Way back in July 2014 while we were in Cairns, Queensland, our next door neighbors in the caravan park were Jenni and Trevor, a couple from Melbourne. We had some nice conversations with them, and they invited us to contact them when we got to Melbourne. After our pleasant trip back to Melbourne from Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania II, we did just that. These lovely people gave us a whole day of their time to pick us up at our caravan park and show us the Mornington Peninsula that extends some 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of the Melbourne central business district (CBD). We checked out the beach in Frankston where school kids were on an outing; we had morning tea in Mount Martha. We drove past lovely homes and marveled at how “the other half” lives. We walked several trails in Arthurs Seat State Park with marvelous views out over Port Phillip Bay, although we couldn’t quite see all the way to downtown Melbourne through the haze. There were interesting sculptures of Aboriginal subjects by William Ricketts in the lovely Seawinds Gardens. We ate lunch in the charming little town of Rosebud and walked to the end of the Rosebud Pier to see the many shades of blue in the waters of Port Phillip Bay. We chatted about many different topics and compared our families and got better acquainted. What a delightful day!
The park where we stayed in the Melbourne area was about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Melbourne CBD, so we were particularly appreciative of the excellent public transportation system in the area. It was about 500 meters (about a quarter mile) to a stop for a bus to take us to one of several train stations for a 20-minute ride into the city.
Melbourne (pronounced without the “r” – isn’t everything here?) is the second-largest city in Australia, with a population of over 4.4 million. It was founded in 1835 as part of the colony of New South Wales by John Batman from Tasmania and was originally named Batmania. The name was change in 1837 to Melbourne in honor of the British Prime Minister of the time. When the new colony of Victoria was separated from New South Wales in 1851, Melbourne was established as its capital. The gold rush in Victoria in the second half of the 19th Century made it one of the richest cities in the world.
Our first goal in exploring Melbourne was, of course, Parliament House. Tours are given throughout the weekdays when Parliament is not sitting. Our 45-minute tour included visiting the Queen’s Hall, chambers for the Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council, and the Library. We learned much about the history and politics of Victorian government and about the building itself. This Neoclassical building was constructed in stages between 1855 and 1929. The original design included a dome, which was never constructed due to costs. Since the gold rush was in full tilt when the early parts of the building were constructed, enormous amounts of 23-karat gold leaf were applied to interior surfaces. By 1891, the gold rush was over and an economic depression in progress, so construction from that time on shows much less use of gold leaf.
We saw a few of Melbourne’s notable historic buildings in our one day there including the Hotel Windsor, the Princess Theatre, Flinders Street Railway Station, the Forum Theatre, and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We walked through Federation Square, and we saw magnificent views of the Yarra River and Melbourne’s impressive skyline from the Eureka Skydeck 88, the tallest residential building in the southern hemisphere at over 300 meters (985 feet) high. We spent some time marveling at the urban art in Hosier Lane. Here walls, doors, even the dumpsters and trash cans are covered with colorful works of legal “street art” requiring a permit from the city and the permission of the building owners. It is NOT graffiti, which is illegal.
Our day in Melbourne CBD ended with a flash and a crash as a series of thunderstorms descended. We were able to stay mostly dry getting to the train station and from the train station to the bus shelter. However, it was still pouring when we got off the bus about a quarter mile from our caravan park. Neither of us had thought to bring rain gear; it was beautiful when we left home! So we rushed to the nearest store (a hardware store) where we bought a big umbrella to share on the walk home. We were doing fine until a car splashed through a huge puddle beside the sidewalk and sprayed us with its rooster tail. We did keep the cameras dry, and it wasn’t too cold, so we weren’t terribly uncomfortable. Dry clothing and a warm little house certainly felt good, though. All just part of the adventure!