Melbourne may be a long jump rather than a short hop from Singapore, but it’s utterly do-able over a three day long weekend. My three year old daughter and I recently did exactly that, scrambling a last minute booking on an oh-so-comfortable Emirates A380 to down under. The fun began from the moment we stepped on the plane as a stewardess with a big smile showered Baby Girl with gifts. A mini blanket, panda pillow, kids headphones, colouring pencils and an activity book kept her occupied for some of the seven hour journey.
On arrival, procedures at the Melbourne airport were cheerful and swift. A blessing with sleepy child in tow. Immigration, baggage, customs, then swiftly, we were in our cab. My first impression of Melbourne was of how much it reminded me of home. No, not Singapore home, but Britain. Cooler weather, flat land, green fields and low lying architecture, with the city rising up in the distance, inviting you in.
Very cheery staff at The Langham, Melbourne checked us in at 8am for no extra charge. Genius! So far, I was loving the place. While the Langham’s breakfast buffet has been applauded by locals and blogs, it is surpassed by the lavish hotel brunch banquets of Singapore and Hong Kong. Still, the offering was enough to hit the spot. Energised, we set off on our mother and daughter adventure… in the rain. Drizzle turned into a constant hammering so we bought an umbrella and got our waterproof swag on. (Well, I did say the place was reminiscent of home.)
The Langham, Melbourne (Image provided by The Langham, Melbourne)
Hitting the banks of the Yarra River from the south side, fastened up to our waterproofed noses, we passed by the Crown Hotel with its flashy exteriors and invitation to the Casino. No self respecting three year old would be seen there though, so we headed west, alongside the Yarra to a huge outlet mall called DFO South Wharf. Packed to the rafters with clothing stores and sports shops, it was hard to resist temptation. With the discipline of a saint, I settled for two pairs of school shoes for Miss Madam three year old, which would have cost double back in Singapore. However, my sense of glee at the little bargain excursion was short lived when we couldn’t get a taxi back in the pouring rain. Get yourself Uber-ed up in Melbourne. Without a taxi stand in sight, expect to be stranded. Unless… you are smart and organised enough to pick up a Myki card and use the city’s tram and train system, which we weren’t.
That evening, we joined dear friends who live in the Eureka building, Australia’s second tallest building. In 2014, Polish extreme cyclist Krystian Herba bunny hopped up the 2,900 steps. What a feat and good for him! We took the lift. As the tallest building in Melbourne, it’s worth checking out for the city view. My friend’s apartment faces the opposite side, so while you get a glimpse of the Melbourne Cricket Club and my mate’s kitchen, I’d recommend hitting the Eureka Skydeck which is open to the public.
Day two had us waking up for a fresh walk past Arts Centre Melbourne, again along the river, this time to the east and towards the city. My gorgeous friend, P, kept describing it as ‘the thing that looks like the Eiffel Tower’ (a tall pointed thin one). There’s a fairly jolly Sunday market there, featuring lots of collectible items and best of all, glorious but naughty morning snacks like mini pancakes drenched in Nutella and breaded cubes of mac and cheese.
It was our last day so we ramped up the pace. With Little Miss now high on Nutella, we crossed over into the city and breezed past Flinders Street train station. Meandering through the streets we soon came to the first of Melbourne’s famous Laneways. These historic gulleys are hubs of activity, choc to the brim of locals and tourists, a network of channels linking the city’s broader streets. Dating back to the Victorian era, the narrow lanes are a great place for foodies and perfect those who enjoy the feel of al fresco people watching like they do in Paris or London. It’s worth doing an organised tour, of which there are many, to fully appreciate the Laneways but apart from a quick stop for avocado smash on toast, for us, this was a strictly see and flee visit.
With time ticking on our girly adventure we were whisked off by gorgeous friend, P to the famous and rather stunning “Block Arcade”. Rated at almost 5 stars on TripAdvisor, this homage to Italian architecture was built in the 1890s and is home to the Hopetoun Tea Rooms. Many a tourist will gladly queue up for a spot of tea with sumptuous looking cakes whilst admiring the ornate interiors of the arcade. We gave Hopetoun a wave and moved on to glimpse Haigh’s Chocolates, a well known Australian institution. I had to hustle my daughter past the store really fast before being roped into yet another sugar overload.
Unfortunately, our girls weekend had to be wrapped up in order to make an afternoon flight back to Singapore. We landed at Changi Airport with enough time on hand to make sure one tired three year old would still get enough sleep before nursery in the morning.
Verdict: Melbourne is a great place for a quick getaway but you’ll need a long weekend for it to make any sense.
Good for kids? Not sure. Everyone told us to go to the Melbourne Aquarium but we bypassed it and went shopping. Sorry. It’s highly recommended for kids though! If you don’t mind strolling, you’ll love Melbourne. Beautiful parks brighten up the city and there are plenty of fresh outdoor spaces for your young ones. The mother/daughter bonding time was priceless.
Would we go again? Certainly! But I’d wait for slightly better weather. Rain can be a real inhibitor, especially when you end up carrying a heavy three year old most of the way back to the hotel.
Must check out:
- The Block Arcade
- The Laneways – special tours can be booked
- Melbourne’s famous markets
- Eureka Tower, Skydeck
- Melbourne Cricket Ground (if you’re a fan)
- Wonderful eateries – they’re everywhere
- The Melbourne Aquarium
For more information on visiting Melbourne:
Images provided by Tourism Victoria.