Sunday, August 17, 2008

Things to do in Melbourne for (almost) free (TRAVEL MEME)

This is my first attempt at inventing a meme. So anyone who wants to do this (and I'm tagging you all) needs to list at least five things to do for FREE in their city or town. Other Melbourne people feel free to do this meme too, because Melbourne is a different city for everyone. My list is an inner city Melbourne list...maybe later I'll do one for St Andrews. Please SOMEONE do it so I don't feel tragic - the girl with the meme that nobody did. I'll be like that girl in her best party dress, whistle in her mouth, surrounded by streamers, slowly realising that none of the 100 people she's invited are coming. You know, that girl. Or maybe you don't know, cause you didn't even bother to show up for her party and shame on you.

If you do it, drop by and tell me about it, so I can feel unpathetic.

I'm doing this because as you all know I'm about to whizz off on an overseas jaunt, with very little moola. (Well you might not know that bit, you might think I'm terribly rich, because I am such a bestselling author. Ha ha ha ha ha ha.)

Drumroll please for the inaugural:

Here are the rules (because it wouldn't be a meme without rules):
1. List (at least) five things to do for free in your city or town, not just well publicised touristy things, but things YOU might do too!
2. Write it with a visitor in mind.
3. Tag three people* - extra fun if they live somewhere you'd like to know better or you're going to sometime soon.
4. If you're anonymous/coy about where you live, choose another town or city that you know.

1. Catch a train to Clifton Hill station (Hurstbridge/Epping line) and walk through the little streets then the river walking trails to the Fairfield boathouse and have a coffee or iced chocolate, overlooking the yarra. Very peaceful and quintessentially Australian. When you walk to the end of Spensley Street go left on the bike/walking track. If you have kids, there's a brilliant playground in Clifton Hill to your right. For a quicker walk, get off at Fairfield station (Hurstbridge line). You can actually walk all the way back to the city along the trails, and it's a great walk but it will take you quite a few hours (it's been ages since I've done it).

2. Catch the train to Sandringham station (Sandringham Line) and walk along the foreshore path to Brighton Beach station (or for the more energetic, you could walk all the way to St Kilda, perhaps getting off at Brighton Beach Station to start. If you have a bike, you can take bikes on the train and ride back). If it's hot, don't forget to buy a lemonade icypole! And bring your bathers for a swim. Great day with kids even in winter, there's a few playground and parks along the track. There's places to have a coffee or a glass of wine or beer overlooking the water on the way, especially as you get into St Kilda. You could also catch a tram to Port Melbourne and walk towards St Kilda the other way. (Consult a map).

3. If you have kids, the best playground in the city is Birrarung Marr, behind Federation Square (down near the river, adjacent to Artplay, which has some workshops and programs for kids). In the Birrarung Marr park, if you go for a wander, there's a sound bridge (very odd experience the first time) and the Federation Bells which is a bell sculpture that rings three times a day (I think one of them is midday, we were just there at the right time once and the kids were blown away). It's also lovely to just wander along the river. I love the view of the city from the park.

4. Fed Square has exhibitions and things, and different markets (a produce markets on Fridays I think, books on Saturday). It's worth a walk through and I for one love the architecture and the fact that it seems to be serving its purpose as a bit of a cultural/meeting point for Melbourne. There's also the Ian Potter gallery and ACMI (the centre of moving images). When Fred was little and I was pregnant with Una I used to meet a friend in the city and we'd spend a few hours at Fed Square, drinking coffee, eating food (that we'd usually bring ourselves) and at some point, when we needed a break from conversing, we'd end up down at ACMI, just watching flickering pictures in an otherwise soothingly dark space.

5. Wander around the arcades and lanes in the cbd (start at Flinders St Station or the mall if you need a focal point). Window shop, there's lots of little curiosities. Have a coffee anywhere, or a hot chocolate in one of the many chocolate shops. You might catch the lollies being made in Royal Arcade (and there's always free samples). My mum has potent memories of Gog and Magog in the Royal Arcade from her childhood. Or poke around the laneways near Melbourne Central where Melbourne feels like a dynamic Asian city.

6. The botanical gardens (including the Children's Gardens - which is truly sensational for kids - bring bathers, spare knickers or nappies on a hot day because there's lots of water and for sanitation reasons the kids aren't allowed to be in the nude, even babies and toddlers). There's colonies of bats in the rainforest section in the main part of the gardens, amazing to look up at. Pick up a coffee at the Observatory Cafe (good child friendly, midpriced cafe).

7. Catch a train down to Williamstown. It's like an English seaside town, and you can walk right round the harbour to a great open beach. Worth buying a few dollars worth of chips to eat overlooking the harbour. (To get back to the city there's the option of catching a ferry to southbank It's not almost free at all, but it is a very interesting way to see Melbourne's West from the river, a sight not many people experience).

8. Catch a tram to Ceres (either the West Preston or the East Brunswick, consult a Melway) or even better, catch the train to Rushall and walk up to St Georges Road, through the North Fitzroy streets and then up the Merri creek path to Ceres (again, consult a map first!). Ceres is an urban farm, nursery and cafe. There's a great playground near the cafe (you don't have to order anything to use it, but if you do, this is the place to have a soy chai). On Wednesdays and Saturdays it's also an excellent produce market.

*or everyone you know, like me


  1. Fun. I'll be needing this in a few weeks time :)
    I used to live in Clifton Hill as you know and would ride that trail up to the boathouse after work - loved it.
    My blog is really for the grandparents but I'll try to do it. Great idea Penni. :)

  2. i'll do it on my livejournal for you penni :)

  3. Anonymous8:27 PM

    You will not be that girl. And I'm tagging ameel (
    as well. Will be up soon!

  4. I'll have a go too, although I'm having a hard time coming up with ten... maybe I need to get out more!!!

    I really want to take that cruise and see west melbourne from the river...

  5. ok...i'll try and do one on my lj :-)

    Interesting. You suggested some things I didn't expect you to the Brighton beach thing. Iliked your list. Very Melbourne. :-)

  6. I only managed 5, but it's done. Nice idea.

  7. had to quit at 6, cranky kids.

  8. Your list was so cool, it was hard to beat but I had a go at it. Cool fun - I love this town. I only did five cause otherwise I would have gone on and on and on....

  9. I just looked at everyone else's versions and realised mine is only for the bookish traveller. But I am such a nerdy booklover that I always go searching for bookshops when I hit a new town. Talk about tunnel (book obsessed) vision. Oh well.

  10. Howdy! I came across your meme via Kirsty Murray's blog, and have spread the joy...

  11. I just googled things to do in Melbourne for free & this popped up. Thank you thank you thank you. I have some friends visiting from os & everything I looked up on the internet cost lots & lots & lots of money. Now my cup over flowth with ideas. Your brillant. I can't praise you enough.

  12. Anonymous1:31 PM

    Hello!!! Thank you so much for this post! I'll be going to Melbourne nxt week for 12 weeks and am waiting for another visa to process so I can embark on an internship and so i now have 3 days (at least) a week to kill!!! Will try all these!