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    Travel Tips - Sightseeing & Attractions

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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Just the most beautiful city in the world!!!
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Awesome city thats is super easier to get around, take the free tram it takes you too all the great spots and you can get on and off as much as you wish. Great shopping so have your credit card nice and full of cash!! Handy to stay in the city but try and organise early what you feel like for dinner as places fill up pretty fast.
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
     take a taxi to down town Melbourne and hitch a ride to the  top of the Eureka  tower  on a clear day  u get exellent  360 degree  views. 
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Enjoy the beautiful Sunset at Melbourne St. Kilda beach take an adventure day-trip @ Great Ocean Road or Philip Island(visit lovely wild Penguins during night time there!) If u fond of skiing , don't miss the Mt. Buller(but it's far away from downtown.. nearly take 4-5 hours to reach there!) Indeed, I love the Sunshine grassland in Melbourne!
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Built in memory of those who fell during the First World War, the Great Ocean Road often gets missed out when travellers are planning their itinerary across Australia, perhaps because places such as Uluru and the Gold Coast are so much more well known and publicised. This is a shame, as the South-Western corner of the Victoria Coast from Nelson to Torquay - the surfing capital of Australia - is home to two National parks and is easily one of the world's most scenic coastal routes. Nowhere more than here is it so obvious that Australia focuses all it's energies on ecological tourism much more than building theme parks and nightlife destinations - suggest to an Australian that they should build anything near any sort of natural site and see how long it is before you find yourself hanging upside down from a lamp post. As a result of this national love for the environment, this is one place on Earth where you can still spend days without having to encounter another human being, just wandering through rainforests or visiting natural attractions - and I can't honestly think of a better reason to head for Australia. Tour guides and local information centres also appear to be overflowing with information on the history and ecology of Australia, which is refreshing to those of us who wish to learn about what we're seeing rather than just moving from place to place going "Wow" at regular intervals. Information plates can also be found sticking out of the ground at every site, not just containing a bit of information but almost the whole history of the area. In Britain it's often hard to find a shop where the salespeople know anything about any of the products they're selling, so to be able to ask a question and be given an in depth five minute explanation comes as quite a pleasant surprise. Tours of the Great Ocean Road can be booked in either direction from Adelaide or Melbourne, and can be taken either on large coaches with groups of tourists or in the form of a more cosy four wheel drive tour. In 2003, Tanya and I booked a small group tour along the road and were driven from Adelaide to Melbourne in a six seat vehicle accompanied by just one other person - if at all possible, this is the way to explore the route. We stopped at outback accommodation which consisted of not much more than two bedrooms and a kitchen, and was sited on something resembling a cattle ranch - and we had our guide's entire attention as we saw the sights of the road without having to mill about as part of a large group. Such small group tours can be booked from local Youth Hostels or by calling in at one of the roadside tour offices in cities around the country which cater for small parties. Along the way, the Great Ocean Road snakes through rainforest, past spectacular beaches and incredible rock formations - sometimes only feet from the edge of the cliff. One day, part of the cliff is going to fall away unexpectedly and take somebody with it, but that doesn't stop nature lovers flocking here to make the same road trip year after year. Careful and quiet visitors will even see Fairy Penguins and Seals basking on the beaches along the way, or perhaps even spot a whale tale rising from the waves far out to sea. The National Parks in South-West Victoria are also home to some of the last remaining colonies of the Rufous Bristlebird, an almost flightless bird which only continues to survive here because it makes it's home in the thick vegetation of the cliff tops where predators cannot reach it. Known for it's breathtaking scenery and such natural wonders as the Twelve Apostles and London Bridge, the Great Ocean Road is also a place of tall stories and legends - all of which are predictably heart warming and romantic as tales of shipwrecks and mysterious rock formations jutting from the ocean often are, but many of which have probably been altered over the years. Nevertheless, these stories create a mythology which brings visitors flocking to this part of the coast in their thousands, and anything that brings the wonders of nature to a wider audience can only be good in my eyes.

