Discover Melbourne with Real Melbourne Bike Tours

Are you looking for inspiration and wondering what to do in Melbourne? Have you got only a few hours to discover Melbourne? Let's get straight to the point: Real Melbourne Bike Tours is a not to be missed activity! We walked in Brisbane: it was good but quickly tiring. We drove in Sydney and Canberra: it was less tiring than walking but we missed far too many places. So we joined Murray, the owner of Real Melbourne Bike Tours, on one of his tours through the streets of Melbourne. We knew that Melbourne is full of hidden secrets. We did not know that Murray was one of them! He is a wealth of information and is passionate about what he does, you never feel like you are falling into a tourist trap. A tour with him is the ideal way to visit Melbourne and learn about the areas of the city in so little time. The tour lasts four hours including a coffee break in Little Italy and a lunch at the Queen Victoria Market (all included). You come out absolutely delighted and will want more! Any first stay in Melbourne should begin with a tour in the company of Murray.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Real Melbourne Bike Tours.

Eleonore's Restaurant At Chateau Yering

At iPhoneography Oz we do not claim to be food critics. It is also not the purpose of this blog. But lately we must admit that we have tried a few fabulous Australian restaurants. This time we had dinner at Eleonore's Restaurant at Chateau Yering. Do you remember our visit to Max's Restaurant? Well, Chef Mathew Macartney's cuisine at Eleonore's Restaurant is simply a class above, which certainly makes the restaurant one of the finest restaurants in Australia. It is only located 45 minutes away from Melbourne in the Yarra Valley. The Chef lets his creativity flow while paying particular attention to product selection, flavour blending and dish presentation: an art fully mastered! It seems also important to note that you leave Eleonore's Restaurant fully satisfied (which is not always the case for a fine restaurant). Unfortunately the photos of food do not always honor the dishes at fair value. This is especially true when the picture is taken with an iPhone. This Wagyu Fillet (photo) is simply the best piece of meat that we have eaten in our lives. To wet your appetite, take a look at the menu! Note that it is also possible to stay overnight in one of the 32 suites at Chateau Yering. If talking about cuisine with an Australian Chef catches your interest, you can follow Mathew Macartney on Twitter (he is pretty active there so do not hesitate): @Chefmatmac.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Chateau Yering.

Puffing Billy, Australia's Favourite Steam Train

Melbourne's secrets do not necessarily hide downtown. Take the direction of Belgrave in the northeast outer suburbs of Melbourne for a time travel through the Dandenong Ranges and the Yarra Valley. You will be able to board Puffing Billy, a century-old steam train which was used to develop rural areas. Puffing Billy is now a major tourist attraction that exists thanks to the tireless efforts of more than 900 dedicated volunteers. We articipated in a three-hour trip between Belgrave and Lakeside. We would have liked a staging, similar to that of the Old Melbourne Gaol to really be taken back into that era, but it is still a unique experience! Several travel options are available. Our advice: if you are traveling in winter, choose a sunny day and travel preferably in the morning. There are no windows in the coaches and it can be cold at this time of year.
To see more photos of our Puffing Billy experience, visit The Complete Series gallery on iPhoneography Oz's Facebook page.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Puffing Billy.

The Best Cafes And Restaurants In Melbourne

Melbourne is a city full of hidden secrets. We already spoke about the street art of Melbourne. This is the same for bars, cafes and restaurants. We were further informed that many businesses deliberately choose to install their facilities in out of sight locations. This allows them to create a buzz around the opening, consumers disclosing the new find to their social circles which, in turn, spreads the word. This is a risky marketing strategy but that seems to be a new trend in Melbourne's industry. So which are the best cafes and restaurants in Melbourne? We will not answer this question here. We will leave you the pleasure of strolling through the streets, to seek and discover by yourself. We are still going to give you a few clues to tease you and inspire you to find some of our favorite places in Melbourne:
  • A rooftop bar/cinema on the fifth floor of a building (no elevator): amazing view of Melbourne's Central Business District,
  • An alley in the heart of the city which is lined with restaurants and cafes (photo): menus and windows are really appealing,
  • An Italian cafe, probably Melbourne's largest, which is reminiscent of those found in Milan: the selection of pastries is impressive (and tasty!).

