Melbourne, Australia: Still a favorite

We traveled abroad to 18 different countries in the time Paavo was 4 months to 3 years, and every time someone asked us our favorite place, Melbourne, Australia always made the top of the list. It ticks all the boxes for us: great kid stuff, great running, and great vegan food, along with other bonuses on top of these “basic” needs. So when it was time to go abroad once again, this time with Brecon in tow, we knew we’d love to go back to Melbourne once again. Side note: if you just want to see pics of our adorable boys, head to the bottom of the post! 

What: Kicking off our nomadic lifestyle with 2 kids

Where: Melbourne, Australia (South Yarra to be specific!)

When: November 4th, 2019 – January 29th, 2020

Why: Because this city is so dang liveable, the people are so nice, and it’s an “easy” country to start with, with a 7-10 month old and a 4 year old

Higlights and Takeaways:

  • Coffee is some of the best we’ve ever had. I could drink about 5 Long Blacks a day. No joke. If only they weren’t $4.50 each AUD (so we get some break in the exchange rate).
  • Vegan food found all over the city, especially in some pockets like Fitzroy and St. Kilda. I think the weight gain just might be worth it to live near Girls and Boys for ice cream. Tivoli Bakery was a near daily favorite for fresh bread and Bayano the Rebel for coffee and cookies.
  • Of all foods, sushi was the best go-to, cheap solution found everywhere if we were in a hurry, although we had to be careful they didn’t put mayo in the avocado rolls. Rolls with ~6 pieces were always less than $3, so we did sushi a lot as a quick snack, a small meal, or an addition to a meal, as we knew Paavo would always eat it. 
  • Melbourne Museum – Fantastic for kids. Went there at least 2x/week and never tired of it for either kiddo. Even bought a year membership.
  • Scienceworks – Kinda far and hard to get to from South Yarra, often overrun by big kid school groups, but still nice and part of the Melbourne Museum membership.
  • Aquarium – Easy to get to on the tram and train and just an ok aquarium, like a 2x/month kind of trip. Includes entry to Legoland and Auckland aquarium, so worth it for us.
  • Ian Potter Children’s Garden – Really nice park within the Botanical Garden. Had Paavo’s birthday “party” here with friends. Nice on weekdays to be around other kids, but not overrun.
  • Parks in general – lots of pocket playgrounds all over, so not amazing playgrounds, but enough of them sprinkled about that you can visit different ones each day, all within about a 15 minute walk, and not tire of any one of them.
  • Library – Got a library card right away in South Yarra – wasn’t the most amazing library in terms of size, kid area, selection or story time (equivalent to the C team at Boulder, the A team ladies in Boulder were da bomb), but it was a 5 minute walk from our place, so I can’t complain.
  • Running – South Yarra Trail was our go-to, as we were about .6 miles from it (1km), along with running “The Tan” around the Botannical Gardens, a ~4km crushed gravel loop just about 2km from our place.
  • Alpine Challenge 100 – Matt ran a 100 miler just 3 weeks into our trip, near a ski town called Falls Creek. It was badass, super tough, route finding, carrying a snake bite kit and a whole lot of other gear, and he got 4th place!
  • Matt made an immediate group of runners, called the TCC, Tan Coffee Club, and he ran with them every Wednesday morning. Super nice group of runners and we hung out with one runner and his family in particular, Shane, Kath, and their 3 boys, as Shane also did the Alpine Challenge. Such nice people and we loved their company and hospitality. Thank you Shane and Kath!
  • Transportation – Trains, trams, and buses all over. Paavo loooooved the trains and trams and if there was traffic at peak times, trains always trumped trams for getting around since trams shared the road. I’m just not a bus person so we avoided these for getting around. We hired a car for short stints and it was a nice change from the trains and trams.
  • Animal encounters – Everything wants to kill you. Not really 🙂 BUT, you do need to be aware. Matt carried a snake bite kit on every trail run and trail race but never had to use it or saw any snakes. Paavo loved chasing pigeons and the first week there, chased a magpie, only to have the magpie fly at his face and scratch him within a half inch of his eye. Scary moment for all of us and he never did it again. Those magpies are not to be messed with!
  • Staying in South Yarra – super accessible to the city and other lines if you stay near the South Yarra train station. Feels like a good kind of hustle and bustle, nothing too crazy, but plenty going on.
  • Things about Australia that we love
    • Adding “y” or “ie” to everything – brekkie, tradies, eskies, lollies, toastie, mushies, sunnies, the list goes on and on. Every one of them makes me smile.
    • Men tend to wear short shorts! Especially the construction workers. Think about 3 inches above the knee or shorter. Maybe it’s the men getting catcalls there. Ohlala!!!. 
    • Accent – I could listen to it all.day.long.
  • Australian Open – So cool we were there during this and could even walk to it. We did the kid day before the Open actually started and watched the pros practice and they had lots of kid activities. Worked for us!
  • Making friends with the neighbors – Our building was next to a dog park, so we met lots of people with dogs, people who lived in our building, and other kids out riding bikes and scooters. So nice to have a community of people who lived there full time.
  • Making friends in general – Pretty much everyone we met at the playground, at the library, etc, was really nice to us. We met several friends that we had playdates with (shout out to Nick and Emilia!), birthday parties, and other random meet ups with. Paavo had plenty of kid interaction, which he loves any day.
  • Environmentally aware – People seemed waaaaay more environmentally aware than the States, everyone carrying around reusable shopping bags, bringing their own reusable coffee cups for takeaway coffee, etc.
  • Australian pride in things made/owned by Aussies – this is likely similar for most other countries, but we tend to be blind to it in our own country and I just love seeing local pride in locally made stuff. 
  • Ingredients show % of Aussie ingredients – Something super fascinating to me – most food products showed the % of it that was made of Australian ingredients. No idea why, but I just loved looking at every food product to see this %. Kinda ties in with the pride of something being Australian made.
  • Swimming culture – There’s a reason the Aussies are rockstars in the water in the Olympics. They start them young with legit teachers and focus on form right away. Paavo took 3 weeks of intensive, 45 minute lessons and progressed more in that 3 weeks than he would in a year of weekly lessons.
  • Volatile weather – It’s surprisingly volatile weather in Melbourne, like 60 degrees one day, 110 the next, and 70 the next. Crazy hard to keep up with and really windy on lots of days where the weather was shifting.
  • Spending Christmas there – Kinda weird to be summer, 80 degrees, and see Christmas trees and stickers in the windows with snowflakes. I’ll admit I prefer Christmas to be in the winter.
  • We were there for their summer break, so in addition to Christmas and New Years, lots of business were closed or had weird hours for weeks. Didn’t really think through that one! On the plus side we were able to do 3 weeks of accelerated swim lessons for Paavo since that’s a thing they do during school breaks.
  • Bush fires – Pretty crazy to be there during all this going on and thankfully we were minimally affected by it, just several days of really hazy, smoky days where most businesses closed and we didn’t really go outside. 

