Melbourne, Australia – Family-friendly daytrips plus tips for your stay

What else we got into in Australia’s second largest city tips if you go

Melbourne, Australia is a family-friendly city often overlooked by overseas visitors emblazened with the images of Sydney.   Unfortunately, we only had three full days in Melbourne and it’s hard to “do a city right” in such a short time.  With that in mind, and the fact that my parents and I had been in Melbourne in 2006, I wanted to do a few things differently.  Here’s more information on what we found to do in Melbourne, plus tips for if you go with your family.

The first full day, while my parents were visiting friends outside of the city, we walked around Melbourne and enjoyed the Eureka Skydeck with our kids.  We made sure we were home in time to get to bed early and catch up on rest we missed out on while in Sydney.

Queen Victoria Market

The next day we wanted to leave for the Open around 2pm, so we had hoped to spend the morning at the Queen Victoria Market.  We’d been to Melbourne’s market 2006, but the QVM is definitely something to write home about, and worth a second look!  Plus, Mr. YT hadn’t been there and we wanted to show him what all of the hype was about.  Luckily, the Queen Victoria Market was a short walk from our hotel.

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We spent the morning eyeing goods of all kinds- from touristy Australiana shirts to kangaroo jerky to Chinese-made toys and trinkets.  Our whole family scored a shirt or two, but the win of the day were 10 jam-filled donuts from American Donuts (no joke!) and a pavlova sponge cake from a local baker (who told Mr YT and I we need to start watching TV and stop reproducing- 20 points for Aussie honestly, haha).

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Sorry for the crappy phone photo- I didn’t get my camera out in all the hustle and bustle of the market.

Australian Open

After dodging rain drops back to our hotel, Mr YT and I left for the Australian Open.  Not only was this something we’d looked forward to for MONTHS, it was only our second time alone on the entire trip (#neededabreak).

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Seeing him so happy makes me so happy
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Martina Hingis speaking on their win.

Unfortunately, when we arrived it was starting to rain and it turned very chilly.  Play was suspended on the outside courts so we headed inside to watch the women’s doubles final.  Martina Hingis and Sania Mirza won and it was fun to watch a presentation of the trophies!

What we were most excited about was watching Andy Murray v. Milos Raonic in the men’s semifinal.  I have always had a soft spot for Andy, he’s usually the underdog. Rod Laver arena was smaller than we expected (or it looks on TV- it holds 15k people).  We were thrilled that the match went to 5 sets and we definitely got our money’s worth. Ha!

If you haven’t been to a professional tennis match, please go!  It may be my favorite sport to watch because for the most part the fans are quiet and civil, yet the sport is fast-paced…and they serve sparkling wine.  🙂

Our only regret was that we’d gone to the earlier rounds.  Since this was the semifinal, there wasn’t a lot of buzz outside of the stadiums.  The weather didn’t help.  Because we planned our trip around having Australia Day in Sydney, and meeting up with friends while they were on school holidays, it’s just the way it had to be.

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Leaving Melbourne Park after Murray’s win was a walk full of SO many people — and tons of Canadian flags– Raonic sure had the fans in attendance.  We walked briskly back to the hotel room since we had an early morning AND because my parents were stuck in our room holding down the fort.

Yarra Valley – a short day trip from Melbourne

The next morning we were at the front desk bright and early to meet our scheduled tour.  We’d booked a Wild Wombat Winery tour so we could see more of the Yarra Valley.  At a cost of $175 AUD per adult (approx $122 USD) and free for kids, it was an expensive option, but we avoided the drama of having to pick up a rental van.  Now there were 8 of us, since my Aussie bff, Briony, flew to Melbourne to join us.

Melbourne Australia day trip and tips

Melbourne Australia daytrips and tips

Wild Wombat Winery Tour- Melbourne Australia daytrip

We were given a 12-passenger van (an Aussie Yoder Toter, YES), and so we had plenty of room to spread out.  The children weren’t required to be in car seats, which was nice, but also a little scary at times!  The first thing the guide said to us was, “I’ve never had children on a winery tour.”  Ahhhh.  The thing was, we weren’t all about seeing the wineries, we really just wanted to get a feel for the region.

Our first stop was Coombe Yarra Valley, once the Australian home for famous opera singer, Nellie Melba. The adjoining Melba Estate looks like the perfect place to enjoy high tea- or a wedding reception.  Next we popped in to Warratina Lavender Farm.  While the lavender had been harvested about a month earlier, the place still offered beautiful views and delicious snacks.  We tried the lavender scones and lavender milkshake and I was pleasantly surprised 1.) that you could eat lavender!  and 2.) that they tasted good.

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It was about lunchtime now, even though we’d just gobbled up our morning tea (i.e. brunch), but our guide drove us to Immerse Winery where we enjoyed a tasting and probably one of the best meals of my life.  When we walked in, Briony and I looked at each other and said, “Um, can we eat here with kids?”  because there was so much glass, but our kids really rose to the occasion and were well-behaved for our wined-and-dined experience.

Immerse wedding chapel, Yarra Valley- daytrip from Melbourne
The wedding chapel at Immerse. So romantic!
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Sweet potato ravioli. Mouth-watering.

After lunch we could have all used a NAP, but our guide assured us that the next place was worth the stop.  Not only were the views at Sutherland Estate the perfect backdrop for photos, on the way up the hill we spotted an echidna IN THE WILD.  This is rare, folks.  Echidnas are like Aussie porcupines, except they have a long snout.