Mecca Bah Melbourne

Mecca Bah Melbourne is a good place to experience middle-eastern cuisine. The restaurant is located in the modern area of Melbourne Docklands, a product of an ongoing urban renewal project. This vast suburb is also worth a visit day or night. But back to Mecca Bah Melbourne. We tried the Tunisian merguez, the lamb tajine and a baklava to finish. A delight. We only regret that in this restaurant the food is not as spicy as expected. Apparently it has been adapted to Western palates, while the beauty of middle-eastern cuisine is the use of spices. But it is a good alternative for an introduction to this cuisine, have a look at the menu. The atmosphere of the restaurant is also rather western when we were expecting something more oriental. However the view over the waters of the Yarra River and Melbourne Central Business District is amazing! Ask for a table near the windows so you do not miss it.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Mecca Bah Melbourne.

Free Activities In Melbourne

If you have read our recent post about Melbourne, you already know that Melbourne is a great city. The culture of Melbourne occupies a leading role and most activities are free. Here are our favorite cultural places so far:
  • State Library of Victoria: more than 1,5 million books and 16,000 periodicals. The architecture of La Trobe Reading Room and its dome is awesome;
  • Australian Centre for the Moving Image: immersion in the world of film, television and digital culture. Screen Worlds, the permanent exhibition brings together rare archive footage, fascinating objects and interactive amazing displays.
Many art galleries, museums and theaters. Many cultural events and concerts as well. But Melbourne is also a place of choice for street art. Lonely Planet also places them as a must see. We love getting lost in the Central Business District walking through Melbourne's laneways in search of graffiti. We also love coming across impromptu concerts on the sidewalks (photo).

To further explore street art in Melbourne, visit The Complete Series gallery on iPhoneography Oz's facebook page.

This photo is part of the Weekend Hashtag Project, a series featuring designated themes & hashtags chosen every week by Instagram’s Community Team. The theme of the week is: #socialtravel.

Old Melbourne Gaol

iPhoneography Oz spent the day in jail at the Old Melbourne Gaol. No, do not worry, nothing serious. We simply visited the building transformed into a museum a few years ago. This historical place situated in the heart of Melbourne allows you to experience the harsh reality of a nineteenth century prison. It is interesting and differs from traditional museums. We suggest you to start the visit with the police watch house and experience what it is like to be arrested. It is extremely alike to (what we assume to be) the reality, so much that one wonders if the actor who charges you and locks you up is not an ex-cop. Was our favourite part of the visit! Then continue into the cells of the gaol where you will learn about the infamous Ned Kelly, whose story was brought to the cinema several times (Mick Jagger and Heath Ledger played the role of the bushranger). Allow about two hours for the entire visit.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

Visit Melbourne

We do not know where to begin to tell you why you should visit Melbourne. This is certainly one of the best cities in the world. Located in the southeast of Australia, bordering the vast Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne is the capital of the State of Victoria. It is often referred to the cultural and sporting capital of Australia. Melbourne is home of the Australian Open (tennis), the Australian Grand Prix (Formula 1) and the Melbourne Cup (horse race), three major events in their respective categories in the international scene. It is also recognized for its cultural scene, including museums, theaters and street art.
Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia after Sydney. It has over four million people, over one-third were born overseas. This multiculturalism is felt especially in the cuisine. The city has indeed countless multi-ethnic restaurants.
Architecture is no exception either. Along the Yarra River, the Central Business District (Melbourne CBD) is an interesting mix of historic buildings of Victorian era and modern skyscrapers.
The main drawback could be Melbourne climate. Melbourne is indeed the coldest Australian capital city in winter, although it remains within the limit of endurance (no snow).
Melbourne is a must see in Australia! We will focus on several major points of interest in the coming days.

Max's at Red Hill Estate Winery

There are places that we discover for the first time and immediately fall in love with. Red Hill Estate Winery is one of these places. This vineyard is located an hour's drive southeast of Melbourne. Looking over the water to Phillip Island, the bay view is magnificent! Many vineyards in Australia, as at Tilba Valley Wines, have their own restaurant. That of Red Hill Estate Winery, Max's Restaurant has won numerous awards including Best Restaurant in Victoria (in 2011 Victorian Tourism Awards). It is with great pleasure that we travelled along the Mornington Peninsula to discover this Italian-inspired cuisine. The emphasis is on impeccable personalized service, quality products and the food presentation. The Chef, Max Paganoni, also draws inspiration from local products. The kangaroo served as a starter is a delight! Take a look at Max's menu and be seduced. If you are nearby, Max's Restaurant should be a mandatory stop. Relaxing in the peaceful surrounds of the estate, time just seems to stop. Spend a day eating wonderful food and do not forget to treat yourself to a wine tasting. Simply enjoy.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Max's Restaurant.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm

Tranquil Churchill Island Heritage Farm is one of Victoria and Phillip Island's hidden secrets. After Penguin Parade and Koala Conservation Centre, this is the third and final activity managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks that we visited. The farm is located on Churchill Island easily accessible by car from Phillip Island. The natural beauty of the place is worth the visit. Once at the farm, you can not miss the impressive Highland cattle and Clydesdale horses. Do not tell anyone, but when we wandered through the kitchen garden of the farm, the temptation of the strawberry patch and tamarillo tree was too hard to resist!

