[Featured destination] Things to see in Melbourne

Melbourne is the capital of the south-eastern state of Victoria and Australia’s second largest city. Located on the large natural bay known as Port Phillip, this metropolis is sprawling with Victorian-era architecture, theatres, museums, shopping malls, galleries, large parks and gardens.

Melbourne Pictures
This photo of Melbourne is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Often referred to as the ‘cultural city of Australia’, Melbourne is where classic Australian cultural institutions such as Australian film, Australian television, Australian rules football, the Australian impressionist art movement were born. Dance styles such as the New Vogue and the Melbourne Shuffle originated from here as well. Melburnians (inhabitants of Melbourne) are also intensely passionate about sports, with a great many visitors coming to Melbourne to attend major sporting events.

A sporty, arty, full of vibrance and by world standards a young city, Melbourne  has a rich history.  The city of Melbourne was founded in 1835 on the banks of the Yarra River, Victoria by the British colonialists. Melbourne was originally named Batmania before being officially re-christened Melbourne in 1837 after Lord Melbourne, the then Prime Minister of Britain.  Melbourne grew from a tiny speculative pastoral outpost in the 1850s into a world city within a mere 30 years, reaching around 1 million people by the turn of the century. Much of this phenomenal growth was due to the gold rush – one of the biggest in the world’s history, which saw a huge influx of migrants bring instant wealth and propsperity to the city.

Melbourne  has still preserved its history well. So much so that you can actually go back to the era of the gold rush!

Sovereign Hill – Head out of the city for the day and visit Sovereign Hill. Officially opened on 29 November 1970, Sovereign Hill is an open air museum located in Golden Point, a suburb of Ballarat. This nationally acclaimed tourist attraction depicts Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold there in 1851. Set on a 25-hectare former goldmining site, this award winning outdoor museum recreates in fascinating detail the hustle and bustle of life during the gold rush in the 1850s. This massive museum has over 60 historically recreated buildings with costumed staff and volunteers. Visitors are invited to step back in time and experience Australia’s exciting goldrush days, the experience is authentic with antiques, artwork, books and papers, machinery, livestock and animals, carriages and devices all appropriate to the era.

Photos of Sovereign Hill, Ballarat
This photo of Sovereign Hill is courtesy of TripAdvisor

We recommend visiting the Red Hill Mine, a 13 metres underground tour which uses life-size, moving projections to reincarnate the life of battling Cornish miner, Richard Jeffrey as he stumbles on what was then the largest gold nugget ever found, the Welcome Nugget (99% pure gold, worth over three million now) – at 69 kilograms, currently still the second biggest nugget in history. Head over to Sovereign Hill’s Main Street witness what was life back then, see craftsmen hard at work, visit shops and businesses selling a variety of goods, grocers, candle makers, blacksmith etc. Visitors can sample the pastry cakes and breads that are freshly baked daily in an authentic wood-fired brick oven and immerse themselves in the experience by being photographed in Victorian costume and ride in horse drawn coaches. Saving the best till the last, Sovereign Hill stages their spectacular sound and light display at night. The ‘Blood on the Southern Cross’ tells the story of the Eureka Rebellion of 1854 – Australia’s only civil uprising. Since this place is massive, we suggest spending the entire day here. Be a gold miner for the day and pan for real gold in your diggings!

Shrine of Remembrance – Built between July 1928 and November 1934, Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance is a memorial to the brave 114,000 men and women of Victoria who served and those who died in the Great War of 1914-1918. Today Melbourne’s most recognizable landmark is now also a memorial to all Australia’s war veterans. Designed by architects/World War I veterans Phillip Hudson and James Wardrop, the Shrine is one of the largest war memorials in Australia. Based on the Tomb of Mausolus at Halicarnassus and the Parthenon in Athens, the Shrine strikes an impressive figure against the landscape of Melbourne. The words “Greater love hath no man”, is engraved on the Stone of Remembrance and there is actually a fascinating story behind it. Once a year, on 11 November at 11 a.m. (Remembrance Day), thanks to the ingenuity and skills of an astronomer, a mathematician and a surveyor, a ray of sunlight shines through an aperture in the roof to light up the word “Love” in the inscription. Pretty cool huh. Experts postulate that this phenomenon will go on for at least the next 5000 years.

Photos of Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne
This photo of Shrine of Remembrance is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Why 11 a.m. on 11 November? The time and date mark the anniversary of the end of hostilities in the Great War by what was called the Armistice. Originally consisting of only the central sanctuary, a Memorial Forecourt in the shape of a cross of sacrifice was added shortly after the second World War. Subsequent additions such as the Remembrance Garden, was added on the western slope of the Shrine grounds commemorating post 1945 armed conflicts such as Borneo, Korea, Vietnam, Kuwait, Balkans, Cambodia, Somalia and East Timor. The Shrine of Remembrance draws thousands of visitors each year – to remember, to mourn, to contemplate, or to simply visit as tourists.

Melbourne Museum – Located in the Carlton Gardens in Melbourne, the museum is directly adjacent the Royal Exhibition Building. Showcases Australian social history, Indigenous cultures, science and the environment, it holds the distinction of being the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, and is also a venue of Museum Victoria, which also operates the Immigration Museum and Scienceworks Museum. With seven main galleries, a Children’s Gallery and a temporary exhibit gallery on three levels, the winner of the 2010 Victorian Tourism Awards for Major Tourist Attraction is visited by over one million people each year.

Photos of Melbourne Museum, Melbourne
This photo of Melbourne Museum is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Major features of Melbourne Museum include:
– Victoria’s local Koorie culture in Bunjilaka, Aboriginal Cultural Centre
– Phar Lap, Australia’s legendary racehorse, in the flesh
– Exhibits of dinosaurs, flying reptiles, bugs and megafauna
– Forest Gallery: A living forest with resident wildlife
– IMAX Theatre Melbourne

Photos of Phillip Island Nature Park, Cowes
This photo of Phillip Island Nature Park is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Phillip Island Nature Park – Home to one of Australia’s most popular wildlife attractions, the Penguin Parade, Phillip Island Nature Park is is a self-funding nature park established for the purpose of animal conservation and research. The Park is an island oasis featuring wildlife reserves, wetlands and breathtaking coastlines and two other major tourist attractions also reside here; the Koala Conservation Centre and Churchill Island. A mere 90 minutes drive from Melbourne, the Nature Park covers 2,750 hectares of Phillip Island and its parks include Pyramid Rock, Rhyll Inlet, Seal Rocks, and Cape Woolamai, with brilliant viewing and attraction areas such as the Nobbies Centre where visitors can experience wildlife in its natural environment. Three times winner of the Victorian Tourism Major Attractions Award, this wildlife haven is a must see for any visitors!

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