    You can read my full travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    The region beyond the small town of Nelson, past the Surfing beach at the curiously named Port Fairy and the Twelve Apostles in Port Campbell National Park, is known locally as the Shipwreck Coast. Over the years nearly seven hundred ships have crashed against the rocks here, the most famous being the Loch Ard in 1878. So the story goes a young sailor called Tom Pierce swam back into the ocean to rescue his sweetheart after having already made it safely to land himself, and the young couple clung to each other in a rocky inlet overnight before Tom climbed the cliffs to get help the next morning - the rocky inlet is now a major attraction near Port Campbell known, unsurprisingly, as Loch Ard Gorge. Near to Loch Ard are Thunder cave and the Blowhole, which naturally have their own stories attached - according to a metal information plate attached to the overlook, wax phosphorous matches washed in from the wreck of the Loch Ard caused the cave to be lit with an eerie purple glow for several nights afterwards, illuminating the bodies floating in the cove. I hate to think what stories the people around here tell at Halloween! I particularly liked the way that these attractions were arranged - because they are so close together, there is a wooden walkway which leads from the road into a patch of woodland and then splits to make it's way along the coast in two directions, taking visitors out to the various overlooks via a mixture of wooden and paved pathways with benches for resting along the way. In this way, it's both difficult to miss anything and easy to get to the sites which otherwise would involve scrambling across jagged rocks and be quite inaccessible for older or disabled visitors - they seem to be very good at getting people to the sights in Australia. Nearby, London Bridge (or "London Arch" as it is now officially known) is a natural rock archway just off the South Coast in Port Campbell National Park. Until 1990 London Bridge was attached to the mainland and formed two archways which bore a striking resemblance to the original London landmark of the same name, but then nature took a hand and the central section fell unexpectedly into the sea one day. In fact, it is said to have happened so unexpectedly that a tour party had only just returned from walking out onto the end of the bridge when it collapsed behind them. According to the often told story, all but two of the tour group had returned to the mainland and only a young couple remained stranded on the other side after the central arch collapsed. Within half an hour, news crews had converged on the area from Adelaide and Melbourne and helicopters were circling the unfortunate couple stranded on top of the newly created single arch, long lenses zooming in on their predicament - but for some reason, neither of them seemed particularly interested in being seen on national television and they cowered on their little island making every attempt to cover their faces. It turns out, according to the story, that the young couple were married - although not to each other. I think this is what is generally known as Karma. Perhaps the most famous of the natural sites along the Great Ocean Road is the Twelve Apostles, limestone stacks rising from the sea and created through millions of years of erosion from the constant pounding of the waves and the wind. These stacks were probably created in a similar fashion to the limestone stacks back in Phnang-Nga Bay in Thailand, only the effect is of course far less dramatic. Weaker areas of the limestone were worn away first, leaving arches of harder stone such as London Bridge. Over the years the bridges themselves have collapsed into the sea and been washed away, leaving only the support columns rising from the surf - there is a very real possibility that even the remaining arch of London Bridge will collapse at some point, and it will become London Stacks. Originally known as the Sow and Piglets until somebody pointed out that The Twelve Apostles would be slightly better for tourism, only eight of the stacks can be seen from the lookout. This tends to cause a little confusion and tourists often go away and tell how some of the stacks have crumbled and been washed away - in fact, they are simply out of sight. The Twelve Apostles is also another of those Australian landmarks which is worth a revisit throughout the day - because the softer limestone is washed away before the harder parts of the rock, the stacks are carved into strange shapes which cast shadows and reveal different colours as the sun moves around them throughout the day. In the same way as a visit to Uluru is a totally different experience at sunrise or sunset, the Twelve Apostles only really show off their spectacular colours if you return throughout the day to view them with the sun shining from every angle - the full effect only being seen as the sun finally begins to descend below the horizon. Erosion continues day by day, and the shape of this coast can only change as it does - who knows what attractions future visitors will find here as new caves and arches are carved out. Inevitably stacks will fall and others will be created, but as long as the Great Ocean Road remains to bring people here, there will always be something to see.

