Sunday, February 28, 2016

5 Things to do in Melbourne that doesn't involve cafes and coffee

Every time I asked 'what is there to do in Melbourne' I always get the same answer, "Go cafe hopping!" "Try out their coffee!" Okay, I will but what else is there to do that doesn't sitting in a cafe/restaurant and sipping coffee like a hipster.

Well, as it turned out, plenty as I discovered on my recent trip there. And it also involves not just the city but also the outskirts of Melbourne as well.

Maru Wildlife Park is a must visit if you love animals or is travelling with kids. Upon entering I brought a cup of animal food which can be fed to the kangaroos and wallabies. These animals are kept in an enclosure where you can enter, pat them and take pictures with them. Maru Wildlife Park is also home to koalas, emus (scary buggers), a pack of dingoes, an adorable donkey, birds and alpacas.

Their kangaroo area is huge and the group were super friendly and comfortable around humans. I even had the albino kangaroo hop up to me when I was feeding them.

The park also have a mini golf course for those with some extra time on their hands.

Fees: $20 (adult) $11 (kids)
Hours: 930am - 530pm

As soon as you enter Philip Island, the Panny Chocolate Factory should be your first stop. The chocolate factory opens with a quick step-by-step from beans to bar. After this part, the tour becomes more like a museum and an amusement park rolled in one with games, quizzes, DIY stations and even free chocolate. At one section, there is a line-up of carnival like games where successful visitors gets to accumulate five balls to be exchanged for a prize at the counter.

My favourite was the DIY machine that lets you come up with your own chocolate bar creation. You can pick from either milk, dark or white chocolate with a choice of filling consisting of strawberry, cola and the best of all, Vegemite.

Fees:$15 (adults) $10 (kids) $45 (family)
Hours:  10am - 530pm

Nobbies is the absolute end of Philips Island and makes for a stunning sunset view overlooking the Bass Straits. In the right season, you can even spot fur seals just loitering out on the rocks as the waves crashes in. The long broadwalk gives even an even more wholesome view of the island cliff sides as the local birds such as the seagulls have made the edge their nest. Be sure to look out for their chicks chirping away for their parents.

The road to the Nobbies is a one direction road for the safety of the animals there as several small penguins have made the roadsides their homes and often have to brave the perils of natural predators as well as human presence to make it home every night to their chicks.

Fees: Free
Hours: 10am to 6pm (closing hours varies from season to season)

Be sure to grab your camera and phone for this activity and get ready to hit the beach. Brighton Beach is known not for its pristine water or white sand but rather the line of colourful beach huts that line the beach. In fact, the beach and ocean views are rather...ugly.

The beach huts are actually private properties and are often used by their owners but it is the vibrant and unique exterior designs that keep drawing the visitors and locals to this beach. Just don't break in or vandalise the huts.

Fees: Free
Hours: 24 hours

If you love bargain hunting and looking for weird trinkets, the Queen Victoria Market is the place to go. I had three people point out to me that the market was built on a cemetery. If standing atop somebody's former grave doesn't bother you, then take a leisurely stroll along the rows of stalls of food, sourvenirs and even Australia famous UGG boots. The wet market offers some of the biggest variety of fresh produce such as delicious meet, seafood and all sorts of ready made meals to be consumed on the spot.

The summer period offers a Wednesday Night Market with extended hours.

Fees: Free to explore
Hours: 6am - 2pm (hours vary from stall to stall) 

More tips! 
To join some of these activities, you can sign up for a tour that covers transportation, meals and admission tickets like I did (I got the whole tour with Melbourne Tours cheap too via Groupon Australia). For those preferring to DIY, a car rental doesn't cost too much if shared within a group of three or four. 

Other places and things to consider
1. Penguin Parade
2. A Maze'N Things
3. Riding the Melbourne Tram within the city center. FOC. 

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