Sophisticated and slick, edgy and rough, Melbourne’s physical and cultural landscape is shaped by a dynamic population, ever-ravenous for a bite of global culture. The result is Australia’s most accessible multiculturalism. Ornate Victorian-era architecture and leafy, established boulevards reflect the city’s history, and cutting-edge developments such as Federation Sq exemplify its enigmatic contemporary style. But, Melburnians still keep their urban frenzy to a deliciously sedate pace. Trams lumber back and forth on routes radiating out like spokes from central Melbourne, and cycling is a common way to get from A to Z.
Character-filled neighbourhoods, such as Fitzroy, St Kilda and Carlton, hum with life and the city produces some of the best art, music, cuisine, fashion, performance, design and ideas in the world. Melburnians are also devoted to their sport and they go ballistic around the Australian Football League (AFL; ‘footy’ to the locals) finals and during Spring Racing Carnival. They love to shop, eat and attend the myriad festivals that the city offers. You’ll even find them defending the city’s temperamental weather, and if you’ve ever experienced Melbourne’s inclination to plummet from searing heat to drizzling rain in the space of an hour, you’ll understand that this must be the true definition of unconditional love.
The long-distance bus terminal in the city centre is at the Southern Cross Railway Station (9619 2587; Spencer St, Melbourne). Skybus (9335 2811; www.skybus.com.au) airport buses also operate from here. Greyhound (13 14 99; www.greyhound.com.au) and Premier (13 34 10; www.premierms.com.au) both have daily services to/from Sydney ($74, 13 hours), stopping at towns along the way. Firefly (1300 730 740; www.fireflyexpress.com.au) also services Melbourne.
Long-distance trains also operate to/from Southern Cross. Victoria’s V/Line (13 61 96; www.vline.com.au) runs train services between Melbourne and regional Victoria, but also offers an economy service to Adelaide ($83, 11 hours) and Canberra ($63, 10 hours). CountryLink (13 22 32; www.countrylink.nsw.gov.au) runs daily XPT trains between Melbourne and Sydney ($75, 11 hours).
The Spirit of Tasmania (1800 634 906; www.spiritoftasmania.com.au) sails between Melbourne and Tasmania at 8pm nightly year-round, departing from Port Melbourne’s Station Pier and the Esplanade in Devonport – both arrive at around 7am.
Most of the major airlines have direct international flights to Melbourne Airport (www.melair.com.au) in Tullamarine, 22km northwest of the city centre. Melbourne is well-connected to all capital cities in the country and many regional centres as well. Carriers include
Qantas (13 13 13; www.qantas.com.au),
Jetstar (13 15 38; www.jetstar.com.au),
Virgin Blue (13 67 89; www.virginblue.com.au),
QantasLink (13 13 13; www.qantas.com.au) and
Regional Express (Rex; 13 17 13; www.regionalexpress.com.au).
Jetstar also offers flights from Avalon Airport (www.avalonairport.com.au) near Geelong.