    You can read my full travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    While waiting for a coach earlier in the trip, I struck up a conversation with a young woman by the name of Christine who warned me that I should expect to find a much more residential lifestyle in Melbourne. There would not be, I was told, anywhere near as much to do as in her beloved home town of Adelaide where she had been born and raised - and when she came to think about it, she didn't think there was any point in me going there at all. Melbourne people, she told me, were unfriendly city types who didn't have a smile for anyone - not like folks from Adelaide who were warm and welcoming and would have a freshly baked pie ready for me on arrival. On the whole, I got the impression that she may have been a little biased. I am staying in the oddest hotel of the trip so far. For a start, the Taxi driver claimed to have never heard of it - which is usually a good sign of what's to come - but I wasn't expecting much anyway as I've generally been prebooking hotels from my "Cheap hotel guide to Australia" and expect to get what I've paid for. From the outside, the place looked rather normal and homely, but it was all just a clever trick to get me inside. You know the sort of wacky stuff that used to happen in The Avengers, where somebody would go into a house and find that the garden was inside and all the furniture was arranged neatly outside in the street? Well, it's like that. Honestly. Beyond the reception desk, I went upstairs and found myself in the garden. I don't mean to suggest that the stairs led up to a roof terrace or anything normal like that - I simply came out into a corridor with a cobbled floor along the centre of which were brick flowerbeds and fountains, and right in the middle was a Spa Pool complete with a neat little picket fence around it. The rooms were arranged around an indoor courtyard with light pouring in from a roof light, and around the perimeter there seemed to be trees sprouting from the floor. In fact the whole building has been constructed inside-out, and I suspect that the architect must've been smoking something pretty heavy the day he designed it. I blinked a couple of times, went back down the stairs and out into the street to rub my eyes, and then returned to make sure I hadn't been dreaming - but nothing had changed. It's all just too bizarre for words! To be honest, it amazes me that after spending more than a month over here, I still find any of this surprising. After all, there are a number of reasons to conclude that the Aussies don't fully grasp some of the basic logic the rest of us apply to the world on a daily basis. Here, for example, we have a country which shows some of the most horrific drink-drive commercials on television, involving people bouncing off cars and being catapulted quite graphically through the air in small pieces as their horrified children look on (usually followed by such footage as the children being told by a social worker why daddy isn't coming home again, who then turns to point a finger at the screen and say "This could be your daughter".), but that finds nothing at all ironic about having invented the concept of the drive-thru Liquor Store!

    You can read my full travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    My guidebook to Australia, which is going in the bin tonight due to the fact that I no longer need a tome the size of War and Peace taking up my luggage space, states that there is a lot to see around Melbourne. It then states that it all revolves around shopping centres and Skyscrapers, which isn't exactly my idea of sightseeing. According to the book, there isn't much here in the way of Scenery - so I set out today with the Melbourne what-to-see and map pages torn from their binding and stashed safely in my pocket, to see if I agreed. My hotel backs onto Batman Street, which has absolutely nothing to do with cricket or the caped crusader - it seems that back in colonial times Melbourne used to be known as Batmania, the sort of information you pick up on your travels over here which manages to raise more questions than it answers. Melbourne has one thing in common with Adelaide, and that is the fact that you can get around by tram. However, the system here is much more reminiscent of the one in San Francisco, with a whole network running throughout the city to provide a very good level of public transportation. A green and maroon coloured tram runs for free around the edge of the city for the benefit of tourists, although having tried it out on my first morning in Melbourne I am at a bit of a loss as to exactly what purpose this serves - in Sydney there is a brilliant tourist bus service which stops off at all the places of interest but the Melbourne tram visits none of the major attractions and still leaves the visitor a fair walk away from wherever they want to be, so wherever you get off you still need a map to get to where you're going. It is, however, nice to be able to walk around the cobbled streets and pedestrianised malls with trams trundling back and forth everywhere - it gives the city a real old world feel. In the afternoon, street entertainers appear around the central Mall area where they perform for a large crowd in much the same way as back home in London's Covent Garden - in fact, the acts were pretty much exactly the same as at home, but that didn't stop every one of them claiming to be the only people in the world able to do them. Today there was a fire-eater, a magician and a guy on a unicycle who juggled lit torches and samurai swords and who followed every tram down the street pulling faces at the passengers. This is part of what makes Australian cities different - just when you think you've seen everything, you turn the corner and somebody's coming at you balancing a lit torch and riding a unicycle!

