Melbourne: Paint by Colors

Melbourne easily earns the title of one of the hippest little cities I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. Artsy, intellectual, sprawling, and fast-paced, this place is truly world-class. A pal of mine moved to Australia earlier this year, and she has since made Melbourne her home.

We ran all around trying to jam pack the “true Australian experience” into a few days and she was an absolutely phenomenal host. We fed wallabies, caught some awesome films at the St. Kilda Film Festival, watched the tiny blue penguins (600 of them!) come in at dusk on Phillip Island, took in some contemporary galleries, noshed on scones while discussing countries’ “Gross National Coolness” at the Next Wave Festival, and got entirely too little sleep. But oh, it was worth it.

And because photos sometimes tell the story better than words can, I give you the full spectrum of Melbourne – in technicolor!

Kiwis and Cafes and Raptors

Home again. What a whirlwind of a week – full of hiking, exploring, getting lost in, and falling in love with two new places: New Zealand and Australia.

Wellington, heart of New Zealand

First off, let’s chat about New Zealand. Can I just say how incredible the little city of Wellington is? A town bursting with brilliant culture and knowledge-hungry individuals, this waterfront treasure is also New Zealand’s capital.

-Must Do’s-

Te Papa: Usually I won’t spend too much time in museums when travelling abroad since I think diving into the country itself is the best way to learn about its history. But for someone who knew very little about the Kiwi culture, the national museum, Te Papa,  was the perfect crash course to bring me up to speed. It gives you a run down on the native Maori people vs. Europeans, explains that a pretty giant fault line bisects the North and South islands (that’s led to about 4 earthquakes in the past two weeks), and shows that the people take great pride in their gorgeous land. That last one was learned through discussions with people at the museum, not off the notes lining the walls, but needless to say, this place was rad. Oh, and don’t miss the Collosal Squid!

Cafe Culture: Wellington’s well-known for its love of good food and even better places to eat it in. Every cafe has a feel all of its own and serves up everything from delicious mochaccinos with fresh homemade marshmallows to breakfast burritos with ridiculously fresh ingredients. Never a shortage of good places to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or grab a bite to eat.

Wellington’s Waterfront: Vibrant both morning and night, the waterfront is the star of the town. Couples stroll together in the early morning, kayakers make their way into the water by noon, buskers come out to entertain with a song or two by mid afternoon, and runners keep the boardwalk alive well after sundown. And as if that’s not enough, the walk is also dotted with these quotes from writers carved into giant blocks of stone. Finding them all along the waterfront was a fun and wonderful challenge.

Botanical Gardens: At the top of the city sits these gorgeous sprawling gardens. You can take an hour or a few to wander through them and catch some of the best views of the entire downtown Wellington below. Little pink flower stamps mark out the way down the hill so you can find your way through the numerous paths.

Zealandia: Guys, this place was essentially Jurassic Park…minus the raptors. A billionaire botanist decides he wants to turn back the clock and restore New Zealand to what it was thousands of years ago, so he creates a park in order to do so. Did you know all the life on the islands evolved without mammalian predators? Neither did I. What this means is that the birds, reptiles, insects, and plants were the only ones duking it out until the Europeans dropped off a few rats and other hairy creatures on their first voyage there. Meaning the birds here, while not super capable in a possum fight, are some of the most intense and unique I’ve ever seen. And only a degree or two away from raptors.

Wellington stole my heart, but it wasn’t the only one. Stay tuned tomorrow for more about Australia!