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Phillip Island Nature Parks.

Koala Conservation Centre

The Koala Conservation Centre is, along with Penguin Parade and Churchill Island Heritage Farm, one of the three attractions managed by Phillip Island Nature Parks. The experience is different from traditional zoos since the animals are not confined in pens. This allows visitors to get closer to them in their natural habitat. The centre is also home to a host of Australian wildlife such as possums and wallabies, the latter having lost all sense of fear, to the delight of photographers!

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Phillip Island Nature Parks.

The Penguin Parade

Phillip Island Nature Parks is a not-for-profit organisation that manages four tourist activities on Phillip Island: Penguin Parade, Koala Conservation Centre, Churchill Island Heritage Farm and The Nobbies Centre. We experienced the first three. Moreover, it is cheaper to buy a 3 Parks Pass (The Nobbies Centre is free).
The Penguin Parade is an amazing natural phenomenon that occurs every night at sunset. On this occasion more than a thousand wild little penguins emerge from the ocean, march across the beach to reach their sand dune burrows. Penguin Parade is obviously the best place in the world to experience this event. A must see! As for the Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, note that it is possible to adopt a penguin from the Penguin Foundation Phillip Island supported by none other than Kylie Minogue, David Suzuki and Michael Klim.

Photo: Phillip Island Nature Parks

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Phillip Island Nature Parks.

Phillip Island

Phillip Island is an island located south of Melbourne where nature has preserved its rights. There is not much to do and that is why we love it! This is a great place to admire the local wildlife, such as little penguins (as cute as seen in March of the Penguins), wallabies, sea lions and... Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner and friends. In fact the Island is also home to Phillip Island Circuit, host of the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Red-Bellied Black Snake

Australian wildlife is rich and varied. Some species like the koala, kangaroo, wallaby and wombat, are unique to Australia. But Australia is also the country where one finds the largest number of venomous animals and among the most venomous species in the world. There are more poisonous snakes than non poisonous. The Red-bellied Black Snake (photo), common on the east coast, is considered the least dangerous of the venomous snakes in Australia. Still, this photo was taken from a four-wheel-drive vehicle, with the doors closed!

Natural Rock Pools

Natural rock pools (or tide pools) are located along many of the beaches on the coasts of Australia. These pools are filled with seawater at every high tide. When the tide goes out, the sun warms the water and transforms them into swimming pools ideal for avoiding the dangers created by waves, currents and sharks. The natural scenery is often amazing. The most beautiful that we have crossed are in Newcastle, Sydney (Bondi Beach) and Bermagui (photo).

Eden Killer Whale Museum

The charming town of Eden is located on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. As always along the South Coast, there is beautiful coastal scenery. But the star of Eden is Old Tom, a killer whale well known by locals in the early twentieth century and was dedicated a museum, the Eden Killer Whale Museum, which is also dedicated to marine environment. It is interesting and you can learn a lot about whaling which played an important role in the area's economy. Note that the complete skeleton of Old Tom is on display at the museum. This is the only one in the southern hemisphere and the second in the world, the other being located at the Musée océanographique de Monaco.

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Eden Killer Whale Museum.


Bushfires are an environmental problem and have been the cause of many lost lives in Australia. They do play a role in regeneration though. As implausible as it may seem, some plants need fire to grow. That is something we learned on Fraser Island. Thus fires are an essential part of the ecology of the continent. Most of them are controlled fires and are used to clean up the bush. Still, it is pretty impressive (and incomprehensible) driving at night in the middle of a forest on fire (photo)!

