Well, perhaps you did. But did you know it’s the world’s third most livable city? Only thing is: if you’re not living here you may wonder what the hoopla is about. One thing’s for sure, we love the lanes that twist through our CBD. We especially love the graffiti they’re adorned with (except Melbourne’s Mayor, who is hell-bent on removing most of it. He’s also attempting to remove ‘bogans*’ from the CBD, which is a slightly more difficult task).
Melbournians love graffiti so much that brides choose the oft-stinking lanes as backgrounds for their wedding photos. Banksy loved our lanes too, and we thought everyone loved him back, until someone poured silver paint under the perspex barrier (not) protecting his ‘little diver’ piece, and scrawled “Banksy Woz Ere”. Nice (not).
2. Gourmet food and beer that’ll knock your socks off
Keep an eye out for regional products. Geelong (on the way to the Great Ocean Road) has Irrewarra sourdough (a chunky fruit loaf from 10 James Street, Geelong will feed you for days) and there are plenty of micro breweries (complete with free samples) around the state.
For starters, try Red Hill Brewery (88 Shoreham Rd, Red Hill South), Holgate Brewhouse (79 High Street, Woodend), and the art deco Mildura Brewery (20 Langtree Ave, Mildura). If you’re in Victoria for a while and love good food, buy a copy of The Age newspaper’s Cheap Eats Guide ($22.95 from newsagents and bookshops). It reviews the best cheap restaurants and cafés in Melbourne and its surrounds.
3. Movie locations
(If these locations haven’t been in a movie yet then they soon will be…)
– The Perry Sand Hills are actually near Wentworth in NSW, but it’s close enough to the Murray River (which is the border between NSW and Victoria) to get a mention here. Get a snap here and send it home letting your family know you’re in the Sahara. Totally same same.
– Cactus Country. Another prime Murray River location (at Strathmerton, near Cobram on the Victoria side), this one’s name says it all, this is one man’s dream… Take a snap and send it home letting your family know you’re in America.
– The Big Koala, Dadswells Bridge near Stawell. If you muster up the courage to do the 10-hour inland road trip to Adelaide, you’ll pass by this one. It’s a gigantic koala made of what looks like cement and render. Take a snap and send it home letting your family know you’re really in Australia just like they thought you were.
4. Cheap hotels for, ah, all types
From a hippy ‘vegan life sanctuary’ where you can sleep in a tipi (Continental House, 9 Lone Pine Avenue, Hepburn Springs; 03 5348 2005) to a converted red train carriage for couples (The Miners Church; 224 Scotchmans Lead Rd, Buninyong; 0419 160 622), there are unusual accommodation options around the state. Melbourne has a couple of winners: The Nunnery (in an old convent, if ya didn’t guess by the name) at 116 Nicholson St, Fitzroy, (1800 032 635) and the Brooklyn Arts Hotel (48 George St, Fitzroy; 9419 9328), which is an arty joint that’s perfect for anyone with an inner paintbrush.
5. Outdoor movies
Take a night off (yes, away from that Neighbours tour), pack the van with peeps and head down to Dromana, on the Mornington Peninsula, or north of Melbourne to suburban Coburg for a true ‘drive-in’ movie experience. Both (and these two are the last standing) still have an American diner-style café onsite, and you tune into the movie with your car’s FM radio. In summer you’re more likely to get caught up in Melbourne’s open-air cinema hype; try the Rooftop Cinema at the Rooftop Bar (6/252 Swanston St, Melbourne, running until the end of March).
6. Magic mineral waters
Hippy Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs are known for their mineral springs (good enough to drink, though quite stinky), while Rye – a fairly nondescript seaside town on the Mornington Peninsula – has a large supply of hot mineral water bubbling away about a kilometre under it. Both have ‘spa’ resorts, but you don’t need to part with too much cash to enjoy ‘taking to the waters’. Peninsula Hot Springs has an early bird deal – get in after 7.30am and if you’re out by 10am you’ll pay $15 for a sublime outdoor soak. Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa, on the other side of Melbourne, has $15 day passes to the Bathhouse (basically an indoor public pool and spa) from Tuesday to Friday (byo towel). If you’re heading to Hepburn Springs take some empty bottles and see if you can stomach the mineral water.
7. Weird and wonderful animals
We’ve got kangaroos bounding around a golf course (check out Anglesea Golf Club just off the Great Ocean Road); dolphins at ‘The Heads’ around Portsea and Queenscliff (Sea All Dolphin Swim lets you swim with them for $130 – departing Queenscliff) and walls of glow worms (yes, I know they’re insects) and trees filled with koalas on the outskirts of Lorne (on that mighty Great Ocean Road again).
There are reportedly wild cats of the leopard-kind roaming the Grampians, though one of the most intriguing creatures in Victoria is the weedy sea dragon (just like a sea horse, only weedier-looking). Bayplay organises sea dragon spotting snorkel trips from Portsea for $66. (If you miss out on that you can always head to Melbourne Aquarium to see them). If you’re really keen on the wildlife, but can’t get out of the CBD, Carlton Gardens (near Melbourne Museum) comes alive with possums at night**.
*Bogans: working (or non-working) class who demonstrate very little class and drive Commodores while wearing moccasins and tracksuit pants. They’re usually harmless.
**They mostly congregate around rubbish bins and make horrific grunting/throat clearing noises and occasionally are not harmless. But they’re cute and fluffy and cuddly.
Photos: Tourism Victoria