Now you may be wondering, “Why would I be flying to Melbourne? If I was going to Australia, shouldn’t I be flying to Sydney?” Well, you can, there’s nothing stopping you, but if you’re already flying so far south it would be a shame to not go to the ‘cultural capital of Australia.’ Everyone knows Sydney, but few take the time to explore the city’s rivals across the Dandenong mountain range, and I pity those people. Plus, I wrote this article on Melbourne, so there’s that, too.
So, when you’re flying to the most livable city on Earth there are a couple things you should probably know. First off, if you’re flying out from L.A. a nonstop flight is 16 consecutive hours, and as Katt Williams defined in the 2014 flop School Dance, consecutive means: “one right after the mothef#%king other.” So, if you haven’t traveled on a long-distance flight before it might be a lot to handle. Especially if you’re flying Jetstar, which will charge you four dollars just for a bottle of water.
So, here are some pointers that may help:
First off, fly on Quantas. It’s a bit pricier, but they provide complimentary drinks, and at high altitudes that makes all the difference. Next off, get a good meal before you board your flight and bring something to at least snack on during the flight. You will get hungry along the way, and it’s better to have a foot-along with you than try to fill up on airplane meals. They just leave you feeling empty and broke. Thirdly, if you can invest in a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones, drop that green and swallow the pain, because you do not want to spend the entire flight awake because of crying children.
Or you can break the trip into parts. It’s only eight hours to Tahiti, where you can spend a couple days absorbing the islands home to Teahupoo, the heaviest wave in the world, nights of fast-paced drum beats, and days swimming in the coves of Moorea or Bora Bora. From there it’s about six hours to Auckland, New Zealand, and Aotearoa, home to the Maori people, Lord of the Rings, and the famed All Blacks. New Zealand is also known as the adrenaline capital of the world with bungee-jumping locations all over the place. After a couple of days there, you can finally face the last easy four hours to land in Melbourne. Now, while this may seem extremely expensive, Air Tahiti Nui is currently running a special that allows you to visit all three nations for the price of visiting just one. It’s around $1400.
So, if you don’t want to endure the 16 hours all at once, that’s the alternative I would choose.
Once you’ve landed it's extremely easy to get into the city from the airport. If you’re flying solo I recommend catching the Skybus, which costs about 20 Australian dollars (approximately $15 USD) and puts you right at South Cross Station. Not only does this provide you easy access to the tram system, but it also provides free Wi-Fi so that you can check your email or Airbnb reservation. If you’re going with a group, you can simply take an Uber or Taxi for around 50 AU (approximately $40 USD). Just make sure to purchase a new SIM card at the airport. For around 20 AU, you can get a new Australian phone plan (with data) so that you can still function. To call and text home, I’d recommend using Whatsapp.
If you want to compare Melbourne to other cities, I would say take the architecture of New York, combine it with that of London, clean it up considerably, add a nicer population, and you’ve got something close to Melbourne. If the architecture isn’t enough to catch your interest, maybe the people will be—especially the buskers, the local street performers for which the city is famous. They’re everywhere, and unlike other cities Melbourne is highly regulated. Just to get your license as a busker, you have to be approved by a local conglomerate of highly regarded musicians and artists. Whether it be classical Chinese Erhu, a pot-and-pan drummer, or a bagpipe player in a Cookie Monster suit, you have to be talented.
Melbourne is hugely diverse. Not only have there been huge influxes of Southeast Asian, Indian, Chinese, and Korean people over the last few years, but the city also hosts large African, Russian, Greek, and Italian populations as well. All of this diversity provides an interesting fusion of culture (and allows for a plethora of great dining options). Whether it be traditional Neapolitan pizza on the banks of the Yara, Korean Barbeque in the CBD, or African snapper fish and chips at the Queen Victoria Night Market, Melbourne prides itself on its culinary prowess.
Or maybe you’re less interested in the diversity and the food, and more into Australian culture as a whole. I mean, personally I loved sitting and just listening to passing conversations for the slang. But maybe you’re more interested in the original inhabitants of the colonized country. At the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Center, located in the Melbourne Museum itself, you can enjoy traditional artwork, live performances of dance and music, storytelling, and recordings of Victorian-era Aboriginals discussing their history.
Now, when it comes to little kangaroos and other cute and cuddly marsupial folk, they’re actually pretty easy to find. It just requires a train ride out of the main city and into wine country. Yarra Valley is home to stunning views of lush, green vineyards with mountain lakes and pastures. Now, before you think that this only would be interesting to your parents, this seems like an ideal time to inform you that the drinking age in Australia is 18. Spend a couple of nights at a quaint bed-and-breakfast, bike through exquisite, picturesque landscapes, and taste wine while watching kangaroos graze in front of you.
However, before trying to cuddle with any koalas, I feel obligated to inform you that a terrifyingly high percentage of the mainland population has Koala Chlamydia, which can be transferred to humans through koala feces. Also, kangaroos can throw a right hand like Ali and kick like… a kangaroo, which has legs powerful enough to jump thirty feet at a time. If I haven’t chased you off, you can see all of these at the Melbourne Zoo.
Not only is the zoo home to a wide range of marsupials like Jumanji, the southern hairy-nosed wombat, as well as platypuses, Tasmanian devils, koalas, and several different species of kangaroos, but also prides itself on its diversity of rare Southeast Asian creatures. You can observe one of the rarest large cats in the world, the famed snow leopard, slinking around their exhibit, the critically endangered Philippine Crocodile which can grow up to three meters (roughly nine feet), but also the endangered Sumatran tiger and orangutan. It's a great all-day activity that is only a short trip outside of the city.
Or maybe you're more into sports. Melbourne has a couple of different rugby teams, though most Australians are actually Australian football fans. Not as in soccer/football and not an Australian version of American football, but if you combined American football and Rugby and you’ve kind of got something similar to “footie.” If you keep your eyes out, you can see footie fields all over the place. It’s pretty entertaining to watch once you’ve got a grasp of the rules. I mean, if you’re into high-contact sports, that is.
If sports aren’t your thing, Melbourne is seen as a hub for comedy, with the Melbourne International Comedy Festival happening every year. With over 500 hundred shows spanning four weeks at over 100 hundred different venues with thousands of different comedians, it's one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world. If you can’t make it during the month of March (when the festival takes place), don’t worry. Catfish, and Imperial Comedy all host shows on Tuesday, the European Bier Cafe is active on Thursday, there’s a battle of improv teams on Friday at the Butterfly Club, and new rising talents end the week at Club Voltaire on Sunday night. It's a great way to kick back, laugh, and start the night before heading out for another pub.
Melbourne has pubs everywhere, there’s actually a pretty famous story of a group of friends who drank at every pub in Melbourne—it took them 32 years. If you’re with your family I recommend heading to some of the nicer pubs for an opportunity to try out some good food and a relaxed drinking environment. I highly recommend Young and Jackson, which looks out on Federation Square and hosts the famous painting Chloe, which features a 19th-century Parisian prostitute, on the second floor. Also, in that area is the world famous 1806, which has cocktails for each and every year since then. Do not attempt to drink them all, because you will die. Another place that would be ideal for your parents to pick up the tab would be The Naked Devil, which used to be a moonshiner’s headquarters and a speakeasy.
If you’re considering traveling down to the land of Jillaroos and Uluru (the Australian cowboy and a sacred red rock formation), I recommend stopping at the lesser known gem that is Melbourne. Experience the beautiful cityscape and community as you get acclimated to the time zone and culture. Try the food, visit a pub, and have a great time down in Straya.