Summer in Melbourne #1 (forget about the Greek alphabet soup …)

Madeleine is going all the way to Melbourne!

To celebrate this and as it is summertime in Australia, we thought to offer 10 ideas on how to enjoy summer in this city in this time of social distancing …

In fact, with all the space it has, the outdoors lifestyle and its adventurous spirit, Australia does offer up many ideas …

We even put together a few photos of places to enjoy the summer in one of Australia’s most cosmopolitan – and probably also most “European” – cities, in a social-distancing-compliant fashion of course …

And so, let’s go …

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  1. Go for a walk with views

Oh yes, absolutely, go for a walk for some panoramic mountaintop views!  (Even if you absolutely need to bring a hat and water and sun-screen).

One of Madeleine’s favourites is in the Grampians, one of Melbourne’s mountainous treasures, and the 11-km Wonderland Wonderland Forest circuit in the Grampians National Park is a great walk with awe-inspiring views.

Running from Halls Gap to Venus Baths, Splitters Falls and onto Grand Canyon, Silent Street and The Pinnacle Lookout, the walk will reward you with wild flowers such as the parrot pea bush and sun orchids, inspirations about names, and once you’re at the top, stay a while.  You’ve earned it!

P.S. If you pine after panoramic views but are not in the mood for a 12-km walk, the 2.2km Balconies Track that goes from a car-park to a beautiful look out point and back would be a perfect and suitable-for-all-ages option.

P.P.S. If you don’t even wish to get out of town, just find the river that is a few steps from Flinders Street Station, and follow the river and go eastwards.  You’ll pass some interesting bridges going from one inner suburb to the next.  It is a most beautiful, serene, and relaxing, walk even if there are no views from mountaintops.  You would be following part of the Yarra Trail and the path is easy to follow.  Even better, you know how to get back to where you started …

  1. See some outdoor art

A cool thing to do this summer is to explore some techie outdoor art.  Well, you’ll need to know that these days art isn’t limited to within gallery walls, as you can get “phygital” at the Royal Botanic Gardens with a new augmented-reality (“AR”) art experience, Seeing the Invisible.  Amongst the various intriguing installations and experiences, you can see the AR work of artists like Ai Wei Wei’s gilded cage suspended in 3D.  It’s another way of finding beauty in the outdoors, it’s socially-distance-appropriate, and you would be part of a “global” experience as the exhibition is jointly held in 12 botanical gardens around the world.

  1. Admire the cacti and learn about succulents

Can we call this plant art or cacti therapy?  For something a little different, hop over to the Royal Botanical Gardens to see its latest addition, Arid Garden, which is located near gate C on Anderson Street and opened in November 2020.  There are cacti and succulents from over 400 different species, of various shapes and sizes, with some as tall as us humans, and many sourced in South America and Arizona in the US.  Get your kids to purr over and try to touch the mammoth cacti!

  1. Wander around Studley Park, take a row boat from the Boathouse, and bring a picnic too

There is so much serenity in the city’s own back yard … Studley Park can probably be considered one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets, with lush greenery everywhere, lots of picnic spots as well as the iconic Boathouse (from the 1860s) that rents row-boats, kayaks and canoes doubling also as a wonderful spot for a coffee and cake with spectacular scenery.

It doesn’t get better than this!

  1. Walk the coast: Sandringham to Beaumaris

This walk picks up the spectacular Coastal Trail at Sandringham and follows the trail south to Beaumaris, around 6km in length and weaving in and out of sandy beaches, rockpools and clifftops; it is also part of the Coastal Art Trail that celebrates the works of Heidelberg artists including Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts.  Going just a little further from Beaumaris you can find the Ricketts Point beachside café for a caffeine refuel or the Marine Sanctuary next door to explore.

  1. Splash around with some friends in the this-summer-only pink pond

A pink pond has landed in Melbourne for the summer: to find it, head to the inner courtyard of the NGV International, where the Pond[er] installation (until August 2022) can be found in the Grollo Equiset Garden.

You can cool off in the waters, reflect on your relationship with the environment, or simply enjoy splashing through the pink-hued water.

  1. Do some wild swimming

Our favourite swimming spot in Melbourne is Half Moon Bay, only about a 25 minutes drive out of the CBD.

If we had over an hour and especially when the tide is out, a visit to the Sorrento rock pools is a great place for starfish spotting in between dips. Unlike many other rock pools, these are actual pools as opposed to puddles, so swimming isn’t just an awkward laying-down-flat movement.

Close by are McCrae beach and Rose Bud for clear, calm and friendly waters, great for children, and with cute beach boxes that line the beach.  On a clear day you can see the city on the very far side of the bay and be reminded of the life you are joyously neglecting.

There are others: Jebbs Pool is located close to where Cumberland River flows into the ocean, where the mountains and river meet the sea.  The freshwater pool is large with very clear water and several picturesque tiers, surrounded by rock ledges and ferns and teeming with birdlife, and can be reached by walking upstream for about 1km from the caravan park south of Lorne.

It’s also a lovely spot to head for a picnic, with large rock shelves above the pool offering plenty of room to spread out a blanket.

  1. Walk the Merri Creek Trail that meanders through the inner northern suburbs

This is a 21-km relatively flat shared-use trail for cyclists and pedestrians alike that follows the Merri Creek through the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne.  The creek “branches” off the Yarra river at Dights Falls and so this is where the trail starts, branching off from the Capital City Trail, winding and skipping from one side of the Merri Creek bank to the other all the way and becoming lush and green in some sections with weeping willows and grass lands and dotted with picnic rugs and meadows with people lazing around.

Points of interest include the Ceres environmental park in east Brunswick, with its quirky garden plots, a bike shed where you can fix or build your bike, windmills and energy efficient buildings, as well as a good coffee shop and a Makers & Flea Market every Saturday!   There is also Harding Street Bridge, a great example of a suspension bridge, where cyclists are supposed to walk their bikes, but some don’t and it’s very narrow so be warned!

  1. Some more picnic ideas!

One of the cosiest spots for a picnic only 20-minutes’ drive from the CBD or a scenic bike-ride along the Main Yarra Trail is at the Sculpture Park at the Heide Museum of Modern Art.  The 15-acre sculpture garden – with 30 works by internationally renowned artists such as Anish Kapoor – is perfect for a BYO picnic or pre-order a hamper from the on-site Cafe Heide (where you can eat in too).

  1. Pick some strawberries

Summer is always when you can go strawberry picking and there is nothing better than fresh, juicy strawberries.  Especially when you’ve picked them yourself.  And you can do just that at Sunny Ridge – one of the largest strawberry farms in Australia – set among the Mornington Peninsula’s lush, scenic hinterland.