    You can read my full travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Remember the predilection Adelaide has for strange street statues? Well, I now realise that this art form isn't restricted to South Australia - Victoria has caught the bug as well! On the corner of one street I came across a number of life-size bronze statues of stick men, arms frozen mid swing as though walking, bronze briefcases in their hands, apparently on their way to a bronze office somewhere. Just around the corner, entering the mall, there was a giant bronze purse blocking half the pavement. The really odd thing is that these eccentric additions to Australian cities really give them a sense of atmosphere and tell you that the local people know how to have fun. Our idea of modern street art back home consists of a row of toppled telephone boxes! Lets Go Australia suggests that a good place to go on a short stay in Melbourne is the Central Melbourne Arcade at the top of Swanston Street, so I went along to investigate. The place is huge - I mean seriously mammoth - probably not a touch on the sort of places I expect to encounter in the states, but nonetheless quite amazingly bloated. The really incredible thing about the Central Melbourne Arcade, however, is that it is built around another building - a lead pipe and shot factory which cannot be knocked down as it's on the protected list. The shopping complex has been built around this huge brick tower which dominates the central atrium and now serves as a rather unusual café. A huge dome covers the entire structure, and on the stroke of every hour a big stopwatch descends magically from the dome and a cast of electronic characters drop from its base to dance around and sing Waltzing Mathilda. This really is something worth seeing, even if just to reassure yourself that Australia really is as weird as you'd thought it was. In fact I enjoyed the experience so much that, when we returned here in 2003, I must've bored Tanya senseless telling her about this strange sight in the Melbourne Arcade that she absolutely must see while we were here - naturally, in accordance with sods law, every internal corridor and walkway of the arcade turned out to be covered in plasterboard when we got there as they were in the middle of renovating the place. Needless to say, the stopwatch clock was out of action and most of the shops were closed.

    You can read my full travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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    Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Naturally, in keeping with most Australian cities, Melbourne has its own Botanic Gardens - the Royal Botanic Gardens, no less. You may recall that back in Adelaide I explained how each city seems to have its own theme for their gardens - in Brisbane, you get to walk through dense woodland down by the river and feel as though you're actually getting back to nature, whereas in Adelaide the gardens are more formal. Well I think Melbourne has got the balance just right, although I would be hard pressed to choose between Brisbane and Melbourne if there was a best gardens contest. It's possible to spend an entire day in the Botanic Gardens here, and if I lived in the city I'd probably spend most of my evenings sitting at the lakeside cafes or wandering through Fern Gully - an entire section of the park which has been set aside as a tropical rainforest complete with meandering stream and the sun filtering through the branches to fall on the ground in puddles of light. The Oak Garden, a major area of the park, is a great place to see parrots wandering around - something which always catches me by surprise as I've never before seen them outside of cages in people's living rooms. Each section of the park is set apart from the others and almost enclosed in its own habitat, so you can walk about without ever feeling that you're within a formal garden unless you visit any of the conservatories or the Herb or Rose Gardens. Although I'm not a big fan of formal layouts, the Herb Garden is one of my favourite parts of the park - built around a curious globe shaped sundial, this enclosed area contains paths leading off from the centre through beds of herbs from all over the world - the mix of smells as you wander through this area is just amazing, and something which I've not encountered anywhere else before or since. The gardens are centred around a huge ornamental lake by which I sat with Tanya at the Terrace café and restaurant in 2003. The place was covered in birds of all varieties - a flock of them were crowding together on the adjoining table waiting for any opportunity for free food. Every time we turned our heads in the opposite direction, one of them would flutter over to our table, peck at our sandwich and then flutter off again before we turned back. Cockatoos wander freely around the gardens, coming right up to peck at your fingers if you bend down - despite the fact that the guidebooks speak very sternly about not feeding the birds, its not easy to deduce that nobody takes the slightest notice as the birds here are clearly very happy to be around humans. On the lake black swans glide gracefully up and down with their cygnets, a very rare sight which probably brings many tourists here on its own - again, wandering casually over to the edge of the water results in two or three coming over to see you to see if you're going to feed them. Swans, not tourists.

    You can read my full travel journals at http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and http://www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2

    On the 15th November 2007 one of Melbourne's most iconic great oak trees unexpectedly crashed down on Oak Lawn. The Lady Loch Oak, which had a canopy which spanned forty-three metres, had been planted by the wife of the governor of Victoria in 1889, exactly 118 years to the day before it fell. Oak Lawn is now without one of its favourite meeting spots and one of the oldest and most imposing attractions of the gardens. On the other hand, we can only be thankful that nobody was waiting underneath it at the time it fell.
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