Melbourne is one of Australia’s most vibrant and exciting cities, with a rich culture and plenty of things to see and do. It is also one of the places I did not visit when I was living in Sydney back in 2011. So I decided that Melbourne is where I should commence my first solo trip. It is not like I have never travelled alone, but this is the first place I travelled in which I did all the planning, booking and staying alone, without any companion traveling with me or living in that other country.
I landed on a cold rainy Monday morning on the 27th March 2023, and took a cab to my hotel. My stay at the Somerset was so pleasant and convenient because it was situated right in the CBD’s Elizabeth Street! I took the first day just to explore my surroundings and call off the day earlier due to overnight flight and lack of sleep.
The next morning, I took a guided tour to the Yarra Valley, with Go West Tours. Go West Tours provides great value small group tours from Melbourne to Melbourne’s most popular day touring destinations. For Melbourne visitors, I highly recommend checking out their website or on Klook for day tours in Melbourne to scenic and iconic places like the Great Ocean Road, Yarra Valley, Phillip Island, Grampians, etc. They organise excellent tours, offering pickup and drop off services at the hotel where you are staying. Their friendly guides provided us with so much insights into the places we were visiting. For solo travellers like me, this was the best choice unless you know how to drive, then you can rent a car to get to these places.
Yarra Valley is a renowned wine region located just outside of Melbourne. The Yarra Valley is known for its cool climate wines, including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and sparkling wine. We visited the Balgownie Estate, Rochford Wines and other farms. One of the most memorable wineries we visited was Yering Station, a historic estate with stunning views of the valley. We tried several of their award-winning wines, including a delicious Pinot Noir and a refreshing sparkling wine.
After a day touring the countryside estates, I took a day off for sight-seeing in the city. I spent the rainy Wednesday morning in the Melbourne Museum.
The First Peoples exhibit at the Melbourne Museum is an important and comprehensive showcase of the rich history, culture, and contemporary lives of the Aboriginal peoples of Victoria, including the Kulin Nation. The exhibit is divided into several sections, each exploring different aspects of Aboriginal culture and history. One section is dedicated to the creation stories of the Kulin Nation, which explain the origins of the land, animals, and people. Another section focuses on the traditional way of life of the Kulin people, including hunting and gathering practices, food and medicine, and the important role of storytelling and ceremony in Kulin culture. Visitors can see examples of traditional tools, weapons, and clothing, as well as displays of contemporary art and cultural objects.
The exhibit also covers the impact of European settlement on the Kulin people and other Aboriginal communities in Victoria. This includes the devastating effects of disease, violence, and forced removals, as well as the ongoing struggles for land rights, self-determination, and reconciliation. Overall, the First Peoples exhibit at the Melbourne Museum is a powerful and important tribute to the resilience, creativity, and enduring cultural heritage of the Kulin Nation and other Aboriginal peoples of Victoria.
Next, I visited the Shrine of Remembrance. The Shrine of Remembrance is a major landmark and war memorial located in Melbourne, Australia. It was built in the 1920s to honor the service and sacrifice of Australian men and women who have served in wars and conflicts since World War I. The sanctuary houses a number of commemorative works, including sculptures, stained glass windows, and inscriptions, that pay tribute to different aspects of Australian military history and culture. One of the most notable features of the Shrine is the Shrine Reserve, a large parkland area that surrounds the building. The Reserve includes several memorials and monuments, including the Eternal Flame, which is a tribute to Australian soldiers who have died in service. It was such a calm and serene place for an afternoon visit.
Another place that you must visit is the Skydeck.
Before visiting the Skydeck, make sure you buy the ticket online. You can just walk in if you had already purchased the ticket online. Once you reach the 86th floor, you get to see a stunning view of the Melbourne city!
I went to the Skydeck close to the sunset time, but I was not able to stay to watch the sunset. I had to walk back to my hotel to have an early night as I needed to get up earlier the next day.
My next stop was the Great Ocean Road, one of the world’s most scenic coastal drives. I joined Go West Tours and set off on a journey along the rugged coastline. We passed through charming seaside towns, saw stunning coastal views, and made a stop at the iconic Twelve Apostles.
The Twelve Apostles is a collection of limestone rock formations located on the southern coast of Victoria, which were formed over millions of years by the erosive forces of the ocean. Despite their name, there were never actually twelve stacks – the original name referred to the number of features visible from the land, which included other smaller stacks and formations that have since eroded away. Today, there are eight main stacks remaining, which rise up to 45 meters (148 feet) above the ocean. The stacks are made of limestone, which gives them their distinctive white color, and are constantly changing due to erosion from wind and waves.
One of the highlights of the trip was visiting the Loch Ard Gorge, a stunning natural formation named after a ship that wrecked off the coast in the 19th century. The gorge is a beautiful place to explore, with towering cliffs, pristine beaches, and crystal-clear water.
The story behind Loch Ard Gorge is one of tragedy and survival. In 1878, a British clipper ship named the Loch Ard was traveling from England to Melbourne with more than 50 passengers and crew on board. The ship was carrying valuable cargo and had been making good time, but in the early morning hours of June 1, it hit a reef near the coast of Victoria and began to sink. Despite the efforts of the crew and passengers, only two people managed to survive the wreck: a young Irish woman named Eva Carmichael and a sailor named Tom Pearce. They were washed ashore in the nearby Loch Ard Gorge, which takes its name from the ship. Eva and Tom were stranded on a narrow beach surrounded by steep cliffs and turbulent waters. Despite the dangerous conditions, Tom was able to climb the cliffs and find help, and the two were eventually rescued and taken to safety. The tragedy of the Loch Ard wreck and the heroic survival of Eva and Tom captured the attention of the public and became a celebrated and romanticized story of survival and resilience.
After a long day, driving over 200 kilometers to and from the Great Ocean Road, I returned back home at night. The next day on Friday was the last day in Melbourne before I left to Singapore. On this day, I went to the Royal Exhibition Building for the International Flower & Garden Show. The show typically features large-scale floral displays, garden exhibits, landscape designs, and horticultural demonstrations by local and international experts.
Overall, my first solo trip to Melbourne and the surrounding regions was an unforgettable experience. From the stunning coastal views along the Great Ocean Road to the delicious wines of the Yarra Valley, there was no shortage of things to see and do. Nearing the end of my trip, I felt I could have stayed a bit longer to explore more places and paced myself nicely. Typically 8-10 days is ideal for any trip to a new country that you have previously never visited. Now that I have gotten a taste of travelling alone, I wish I could replicate this experience with other places around the world. My sights are set at Japan, New Zealand and maybe London. These are experiences that are priceless and I was glad to have planned this trip to Melbourne!