A Bush Life

Many Australians live in the bush by choice, or because in distant lands they have no other choice. In all cases, living close to nature is quite fascinating. Australians are generally very environmentally friendly and when they live in the bush, they live in harmony with the elements. iPhoneography Oz was fortunate to spend several days in a house entrenched on the heights of Tanja State Forest not far from Bega, New South Wales. The nearest neighbour is ten kilometres away. There is no supply of town water, the only source is rainwater. Electricity and hot water are powered entirely by solar energy. A woodfire heats the house with wood collected from the land. Food scraps are turned into compost chicken feed, which in return provide eggs for breakfast. And in the evening, the property turns into a real sanctuary where kangaroos and parrots do not hesitate to approach the house in search of food. One might think that certain comforts need to be sacrificed to enjoy these aspects of nature, but this is not the case. The experience re-connects you to human values ​​that urban life sometimes takes away. It is relaxing for the body, mind and soul!

Tilba Valley Wines

iPhoneography Oz likes going off the beaten track. This is a great way to travel and discover places that we did not suspect the existence of. Tilba Valley Wines, a winery located on the heights of Narooma, belongs in this category. The vineyard does not even have a road sign to indicate its presence. Peter, the owner, could tell you more about this. That said it was with pleasure that we discovered his hidden treasure. Peter is the master of all at the vineyard. Originally from London, his story could easily be made into a movie. After the traditional wine tasting, we recommend that you sit on the shady terrace of the restaurant for a taste of some true home style cooking. The dishes, some are French-inspired, are cooked by Peter himself. We were particularly charmed by the coq-au-vin (photo) and Baileys Crème Brûlée. A delight! This is not the Hunter Valley, but the family management maintains the authenticity of the place. We like it!

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Tilba Valley Wines.


If you become tired of the pristine blue waters of Narooma, which is highly unlikely, take the boardwalk along the coast for five or six kilometres to the north and visit Dalmeny! The landscape is absolutely beautiful along the way. For camping enthusiasts, Dalmeny's campground at the end of the walk is ideally situated at the rivermouth and directly above the beach. Surfers will love it!

The Best Fish and Chips in Australia?

Tuross Boatshed & Cafe is an establishment located a few kilometres north of Narooma in the town of Tuross Head. This is the kind of unpretentious place whose reputation spreads by word of mouth. After appearing in Getaway and Alive and Cooking, two popular Australian travel and cooking shows, Tuross Boatshed & Cafe received iPhoneography Oz in its temple of Fish and Chips (photo) and seafood. Burgers are also on the menu, including the famous Meat 'Lot' Burger, the traditional Australian burger with bacon, egg, beetroot and pineapple. Divine! The reputation of the snack extends beyond Australia and we understand why! It is simple and it is good, all served on the idyllic Tuross lakeside. On site, you can hire a boat to go fishing or canoe to explore the surroundings. There is also a shop where you will find everything you need for your fishing getaway. This is definitely a place to put on your to-do list while visiting the South Coast.

Note that the Tuross Boatshed & Cafe is currently for sale. Anyone interested to take up this flourishing business on one of the most beautiful spots along the Australian coastline?

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Tuross Boatshed & Cafe.


Narooma is a quiet and undeveloped town on the coast at the southern end of New South Wales. Its coastline, and those further south of Bermagui and Mystery Bay, is perhaps one of the most beautiful places on the South Coast. At
Narooma, do not miss the view overlooking the Wagonga rivermouth and Australia Rock, a rock with a hole in it replicating the shape of Australia in a rather surprising way. During our visit we had the chance to approach a family of seals that were having a nap on the rock wall. Finally, just off the coast, is Montague Island which we did not have the chance to visit, a nature reserve where penguins, sea lions and other sea birds nest.

Kosciuszko, The Rooftop Of Australia

Mount Kosciuszko (far left in photo), with a height of 2,228 metres above sea level, is the highest point of Australia. It is located in the Snowy Mountains southwest of Canberra. The summit is not particularly difficult to climb, if you are willing to walk a bit. From the ski resort of Thredbo, you can take the chairlift which deposits hikers at six kilometers from the summit. There is also the option to start the hike from the bottom of the slopes. At iPhoneography Oz we are proud to say we chose the second option, a hike of 22 kilometres round trip for a total of six hours (including breaks). The first part to the top of the chairlift is steep and rather difficult. However the last six kilometres are easier. The trail to the summit is a raised mesh walkway. This is not very aesthetic and natural but it prevents erosion and protects the native vegetation, much of which is reported to be rare. Anyway you are advised not to backtrack from the Mount Kosciuszko Lookout located two kilometers after the top of the chairlift. The feeling of self accomplishment, once the peak is reached, is worth to walk the last four kilometres. During our visit, an icy wind blew across the ridges. Cover yourself!

