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Backpacker’s Guide to Melbourne

Melbourne is in many ways a backpacker’s dream. Though it may lack the world-famous harbour, beaches and opera house of its sister city further up north, Melbourne has plenty of surprises in store, from shopping to dining to beautiful parkland, to the unique city buzz downtown.

Enjoy the best of the lesser-known hotspots with this backpacker’s guide to Melbourne, from Brunswick Street to Sydney Road, and some typically Melburnian delights along the way.

ff0687_brunswick_street_melbourneBrunswick Street

Central and oh so cool, Brunswick Street is Melbourne’s unofficial capital of all things alternative and indie. Sprawled along the inner northern Melbourne suburbs of Fitzroy and Fitzroy North, Brunswick is famous among locals as a haven for the alternative lifestyle and all its proponents.

This iconic street boasts a wide range of cafes – in fact it is regarded as the birthplace of Melbourne’s café culture thanks to the large numbers of Italian immigrants who settled here – along with live music venues and alternative fashion stores. Though gentrified now, with bars open just about every weeknight, the street retains its edgy appeal and deserves a few hours of your time.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

This is a special spot, well worth the hour long drive from Melbourne for its artistic, environmental and aesthetic appeal. Named after sculptor William Ricketts, who purchased the acreage property in the 1930s, the Sanctuary is just that: a sanctuary, a quiet, hidden spot in a ferny glade, with up to 92 extraordinary sculptures concealed among the ferns and pathways. Beautiful, tranquil gardens and the remarkable kiln-fired clay sculptures themselves make this hidden highlight worthwhile, a welcome pocket of quiet and peace away from Melbourne’s busy urban centre.

Melbourne Museum

While backpackers are not exactly renowned for being big-time culture vultures with a taste for museums and galleries, exceptions should be made for the award-winning gem that is the Melbourne Museum.

Nestled in Carlton Gardens, across from the equally notable Royal Exhibition Building, the museum boasts a range of fascinating exhibitions and artefacts, such as the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, the complete skeleton of a blue whale and a living rainforest – sure, why not? It’s a great way for visitors to learn more about the history, culture and environment of Melbourne and its surrounds.

Sydney Road

Sydney Road is an eclectic and colourful boulevard, regarded as one of the city’s great food streets, particularly if you love Middle Eastern food – and which self-respecting foodie doesn’t? Restaurants, cafes, wholesalers, bakeries, pastry shops and groceries line this road in their dozens, offering not only an exclusive (and delicious!) taste of an increasingly important mainstay of Melburnian culinary culture, but also the chance to save on your food budget, as ethnic eateries tend to be better value than their ‘modern Australian’ counterparts.

Truganina

Truganina, believed to be named after a famous Aboriginal Tasmanian woman, is a rapidly growing suburb some 20km west of Melbourne’s CBD. There isn’t a great deal to see and do around here, no world-renowned sights, no notable attractions that make it a must on your to-do list… And that’s exactly the point: visit this part of town – or its neighbouring suburbs of Tarmeit and Laverton – for a taste of suburban Australian life at a slower pace.

The only notable thing about this suburb, in fact, is its remarkably affordable housing in a country that’s not exactly renowned for its good value accommodation options. Located on a nifty little growth corridor, this suburb looks ready to boom within the next decade, if the recent Truganina land release is any indication. So while it’s slow and steady and relatively untouched now, Truganina may just be the hotspot in ten or twenty years’ time… We’re calling it first! One good thing about visiting Australia is you have facility to apply for Australia visa online.

Author bio: Marie Donaghue is a student and freelance writer in Arbourlea, Melbourne. She loves exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of her home city.