Whenever I have a free weekend, I try to make the most of it. More so when the sun shines. After two months of hibernation, it’s time discover more about our new ‘home town’!
Time to dedicate two whole days to touring the marvelous city of Melbourne.
How? By taking the Visitor Shuttle.
We left our house in Brunswick to walk through Royal Park, the huge patch of green we have right on our doorstep (yay!), but it always turns out to be even bigger than expected. This nice little morning stroll ended up being an almost 40 minute hike.
No worries mate!
A healthy start to an adventurous day.
University of Melbourne
We were in luck, as the bus was scheduled to arrive 5 minutes after we arrived at stop number 7 of this 90-minute bus route around Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District).
As it turned out, the bus showed up 10 minutes late. The park had already delayed us, but let’s not let that spoil the fun!
While on the bus, we decided that the first place we would hop off the bus was at the Docklands. The Melbourne Docklands are located just west of the CBD, and likely to be the most modern suburb of the city. In fact, this huge urban renewal project to transform the Docklands into an extension of the already existing CBD – turning a former swamp (!) into a modern harbour and shopping area – only finished in 2015.
Famous landmarks on the Melbourne Docklands are the Etihad Stadium, Southern Cross Station, and the Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel.
Waterfront City & Harbour Town
The bus came to a stop at Harbour Town, stop number 9 on the route, and part of the popular Docklands precinct called Waterfront City. According to the on-board audio guide of the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle, Harbour Town Shopping Centre currently hosts more than 180 outlet stores.
Will knows me well enough to not let me so much as stop to have a look at all the promotions and sales surrounding us (I see you $20 dollar dresses!), and dragged me directly through to the waterfront. What a beauty!
Melbourne Star Observation Wheel
We walked along the water for a while, then around the shopping centre towards the Ferris Wheel. A 120 metre tall structure in the shape of a seven-pointed star, hence the name Melbourne Star Observation Wheel.
However pretty and shiny with the sunlight reflecting on its impressive persona, we did not take the wheel ‘for a spin’ this time. You know, with Will being afraid of heights and all… 😉
What really happened is that I felt like having a coffee and playing with my camera to get the best perspective of this spectacular construction. Also, did I mention that a full turn of this Ferris Wheel takes half an hour?
It was either… or, and the coffee won. We’ll be back though!
Melbourne Botanical Gardens
After about an hour at Waterfront City, we hopped back onto the Visitor Shuttle to continue our city sightseeing adventure. Our original plan was to have a picnic in the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, but things kind of worked out differently.
First of all, we could not resist the urge to have a more pleasant re-encounter with the Shrine of Remembrance on this sun-shiny day. Last time we were here – back in August – it was so cold and windy that I couldn’t feel my feet, the sky was grey, and the overall atmosphere more than somber.
Shrine of Remembrance
What a sharp contrast with what we saw today!
This afternoon, the Shrine of Remembrance worked some sort of magnetic magic on us. We were drawn to it, encouraged to enter, and couldn’t resist taking these amazing photos of the city view from its balcony.
Although it took all our strength to fight the urge to view the complete collection of the free (!) exhibition in the interior of the Shrine – “Some other time, we need to get on with our tour!” – we eventually made it to the Visitor Centre of the Botanical Gardens.
Botanical Garden Walking Tour
Guess what? A free Garden Walking Tour was just about to start!
We doubted for a split-second – it was 2pm and we hadn’t eaten yet (in other words, Will was starving 😉 ) – but, as usual, our curiosity got the best of us. Bring on that plant and tree knowledge!
Well, we got way more than we bargained for. This man knew what he was talking about! So much so, that after a full hour of listening to his stories of famous tree-planters, tree family trees, and all sorts of plant species native or imported to Victoria, we had to peel off to make it back to the nearest bus stop in time!
Melbourne Sports precinct
Rod Laver Arena
We left the Botanical Gardens at Gate A, crossed the Yarra River to enjoy a spectacular view of the city, and walked along its shore until we got to the Melbourne Sports Precinct. First place to catch our eye? The Rod Laver Arena. Indeed, the place where the Australian Open is played!
After crossing the tunnel bridge over the train tracks, we arrived at yet another famous sports venue. The MCG, or Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Unlike the name would suggest, this large stadium is not only used for cricket, but also for public events like concerts and ‘that other popular Ozzie sport’: Australian Football. Or the “Footy”, as the Aussies would call it.
Queen Victoria Market
Day two of our Sightseeing Tour. Instead of walking to Melbourne University, to take the Shuttle for only one stop, we decided to directly make our way down to “Vic Market”.
A blast from the past, and definitely a place I could have easily spent all day. Will and I somehow limited our purchases to two Australia hoodies (matching, of course 😉 ), but with all that’s on offer you better bring a whole lot of willpower. Or a huge wallet. From international foods and snacks, to souvenirs, jewelry, handbags, and clothing, Queen Vic has got you covered.
Oh, and don’t forget some sort of shopping bag – on wheels (!) – for all your produce purchases. Stuff here is about half to three times cheaper than in regular supermarkets.
Melbourne Arts Precinct
I have to admit that my glorious mood took a little hit when we got to the bus stop of the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle. Due to some road construction, buses would likely be delayed and certainly not be stopping at stop number 1. Great. Especially since we had saved exactly that stop for today. Melbourne Arts Precinct.
So instead of waiting on a belated bus that would take us all around the eastern part of the CBD again, to not drop us off where we actually wanted to go, we made another appeal to our feet. “Come on you two, if you can get us across the CBD to the Melbourne Arts Precinct, I promise we’ll get right back onto the bus in China Town and go home…”
Done and done. They agreed.
Little did my feet know that about an hour and a half later, after zigzagging through some of the graffiti-walled, cobblestone plastered lanes of the Arts Precinct, and skipping China Town because we had already walked through it some weeks ago, I would change my mind. Had I already forgotten that I was exhausted?
Instead of riding back to the stop north of the University of Melbourne, we would get out at stop 6, Lygon Street, and walk through campus!
Needless to say, we were absolutely knackered after all this. But I still managed a final jump for joy!
I can’t tell you too much about the frequency of delays or other hick-ups along the way, but the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle is certainly a fun and educational way to get to know many different parts of the city in a relatively short time frame.
Considering that regular public transport would cost you almost A$8, unless you stay within the Free Tram Zone (one of the many amazing free things in Melbourne), and it doesn’t provide you with tourist information or historical facts about the city, the two-day Shuttle ticket is some good value for money. Even if the service is somewhat disappointing on one of the two days.
The only drawback is that this shuttle service stops at 4.30pm, so that, depending on where you are on the route, your last bus will already appear somewhere around 3.45pm. And the last full service even earlier…
Have you ever taken the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle?
If so, how was your experience? Do share!
If not, would you like to after reading my article?
Either way, I hope I have inspired you to visit Melbourne some day. It’s a beautiful city
All stops on the Melbourne Visitor Shuttle route:
- Arts precinct
- Federation Square
- Sports Precinct
- Chinatown precinct
- Melbourne Museum & Carlton Gardens
- Lygon Street Precinct
- University of Melbourne
- Queen Victoria Market
- Harbour Town, Docklands
- Etihad Stadium & Victoria Harbour
- William Street
- Southbank & Yarra River
- The Shrine & Royal Botanic Gardens