I hit quite a stride in my vacation when I got to Melbourne. I had so much motivation to see as much as I could. I didn’t realize it but Melbourne is an old, very cultured city. There are so many museums, many with free or inexpensive admission, and street art everywhere.
I actually had about 3 and a half days in Melbourne. I arrived to my hostel at noon and waited until my check in time. I stayed at the Melbourne City YHA. It was very nice, I was told by someone at the YHA in Brisbane that the YHA in Melbourne was the best hostel in the city. Just by walking by the other hostels near mine, I think I made the right choice. It wasn’t that expensive for being considerably nicer. I was only able to book the 4-share female dorm not the 6-share like I had in Brisbane, but upon arrival I learned that all the rooms were fully booked. It must have been a popular place. The location was great and extremely central. All the places I walked to were a max 1.5 mi from the hostel.
After I checked in I got lunch at Lord of the Fries. It is an all vegan fast food stall. I’ve had great and not-so-great vegan fast food burgers so I was a little nervous. I got the spicy burger and it had a sort of spicy mayo with the works and jalapeños hidden on the bottom. This was a great vegan burger, cooked perfectly and had such great flavor and texture. I also got french fries and chose the Parisian sauce. They have so many sauces, which I’m guessing is why it is called Lord of the Fries. The sauce I chose was so decadent and tasted like a type of garlic aioli.
I needed a new book so I found a bookstore called The Haunted Bookshop. They specialized in books about witches/witchcraft, the paranormal, astrology, and so much more. They had so many shelves of tarot cards and displays of “haunted” jewelry. I picked up a book about Wicca, because I have been wanting to learn more about it.
I went back to my hostel to change for dinner and relax a little. I ended up going to a Japanese restaurant called Yuzu. I ordered a vegetable sushi roll and ramen with some veggie gyoza added in. Because an egg wasn’t listed on the menu with the ramen, I didn’t think to ask, so if you go make sure to say no egg. I just ate around the hardboiled egg instead of sending it back because that was my mistake for not making sure. The food was so good and went really well with the Australian Chardonnay I chose.
After eating dinner at Yuzu, I went to Bluestone Wine Bar for a last glass of wine for the night. That was early on a Tuesday night, so it was nice and quiet. There were Melbourne coffee table books out for people to browse through, so I took advantange of that. Definitely a nice relaxing stop before going back to my hostel.
When I was planning what to do on what days, I had lists of what I wanted to see and looked them up on a map. I grouped things together if they were located close together.
I wanted to check out the famed laneways so decided to do that first. I went to Degraves Street and found out another popular one, Centre Place, started right where Degraves ended.
I started with getting breakfast at Doughnut Time on Degraves. They have a rotating selection of doughnuts and always have at least 1 vegan one. When I went they had two, one was a red velvet and another had vegan cream cheese icing and rainbow sprinkles.
I think the picture does show how delicious it was. I was so tempted to go back another day for brekkie again. I didn’t make any stops in Centre Place but it was cool to walk down while I ate my doughnut.
Centre Pl. was definitely a little bit more cramped than Degraves was. The buildings were much closer together and there was a bigger concentration of restaurants in Centre Pl.
The next laneway was Hosier lane. There weren’t many shops but it was all street art and graffiti. It was definitely interesting to see but the “art” was mostly tagging, not a lot of big pieces. The street art in San Francisco, CA and St. Peterstburg, FL looks more like art not like anyone with a spray can and a specific tag.
I moved on to Federation Square and passed Flinders Street Station. The square had interesting modern angular architecture, but the train station was very interesting to see because of its much older architecture. This is where I crossed the Yarra river into Southbank to head to the botanical gardens.
On the way I stumbled across the Shrine of Remembrance, a WWI memorial, but now honors all Australians who have served in a war. The pictures I took do NOT show how massive and imposing this building is. You can join a short tour before going into the “Crypt” (the museum) or up on the balconies. At the top of the stairs and the balconies you get an incredible view of the whole city. The museum in the Crypt was very well done too.
The botanical gardens are right across the street. You could spend over 2 hours walking the whole gardens, but I kept it to about a mile loop, with a few rest stops at their little gazebos strategically placed. I got lunch at the cafe by the gift shop. That one of the nice things about being in a modern city, almost all restaurants have a vegetarian/vegan option (and it is specified with a “V” on the menu).
