Melbourne and Vicinity help

Old Feb 26th, 2010, 03:04 PM
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Melbourne and Vicinity help

Hi. I know I have posted before, but with things narrowing down, it has also brought up more questions. this is a long list ( so you have been warned in advance! lol)

Here is what I have on my Melbourne plans. Please let me know if it is doable, or if some things are very similar and I can drop some things. And advice on the order to do things in. I am a solo traveler, 44 yr old guy. Art Museums are not my thing. Being around people, seeing and experiencing local culture, nature, scenery, animals.
1. Arriving in Sydney from NYC on Sunday March 21 in the AM. Leaving Sydney for NYC on Saturday April 3. Still undecided if I will be flying to Melbourne on Thursday March 25 or Friday March 26 (AM either day), leaning towards Thursday as of now.
2. Will be going to a match at MCG Thursday or Friday night.
3. Old Melbourne Gaol, either daytime tour or nighttime hangman’s tour (anyone been on these)?
4. Hang out a bit in Federation Square. Queen Victoria Market
5. A bike tour called Real Melbourne Bike Tours. It’s a 4-hour ride, includes lunch and snack. Might that be good, or buses and trams would be better?
6. Is Philip’s Island and the penguins worth it? Should I spend the money and time for the Koala Conservation Centre? For the Penguins, by tour book says it costs $21, but for $36 you can stand on an exclusive boardwalk with rangers. Is that extra price worth it? I am guessing it might be less crowded with better views? Is it a traffic jam leaving after the parade? Is this an entire day, or more like a mid-afternoon through the evening?
7. Exploring the Dandenong Ranges. Could I do Dandendong and Philips Island in one day, or is that a lot of driving with little time in both?
8. Healesville Animal Sanctuary. I do like animals, and have been to 2 world class zoos---The Bronx Zoo and the San Diego Zoo. since I live near a greta zoo, I would only want to go if it was unique. This place seems a bit unique. Is it interesting? Better to go here than Melbourne Zoo, or in Sydney Taronga or Featherdale?
9. The Great Ocean Road, with stops at Anglesea, Lorne, and Port Campbell. Exploring the Otway Ranges and maybe doing the Otway Fly Tree Top Walk. Port Campbell National Park. I believe this should be 2 days. I could self-drive or do a tour. The only tour I found that looked pretty good was with Natural Treasures (http://www.naturaltreasures.com.au/t...ocean-road.htm)
10. With the Grand Prix in town during the first few days I am there, would it be best for me to do the GOR on Saturday and Sunday, allowing me to be away from the city? Or will it be better being in the city during this event? I do not plan on attending the Grand Prix.
11. Am thinking of driving back to Sydney, ideally along the coast, as I like the idea of exploring local culture beyond the 2 big cities I will be at. I also like nature and scenery. If I take the more direct drive back, are there sites along the way?
I also do not need to drive back to Sydney. I could fly back if there are more things that are recommended to do.
12. Is 2 full days in Melbourne fine? This would be the morning I arrive from Sydney (10 am) and the next day.
13. I feel like I have to “eliminate” one or 2 things. Should that be the drive to Sydney? Could I instead do some type of 2-day/1-night trip away from Melbourne, where I could explore some quaint towns or something. I do enjoy driving and exploring, so a lot of driving is not a big deal to me.

Phew. I would say the only things that are "locked in" are the MCG match and the Melbourne Goal.

A big thanks in advance!
Stuart
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 05:13 PM
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We were very impressed with the Great Ocean Road. It took us 5 days to drive to Adelaide, but the first 3 were definitely the best! It took us so long as we kept stopping to look at things. We also enjoyed Geelong 30 minutes out of Melbourne; the harbour walk was beautiful and we loved the "bollards" (think that is the correct spelling). If you have time, just past Port Fairy there are more natural formations that are quite interesting.
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 06:33 PM
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#6--I would seriously re-consider going to see the penguins. It takes up the good part of a day/evening and it could be so crowded that you are straining to see anything. Because it sounds like your time in Melbourne is already pretty well booked-up, I'm not sure you have time for this activity.

#8. I haven't been to Healesville or the Melbourne Zoo, but I have been to Featherdale and Taronga Park Zoo. I'd say that Taronga is "unique" because of its setting. It overlooks Sydney Harbour and the views to Sydney are something else!

