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We did this tour a couple of days ago, on the day after arriving in Melbourne. It seemed like a good way to get familiar with the CBD given that out hotel is within it, and that we are here for the week.
From our starting point at Federation Square, we were taken down along the river side linear park, Birrarung Marr, with frequent stops to listen to a brief history of the city's foundation, the indigenous significance of the area and explanation of various point of interest. This was followed by a return to the southern streets of the CBD, a taste of the lane ways and cafe culture, the grandeur of the Block arcade and Collins St, and a stroll to the South Bank precinct before returning to Federation Square. There was also a stop to enjoy a coffee from one of the iconic sidewalk cafes that are ubiquitous here.
Our tour was very ably led by Gerry, a newly recruited guide in training under the watchful eye of Dave. Gerry was a wealth of information, and when he didn't know something, Dave was able to fill in the gaps. Both of them were very pleasant and easygoing and made us feel immediately at ease.
We enjoyed a very pleasant stroll and learnt heaps. We also got to some things we would easily have overlooked, such as the quirky street art and the hidden gems like the ANZ building that is the site of Melbourne's original stock exchange.
I strongly recommend this 3 hour walking tour to anyone who is recently arrived and wants to get their bearings, both geographically and culturally. It's also a nice way of occupying oneself for an afternoon, and the fee is very reasonable.
Doing what: Central Melbourne Walking Tour
You get a lot for your money with this tour but try to break it up into two days. I was picked up at around 7am and did not get back to the hotel until 1am. The city tour was okay but I wish they had an open top bus or windows that open so that you can take photos as you go and get better views of the city. The tour of the arcades took about 45 minutes was pointless. That could have been a much better walking tour, maybe stopping at 1 arcade then seeing a bunch of other buildings. Additionally, our walking tour guide seemed nervous or unsure of herself. She spoke very quietly and without any enthusiasm. We also stopped at one of the gardens, which was quite pretty, and at Queen Victoria Market which I would not have gotten to see otherwise. However, if you are staying in the CBD in Melbourne, just hop on a free tram and go around the city yourself. Don't bother with the tour.
We had about a 1 hour break for lunch, which was actually one of the best parts of the day. Stopping at Federation Square, I took the time to walk along the Yarra River and take in some of the architecture up close. Then we left for Phillip Island which was about 1 1/2 hrs away. We stopped first at a farm for 1 hour. Many people seemed very interested in the cows and sheep and chickens but I have seen all that before in the US. Then we sent to a koala reserve which was nice. You will definitely see koalas there- some very close up. Then you go to the penguin area and have dinner. Options for food are very few and none were particularly good. You have time to walk the boardwalk and take in some beautiful coastal views before heading to the penguin parade. You will be really glad to get on the Penguin Plus platform because the main viewing area is bleacher seats and it is PACKED. Sixty percent of the penguins go past the Plus platform area so you get a great up close view of them. All that said, there was nothing truly exciting about the day. I don't know what I was expecting but there was nothing that just took my breath away. The penguins are cute but I don't know... it was a really late night and a long drive and felt rather anti-climatic to finally see them.
The trip was worth doing to see the sites however, there really isn't that much to see. We had to get a taxi to another hotel for pickup but in fact it would have been better and closer to just go to the main pick up at Federation Square. It all seemed a little disorganised. The trip driver was lovely but confused us all a bit by keep telling us the wrong side to look at consequently we all missed most of what she was talking about. We stopped at a park which was not open as it was too early, nice park though and the other stop wasn't long enough to get something to eat or drink properly. The Yarra Cruise was 20 minutes late, was over crowded and our family of 4 could not sit together or get a window seat to take pictures. The coach trip did not drop off at the pick up points but left you at Federation Square. We did come away with some knowledge of the City so it can't have been too bad!
The tour guide was great and my rating isn't reflective on his performance. Overall I wouldn't recommend the tour to active young 35 travelers.
First off, if you're staying at the Westin don't choose the hotel pickup. The tour leaves from Federation Square, which is literally a 5-minute walk from the hotel. The hotel pickup drives you around for an hour to all of the other hotels then drops you back off right at Federation Square. 1-hour driving around versus a 5-minute walk, come on. It was my first day and I didn't know better.
On to the bus tour. It was hard to get a good feel of the different neighborhoods by passing them on the bus. The traffic conditions in Melbourne aren't fantastic and we spent a lot of time waiting in traffic. It would have been nice to have more time at to botanical gardens.
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