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Croissants And Koalas in Melbourne
Good choice, reader, Melbourne is a cracker! It has newly been crowned Australia’s largest city, yet still lives in Sydney’s opera-house-shaped shadow. A month is a long time, but we’re more than happy to recommend a few ways to maximise your stay.
Don’t worry about buying a transport pass for getting around. Many of Melbourne’s most popular tourist attractions are located in and around the CBD (central business district) and the Docklands. Not only does this mean it’s pretty walkable, but it also means a lot of the places you want to visit are within the city’s Free Tram Zone.
For the full hop-on-hop-off tour experience, stick to the City Circle Tram (no. 35). It provides plenty of history and cheesy chat at no extra cost, plus the added charm of an old school tram. The main downside is that it’s marketed squarely at tourists, so it’s likely to be packed full of slightly lost-looking rucksack wearers during summer in particular.
As you’re staying for over a month, reader, you’re likely going to be spending time outside the CBD, too. We recommend picking up a myki travel card for those days when you’re travelling on trains, buses and trams outside the Free Tram Zone.
Food, glorious food
Usually we wouldn’t suggest disappearing down back lanes to escape the hustle and bustle, but we’ll make an exception in Melbourne. It’s famous for “European-style” cobblestone laneways featuring bold street art and hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants that spill out onto the street.
The city has earned itself a reputation as a foodie paradise, and it’s in these backstreets that you’re going to find the crème de la crème. From a simple pastrami on rye to Malaysian street food and Italian fine dining, you can find more or less anything hidden away in the labyrinth.
But how do you choose where to start when the world is (somewhat literally) your oyster? Here are a few JFC favourites to help you get started:
- Lune Croissants: Never thought you’d queue round the block for a croissant? Think again. They’ve (somewhat controversially) been named the best croissants in the world—including any in France. Our in-house Aussie, Larissa, recommends going mid-morning to avoid the mad rush.
- Hardware Société: Fancy Aussie brunch with a French twist. So fancy, in fact, that they even have cafés in Paris and Barcelona, so you know it’ll be worth the wait. It’s walk-in only, so the earlier you get there, the better.
- Brunetti Classico: A true Melbourne institution for anyone with a sweet tooth. It’s an authentic, family-run Italian café known for its cakes, pastries and gelato. Even if you don’t have time to sit in, stop by their new gelato bar for a scoop or two!
Out and about
The 150-mile coastal route runs between Torquay, around 1.5 hrs south-west of Melbourne, and the town of Warrnambool. That’s a lot of driving for just one day, so consider joining an organised tour or hiring a car and spreading the trip over a few days.
There are a few major “wow!” moments along the way, like Erskine Falls, a 30-metre-high waterfall that cascades down into a fern-lined ravine.
Then just a little further south, at Teddy’s Lookout, is where you get the iconic view of the Great Ocean Road used in every tourist brochure. It’s easily accessible from the town of Lorne, so you can expect this one to be busy with both locals and visitors—but the view really is cracking.
No surprises what you’ll find on the Kennett River Koala Walk. The main difference here is that it’s no koala sanctuary or zoo, these are legit wild koalas. Despite what the name says, you can actually drive along the road for miles, avoiding the throngs of tourists stopped by the main road.
Just be sure not to stand directly below your new furry pal when you spot them up among the eucalyptus—they have been known to relieve themselves on unsuspecting passers-by…
The further along the Great Ocean Road you get, the crazier the landscape becomes. Port Campbell National Park serves up a few phenomenal geological formations all in the one area: the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge. Try to hit the park early in the morning or just in time for sunset so you can enjoy the views in peace. You might even spot some cute little penguins at dusk!
If you don’t fancy the long road trip, all is not lost! Phillip Island is only 90 minutes from Melbourne and home to rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, and a fascinating Aboriginal history. Oh, and more penguins! Top that off with a visit to one of the island’s breweries or wineries, and we don’t see much reason to leave.
There can surely never be enough little penguins in your life, though. So no matter what else you do, please (for all our sakes) make sure to head down to St Kilda Pier at dusk and say hello to this lot. And then send us pictures.
We hope that’s given you a few ideas, reader. Have an amazing time Down Under, and let us know how you get on!
What else would you like us to cover in The Detour? Let us know!
This Week, We're In Wisconsin!
This week, US News & World Report named Green Bay, Wisconsin, the best place to live in the whole of the USA. There’s no denying that a superstar football team can give any city a buzz, and there’s nothing quite like donning a cheesehead hat (we’ll get to that) and soaking up the atmosphere from the bleachers. But surely there has to be more than sports to make it “the best”?
Firstly, Green Bay sits at the mouth of the Fox River, on the banks of Lake Michigan, meaning you’re never far from a beach or nature reserve. There’s no shortage of opportunities to get out on the water for the best view of the city, either, with choices ranging from pontoon boat tours to fishing trips or kayak hire.
But there are a couple more things that really characterise life in Green Bay, and Wisconsin as a whole: cheese and beer.
Beer culture in the state goes back to the 1830s, around the same time there was an influx of German immigrants to the area. Having toughed it out during the temperance movement and prohibition, there are now over 200 breweries in Wisconsin alone. The newer kids on the block add a touch of hipster, craft beer cool to the industry, but they’ve got OGs like Pabst and Miller to thank for getting them there.
And then there’s the cheese that got the football fans their “ cheeseheads”. Cheese factories started popping up around the same time as the breweries, when the European immigrants took advantage of the fertile grasslands for dairy farming. Nowadays, Wisconsin claims to be the ‘Cheese Capital of the World’, so it’d be rude not to at least stop by a few of their historic cheese factories.
But fear not, all ye lactose intolerant beer-haters. Even beyond Green Bay, the thrills of nature await in Devil’s Lake State Park, where you may or may not encounter Lucifer himself at The Devil’s Doorway.
In the big city, you can get a taste of brewing history without the beer at the Pabst Mansion in Milwaukee. Head along on a Sunday for a special Mimosa tour if the Blue Ribbon Happy Hour tour doesn’t sound like your thing. Meanwhile, colourful Brady Street showcases a long and storied history of diversity, independent businesses, summer festivals and great eateries.
Pick Of The Clicks
All the important (or silly, or strange) travel news from across the web this week.
- More towns in Europe are taking measures to curb over-tourism this year. In Hallstatt, Austria, a barrier has been erected in one of the most popular selfie spots, while the town of Portofino, Italy, has threatened to fine tourists who spend too long basking in its photogenic glory.
- It’s good news for fans of long-distance train trips, as Amtrak has just resumed some of its most scenic routes on both the east and west coasts.
- One to bookmark for the future: CN Traveller has just launched a monthly accessible travel column. Beyond Barriers will focus on giving disabled travellers all the latest info they need to feel safe and inspired while seeing the world.
- Air New Zealand is planning to launch lie-flat sleep pods for economy passengers on its ultra-long-haul routes. From September 2024, travellers will be able to book a 4-hour stint in a bunk bed, though the extra shut-eye will set you back $400-$600.
- And finally, all those budget airline hacks we’ve been hearing about have been pushed to the limit. A passenger travelling with Australia’s Jetstar has been fined after turning up at the gate wearing six layers of clothing in an effort to avoid baggage costs.
Now, that’s what we call bag luck!