & Vodafone. Telstra has the greatest range of services because they're the primary provider around Australia but they're also the most expensive. In cities Optus is quite fine, and Vodafone is just ok but both are often unreliable in the suburbs where they tend to over subscribe their service (too many users per tower).
There is a thread here that will offer more insight.
Books about Oz
- Bill Bryson's Down Under (2000) is probably the most widely read book on modern-day Australia, being a blend of wit, folk and sharp observations. That said, the American writer did not spend long in the country and it has the shallow feel of a pre-Olympics quickie.
- Robert Hughes' landmark history The Fatal Shore is superb and particularly good on brutal colonial treatment of Aboriginals. So, too, is Donald Horne's caustic polemic, The Lucky Country (1964). This is arguably post-war Australia's most influential work of non-fiction. It is also the most misappropriated title of any Australian book. He coined "lucky country" ironic and caustic epithet. The full sentence reads, Australia is a lucky country, run by second-rate people who share its luck. Meaning Australia showed less enterprise than almost any other prosperous industrial society and simply based its prosperity on raw material extraction. So no change there.
- Paul Sheehan's 1998 book Among the Barbarians is a critique of Australia - from the stultifying conservatism of the post-war years to the rise of Pauline Hanson, a blue collar Sarah Palin, and the creation of a cruel gulag of Detention Centers. Despite what most travelers think, Australia is a deeply conservative and religious nation and can be quite racist, which this book helps to explain why.
- On the fiction front, there is Tim Winton's much-loved Cloudstreet, Murray Bail's Eucalyptus, and Peter Carey's Booker prize-winning True History of the Kelly Gang. John Birmingham's He Died with a Felafel in his Hand is a firm favourite for all those in share houses (by the way who has my copy?).
- Clive James's Unreliable Memoirs series falls somewhere between fiction and non-fiction - although some of James' best writing about his homeland is in his essays.
- Geoffrey Blainey's A Shorter History of Australia is a useful primer. Given the importance of Gallipoli, the country's oft-quoted foundation story, there is Les Carlyon's stunning history.
- One of the best recent histories is Unknown Nation: Australia after Empire by James Curran and Stuart Ward. For a social history of Australia in the 60s and 70s, look for books by the journalist Craig McGregor.
- Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines is a cult favourite that helped re-enchant Australia and, incidentally, changed the way modern travel writing is being written.
Patrick White was awarded the 1973 Nobel Prize for literature. He greeted the news that he had received the award for Australian of the Year in 1973 with, Something terrible happened to me last week. There is an organisation which chooses an Australian of the Year who has to appear at an official lunch in Melbourne Town Hall on Australia Day. This year I was picked on as they had run through all the swimmers, tennis players, yachtsmen. He was right, as he is largely forgotten today. Sport though? Everywhere.
The BBC discuss Australia's cultural heritage with the prize-winning authors Thomas Keneally and Kate Grenville, and the Aboriginal opera singer and composer Deborah Cheetham. Listen to it here.
CS Ambassadors in Melbourne
For a current list of Ambassadors in Melbourne and surrounds, you will need to do a specialised CouchSearch.
On the CouchSearch page on the left-hand side is 'Filter By:'. Under 'Advanced Options', below, you can choose to click 'Ambassador'. Provided the city you're searching in is Melbourne, you'll be able to see all the Ambassadors who are in the area.