On the walk back to my hostel (I seriously contemplated getting an Uber), I stopped at the National Gallery of Victoria (FREE). This is a pretty big art museum, including modern art and older stuff including a Van Gough. I spent about 2 hours wandering around the many exhibits. Some parts of this museum reminded me of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
I had grand plans of going to a fancy italian restaurant that looked like had vegan options but I instead opted for a pizza place across the street from my hostel. Hey, technically still Italian. It is called Eat Pizza and they have vegan cheese AND vegan ham. I went simple and got a Margarita pizza with vegan cheese and a salad. Both were so good.
Day two I wanted to check out the Queen Victoria Market. I went on a Thursday, early in the day, and it wasn’t that great. They do an evening market on Wednesday nights and that may be a better time to go. There weren’t a lot of people, which I liked, but the vendors were repetative, some were the same owners just in different booths on another side of the market. There was mostly leather goods, cheap clothes and technology, and jewelry made with Australian opal.
I was most excited for lunch that day though. I went to Smith and Deli, an offshoot of Smith and Daughters. I had the Lil’ Havana, which was a vegan cuban sandwich. I haven’t had a cuban since going vegan, and the last one I had was when I was in Florida, so you know it was delicious and authentic. This one was spot on minus the grease, and it could’ve used 1 more pickle. Since I was eating in a park I was very happy it was not greasy. They have a cook book and I plan on ordering it when I get home. Fingers crossed this recipe is in it.
Thanks to a recommendation from an old high school friend I went to the Melbourne Museum. My favorite part were the canoes pictured above and the Forest Gallery (which I sadly was too in the moment to remember to take a picture). The museum focused on the history of Melbourne, including the indigenous history to the settlers up to present. They also had a huge section with giant crystals, which was awesome.
On my walk back to my hostel I walked through Chinatown and the Bourke Street Mall. Melbourne’s Chinatown can’t compare to San Francisco’s but it was definitely cool to see the architecture. It is more of a neighborhood to stop for specialty Chinese ingredients, and restaurants. I don’t really like Chinese food so I kept walking through. The Bourke Street Mall was open air, which was great since it was such a nice day. I needed a dress so I shopped around a little until I found something. When I was walking back, I stopped at a little sushi place for some take out and got an avocado roll and a veggie roll, nothing too fancy.
On my last day, I knew I wanted to keep it relaxed, because the last two days involved over 7 miles of walking per day. I had brekkie at a bagel spot near the YHA called 5 and Dime. They advertise that they make bagels like its done in New Jersey. They had a vegan cream cheese option so I dove right in. The cream cheese was probably the best vegan one I’ve ever had! I also asked for a chai with almond milk and the cashier initially said it was fine, but the barista spoke up and said the chai mix had some dairy in it, so shout out to you dude. Thanks for looking out!
The Melbourne Sea Life Aquarium was a block away from the hostel so I went there for a few hours. It is definitely geared towards kids but the fish and reptiles were awesome. They had a huge crocodile, probably over 7 feet long. The penguin exhibit was a little bit sad for me, because some of the fake snow was melted and exposing the metal grate floors. There was lots of room for them to swim in their enclosure and they looked a little bit more playful there.
There are a couple free walking tours in Melbourne, so I wanted to take advantage of it and go to the St. Kilda one. I unfortunately missed it but ended up walking towards the beach on my own.
I ran into Luna Park (gave me major Mary-Kate and Ashley vibes from Our Lips are Sealed) and walked the whole beach to the pier. I grabbed a few beers and some french fries to snack while watching some kite surfers in the marina. The beer I was drinking was local to St. Kilda and it was so good. I haven’t had a bad local beer since being here.
For dinner I went to the vegetarian and mostly vegan restaurant Sister of Soul. It has a global cuisine and even the wines, beers, and cocktails have V’s by them when they are vegan. I haven’t tried dabbling in vegan alcohol yet because it can be really hard to find out. Most manufacturers include a process called fining, and that uses egg white, sea life bones, or fish intestine. You usually can’t find this out on the brand’s website so I was very impressed this restaurant included that. (Very pleased to find out one of my favorite beers, Corona, is vegan!) I didn’t stick to one style of food for this meal. I had a mojito, gyoza for an appetizer, and gnocchi for the main. Gnocchi is another dish I haven’t had since going vegan and this one was sooo good.
The only negative parts of the city I noticed is that Uber takes forever because of all the traffic (the reason I missed my walking tour), and EVERYONE smokes cigarettes. I felt like I was constantly choking on cigarette smoke while I was downtown. All in all, I really loved Melbourne. I can definitely see myself visiting again for a week or more. There is so much to do and I didn’t even check out the nightlife.