I quickly discovered the back-and-forth reminiscent of a sibling rivalry that Melbourne and Sydney have when I spent 10 days in Australia and visited both cities. The awesome thing was that I personally was able to discover first hand and what made both cities great and ultimately pick one of my own. Are you placing your bets already? Let’s find out.
I started my trip in Melbourne and spent five days exploring not only the city of Melbourne but also Saint Kilda and on a surprisingly sunny and beautiful Sunday even visited Great Ocean Road. Reason why I Point out the beautiful weather on this particular Sunday is because one must remember that in August Australia is actually in their winter season so after spending a month and a half in what seemed to be only a bathing suit coming to Australia was definitely a temperature shock for me. I didn’t have enough winter clothes for the weather in Melbourne and found myself returning to the fine art of layering that someone from Chicago masters but now using only my #LifeinaBag.
I stayed in St. Kilda the nearest beach in Melbourne which is a short 23 minute bus ride into the city via route 91. The location was perfect as I still was able to get the feel of a beach town and yet not far away from the city to explore (Tip: Traveling within the downtown of Melbourne can be done very cheaply as the city of Melbourne has a “Free Tram Zone” what this means is that when traveling within the free tram zone on a tram you do not need to use a Myki card which is what is used to pay for public transport since in this zone you can travel free of charge). I also know that I probably wouldn’t of ventured out to Saint Kilda if I had not actually stayed there and would have certainly missed out.
Below are the top highlights for me while visiting Melbourne.
- Penguin sanctuary in St. Kilda Pier – Go after 8pm as this is when the Penguins come out (the best part is that they actually do) and as always respect their habitat and them. It’s why you can be front and center with penguins in the wild.
- Free City Circle Tram Route 35 – Additionally to the free tram zone take advantage of the free tram in the city which goes around the city and tells you about the history and different tourist spots within downtown. It makes several stops for easy hop on hop off.
- Federation Square – Federation Square has tons of museums in the square many of them free to the public. I got the chance to visit The Australian Centre for the Moving Image. It’s Australia’s national museum of film, video games, digital culture and art. The museum is very interactive and people of all ages will enjoy. This is where I learned about Skippy the Bush Kangaroo an Australian TV show about a kangaroo who always comes and saves the day. Let’s just say I’m now a big Skippy the Bush Kangaroo fan after my visit to the museum. (Tip: Google and definitely see the intro, it’s hilarious)
- Walking Tour – In the 2 and 1/2 hour free walking tour through downtown Melbourne you get to see the highlights of the city including the Yarra river, Statue Liberty of Victoria, Federation Square, Old Shot Tower, Flinders Street Station, Eureka Tower and Old Melbourne Gaol all while learning about aboriginal history, the Gold Rush and Ned Kelly.
- Great Ocean Road – I did a one day tour which included stunning views driving along the coastal road, seeing koalas and birds in the wild, lunch at Cape Otway Lighthouse which is Australia’s oldest surviving lighthouse, 12 Apostles to view the famous and uniquely formed rock stacks and Loch Ard Gorge to discover the history of the Shipwreck Coast with a stroll along this historic beach.
So after being able to check off Melbourne and seeing the awesome things that make Melbourne great I was off to my next stop, Sydney. To be fair I also only spent five days in Sydney but the weather in Sydney was much warmer thankfully.
Sydney had all the bells and whistles for another great stop in Australia which included meeting up with Pat and Lena, a couple from Sydney who I met in Vienna during my Europe trip in 2016. They showed me Sydney at night as we walked across the Sydney Bridge and checked out Luna Park, an old school amusement park from 1935 that is still operating. From there we grabbed a ferry back to the Sydney Opera House to grab drinks and cheers for the friends you make while traveling.
I did a couple tours, checked out a couple museums and did a couple sites. Below is the list of things that I would recommend from my time in Sydney to really maximize your time here.
- Downtown Sydney and The Rocks – This is a free walking tour that shows you the Sydney Opera House, the Harbor Bridge, Sydney Tower, Hyde Park, Queen Victoria Building and many more other sights including their talking dog. The talking dog is a statue of Queen Victoria’s dog that has a voice operated mechanism making this statue talk. The statue is creepy, hilarious and quirky all at the same time because to be completely honest this is the first time I’ve ever seen a statue that actually talks and of course Sydney added insult to injury by making it a statue of a dog.
- Free Museums – Sydney has 15 free museums and galleries including the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Sydney Observatory and the Art Gallery of NSW. The art aficionado that I am opted to visit the Gallery of NSW and it was great to see aboriginal pieces as well as some of the other work that’s being exhibited. I even got the chance to make a Chinese origami flower while I was there which I gifted to a friend who I made in Sydney.
- Free Rocks Tour – The Rocks is the site of Australia’s first European settlement and right near the Sydney Harbor. This free nightly tour explores the back lane ways, pubs, historical buildings and stories that make The Rocks such a historic neighborhood in Sydney.
- Sydney Tower – I took the advice of one of the tour guides I met who suggested to check out the 360 bar and dining restaurant in the Sydney Tower. You have to spend $20 minimum which is much less compared to the ticket to visit the Sydney Tower observatory just one floor up. Same great view with way less tourists and a 360 view as the restaurant itself rotates. I went during the week around lunch time and to my surprise they had an awesome lunch special that included an entrée and either a glass of wine or beer for only $20. How perfect is that!
- Bus Tour – I also used an economical bus tour to check out more stops outside of Downtown Sydney. The tour was $17 per person (not including the tip you would like to give your guide) and it’s main stops included Kings Cross, Watsons Bay and Bondi Beach where you could stay if you so wished.
Here is the link to the tour which provides more details, pick up location and stops visited. http://www.freetourssydney.com.au/free-bus-tours/index.html
- Just Walk – I can’t stress enough that just walking in a city can also give you a sense of the city. Make friends and walk with them, they too may know some cool spots that you wouldn’t have found yourself or you may find new places together. My hostel roommates and I did just that and found a really great pier that we hung out in, found a park that we walked through which was near the Botanical Garden so you can only imagine how pretty it was. And this was all because we walked.
Both cities have their charm and I can see why some people would prefer Melbourne over Sydney or vice versa. I’ve heard the comparison that they look very similar to a Los Angeles and San Francisco so it’s surprising that I’d like one over the other since I like both Los Angeles and San Francisco and don’t have a preference. My biggest disappointment in Australia was the fact that I didn’t get to see a real life kangaroo but did bring back a little plush kangaroo which was a birthday gift from my friend I made in Sydney. What this means is that I have to go back and with Australia being so big there’s so many other places I can still visit. Who knows, maybe Sydney won’t be my favorite one after all.
Tip: Another thing to note from my time in Australia is that Australians are a meat eater culture so a lot of food that could be vegetarian somehow still has bacon sprinkled on it or some sort of meat on it so keep this in mind. I didn’t do my research on places to eat and found myself grocery shopping a lot to be able to find food that I could eat. I simply was just lazy and found cooking easier surprisingly.