The first images people usually associate with Australia are those of the Sydney Opera House’s distinctive white shells reflecting off the water in the city’s beautiful harbor, the towering red sandstone of Uluru (Ayers Rock) set against a rugged outback landscape or the Great Barrier Reef. These iconic sites are certainly captivating, but represent only a fraction of the country’s unique cultural offerings.
While Canberra serves as Australia’s political capital, the distinctions of cultural capital and financial center belong to Melbourne, located in the southeastern state of Victoria. Birthplace of the nation’s most cherished pastime, Australian Rules Football, and home to the Australian Open, a Formula 1 track and the fabled Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne also makes a strong case for being Australia’s premiere sports city.
Melbourne’s temperate coastal climate, cosmopolitan setting and world-class cuisine, along with numerous sports venues and a flourishing arts scene make it one of the country’s most sought-after places to live, but also one of the most expensive. The city’s extensive, easy to use tram system is the world’s largest, and makes getting around a breeze. I spent the better part of a week exploring Australia’s second largest city and the surrounding Victorian communities and discovered why it is consistently rated by various media sources as one of the world’s most livable locales; Melbourne is truly a gem.
A boat passes under Princes Bridge as it travels down the Yarra River. The bridge connects Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) to the South Bank.
No Melbourne visit is complete without a trip to one of the city’s famous laneway cafes for bite to eat or a creamy flat white (Australia’s better version of a latte).
Hallowed ground for Australian sports fans, Melbourne Cricket Ground can accommodate more than 100,000 spectators during test matches for cricket and Aussie rules football.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands smashes a serve during a tennis doubles match at the Australian Open, which Melbourne hosts each year in January.
The Shrine of Remembrance, which honors Australia’s fallen service members, is one of Melbourne’s best known landmarks.
Coop’s Shot Tower, located inside the oversize atrium of a shopping mall in downtown Melbourne, was once used for production of lead shot. The mall was built around the historic tower, which dates back to 1888.
Pedestrians crowd the sidewalk along Swanston Avenue in Melbourne’s Central Business District.
Patron’s read, study and surf the web in the State Library of Victoria’s La Trobe reading room.
A street artist spray paints a mural on a portion of the wall lining Hosier Lane, one of several streets in Melbourne where graffiti is legal and actively promoted.
A colorful paifang straddles Little Bourke Street in Melbourne’s Chinatown neighborhood, the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the Western World and one of the oldest Chinatowns in the Southern Hemisphere.
A man marvels at the extensive graffiti covering the walls along Hosier Lane.
As a way of demonstrating their commitment to one another some couples secure padlocks with their names inscribed on them to the support cables of a pedestrian bridge spanning the Yarra River.
Flinders Street Station is one of Melbourne’s busiest train terminals, and a popular rendezvous destination.
A wild koala eats eucalyptus leaves while a joey clings to her back in Victoria’s Great Otway National Park 162 km southwest of Melbourne.
As dusk falls over the CBD, Rod Laver arena (far right) glows during an Australian Open semi-final match.
A large glowing mouth greets visitors to Luna Park, a historic surfside amusement park in Melbourne’s St. Kilda neighborhood that has operated since 1912.
Check all the high-resolution shots from my trip to Australia in my album on Flickr.