If you missed it, read about the beginning of our trip here.
The city of Melbourne has so much to offer. There are endless things to do! In our free time, we were able to explore the city a bit and take some fun day trips.
One of our first days in the city, our whole group headed over to the Melbourne Zoo. Walking around and looking at interesting animals was a fun way to pass the time while we were getting acquainted with our new city and waiting for universities to start up so we could begin our ministry.
We saw all kinds of animals unique to Australia, including wombats, kangas, koalas, and platypuses. There were other classic “zoo” animals there as well.
On one evening off, Whit and I had a little date and took the tram down to Collins Street. To be honest, I wish that we had wandered over here more frequently. We went inside this gorgeous old building where I enjoyed a gluten-free cupcake at The Cupcake Bakery, which now seems to be closed.
As we headed home on foot, we found ourselves in the Bourke Street Mall area, which has high-end shopping and restaurants with a charming atmosphere.
We admired some of the graffiti on Union Lane, but I wish we had gotten to see it during the day.
On our last day, we finally decided to check out this coffee shop, Jasper, that some of our students were raving about. It was in Fitzroy on Brunswick Street and when we arrived I was immediately filled with regret for not having gone to this neighborhood before. It was SO hipster, but in a good way. There was store after store with trendy, sophisticated curated goods. I wanted to buy everything in this one paper store that sourced every kind of paper you could ever need. The coffee shop was a hit, and although neither Whit nor I drink coffee, I couldn’t resist buying a couple bags of beans for gifts.
Honestly, I dream about going back to Melbourne JUST to hang out in this area. It was so, so cool. I have been on the lookout for a similar area in the US since we’ve been back but have yet to find something satisfactory. It was basically a modern, upscale outdoor mall, but way trendier and more local, but instead of being in a residential area it was actually on a street in the city. Does that make sense? For fellow Virginians, think a local version (i.e. not chain stores) of Reston Town Center but in the middle of DC. So cool, right??
In reality, our quick visit to Brunswick Street in hopes of having a final hoorah to say goodbye to the city was less than a dreamy experience. We took the wrong bus and had trouble finding our way because we didn’t know we had gotten off in the wrong place. It was raining, and while we were waiting at the bus stop to go home, it was absolutely pouring, and we literally got soaked standing too close to the street when a car went by. It was the worst. I guess at least we were ready to say goodbye to the city at that point!
St. Kilda Pier + Penguins!
South of the city you can see the water, walk on the beach, stroll the boardwalk, and MEET REAL LIVE PENGUINS!!!
The St. Kilda Pier is home to 100 Little Penguins, the smallest species of penguin in the world. At dusk they swim home to the pier and climb aboard the rocks. If you’re lucky, you can watch them! I was so tremendously thankful to get to see a few hopping around when we were there! They were adorable, and I was astounded that they were wild – not in a zoo or on a nature show!
Once we had watched the penguins, we walked along the shore for a bit before checking out the boardwalk. Since it was winter, a lot of the shops and restaurants were closed, but we did manage to find dinner and dessert.
Queenscliff is a tiny beach town about two hours by train from Melbourne. At the end of our four-week stay, we packed everything up and headed over to this small town to wrap up our trip with a formal “debrief.” This cute little area was a great place to catch our breath, get away from the city, and reflect on what we had experienced over the past month.
Our amazing mission coordinator set us up in a huge house with a contract that allowed us to rent the entire building! It had a kitchen, a big common room with couches, games, and tables, and most importantly – enough space for us to each have our own room! Our students were psyched about that after squishing together in bunk beds for so long. I was just excited to live in a house with normal wall colors again after the crazy neon Space Hotel! One night we made full use of the house’s many rooms with an intense game of Sardines. We laughed so much!
It was a short walk to town, and a short walk to the beach (through some backyards). Some people were intent on submerging their bodies into the South Pacific Ocean, and we couldn’t talk them out of doing a Polar Plunge. I refused, but enjoyed watching everyone else’s misery.
We were allowed some free time, with which Whit and I had a lunch date together at a cute indoor/outdoor cafe. We sat outside with the flowers and the birds – it was quite lovely.
One night during the weekend, we celebrated my and a few other people’s birthdays. My birthday was the following day, our last day in the country, which was to be entirely filled with travel. I wasn’t really looking forward to it, and was honestly afraid that there wouldn’t be much fuss because we would be so busy. Well… I was right. It was to this day the worst birthday I’ve ever had!
Mostly it was because of poor expectations from my busy husband. He was completely in charge of not only our itinerary, but making sure that everyone got from one place to the next. He had to decide the route, buy everyone’s transportation tickets (we took 3 trains and 2 buses, and had to walk a bunch!), look for the right stops, make sure no one got lost, etc. Poor guy. How was he supposed to also ensure that I had a nice birthday? Unfortunately the biggest miss was that the town he picked for us to get off the train and get dinner in was terrible. You know how Melbourne is so cool? Well this city wasn’t. It was sketchy, grungy, there was little English, and there were only a few restaurants. It was Australian Chinese ghetto, basically. The terrible thing was – there was NOTHING for me to eat. For my BIRTHDAY DINNER. Literally, there were no gluten-free options. I mean, I could’ve had plain white rice and a soda and chips, but that SUCKS.
I think my grumpiness was justified. I was, of course, expecting Whit to procure the fabulous gluten-free cupcake that I had begged him about for the past two weeks… but no such luck. Even the birthday party that my team had hosted the previous night didn’t feel that special to me, because we were also celebrating a couple other people’s birthdays (which were both a few days/weeks later), and we had ice cream that was suspiciously maybe not gluten-free. Not to mention we were exhausted from all that traveling!! Whit apologized profusely several times, but I was still mad when we got to our dime-sized hotel room that night. (The bathroom was literally as large as a bathroom on a plane, and there was hardly a sink it was so tiny.) We tried to go get me something else to eat from McDonald’s, which of course only offered a side salad (no meat) and a thing of fries.
Well, you win some and you lose some! Little did I know that the NEXT day, our first day in New Zealand, would be the actual BEST DAY OF MY LIFE and make up for it entirely!
I have one more Australia post coming up: The Great Ocean Road road trip!! Get excited!
P.S. Here’s a great guide to Melbourne neighborhoods. I wish I had known more about the different neighborhoods when we were there!