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Melbourne is known as the cultural capital of Australia, and a trip to this European-styled city of the Southern Hemisphere won’t disprove this label. Complete with a tram system, the grid-layout streets of Melbourne are easy to explore. Beyond the city, coastal routes and antipodean bush await on the doorstep, yearning to be discovered. Car hire is made convenient with a huge choice of firms and competitive prices offered, and getting out the city is easy using one of the connecting arterial motorways.
Who to Book With
Melbourne is a big city and there are hundreds of places to rent vehicles all over town. There are many depots located centrally on Franklin Street, including the top companies of Avis, Budget and Hertz. To get the best deal and the widest choice of vehicles, it is recommended that you book in advance.
Best Time to Go
Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere so the seasons are reversed from those in the UK. The Christmas period is a nice time to visit, although this time coincides with the Australian school holidays so touristy places get crowded. Spring provides pleasant weather for vehicle touring.
Need to Know Essentials
To pick up your rental car, you must provide the following documents:
- An English language driving licence or an International Driving Permit
- A certified photo ID, such as your passport
- Details of payment from when you made the booking
- Printed booking confirmation
Watch out if you need to share the road with a tram, in which case you need to give right of way, including the infamous ‘hook turn’, a Melbourne speciality. If you are turning right, get into the left lane! Wait in the holding bay then when the traffic lights turn red, cut right. It is a simple manoeuvre to master, although if you feel nervous then it is best to avoid driving on tram routes.
Getting out of the city and hitting the wide open country couldn’t be easier. The M1 motorway runs right through the city centre. Heading west on the M1 crosses the famous Westgate Bridge for routes to the Great Ocean Road. To get to Sydney, head north out of the city for the M31, which takes you to the Grampians. The M3 motorway provides passage to Mornington Peninsula.
Melbourne has a good public transport system, but for a city of its size, the capacity of the network is inadequate. The trams that run on certain routes are useful, but if your destination is nowhere near a tram or train stop then these routes become useless. Bus travel is another option, but most people choose private vehicles as Melbourne is a driveable city.
Melbourne has an integrated public transport system called Metlink, also known as PTV. The days of paper tickets are gone, and to travel on the systems of trains, trams and buses you will need to use a rechargeable Myki card. Ensure you ‘touch on’ and ‘touch off’ at the start and end of your journey to avoid incurring a fine.
Trains and Trams
Melbourne has a suburban rail system that spiders out of the city centre and around the CBD the trains connect to a loop. Unfortunately, the system is barely adequate for a city of Melbourne’s size, although some station and track improvements are underway.
A great asset of Melbourne is the trams. However, like the heavy rail system they are only useful if you are going somewhere along the route. You can check the network map here. To use both trains and trams you need to pay for your journey with a Myki ticket.
Buses travel along popular transport corridors through significant traffic at most times of the day. Bus travel is not that cheap and travelling around the eastern suburbs can be confusing, and the stops are few and far between.
There are plenty of taxis all over Melbourne. All run on a meter and are yellow saloon cars. There are several taxi ranks in the CBD as well as at the airport. Otherwise, you will need to book a taxi to come and collect you. Taxis are grossly expensive in comparison to the price of petrol in Australia and in comparison to public transport fares. You can call Silvertop Taxis for a quote on 131 008.
Melbourne itself is a wonderful city to visit, yet it cannot be denied that the city lies in one of the best spots for road touring in the country. Easy-to-get-to and scenic routes await at just about every possible road out of Melbourne. The two most famous include the Great Ocean Road coastal route and the passage into the wildlife-filled bush where it is easy to spot a kangaroo or koala in its natural habitat.
The Great Ocean Road - This is a coastal touring route that is great in name but also in magnificence. Heading west out of Melbourne on the M1 motorway, take the B100 at Geelong, which turns into the Great Ocean Road. Continue to the 12 Apostles for inspiring views at sunset over the cliffs.
The Mornington Peninsula - This is accessed by heading east out of the city. It provides more spectacular coastal scenery. Most of the coast here is protected as national parkland and therefore offers beautiful scenery and popular surf spots. Take the M3 motorway out of Melbourne for an hour. A toll is payable on this road.
The Grampians - This is a mountain chain that forms part of the larger Great Dividing Range, the peaks of which run all around the eastern coast of Australia to the top of the continent. At the Grampians, the mountains take on their own shape, with craggy rocks and majestic views. A popular stop-off is Mount Zero to view the olive groves and kangaroos.