After sharing about how we survived in this inaugural family trip to Melbourne, this next post covers our “free and easy tours” proper. As this is a trip primarily for the kids, we limited our choices of activities to kids’ friendly ones. Here are some activities/places which we enjoyed:
1) Parks, Playgrounds and Beaches
Nothing else excite the kids more than slides, swings and lots of space to run around. It takes only playgrounds to make them happy and keep them occupied.
A Playground (made largely with recycled materials) in St Kilda’s neighbourhood
This is an outdoor playground made largely from recycled materials. It boosts of trampolines, tree house for climbing, slides of various sizes, flying fox and many little nooks and crannies. We were staying within walking distance and thus managed to drop by during their short opening hours. It seemed to be operated by a group of co-op volunteers and we saw locals baking cookies and enjoy coffee/tea together. Perhaps we looked too “touristy” for them to befriend us. But otherwise, with free entry and lots of brightly coloured structures it is definitely a kids’ haven. The boys loved this place and we would have spent more time here if they weren’t closing.
Opening hours and location can be found here.
St Kilda’s Beach (and Playground nearby)
This is near to the place we stayed at St Kilda’s. In warmer months, a stroll will be ideal but since it was still cold, we took a tram to the beach. The boys wanted to play sand but we decided against it as the cold wind was strong at the beach. Instead we retreated to a playground nearby and once again, they had good old fun. 🙂
We missed out on a number of major parks such as Royal Botanic Garden and Fritzroy Gardens due to the weather. Heard these are great places for kids to run wild too. 🙂
2) Of Trams and Trains
First up is the FREE Melbourne city tram. Don’t confuse this with the regular trams which you will need to pay. For the first 2 days in Melbourne city, the boys loved a slow-moving, old-fashioned tram. It’s helpful that this tram stops at some major tourist attractions too. It’s a good lulling method to get the kids to nap for a while too. 🙂
Both boys are huge fans of trams and trains so we took the chance not to rent a car in the city. Warning: Be prepared to walk a whole lot in Melbourne if you are not driving! Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring along sunshade/hats. Then again the grounds are quite flat and not too difficult to walk. Check this website on the purchase of Miki cards for use on public transportation. If you are confused on the most cost-effective method to travel, approach any train stations personnel as they are friendly and helpful.
Next best thing to sitting on a train? Dangle your feet out of the train! We loved the Puffing Billy train experience! If you have young children (or feel young yourself), this is a MUST-DO! We drove here as we stayed over at Philips Island the night before. It is possible to get here using the train system but think twice if you have loads to carry. Puffing Billy is Australia’s preserved steam railway. It is a century old steam train which is still running on its original mountain track from Belgrave to Gembrook. We took the train from Belgrave to Lakeside where there is a pit stop before heading back to Belgrave.
Travel Tip: Go earlier as you will need time to walk to the boarding station. Allow time for photo taking as well. If you plan to have your meal nearby, there are only some small cafes, a subway, some sushi joint and a Vietnam place which we tried. Honestly, all of them don’t look fab. You will be better off packing some food elsewhere.
The best of the train ride has got to be this:
No one (except Popo!) needs prompting to climb onto the train ledge and dangle their feet as the train puffed along! Even the babiest Eizac enjoyed this “freedom”. 🙂 As the train chugged through the Dandenong ranges, the view was refreshing but the wind was chilling!
As it was really cold with the wind blowing in our faces, I was glad we had a short stop to grab some hot drinks. Eizac was really freezing and downed his hot chocolate with a vengeance.
Travel Tip: Do pack along a hot tumbler during winter days, cold drinks during warmer months, food and snacks for a short picnic if you are planning to stop at Lakeside station.
If you are making a stop at Lakeside, in the warmer months, you can choose to have ride on one of these water boats. These are not open during the winter months.
Nonetheless, we had a good time at a playground nearby and swings are always a delight too. 🙂
As most will know we are not talking the same type of wet markets in Singapore. My Mum & I simply love the markets in Melbourne. The fresh produces, clean shopping environment and great prices were a hit with us! In Singapore, we rely heavily on imports and thus prices are much more expensive for good quality produces. We were spoiled for choice in the 2 markets we visited – Queen Victoria Market and the South Melbourne Market. My mum went crazy with marketing and even hurled a cauliflower back in the cabin luggage! These markets are good places to pick up some local souvenirs, buy ingredients for home-cooked meals and savor some touristy food (like donuts!). Imagine a tray of Brussels sprouts at A$1, my fav Artichoke for A$3 and a box of strawberries at A$2. I could just migrate to Australia for the fresh food! 😀
Travel Tip: Most already know this. Cook at least one meal (most of the time, it’s dinner) at your serviced apartment. The ingredients are just too good to miss out and cooking a meal save some money too. Eating out for a family can be costly. It’s tough to find a plate of chicken rice for S$3 there! 😛
My boys are not huge fan of the markets though. Save for some kiddy rides along the way, the other “fun” rides they get were with Daddy. 🙂
And of all places, we choose to meet our college friend and her children at the market too! As we do have any many clear days, we met up at the South Melbourne Market and caught up on our years of stories. It’s great that Xi En and E clicked! 🙂
Ending off on the 2nd installation of our Melbourne holiday before I missed it too much. Will pen down another 2 more posts on Melbourne when I get more time! Till then, happy weekend!
Updates on the rest of the Melbourne travelogue: