As the northern hemisphere lies in the midst of chilly and dark days, our distant neighbours in the South, or more precisely Australia, are coping with the high 80s on a regular basis. With some local recommendations of where to go from our experienced Victorian docents, Vivienne and Sara, the testing temperatures of Melbourne’s summer can be manageable. With a hat on your head, suncream applied thoroughly and an iced coffee in hand, there are many opportunities for both revelling in, and enjoying the sunshine.
1) Top of the list is a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens: the green lungs of the city. With one of the densest concentrations of tree coverage in the city, it offers a great place for those seeking shady sanctuary on a summer’s day. As larger trees emit more water into the air, the surroundings are cooler and covered from direct sunlight. The Children’s Garden is a good area to bring the kids, with a running waterway they can splash around in and a bamboo forest with a cool sandy floor. In the evenings, when the temperature drops further, the Botanic Gardens open up to spectators for entertainment, such as open-air movie screenings and plays.
2) Take a break from the heat inside the National Gallery of Victoria, the oldest public gallery in the country, to see creative Melbourne at its best. Spending time inside air-conditioned buildings, such as museums and galleries is an easy way to keep cool, yet remain entertained. The NGV is a fantastically designed space, fit with waterfall windows, colorful gardens, a stained glass roof and even a moat. Catch the impressive Andy Warhol –Ai Weiwei exhibition before it ends in April 2016. Gaining a glimpse into the repressed Chinese political art of Weiwei is an insightful and important experience whilst in Melbourne.
3) Hop on the iconic No. 96 tram from Bourke Street and roll down to St. Kilda. Here you will find an extensive beach and a pier with a characterful Victorian-era pavilion at the end, housing a small cafe and an observation deck. The pier was first constructed as a wooden jetty back 1853 to help early settlers deliver building materials and timber to St. Kilda. Although the original structure has long been replaced with a concrete sibling, it’s an interesting place to wander and see a panorama of Melbourne’s skyline. Avoiding St. Kilda and the beach during the day is advised as there is little natural shade. Visit at dusk, when the sun is setting and the temperature is cooler.
4) For the more adventurous, wake up early to avoid the crowds and in the air-conditioned safety of your car, drive out to the south west of the city along the Great Ocean Road until you reach The Twelve Apostles. These are a grouping of natural rock stacks, hugging the golden coast and easily viewable from the cliff edge. Originally there were 12 of these spectacular limestone rocks; now, only eight remain due to natural erosion. The four-hour drive in itself to the golden craggy cliffs should be added to your agenda as the scenery is ever changing and offers a stunning highlight of the area. Even on a hot summer’s day this is a manageable activity, as the majority of your trip will be spent admiring fantastic views from the haven of your cool vehicle.
5) If the Botanical Gardens are the lungs of the city, the breezy Yarra River could be the main artery of Melbourne. The Yarra runs through some of the most interesting suburbs of the city. Much of the riverbank is in shade from both tall city buildings and shady trees, so strolling or cycling along it is a peaceful and picturesque way to wonder at the attractive backdrop of Melbourne. Catch a river punt from Como Landing and explore Herring Island, an isle with sculptures, walking trails, indigenous vegetation and a wealth of birds.