Melbourne: When can we come back?

Melbourne was one of our hands down favorite cities we’ve traveled to. It checked all the boxes and felt homey to us from the moment we arrived.

Some of my favorite memories that I don’t want to forget are:

  • Paavo eating vegan gelato for dinner at Vegie Bar. It was all over his face, he was loving it, he ate the entire cone, and then attacked mine!
  • My first two days of running there. I kept thinking – “Melbourne is so awesome, I love this place!” Definitely good feelings to be having.
  • “Tian Tian”. We met a Chinese family living in Melbourne who had a son that was Paavo’s age. Once we exchanged names, Paavo continued to say the words “Tian Tian” repeatedly. When we went back to the park he said it, and he’s still saying it today!
  • What an awesome apartment! We were long time Airbnb enthusiasts. Our love has waned of late and we found this sweet “Apartment Hotel” on and it was money!
  • Riding the train…everywhere. So convenient.
  • So much good food! And Lord of the Fries filled a fatty, greasy void in my life.
  • My first coffee in the month of February – well worth the wait. With how long a recent bout of illness had lingered with me, I stopped drinking coffee to try to feel better. A “Long Black” is the best! Akin to an Americano, but with less water – super tasty – and made all the better from the caffeine fast.

Here is a map showing our favorites in Melbourne:

Really happy with our lodging. It was all expensive relative to our tastes. In fact, this was a shock to us when we first started looking for lodging across Australia – definite sticker shock. Once we got over the shock and knew we had to book something, we paid a little more than some of the less expensive places but got so much more! The Punthill Apartment Hotel was a one bedroom apartment right across the street from the South Yarra train station, which was just two stops from the CBD (Central Business District). The apartment was fully furnished, stylish, and really comfortable. It was perfect for giving us space to work and hang out when Paavo was sleeping and it was great space for Paavo to play in. We were on the 12th floor with a balcony. The balcony had a high glass wall (4’ high) so there was no concern of Paavo falling down, and he could literally walk right out the balcony and watch the trains come and go from the station; what two year old boy wouldn’t love this?!!

Weather OMG! Seriously, we were in Seattle just a few weeks ago, we’re now in paradise. We coach runners in the US and they’re all writing in their training logs about winter: cold, ice, rain, snow, and all things sucky! Do we feel a tad guilty that we’re running in shorts and worrying about sunburns? Maybe a little, but it is so awesome to be in summer right now. I think this is a key life lesson learned – follow summer wherever it may go!

Runners runners everywhere. We had an ideal location just 400m from the Yarra River. From there we could hop on bike paths that took us in all directions and as far as we possibly would want to run. I did a 20 miler and could have easily kept going, the trails were that extensive. Not only were there places to run, but it felt like a runner community. We were one of many out there running, not the one weirdo running in a city of non-runners. Downright lovely!

Here are a couple of the routes we both repeated frequently:

The Tan Track at the Botanical Gardens

The Main Yarra River Trail

Loads of kids stuff

There was a playground 400m walk from our apartment. Win. Easy go to in the evening. We met a few kids there but it was generally quiet. We did meet Tom and his daughter here which was one of our more enjoyable playground conversations. The playground near Prahran Market was way more populated with kids and was the place Paavo met Tian Tian. They were similar ages and Paavo simply loves saying his name – he’s still saying it now! They played together on the swings and slides, and even though Paavo couldn’t convince Tian Tian to race him and run with him, he did put up with Paavo constantly following and engaging with him.

We had fun at the SeaLife Melbourne aquarium. Paavo is a big fish connoisseur at this point. He seemed impressed by this one. We got our tickets for this in combination with Legoland for $45AUD. Legoland was fine, a bigger trip for us with a train and then a bus, but for the minimal additional charge, it was worth it. Legoland is in a big fancy mall but with cars, rides, play equipment, and moving legos with lights and cars, Paavo was definitely engaged. Another kid win.

Our other big favorite was the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden within the bigger Botanical Gardens. It’s all fenced in so Paavo wasn’t wandering off too far. There were loads of paths that were groomed just for little kids. As adults, we had to duck and scurry through various sections while Paavo naturally navigated through trees and bamboo forests. There was water with little tadpoles and all sorts of places for him to explore. He particularly loved the gardening area where he twice managed to cover his entire face and body with dirt. Shower nights for sure.

Vegan food YUM! We ate out a good deal but also had a kitchen in our apartment so we got the best  of both worlds. Guilty pleasure admitting time: we ate at Lord of the Fries three days in a row. We hit up the Flinders Station stand the first two days and then again on Chapel St when we couldn’t find a veg place listed on Happy Cow. We gorged on fries, onion rings, and various veggie burgers. We were all feeling a bit gross after three days, but I am getting a hankering for them again now!

The Falafel Man in the Prahran Market was tasty; really flavorful falafel and good sides – Paavo seems to dig eating raw purple vegetables! We also loaded up on fresh bread and a cashew basil spread, along with some fresh fruit from the market.

Scored some great Thai food in a pinch when the restaurant we were looking for (Divine Realm Veggie Delight) was closed. Across the street from there, this Thai place, Sriracha, saved the day. Their menu was marked with many vegan items and we all threw down in a hungry hurry! I couldn’t find it on Google to add to my map, but if you find DRVD, you’ll find it!  

On our final full day we hit the vegan jackpot. We were tired and on the verge of hangry but Julie pressed on to find The Alley vegan restaurant. We spent a pretty penny because we were so hungry but two burgers, fries, a muffin, and a milkshake later, we were all really satisfied and happy. And the woman who took our order took a likely to us (she recently visited Bellingham WA and loved it) and told us about Vegie Bar. We made a special trip there for dinner. They were busy (Valentine’s Day) but they had a special area for ordering take out. Here’s the kicker: they have a vegan gelato place next store called Boys and Girls. So while we waited for dinner, we each got cones of gelato and soft serve and chowed down. Paavo was a champ at this of course! We took our pizza and rice satay home, ate a little dinner, and enjoyed the rest on our travel day the next day.

Lastly, we got a recommendation to try out the neighborhood coffee shop, Lawson Grove. There we experienced the Long Black, an Americano but with less water. So so good for a coffee lover. We went back again. And they were so good to Paavo, giving him gummy worms and cakes simply because he was being his normal cute self!

In summary, the food was fantastic. With the dollar where it is currently, it wasn’t too expensive, and I think we only touched the tip of the iceberg with lots of other good options close by that we never got to try. Oh yeah, and I tried some Vegemite. I thought it’d be like a stock for extra flavor. It was, but not a flavor any of us were fond of. We ate it once, and then left the jar in the fridge at the apartment. 🙂

In Summary

We love Australia, we love summer, we love Melbourne. Food – yes! South Yarra location – yes! (thanks for the recommendation Todd!). Kid stuff – yes! Running – yes! All around vibe – yes! Great experience and a place we would love to return to.

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