Before heading out to Asia and getting back into our backpacker routine (we don’t expect hostels in Nepal to be as glitzy as our New Zealand campervan), we made a pit stop in Melbourne, Australia to visit Alie’s cousin, Jill, and her boyfriend, Matt.
Besides making it abundantly clear that we have become pathetic cheese-and-mustard-carrying, 2-in-1-shampoo-and-conditioner-using, dirty-clothes-wearing backpackers, our 4-day stay in Melbourne seemed to center around Jill and Matt indulging us in the city’s insane food & coffee scene. As soon as we arrived, Jill ushered us to Cookie, an unbelievable (and unbelievably trendy) Thai-fusion restaurant, and then woke us up the next morning with a coffee at Block Place, a narrow street (or “laneway” as they are called in Melbourne) jam-packed with cafés and shops. Over the next few days, we lunched, brunched, dinnered, snacked and made a few additional stops at cafés – and it was all delicious. As a result, we consistently found ourselves oscillating between a caffeine-induced energy rush after sipping on a Flat White in one of Melbourne’s many hipster cafés and a food-induced coma after stuffing our faces in one of its many trendy restaurants.
In between ushering us to and from coffee and food hot-spots, Jill & Matt filled our days with activities that allowed us to get a sense of their Melbourne & Australian life as we strolled the city streets, explored Melbourne’s markets and played darts (is that an Aussie thing?). Our most Melbourne moment was definitely cheering, drinking beer, and eating meat pie at an Australian football, or “footy,” game (think rugby meets soccer meets American football).
To top it all off, we spent our final day in Phillip Island. First, we stopped along the water for a huge helping of fish (apparently shark) and chips. Next, we ventured to the Phillip Island Wildlife Center – aka a bootleg Australian petting zoo set in someone’s backyard that houses kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, snakes, eagles, dingos, wombats, cassaberries and more (unclear how – or if – this place was legal, but we didn’t ask many questions). While we didn’t play with any of the reptiles, birds or carnivorous animals, we did roam with & feed the more friendly birds & mammals that swarmed to us in search of food. Despite getting attacked by emus (and then reluctantly allowing them to peck food out our hands), harassed by kangaroos (and trying to tempt the joeys out of their mother’s pouches) and followed by wallabies (and eventually letting them claw at our hands for food), we had an amazing time hanging with the animals. After (and after a good hand washing), we headed to a Chocolate Factory (naturally) where we played games and won a lot of free chocolate. Finally, we headed to the edge of the island to watch hundreds of Little Penguins come back to shore after a day at sea. “This is the best day of my life” was literally a phrase Alie used multiple times that day.
Jill and Matt showed us some serious Australian hospitality. Extremely caffeinated, stuffed and Aussied-out, we headed for our 16-hour ultra budget Air Asia flight to Nepal and bid adieu to the developed world.
Things To Do:
- Stroll along the city’s streets, particularly its “laneways,” which are narrower streets often with tucked away street art, cafes and bars.
- Explore Melbourne’s various markets. While the massive Victoria Market offered good, ethnic treats (we tried our first Greek souvlaki), we loved the South Melbourne Market, a trendier market filled with delicious croissants, meat, fish, fruit & nut stalls and even a pet store.
- Seeing a football match is a must-do. Tickets are cheap and the game can only be seen live in Australia (and apparently Denmark?).
- Phillip Island, though two hours from Melbourne, is totally worth the trip just for the Wildlife Centre. Sounds sketchy (and it is) but it was also one of our favorite things we’ve done the entire trip.
Getting There / Away: Melbourne is far from basically everywhere so we flew in and out. Luckily there are amazing budget airlines in the region.
Accommodations: Jill and Matt have an awesome pull out couch and Jill crushes puzzles. Enough said.
Days Stayed / Recommended: We felt like we got a good feel of the city in 3 days but there was tons more to do if you have more time. We loved the weekend vibe and definitely recommend visiting over a weekend.
- We quickly learned that Australians are very particular about their coffee as Melbourne seemingly has more espresso machines than people. Make sure to hit up one of the city’s many cafés for a flat white.
- There are countless restaurants tucked in every corner around town. It seems new places pop up daily, so ask around for the best places – we loved Cookie and Meat Maiden for dinner and Chez Dré for brunch.