Melbourne VS Sydney – Best of Australia Series Part I

I have been asked by friends and even strangers to share my recommendations for what to do in Australia for a few weeks. A few caveats, we did not get to every city nor did we see all there is to see in Australia by any stretch of the imagination. So I can only comment and share the highlights of what we did and what we saw. 

I have to admit that I loved living in the Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne. [Note: Australian and New Zealanders call their downtowns CBD.] Where we lived meant we could walk to anywhere in the CBD and because the city has an excellent public transit system, we had access to everywhere in the whole metropolitan area. Melbourne is a major international city that is still very livable and very easy to visit. In fact Huffington Post just named Melbourne as the world’s most liveable city. 

I highly recommend visitors to Australia spend some time in Melbourne. And I mean spend time there, don’t schedule up every minute running around the city seeing museums (although the museums there are world class) or seeing the sites (although there are some very fun sites to see) but rather have some down time to explore. 

If you go to Melbourne, stay in the CBD so that you can soak in the atmosphere. It is a walkable city and there are plenty of wonderful places to explore. I took several walking tours while living there recommend MelTours. We took their Laneway Tour early on in our stay in Melbourne and it was fantastic. There are hundreds of laneway and alleyways in Melbourne with all sorts of shops and sites and art work to see. There is no way anyone can see them all, but it doesn’t matter as we found this walking tour excellent. I took several of their other tours and they were also good.

Walking Tour


It is important to note that almost every major Australian city has walking tours, including free ones. I did not attend any of the free ones, but I saw them everywhere with huge crowds, easily 40 to 50 people on the tours (even in the rain!). The tours I paid to attend never had more than 15 to 20 people, sometimes even smaller. My bias is in favor of the smaller more intimate tours and I believe you get what you pay for.

My favorite street in Melbourne was Bourke Street. In the middle of the CBD, Bourke Street is closed off to cars. Almost every afternoon and evening there are several different bands who set up on the corners and play live music. I loved walking around and listening to musicians play their various styles of music to the crowds walking through town.

I loved spending time wondering the aisles of the Queen Victoria Market. In fact I did almost all our grocery shopping. It is acres of shopping where you can buy fruit, vegetables, meats, chicken, fish, souvenirs, clothing, shoes and more. I planned my days and my weeks around its hours so that I could take advantage of the wonderful organic foods offered there.

No trip to Melbourne is complete without a word about coffee. I am not sure why Melbourne has such excellent coffee, but it does. And their specialties are espresso drinks. It is almost impossible to find a bad cup of coffee in Melbourne, really! CNN names Melbourne one of the Worlds 8 Great Coffee Cities. I have since learned that there are now walking tours of the great coffee shops in Melbourne. One of my favorite things to do was to Google best coffee shops in Melbourne CBD and then walk to whatever shop came up on top that day. Be warned that Australians have different names for espresso drinks than we do. Here is a guide to ordering coffee in Australia.

The other major city in Australia is Sydney. I spent several days there. We stayed at the Park 8 Hotel in the Sydney CBD that I found on Trip Advisor. We spent a little bit more to get a real window versus frosted glass. While there I wandered their CBD, took walking tours of the Rocks (the old part of the European settlement), ventured out to Bondi beach and climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Now the Bridge Climb is expensive, but it was worth it. Unless you are absolutely terrified of heights it is not to be missed. I was nervous beforehand, worrying about it being too hard or too scary, but it wasn’t. It was thrilling and beautiful!


Just like most people have a preference between San Francisco and Los Angeles, many people have a favorite between Melbourne and Sydney. I admit I am biased in favor of Melbourne (and prefer SF too!). I enjoyed my time in Sydney, but frankly it felt like any international city in the world. With the exception of the historic Rocks area, the city felt like it could have been in any country in the world. But Melbourne has a unique Australian flavor. When they modernized the city, they kept enough of the historic character of the city so that you have a strong sense of the past as well as the present, something Sydney did not do well in my opinion.

Bottom line: If I had a limited time in Australia, I would skip Sydney and spend more time in Melbourne as well as some of the other wonderful places in Australia. More on those places next time.

Sydney2 Melbourne

Do you have a preference between Sydney and Melbourne? 


As a blogger, I enjoy sharing my ideas and thoughts with people, and I get a special thrill when someone leaves a comment. When you share my posts on social media sites, I jump up and down doing a happy dance. So thank you!

12 thoughts on “Melbourne VS Sydney – Best of Australia Series Part I

  1. Jane

    Great tips and makes me long to travel. Learning about Melbourne’s good coffee was an unexpected treat. Love your updates/memories of your adventure.

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      The coffee inspired me to start making espressos here at home! If i can’t figure out what to do in my next phase of life maybe I will become a barrista!

  2. David Sloss

    Don’t skip Sydney. Sydney is great too. If you’re going to Australia, give yourself at least three weeks so that you really have time to explore.

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Sydney was fun, and this historic part of town interesting, but I found Port Arthur in Tasmania more in depth for the history of Australia as a penal colony.

  3. Leslie Conway

    Great info. I just love to travel! Got to get to Australia one of these days. I think/hope my youngest will go next year for a semester abroad. Then, I’m getting on that plane!

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      Go for it! I will be adding more posts in the next two to three weeks on where to go and what to do in Australia. Next week’s post will be on Tasmania. Just remember when you go that their seasons are opposite of ours, so best time to travel and explore there is winter in the states here.

  4. Dawn

    Glad I checked this post out. I’ve been to Australia twice, once in college… for 3 months, but I’ve never been to Melbourne. My son has just moved there for a year, and I’m really enjoying his photos and stories.

    1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

      It is a great city to visit and play. I hope you get an opportunity to visit him while he is there. In what part of the city is he living?

      1. Dawn

        Since my first read of this post, I finally got an answer to this one… he’s living the CBD, the place you highly recommend! Score! We met a lot of Melbournians in Fiji. Now, I’m dying to see this city, and return to Australia again. The country holds a piece of my heart– so the idea of going back, again, is both exciting and scary.

        BTW: I’ve just subscribed AGAIN. For some reason I’ve found myself dropped from several blogs that I was following. At first I wondered if, somehow, the hosts dropped me– um, yeah, there’s my own self esteem issues again… but then realized I wasn’t getting yours and another person I chat with. Got on here and saw that I wasn’t following anymore. It’s sent me back to my Reader to figure out how many others… 5! Five blogs dropped. Ugh. Glad I figured it out now.

        1. Heidi BK Sloss Post author

          I understand about going to where a piece of your heart lives–Melbourne is a great place to “have” to go visit–especially in their summer, our winter. I went kicking and screaming, it is so far from everywhere and everyone, but it was so wonderful I would go back in a heart beat. It makes sense that you met Melbournians in Fiji. The get around that part of the world, much more than they do in their own country.

          Thanks again for (re)subscribing. Hope it wasn’t anything my system did to bounce you out.

  5. Pingback: Tasmania! | The Magic of Mothering

  6. Pingback: New Zealand – Best of Australia Part IV | The Magic of Mothering

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