The Snowies

The Snowy Mountains are the highest mountains in Australia whose summit, Mount Kosciuszko, is 2,228 metres above sea level. They are located south of Canberra, on the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria. They are considered to be the Australian Alps and are home to four ski resorts. During our stay, we had the pleasure of driving through the first snowstorm of the year. This alpine climate is relatively rare in Australia! That said, do not expect forests of spruce and larch, but rather mountains of eucalyptus trees. The region is home to many species of rare or endangered plants and animals. Driving from Canberra, the view of Lake Jindabyne is exceptional (photo). For your information, the Snowy Mountains Wikipedia page is very well referenced and we invite you to visit it to learn more about The Snowies.

This photo is part of the Weekend Hashtag Project, a series featuring designated themes & hashtags chosen every week by Instagram’s Community Team. The theme of the week is: #twoofakind.

Fit n Fast Belconnen

Under the partnership between Fit n Fast and iPhoneography Oz, we were able to try the facilities at Fit n Fast Belconnen during our stay in Canberra. As in our previous visits (Newcastle, Sydney), a trend continues: comfort generated by the cleanliness of the premises, pristine condition of the equipment and the friendliest of staff. At Fit n Fast Belconnen, the gym is adjacent to Westfield Belconnen Shopping Centre where you can use the car park (3 hours free). Once again, the size of the gym provides access to a maximum amount of equipment and machines without having to wait. No more excuses not to keep fit!

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Fit n Fast.

The Best Sunset In Canberra

A cruise on Lake Burley Griffin is an original way to discover Canberra. Mount Ainslie Lookout meanwhile offers an excellent 360 degree view of the city and its surroundings. It peaks at about 900 metres above sea level and is easily accessible by car or on foot. Cyclists can also enjoy a climb of a few kilometres (the road surface is in excellent condition). At the summit, we met some kangaroos and... photographers capturing what might be the best sunset in the city (photo).

Lake Burley Griffin Cruises

Climbing aboard a boat on Lake Burley Griffin is a great way to "visit" Canberra. Jim, the captain and owner of Lake Burley Griffin Cruises took us in a one-hour cruise around the lake. Above all, know that Jim is quite a character (in the best way possible). Spend an hour in his company and learn a lot about the history of Canberra and the immediate surroundings of the lake. If the sun is shining, the experience is even better and the colours are stunning. Jim's aim is "to provide a memorable experience and engender a positive image of the Nation's Capital" which is successfully achieved. iPhoneography Oz can vouch for that!

iPhoneography Oz was a guest of Lake Burley Griffin Cruises.

Good Reasons To Visit Canberra

Canberra is the federal capital of Australia, located between Sydney and Melbourne in the mid-lands of New South Wales. Interesting feature, the city was drawn on the plan by Walter Burley Griffin, one of the greatest American architects of the twentieth century, before any construction took place. In 2013, Canberra will celebrate its centenary. There is no real downtown, but many parks and wide avenues. This is a new city which sometimes parallels Washington D.C., Quebec City or Ottawa. Canberra's charm does not necessarily lie in the architecture of the city but rather in its museums and galleries, some of which may have a profound effect. This is particularly true of the Australian War Memorial (photo) which is also a museum displaying a detailed historical account of the various armed conflicts in which Australia has participated to date. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy erected on the lawns of Old Parliament House is an interesting visit, even though it is by no means a tourist monument. Meeting and talking with an Indigenous Australian is an emotional moment that opens our eyes to the lack of recognition from the Australian government towards Aboriginals.

Batemans Bay

After a detour inland to the Kangaroo Valley, we are back on the southern end of the Grand Pacific Drive. Batemans Bay is a charming town at the mouth of the Clyde River. The main activities of the region are obviously revolved around the ocean (including deep sea fishing). There are also beautiful beaches to discover around the city. Walking on the beach at sunrise in Batehaven is most refreshing. It would be better to stay during off peak season to avoid the swarm of tourists in summer from Canberra, located just two hours away. Not far to the north, it would seem that paradise lies in Jervis Bay where we find probably the whitest sand in the world. We missed it but will be returning in an upcoming visit to the area!

Kangaroo Valley

The Kangaroo Valley is located inland about an hour away from the Grand Pacific Drive. This is a gem of nature, not as imposing as the Blue Mountains but has still its charm. Greenery, mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, wild animals: all the ingredients for a relaxing day out! Though the name of the place might suggest, no kangaroos in sight during our visit. However we did come across a wombat... dead on the side of the road being eaten by maggots.