Melbourne, Australia, may not be a major hub for most international airlines — travelers continuing onto other destinations are more likely to pass through Sydney. But on the off chance that Melbourne is not your final destination and you find yourself with a few hours to kill between flights (perhaps on the way to Perth), why not leave the confines of the airport and add a quick tour of this fascinating, food-centric destination to your itinerary?
First Hour: Take a taxi to the city's central business district, about a 30-minute ride without traffic from Melbourne International Airport. Ask to stop at Flinders Street Station, from which you can walk or take a short tram ride (free) to all of the major destinations in the city center. You can also take the SkyBus, which is an express bus service that runs to and from the city center every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A view of Degraves Street, one of Melbourne's many famous hidden laneways, looking north from Flinders Street.
Wander up Degraves Street, between Elizabeth and Swanston Streets off Flinders Street, just across from the station. Degraves Street is one of Melbourne's famous laneways, European-style alleys filled with shops and cafés. Grab a coffee at one of the street's many coffee shops (Melbourne is famed for its coffee) — but make sure to go in prepared by reading up on How to Order Coffee Down Under. If you decide to spend more time here, you'll also stumble upon arcades — not the kind with pinball machines, but hidden halls underground and within buildings that feature more shops and cafés. (Photo courtesy of Will Budiaman)
A typical day at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market.
Second Hour: Take the 19, 57, or 59 tram toward North Coburg, West Maribyrnong, or Airport West, respectively, from stop 1 at Flinders Street Railway Station/Elizabeth St. Alight at stop 7, Queen Victoria Market/Elizabeth Street, just an eight-minute ride away. Here at the city's largest public market, it's possible to find fruits and vegetables of just about every variety imaginable, as well as some you might not have seen before. Wander over to the indoor meat and seafood market to peruse the bounty of Australia's coasts, and don't miss out on the Deli Hall, where you can graze on diverse delicacies — make sure to have some borek and bratwurst! The market is open every day except Mondays and Wednesdays, and during public holidays. (Photo courtesy of Will Budiaman)
For more details on what to check out, click here to see Unusual Finds at Melbourne's Queen Victoria Market.
View from the south bank of the Yarra River toward Flinders Street Station. Ponyfish Island, a bar located underneath the Yarra Pedestrian Footbridge.
Third Hour: Hop on the same tram going the other direction to head back to the Flinders Street Railway Station. Cross through to the south side of the station and take the Yarra Pedestrian Footbridge (pictured above from the opposite side) to the center of the Yarra River just past the pointy arch. Look to the right and descend a set of stairs to enter Ponyfish Island. Order up some local brews and a burger, and offer a friendly "g'day" to your neighbor. Excellent people-watching with a view to both sides of the river.
If you still have time left over afterward, continue crossing over to the south bank, and wander along the waterfront to grab some gelato and perhaps a cocktail or two.
Or if none of these ideas strike your fancy, take a cab straight to St. Kilda from the airport, just 15 minutes away from the city's central business district, and while away the hours sipping cocktails on the beach while admiring the "scenery" at Captain Baxter, a tapas bar and restaurant located right by the water. Weather permitting, of course.
Then, run back to the airport and make sure your flight doesn't leave you behind! Or not.