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The yard at Sutherland was also perfect for the kids to run around and burn off their carb-laden lunch.  Because of this winery’s hilltop beauty and distance from the road, I’d definitely stop here again!   Tip:  You must try the tempranillo- I took mine all the way to TassieDSC_0300

Our last stop was the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.  This stop was very family-friendly.  I mean, what says kids more than sweets?  The Chocolaterie also had rugby and soccer balls in the yard for the kids (and big kids) to enjoy.  The ice cream was rich and creamy- I didn’t take a chance with the Vegemite chocolates.  That’s where I draw the line!

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie - day trip from Melbourne

What may have been the biggest drama of our travels was that my dad actually lost his cell phone at the Chocolaterie.  The tour company, Wild Wombat, helped us so much with this– and I’d recommend them to other travelers.

The next morning we had cake for breakfast, thanks to this big guy’s 6th birthday…then we headed to the airport for our flight to Hobart.  Until we meet again, Melbourne.  There’s still so much more to explore.

TIPS FOR YOUR STAY IN MELBOURNE:

Getting there

We flew from Sydney to Melbourne on Virgin Australia.  The one-way tickets were about $97 AUD per person including the credit card fee, and we didn’t have to pay extra for bags and snacks like you do on JetStar.  I would fly Virgin again.

Upon arrival in Melbourne, we caught the Skybus from the airport to the Southern Cross station.  Once at Southern Cross, the service provides a shuttle to the hotel.  This was quick and seamless, the only drama we had was getting the double stroller 4 bags 3 kids on and off of the bus.  The price was about $45 AUD for our family which was cheaper than a taxi — and the bus had free WiFi!

Stay-

Quest On William

We stayed at the Quest on William.  The Quest on William features serviced apartments in a close proximity to the city.  The rates were reasonable, and we were able to easily reach tourist areas such as the Southbank, Federation Square, and the Queen Vic Market.  The cost was about $1100 AUD ($800 USD) for 4 nights, which was more than we typically like to spend, but we were there during the Australian Open and we chose to get a 2 bedroom instead of having 4 nights with the kids on top of us (you can’t put a cost on sanity. ;))  I would definitely stay here if I found myself in Melbourne again.  There were two 7/11s within walking distance and we were able to save money by buying breakfast cereals, juice, and milk and eating in the room.  We also ordered in pizza one night.  So what we may have paid extra for accommodation, we made up for it in the cost of food.  Check current rates!

Last, but not least, tickets to the semi-final of the Australian Open aren’t easy to get, so I’d like to thank our Aussie friend, Louise, for sitting on hold for 90 minutes THE DAY THEY WERE RELEASED to secure us some amazing seats.   Thank you, thank you, thank you!  You Aussies sure do always show us the most hospitality.

Have you been to Melbourne?  The Yarra Valley?  Maybe you’ve tried Vegemite chocolates?

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Yoder Toter children to meet the Land Down Under

It’s only 6 months til we are “wheels down” in Australia.

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If you’re new here, you may not realize that I was an exchange student to Australia.  Actually 15 years ago (this Friday) I took my first ever flight to Australia for what would begin a year away from my family and friends.  It was a fantastic time and I as much as I loved the scenery and the FOOD (secret- I weighed less after baby #3 than I did after a year in Oz thankyouverymuch host mummy), the people and relationships were the best part!

I’m super excited to share for #WishfulWednesday that we have MOST of our Australia itinerary finally cemented! It’s been a dream of mine since having Jackson to visit Down Under with our children and have them meet all of our friends and families.  I’m also ready to introduce them to koalas, kangaroos, Lamingtons, and meat pies.

While most of where we are visiting I have been before, Melbourne will be new for Brian and I’m so thrilled we’ll be visiting Tasmania for the first time.

Here is a short recap of our itinerary:

Arrive Sydney and travel to Maitland, NSW

10 days total in the Hunter Valley region visiting with friends, sitting on the beach (Port Stephens), and hoping our children adjust to their new time zone!

Waratah Nelson Bay
My photo of the Nelson Bay area with the state flower, the waratah, in the foreground. I can’t wait to explore this area further.

 

Spend 2 days in Sydney for Australia Day – Not only are there tall ships in the Harbour and a fireworks display on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but a certain “Wiggly” group frequents the Australia Day celebration.  I may be as excited as the kids!

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credit: Brendan Read/ Australia Day council of NSW

Next we’re off to Melbourne for 4 nights and the main reason for visiting here is to take in the Australian Open.  It has been a dream of Brian’s to see a major tennis tournament so we’re working on getting tickets (they open up in August) and hopefully we’ll get to see one of our favorites at Rod Laver Arena.

Our trip will end in Hobart, Tasmania and from here we’re hoping to explore Freycinet National Park and Port Arthur before returning home.

We’ll be on the ground in Australia for 3 weeks!  There will be at least 7 plane rides and countless train, bus and ferries as well.

Everyone I’ve spoken to thinks we are nuts for taking such a long plane trip with three little ones, but I say “go big or go home” and hey, who else is going to take the LONGEST FLIGHT IN THE WORLD from Dallas to Sydney for 17 HOURS unless they are a little crazy?!

 

Anyone have any tips for a 17 hour plane trip?  Maybe you have been to Australia?  Maybe you just like Outback Steakhouse?  I’d love to hear!

 

We’re back now.  Here are some updates:

Australia recap

Australia Day in Sydney

My happy place, Port Stephens

City Guide: Hobart with Kids

A Walking Tour of Melbourne

4 Free Excursions from Hobart



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