#13. I can't really follow your timeline, so I don't know if you have time to drive to Sydney or do the overnight trip somewhere. But, if you decide you do have time for an overnight trip, I might suggest Bendigo (1.75 hours) or Beechworth (3 hours).
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 06:36 PM
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Actually, I meant to type "Ballarat" instead of "Bendigo". Both are fine towns, but I found more to do in Ballarat and it's a bit closer to Melbourne as well.
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 08:30 PM
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I think you will love Melbourne and you have lots to see and do. Definitely arrive Thursday and do the Queen Vic Markets, Old Melbourne Gaol (night time sounds exciting as it was were the Aussie Bushranger Ned Kelly was hanged) and generally get to know Melbourne. Friday do the bike tour and go to the MCG Friday night. Friday night Footy is the big night in Melbourne and you will see last years premiers Geelong play Essendon. It should be a good match with probably 50,000 there. If you are not interested in the GP head for the GOR on Saturday. Hire a car as you need at least 2 nights to see everything including Kangaroos in the wild at Anglesea Golf Course and Koalas in the wild at Kennett River so Healsville while unique is not a must. Taronga Zoo in Sydney is a must. The GOR is extremely well signposted with constant reminders to drive on the Left so you can't go wrong.
On the GOR the Otway Fly is terrific, Lorne is a great place and don't miss the 12 Apostles. Driving to Sydney via Highway 1 (Princes) is definitely worth it if you want to experience some great Aussie countryside. Wilson's Prom. is worth a detour and then there are the coastal towns of Eden, Merimbula, Nowra etc. There is an excellent tourist centre at Federation Square in Melbourne that will provide you with maps, brochures and everything you need to know. There is also a tourist centre at Apollo Bay for the GOR.
The brown free tourist tram is best for getting around the city sights. We use it a lot and we are Melbournians. The above are only suggestions and have a great time down under.
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Old Feb 26th, 2010, 08:56 PM
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Hi Stu - I'm a 42 year old ex-Londoner who's lived in Melbourne for 15 years now, over the years have done a lot of solo travel and like you enjoy doing the driving thing. A few comments/suggestions:

2 - Thursday at the 'G will be a full-house - you should be able to get a ticket but nothing better than a packed out game. Friday night probably a better standard of footy but Thurs should be a better atmosphere in my opinion (I'm biased being a Richmond fan).

6 - I agree with the previous poster. I've been a couple of times and it is a good experience but it's a long damn way, especially since you can see Fairy penguins in central Melbourne http://stkildapenguins.com.au/

7/8 - yep, that's a lot of driving, but if you enjoy it there are worse ways to see the place... Bear in mind that the if you do see the penguins the return trip will be in the dark. If you do go to Phillip Island there's a Koala sanctuary that's pretty cool as you head onto the Island. Healesville's not bad but not in the same league as Taronga, but if you do go could combine it with a trip through the Yarra Valley (think Napa...) and take in a couple of vineyards.

9 - if you do the ocean road then spend 2 days going one-way and take the faster inland road back. 1 day each way along the ocean road wouldn't give you any time to stop. I've stayed at Apollo Bay and Lorne in the past both of which I'd recommend.

10 - unless you're in the immediate vicinity you'll only really be affected by the background noise during the day and a few extra people out and about at night. It doesn't take over the city or anything like that - there will be more people at the footy on Friday night! So your concern is not a really a factor in my view.

11 - Driving to Sydney in one day is a shitty experience - the direct route is really boring with roadkill about the most interesting aspect. If you do it in two days then you can go the scenic route which I did with the family a few months back and really recommend. Lots of great scenery between about Lake's Entrance and the southern coast of NSW. You go through some cool places like Mallacoota, Merimbula, Eden. We left Melbourne after lunch and stayed at the Cann River motel if that helps which is about a third of the way to Sydney overall.

If you're flying to Melbourne though you've got to factor in one-way car rental if you're doing a drop-off in Sydney.

13 - it depends on what you like... Melbourne has loads of interesting places to explore, especially if as you say you're into hanging out and getting into the local culture etc - you should make sure you get to Brunswick street, Fitzroy, wander through the cafes and laneways in the city (particularly on week-days), head down to St Kilda (Acland Street and the Espy pub in particular).
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 07:50 AM
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StuQ , lots of good advice so far .

I favour MCG match on Friday . You can pre book a reserved seat which I suggest as it will be a popular match .

Each Sunday The Esplanade Craft Market is held along the St.Kilda foreshore ,which The Esplanade hugs , and goes until mid afternoon . If staying in the city you can catch a tram in Swanston St along St Kilda Rd to St.Kilda .It runs along Fitzroy St andget of just before it turns into The Esplanade and walk along it to Acland St .

