Visiting the mysterious lanes and byways of Melbourne bring to life the history of an area mostly dating back to the Victorian era when the narrow streets were used by horses and carts. Some even date back to the Gold Rush era slums.
Starting in Degraves Street, a crowded alley had, years ago, been a way in and out for delivery trucks. Revitalized, it now has café’s spilling out on either side with bars hidden away among its upper floors also, among these hidden treasures one-off shops selling things such as imported hand-made stationery and Lingerie.
19th Century Block Arcade, less of a lane than an arcade, is roofed in an etched glass with a mosaic tile floor, the biggest expanse in Australia. Under its arched roof are café’s serving cucumber sandwiches and where you frequently hear the clinking of china cups in places like Hopetoun Tea Room. Included in this space is a doll hospital, a photoshop which specializes in restoration and a shop called Australian By Design where you can purchase locally made art and crafts.
Centre Place, quintessentially Melbourne, is an arcaded laneway which had been favored by artists in the 1980’s. Filling this half block lane are café’s, (like The Soup Kitchen and B3Cafe), shops like Kinki Gerlinki and vintage-inspired label Princess Highway. While strolling the laneway, take some time to enjoy an ever-evolving gallery of street art. While graffiti is, in theory, is illegal, Melbourne is ambivalent towards it.
As the population of Melbourne grew and the land sub-divided, those narrow lanes gave birth to even narrower ones. Of course, the gold rush of the 1850’ increased the demand for housing which quickened the pace. By 1895 there were 158 signposted lanes and 106 “alleys”. Among these were homes, brothels, warehouses, and factories.
While this is only a snippet of this magnificent CDB destination, one of the best ways for visitors to see the wonderful sights and learn to learn the history of the many streets in this area, is to take a Hidden Secrets tour.
My thanks to Hidden Secrets Tours for several of the pictures in this blog.
When booking any of my clients to Melbourne, Australia, I always suggest Echidna Walkabout as an unusual way to travel with wild kangaroos and do some Koala spotting. When any of my clients who have booked this tour return, I always call to see how things turned out. In every case I seem to get the same response…..”We loved this tour and when the day was over and we were saying good bye, we felt just like family”.
Janine and Roger, owners of Echidna Walkabout Tours, have a great love for nature and the animals they encounter, and this is manifested in the guided tours they provide their customers. Not only do they love the Koalas, but they also study their habitat and are able to identify them by facial features. Now, I always thought a Koala was a Koala, but that’s not the case. How much fun is it on the tour to have one of the guides introduce you to Babe, the 2 year old Koala baby of Sunshine?
In addition to Echidna Walkabout, when my clients visit Australia, I also encourage them to go to Kangaroo Island just off the coast of South Australia to take a walk on the Remarkable Rocks. What fantastic formations they will encounter. Kangaroo Island is also home to two different type of seals.
Seal Bay is just west of the Cape Gantheaume Conservation Park along the south coast of Kangaroos Island. The main draw is that it is a great place to view the largest colony of Australian sea lions who play on the beach, bask in the sand and swim in the sea.
The other, the New Zealand fur seal was once an endangered mammal on the island, with their numbers dwindling in the hundreds. This was due to their being harvested by early European settlers. Fortunately, the shores of Australia’s Kangaroo Island are now home to a population of almost 100 000 of these seals, and this rise in numbers has added yet another great attraction to the list of reasons to visit this incredible island. These beautiful mammals can be viewed from the boardwalk at Admiral's Arch.
And, if visiting Tasmania, Australia, there’s nothing better than viewing the little penguins just outside Becheno on the east coast. For a small fee, visitors can make an appointment to view the little creatures as they return to their burrows at the end of a long day of fishing. The number of guests are limited to approximately 12 each evening, so it is possible to walk along with the penguins as they return home. Because you are accompanied by a nature guide you will be provided with information on the “care and feeding” of the little penguins.
Due to the fact that most of these tours are limited to a small number of guests, as a travel professional, I always suggest that my clients pre-reserve the excursions before leaving for Australia. That way, they are not disappointed when they arrive and find out the tour is full.
Since my first trip to Australia in 1998, I have returned to the South Pacific over 30 times. On each visit I meet with hoteliers, tour companies, car companies, cruise companies and other suppliers in the region. With this knowledge, I am able to answer your questions and assist you in planning the memorable vacation of your dreams.