The first thing I saw after stumbling out of the airport and locating my ride into the city was Pink Lake. Pink Lake is located just under the Westgate Bridge (as you can see) and my own photo doesn’t do justice to just how freakin’ pink the water is. Apparently it’s a wholly natural phenomenon – something to do with the chemical reaction between the salt and algae in the water and the minerals in the mud- and is its pinkest in hot weather when the water level has gone down.
There are signs up recommending that you don’t swim in the lake, but we went for a paddle anyway because we’re rebels without a cause, and I can confirm that so far both my feet are still intact.
When you’re wandering aimlessly around the streets of Melbourne, keep your eyes peeled for the subtle abundance of lively graffiti art that spreads itself around. If you’re keen not to miss anything, book a Street Art Tour through melbournestreettours.com and have a local artist show you where to look!
Dotted around as you go you’ll find a great array of bars and other fun spots to come back to later- the Rooftop Cinema on Swanson Street is a good find for outdoor movies and boozing, and if you’re in the Carlton area get yourself to The Wolf’s Lair for epic pizza and cocktail jugs.
Above are some things I thought were fun from the Melbourne Museum, where for $14 admission you can see the most hysterically awful taxidermy I’ve ever seen (I can’t post the otter-weasel-stoat-demon-monkey-maybeitsaplatypus-dog-thing here because it needs a NSFW tag) as well as some cool rocks, the remains of what was once a REALLY big armadillo, a tonne of great dinosaur stuff and some actual Australian things- like new and ancient aboriginal artwork.
From the centre of Melbourne you can get to Phillip Island easily, whether it’s through regular public buses or by booking an affordable day-trip. There is a hostel on the island, but we opted to book a day tour rather than staying overnight because the weather was starting to get cold and wasn’t encouraging a lot of beach time.
Depending on which tour operator you go with, you can add in things like animal sanctuaries (my albino kangaroo friend here wasn’t really up for selfies), a stop-off at the nearby grand-prix circuit or just head straight to the PENGUIN PARADE. And yes, that is worthy of capital letters.
You aren’t allowed to take photos at the penguin parade (although that didn’t seem to stop some people) because camera flashes can startle the penguins or even expose them to birds of prey. Here’s some of the nearby scenery from the daytime instead.
It’s worth going to Phillip Island just for the penguins- as the sun sets, thousands of them appear at the shore and start to run in groups from the water, across the beaches and into their nests in the sand dunes. Penguins are not graceful birds, and it was both the most adorable and funniest thing I have seen (other than that bad taxidermy).
Once the birds have made it inland, you can head to dimly lit viewing platforms to watch them racing each other home- my travel buddy and I found some Swiss guys who were up for joining us in a game of ‘racing penguins’ and placed bets on which bird would make it past a certain point first. 10/10 would highly recommend.
There are vast numbers of Phillip Island tours at varying prices depending on what you want to see and how much luxury you want to do it in, and similarly while you are staying in Melbourne your accommodation options vary quite a bit. I stayed at Flinders Station Backpackers, which was one of the cheapest but also one of the most intimidating hostels I saw. Having popped my head into a couple of other people’s choices, I’d recommend going for United Backpackers (also on Flinders Street) or, if you’re staying in ever-popular backpacker spot St Kilda, try the award-winning Habitat HQ.
And just as one last thing… check out the National Gallery of Victoria while you’re there. You might get to see something truly glorious, like this painting that seems like it might be Jesus wrestling with a giant dragonfly.