Arriving in Melbourne
Arriving in Melbourne with a baby after 20 hours in the air, we were exhausted and thankful that we had booked a city centre hotel and a transfer from the airport. Immigration went smoothly and all the worry about long queues to declare baby milk and potentially being told to discard it, that we had read online, were totally unfounded and we were waved through by a cheery guy who simply asked if we had any other food products, etc, apart from baby supplies. The pick-up (with pre-booked car seat) went smoothly and we were so pleased to see The Olsen hotel.
Where to stay: The Olsen
It was exactly what we needed; modern, stylish and stress-free with a large glass bottomed pool, restaurant / bar onsite and immaculate rooms.
Our one hiccup at the airport, as detailed in the travel post, was that our buggy didn’t make the flight and wasn’t due to arrive until the following day. Often I’m dubious of hotels that advertise a long list of additional concierge services, as often they’re not as good as promised in reality, but this time it was invaluable. They quickly found us an immaculate bugaboo with large sunshade to use during our stay.
Where to collect supplies: Target and pharmacies
I was soon having a nap whilst hubby went out the collect the pre-ordered travel cot and steriliser from Target and a local pharmacy respectively, for use later in the trip as The Olsen actually provided a great cot and very useful baby toiletries.
Talking of toiletries, this hotel also had the best shampoo I have used in years, evo, I brought the spare sample size home and it does perform miracles!
Things to know: Australian hotel rooms
Australian hotels are great in that most rooms, regardless of the class or type of hotel, are large and have a kitchenette built-in. So we had room to store our new purchases and although we didn’t really need the kitchenette facilities here (as we were at the start our trip and the location meant that we always ate out) it was great for the fridge, making coffee and snacks and also comforting to know that the websites were correct and we would indeed have a fully functioning small kitchen at almost every stop en route!
Around The Olsen hotel
The area around the Olsen was very cool, lots of independent cafes, shops and places to eat (plentiful avocado dishes!) as well as supermarkets and general stores for any supplies you might need.
What to see: Central Melbourne and St Kilda
It was also a 5 minute train ride into town for sightseeing and exploring, or on a sunny day you can easily take the tram system down to the beachside suburb of St Kilda (not recommended, from bitter experience, in the rain though!).
How to sightsee: Walking tour
One day we did a free walking tour with imfree.com.au which was amazing. It depends on your tour guide, as our second one in Sydney wasn’t quite as good, but there really is no financial catch (just pay what you feel is right with no pressure at the end of the tour) and you get to hear about the city, get your bearings see some of the major sights without so much as having to pick up a map. So this is a great idea for your first day in a new place, after a long flight or whilst figuring out your plans.
The only issue I guess is that the tour continues regardless, so if you need to stop and feed or change your little one you will lose them, but for us it was fine as the tour guide was lovely and Alicia was happy in her pram, taking everything in and people watching, and there was a 15 min bathroom / snack break halfway through the tour which sufficed.
Where to visit: Yarra Valley
After a couple of days of city sightseeing, we decided to head out into the countryside and visit some wineries in the Yarra Valley. We weren’t expecting too much compared to the Hunter Valley but actually this day was one of the best! We happened to spot online that a cherry orchard (Cherryhill Orchards) was having an open day that turned out to be blissful; cherry ice cream, sparkling cherry juice, stunning cherry blossom trees, rolling hills, live music, entertainment (including option to purchase hot air balloon rides!) and fresh air, well worth a visit especially if you’re there around October time!
We then went to Oakridge winery for lunch which was delicious and also highly recommended. The giant glass dining room wall looks out over the vineyard and is a fantastic modern yet idyllic spot for some vino and fillet of beef.
We also rounded off the day by visiting the Chandon estate. In England obviously Moet Chandon is rather famous but I had never tried the Chandon range and we bought several bottles to sample during our trip including a fantastic sparkling red.
Where to visit: Philip Island
The other excursion that we did from Melbourne was Philip Island and the Penguin Parade. The drive took the best part of 2 hours and we were a little worried about returning late at night after the parade but the drive to and from the island was fine and less intimidating than it looked online.
We arrived mid-afternoon and went to the Koala Conservation Centre which was a really nice way of seeing the koalas in a natural habitat compared to Sydney Zoo, etc. It was very quiet and laid back, meaning that Al was happy and we spotted a number of koalas hiding in the shady treetops.
The Penguin Parade looked like a mistake upon arriving and seeing the crowds of visitors but actually it was quite well organised in the VIP Penguin Plus section at least. We were there when the gates opened but didn’t rush and felt safe with Al and the pram. Penguin Plus costs around double the price of a standard ticket but is well worth it as it’s much more intimate and up-close, you sit on a specially made wooden island at the end of the beach by one of the penguins most popular pathways compared to the mass general ‘football-stadium’ seating further along the beach.
It’s truly amazing watching thousands of penguins emerge from the sea, I’ve been to Boulders Bay in South Africa which was impressive but this is on a different level. They keep arriving in waves for some time so don’t worry if you don’t have the best view of them at first! The only practical issues are that prams need to be left around the back side of the seating so you either sit there or have to hold your infant on your lap, so we took turns to hold her and it was fine. It was also very cold once the sun goes down so blankets, hats, etc for the little ones are essential as you’re sat for some time!