Throughout our time in Melbourne, we stayed with our sweet friends, Leo, Maria & Baby Zoe in East Brighton, just outside of the city. This is a booming part of town full of development and new hip areas while still maintaining a charming beach vibe. Side note: We first met L & M on our honeymoon in Maria's home country of Colombia! Our Spanish was pretty horrible and they saved us on numerous occasions. Hence, a friendship was formed.
After our venture down the Great Ocean Road, we headed in to downtown Melbourne for some amazing coffee and a few of the cutest stores. At the top of my list was Magnation, an artistically curated magazine shop (print isn't dead yet, y'all! I love beautiful magazines) tucked above a bookstore in the hip neighborhood of Fitzroy. Once you've had your fill of literature, this collection of street blocks is chock full of character and hip little restaurants - reminding us of a sightly more upscale version of the H St. Corridor in our old DC stomping grounds.
Just a short tram ride from the city is the trendy neighborhood of St. Kilda beach, the up-class version of Fitzroy. After wandering the beachside marketplace, we stopped into 95 Espresso for a little afternoon espresso. I semi-accidentally ordered the biggest and richest (and most expensive - sorry Shane) slice of chocolate cake EVER. For the first time in my life, I was unable to finish my dessert - I surrender, ginormous St. Kilda cake!
Have no fear if you can't find this particular cafe on your trip to Melbourne. Self-proclaimed to be one of the coffee meccas of the world, this humble city has more cute little espresso shops than you could ever sip your way through. Just don't come expecting a venti frappuccino. The java culture here is so loyal to their artisan espresso brews that the introduction of Starbucks was a major flop.
Our host, Leo, hails from Argentina so it was only appropriate that they joined us for our first Argentinean culinary experience at, the highly regarded, San Telmo. In the pursuit of authenticity, they cook their meat on a 9-foot long hand-made grill and charcoal shipped from the homeland. Pair that with Australia's illustrious beef tradition and let me tell you - SO delicious! Delicate, flavorful appetizers, perfectly cooked meat and the cutest little cream puffs for dessert. The price mark comes at a bit of a splurge but well worth every bite if it fits in the budget.
And who knew we would be in town during the Australian Open?! Not me. Such a fun surprise! We woke up early on the first day of The Open and took the train into the city only to be told that ground passes were sold out for the day (boo). In a last ditch effort, we decided to check online and low and behold, victory! Cheers for cheating the system. We spent the day enjoying amazing live tennis, eating some standard Australian stadium food (meat pies and fish & chips) and trying not to get horribly sunburnt. Even if you don't happen to stumble upon an international tennis tournament, this lively city always has some sport or event to experience. Make sure to check out the city's online listing for events or head to the massive tourist information center in Federation Square where you will be sat down with your own personal planning consultant for free!
From the Aussie Open, we took the train to the Brighton Beach stop where a meandering walk takes you to the city's iconic beach shacks. As if these vibrant huts aren't entertaining enough, the path from the station takes you right by Hugh Jackman's gorgeous Melbourne home. After running into Gerard Butler in Iceland, I have extremely unrealistic expectations about running into celebrities and I reeeallyy wanted to ring the doorbell. But Shane dragged my loitering self away from Hughy's front door to see the stunning the sunset on the beach.
Having only rented a car for one day in the Great Ocean Road, all our trips to, from and around the city were exclusively done using public transport. The system is not only easily accessible but has a fair price tag and is even free once in the immediate downtown area!
If you're heading to Melbourne, make sure to leave a little extra buffer in your eating budget. Food is substantially more expensive Down Under (at least compared to food prices in the States) and there is no shortage of delicious restaurants in this city. Here are a few we enjoyed for breakfast or lunch that won't break the bank:
- Noisette: A petite French cafe in Port Melbourne that Maria says to have better croissants than Paris (they are delicious!) and great coffee
- Gas Eatery: This quirky and original shop has sizable breakfasts and delicious takeout/stay-in lunches for tasty-on-the-go
- Brunetti: Full of amazing pastries and treats to wash down with your espresso, this outdoor, Italian pasticceria sits perfectly in the city square
- Blue Moose Cafe: A tasty breakfast spot in the business district but just a block away from the emotionally stirring Shrine of Remembrance - an interactive museum and memorial for all of Australia's armed servicemen, past and present
And a huge thank you to Leonardo and Maria (and baby Zoe!) who opened up their home and guided us towards the best that Melbourne had to offer!