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Seeing Melbourne

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Recently at a Coffee Morning, the conversation turned to what to do with family and friends when they come to visit.  We all know Melbourne is consistently ranked among the best places in the world to live, but to visit?  We don't have an Opera House or a Harbour Bridge.  You can't snorkel the Great Barrier Reef or walk around Uluru from here. So what are some interesting things to do in Melbourne?

First up, visit the excellent tourist information office in Federation Square.  They have information on visiting places in Melbourne and also in greater Victoria.  From there, you can get a good view of the famous Flinders Street Station clocks.  One of the city's most recognisable landmarks, building works on the station commenced in 1900.  Across the river, for the best views of the city and the bay, head up Eureka Tower.  Perhaps not as fun as the Melbourne Star ferris wheel over at Docklands, but it is in a better location and on a clear day the views can't be beaten.  

For foodie types, Melbourne has quite a few markets that are well worth visiting.  Try Queen Victoria Market at the north end of the city, or visit Prahran or South Melbourne south of the river.  Queen Vic has market tours you can book, but it is fun to just wander the stalls and have a look at what's on offer, perhaps with a doughnut from the American Doughnut Kitchen.

Animal lovers have quite a few options.  Zoos Victoria run three outstanding zoos, and Healesville Sanctuary in particular is a good choice for out of town guests.  Nestled in the hills of the Yarra Valley, it showcases native Australian animals.  The new koala enclosure guarantees close-ups of the popular marsupial, and I've been able to feed wallabies and pat dingoes with my kids on recent visits. A good day trip itinerary is to visit the Sanctuary in the morning and then stop at some wineries, or the Yarra Valley Dairy or Chocolaterie on the way home for some treats.  Further afield, the world's smallest penguins waddle ashore every night at Phillip Island.

For a bit of history, there's the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Australia's most famous bushranger met his end, or the Immigration Museum.  As many of us have migrated to Australia, this has special importance.  Museums Victoria also run the Melbourne Museum and Scienceworks.  Art lovers should head over to the National Gallery of Victoria, which currently has a Van Gogh exhibit on.  Nearby, the Arts Centre always has performances on to suit all ages.  Across the road, you can head over to the Royal Botanical Gardens and walk to the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne's War Memorial.  Join the locals in doing laps of the Tan around the Gardens.

For something more unique, hop aboard the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant for lunch or dinner as you loop around Melbourne's famous tram tracks around the city and suburbs of South Melbourne and St Kilda.  Otherwise, head down to the river and catch a boat to see the city from a unique perspective.  Some even go out to Williamstown, which would be a good place to walk around and do some window shopping before catching a boat back. Melbourne also has hop-on, hop-off buses, but beware of how often they run and try to plan your hop-offs accordingly.  

It wouldn't be right to not include sports on a list of things to do here.  Melbourne is sports-crazy, and depending on the time of year, there's the Australian Open tennis championship, cricket, the Grand Prix, Aussie Rules footy, soccer, rugby, basketball, plus many more.  Visitors might enjoy a trip to the MCG to catch whatever match is being played there.  

As someone who has lived here a long time now, I often overlook how special this city is... perhaps there isn't "the" iconic attraction, but there's always something going on, there's great food and coffee, and lots to discover down the next laneway.  I'd love to hear what your favourite things to do here are!

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