Things we’d do differently:

  • Not fly that long with little kids 🙂 – For reals, that was a loooooong journey, and from the East Coast too! In total, door to door travel from Matt’s parents in Dover, DE was 33 HOURS. We flew from DC to SF, had a 2 hour layover, then sat on the runway for 2 hours before a 16 hour overnight flight. Not doing that again until the kiddos are older and we can afford first class.
  • Get a 2 bedroom place – We booked a 1 bedroom when we were still in Boulder and Brecon was sleeping at least 9 hour stretches, getting up just once a night out of 12 hours. Yeah, that didn’t last. He got up anywhere from 3-8 times a night every.single.night in Melbourne, which made for tricky sleeping to keep Paavo asleep. We’re booking 2 bedrooms from now on!
  • Look at Fitzroy or North Carlton for lodging as well as South Yarra – I love the South Yarra area but I could see checking out these other two areas since they’re close to kid stuff, good vegan food, and still within access of running trails.
  • Likely not go during summer break again – I didn’t love doing Christmas in the summer and it made it a little harder with so many businesses closed or having shortened hours, so not sure I’d visit during that time again.
Checking out the coast in our final days
Digging for dinosaur bones at the Melbourne Museum
On the “purple train” as we called it, regional ones that went out of town. It was on his wish list before leaving Melbourne.
Watching the pros practice at the Australian Open!
Watching the pros practice at the Australian Open!
Loving the Melbourne Museum
Auckland, NZ bound
Nervous for the swim test – jumping into the deep end and swimming back to the edge
Feeding kangaroos. It looks more enjoyable and less stressful than it was
Feeding kangaroos. Not pictured: greedy emus waiting to swoop in for the food!
Swim lessons at the Harold Holt pool!
Swim lessons at the Harold Holt pool!
Vegan ice cream with an audience
Christmas Day with these wonderful boys
This is how we celebrate Christmas, half or mostly naked 🙂
Christmas run with the Tan Coffee Club!
At the beach in St. Kilda
Mmmm, doughnut time. The Fairy Godmother were the death of my diet
Hi Matt and Matt!
Throwing balls with the neighborhood dogs – the boys’ favorite
Making a swim baby out of Brecon
Babycinos never got old
Paavo’s 4th Birthday party. Brecon knows what he wants to eat.
Brecon is wondering what the heck is going on for Paavo’s birthday
Hanging at the Ian Potter’s Children’s Garden at the Botannical Gardens with some friends
A view of our running route along the Yarra River, running towards the CBD
Paavo loved this “make your own butterfly” thing at the Melbourne Museum
Paavo’s best model pose as we watch for trains going by near our apartment
Love the wildlife signs near Falls Creek
Sushi – cheap and everywhere! Loved it!
Paavo is so happy to be riding trains and borrowing toys
Paavo in his element at Emelia’s, playing with her and her toys all afternoon
Paavo will never pass up ice cream
The newest addition to the playground and Paavo was not going to miss a turn
Boys and Girls vegan ice cream. Soooooo good.
Watching for trains – we did this every day, multiple times a day.
Farm animals at the Prahran Market. Paavo loved this even 2 years ago!
3rd place at a local 50k!
The resident croc at the Melbourne Aquarium. Freaks me out every time I look at this.
All the guys riding a tram together. I can feel the jetlag on Paavo’s face.
Brecon’s wondering what to do with all that space in the bulkhead seat during the 18 hour flight journey to Melbourne!
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