From the corner of Acland St and The Esplanade you can catch a tram ( number 72 from memory )which travels to East St.Kilda along Carlisle St ( jewish area )and then it turns into Chapel St and runs all the way through Windsor , Prahran , South Yarra and crosses the Yarra River at the end of Chapel St where it becomes Church St Richmond and goes all the way up to Swan and Bridge Roads ( near MCG )lots of shops , cafes street life etc .

Look at www.thatsmelbourne.com.au which will give you lots of good information. And remember it is a large city and it always takes longer to do what you want than you realise .
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Old Feb 27th, 2010, 01:16 PM
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Stu, you might find a good one-way car rental rate at http://www.standbycars.com.au/ Suggest you email/call them ahead of time to check.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 12:33 PM
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I would definitely book for either of the "footy " matches as as they are likely to be ticketed matches-meaning when the tickets are sold out no more entry except for standing room.
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 03:46 PM
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I'd be inclined to visit Bendigo, in preference to Ballarat. It has some lovely architecture. If you are thinking of an overnight stay, the Shamrock (built in about 1900) is great. We've stayed there several times.

Penguins - I'd give them a miss.

Allow some time to explore the little lanes and alleys in central Melbourne.

Cheers

Peter
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Old Mar 1st, 2010, 06:19 PM
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Do go to a match at the MCG. Those Melbourne types are crazy for footy. Perthaps go both nights. Certainly great atmosphere.
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Old Mar 15th, 2010, 07:06 PM
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As an ex Melbournite of 35 years, you will love Melbourne. If you have a choice of games to go to... Try to go to a Collingwood game. They have a huge supporter base so the ground will be crowded. Fabulous atmosphere as Margo says above.

If you don't want to go all the way to Philip Island, there are penguins to be seen in St Kilda (about 15 mins from city). There are tours.

Healesville Sanctuary is really geared up for Australian animals, wombat, kangaroo, koalas, platypus etc so you will be able to see these animals up close.

There really isn't that much to see at Federation square, apart from "people watching". You could easily do that and the Queen Victoria Market in half a day. Although the market has all this hype surrounding it, don't be disappointed... it really is just one souvenier stand after another with a few no name brand clothing thrown in.

The drive from Melb to Syd or vice verca is very long. I would ommit it, especially if you are doing the great ocean road there is no need to drive the coast again. The Great Ocean Road is beautiful. There are lots of quaint little B & B's along the way for accommodation.
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 05:17 AM
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American living in Melbourne. Have been here a number of times before moving here a couple of months ago, but still haven't quite had the time to cover all that places you're thinking about. So I'll just chime in on a couple.

Healesville: Nothing like the zoos you've mention, both of which are excellent of course. Melbourne Zoo is more like those. Healesville is out in the countryside (through the Yarra Valley wine country, by the way). All native animals, in very close proximity to the public. Boardwalks in the native bush in places. My 2 year old pet a red kangaroo there inside the enclosure last month. Can't do that in the Bronx Zoo, and that's what makes it different.

Dandenong Ranges: Beautiful drive up there. Been living just at the base of them for months now. Saw rare black cockatoos for a couple of days straight recently. But it the foliage that feels so uniquely Australian, with the giant tree ferns and bark strips hanging from the gum trees. The first time I saw it up there, I thought of the scenes from 'Jurassic Park'. There's a nature path/sculpture park up there called William Ricketts Sanctuary which is very interesting. A few nice towns up there too. Side note: Best Indian food I've had since being in Melbourne in the town of Mt. Dandenong, called Indian By Nature. The lamb korma. Just sayin'. I wouldn't try to combine it with Phillip Island though.

Agree that Bendigo is unique and interesting. If you go and you're up after dark, take some bananas to the main park. Ring tail possums will take them from your hand. Thought that was kind of cool. I'm sure to native Australians, they're about as impressive as squirrels though.

As suggested already, definitely allow time to wind around through the CBD and all the alleys and arcades. For a grid pattern layout, it's surprisingly complex.
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 05:02 PM
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So CLifton, I believe you are saying to go to Healesville?

Thanks for the tips.
I feel more confident about my Melbourne plans.
Arrive Thursday at 10:15. Walking around , maybe St. Kilda
Friday night I have my hatch at MCG. Somore "city" stuff on Friday.
Saturday and Sunday---GOR
Monday--Dandenong and Healesville
Tuesday---maybe Philip Island
Wed---open
Th---either another day in Melbourne or fly back to Sydney
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Old Mar 16th, 2010, 05:47 PM
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Even though it's relatively small, I think Healesville is worth it. And it would combine very well with the Dandenongs, so you're on the right track there.
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 03:34 AM
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Be careful that you don't confuse the Dandenongs (Mt.Dandenong) with the city of Dandenong. To get to Healsville you drive through the Dandenongs i.e. Fern Tree Gully, Olinda and then the Yarra Valley etc. To get to Phillip Island you drive through the city of Dandenong.
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Old Mar 17th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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Gotcha. I meant the Ranges. When I go there, I think I might go to Healesville first, then work my way back thru
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 03:54 PM
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We went on the Fairy Penguin tour when we were in Melbourne, and I must differ with previous advice. We loved this experience and don't think seeing them in Melboune can compare. It is indeed a good distance but nice scenery part of the drive. You arrive before nightfall after a not so great dinner stop, but the sight of all those hundreds of little blue penguins hitting the beach as dusk comes is marvelous. I think it depends on how much you love animals and wildlife, but they were precious and fun to watch in their nightly migration. Very natural and not at all staged and we had no problem seeing them despite a large crowd. They nest in the sand and sometimes mate not 3 feet from where you are standing. As I recall it took the entire afternoon and evening, but we were free in the morning that day. Would go again in a heartbeat!
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 03:55 PM
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Shame to miss the Collingwood AFL matcgh on 3 April, that is if you are keen on AFL.
All the information given by DownUnder and Clifton are good.

Phillip Island is 140km s/e of Melbourne and only a couple of hours drive from Melbourne. There are bus tours but they are quick and probably only go for the visit to the Fairy Penguins.
www.visitphillipisland.com

www.phillipisland.net.au

www.visitvictoria.com/
www.phillipislandguide.com
My family and I spent 4 - 5 days there several years ago and enjoyed the time there. We stayed in a cabin at a caravan park which was just behind a mini-golf and maze centre. That was a lot of fun for both children and adults. If you go for the Fairy Penguin tour, go early so that you can spend some time in the information centre and the gift shop and get to see things include the penguins in the burrows before the avalanche of Chinese and Japanese tourists arrive. Take a cushion to sit on as the concrete seats are hard. Also a blanket and warm clothes if you are not going in high summer. Id's say it worth the small extra fee to get a front seat near the commentator. The Koala Conservation area is a great way to see the koalas in their natural habitat and know that your entrance is going for a good cause, not into some fat cat's pocket.

Phillip Island is also the home of some motor racing and motor cycle events.

If you are going to Phillip Island (you will need to hire a car and drive there if you are not taking a tour), there are 170 Wineries (50 cellar doors) on the way along the Mornington Peninsula.

www.peninsulapages.com/wineries.html

www.visitor.com.au

www.wineboss.com.au

Red Hills is one of the very popular wineries -

www.redhillestate.com.au/

You can stay at some of the wineries.

Do not however, expect to visit the wineries and Phillip Island in one day.

Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens if you are interested in that sort of thing -

www.ashcombemaze.com.au

Closer to Melbourne are the wineries at Yarra Valley and Mount Macedon.


www.wineyarravalley.com

www.winetours.com.au


www.fergussonwinery.com.au

www.coombefarm.com.au

use the www.visitvictoria.com.au or visitmelbourne.com.au sites to find out more information on any of these places.

Healesville Sanctuary is also close to Melbourne and can be visited if travelling to the Yarra Valley for a couple of days.

www.zoo.org.au/HealesvilleSanctuary

www.sanctuarypark.com.au

If you are visiting Ballarat (Sovereign Hill and Kryal Castle) don't forget to visit the Ballarat Wildlife park www.wildlifepark.com.au. You can pat Patrick the wombat there and get close up to a number of other animals especially emus, kangaroos, wallabys and a host of birds. There is a crocodile show as well.
I think it would be better to spend the time in around Melbourne rather than trying to drive back to Sydney, though I too would recommend the coast road rather than the Hume Highway.
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Old Mar 18th, 2010, 04:07 PM
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Presume that you have already spent time in Sydney and have done the Captain Cook cruise around the harbour, climbed the harbour bridge, gone to the top of Sky Tower and walked around the Rocks area. In Melbourne don't forget to go up the Eureka Tower and take a river cruise.
Victoria Market is now full of cheap Chinese stalls with poor attitude. Better to go to the St Kilda Beach Market where everything has to be handmade. At the Victoria Market, on Wednesday evenings, the Twilight Market is held. marketwww.marketsandfairs.com.au/marketsvic.html
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