Melbourne: The Toronto of the Southern Hemisphere

A few weeks ago, my guy and I headed south to the lovely state of Victoria to take in all the sights and sounds of its capital city, Melbourne. We’d been to other states like Cairns (Queensland), Sydney (New South Wales), and Perth (Western Australia) but we always heard from others, locals and expats alike, to visit Melbourne. So last Australia Day, we set out to spend the long weekend and explore the city, which turned out to be one of my favourite places in Australia.

Here’s a photo of the Crown Casino’s hourly fire show. Yes, this happens hourly outside the complex.

Hourly fire show at Melbourne's Crown Casino

Hourly fire show at Melbourne’s Crown Casino

Here’s why: it reminded me so much of Toronto. Am I pinning for Toronto? Completely, without a doubt. I had been back to Toronto eight months ago, and that visit only made me miss it more. The sights, sounds, smells, and even the traffic made me realize how much I had missed it over the year and a half of living abroad. It felt as though my two weeks were compressed into only a few short days and I desperately wanted to drink it all in. I would live in Melbourne without hesitation if it weren’t for the fact that we moved from Toronto to find something different. It would have been a a disappointment to make the long haul journey to Australia and end up pretty much in a city that’s eerily similar to the one we left.

Locals describe Melbourne as the European city of Australia. It’s not like Sydney, Brisbane or Perth, and definitely not like Cairns. Melbourne has a unique history and is generally known as the melting pot of Australia as many immigrants from Greece, Italy, China, and Vietnam made Melbourne their home. It’s a beautiful and welcoming city, and equally fantastic as Toronto.

Here’s my theory on why Melbourne is the Toronto of the Southern Hemisphere:

  1. Streetcars. Public transportation geeks unite! Melbourne offers a free City Circle Tram that travels around the city centre and provides a recorded message of some of the interesting points of buildings, local attractions and neighbourhoods. Yup, free. Could you see Toronto offering a service like this? In addition to the free city centre service, it was very comforting to hear the sounds of cars driving over the streetcar tracks.
    City Circle Tram

    Melbourne’s free City Circle Tram [image courtesy of onlymelbourne.com.au]

  2. It was cold. Like 17C cold when we arrived. In my opinion, that’s not normal for Australia during the summertime. People who live in Melbourne say they can go through all four seasons in a day and I completely believe them. It was like Toronto on a cool autumn day.
  3. Amazing food. Here’s where things get “European” in my opinion. Like many European cities, Melbourne has dozens of laneways and alleyways where amazing food is served day and night. That’s the only difference in terms of where you actually find food. Toronto doesn’t have the alleyway restaurant culture simply because of the weather. If Toronto had the same climate as the South of France where the only threat comes from a chilly day and potentially rain, then Toronto would all over it. Unfortunately, Toronto is faced with -32C, snow, sleet, hail and everything else that drives outdoor eating inside.
  4. Diversity. Not just for food but cultures and people. It was incredible to walk down the street and see different nationalities and cultures living in one area. Melbourne, in my opinion is the most diverse city in Australia.
  5. Gardens, boulevards, and parks. Like Toronto, Melbourne is full of green space. We’d walk past numerous parks and will the streetcars going by, the large open areas, it felt as though we were walking into High Park.

    Parliament Garden

    Parliament Gardens

If you’re ever on this side of the world and are pinning for a bit of Toronto, then head over to Melbourne for a few days. With its mixtures of cultures, from Europe, Asia and of course Australia, it’ll satisfy any craving. Bonus: no Rob Ford.

Amanda

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8 thoughts on “Melbourne: The Toronto of the Southern Hemisphere

  1. sianmelton says:

    Ohhhhhh, Melbourne was one of the cities discussed in this really cool documentary I saw last year called The Human Scale. The documentary talked about urban planning and how cities suffer from not being designed for human interaction; Melbourne and its unique alleyways were studied. It looked so amazing and beautiful!

    • I checked out a bit of the documentary and it looks really interesting. Knowing my own experience of living in Mississauga/Brampton, which I think was designed with green space in mind but with no way of getting or connecting to these areas without a car. Public transport is laughable. I’ve heard the argument before: if no one takes transit, then it can’t get the money to run more buses, trains, expand routes, etc. However if the city is designed to really only be accessible and efficient for cars, then how can we encourage people to take public transit when it almost doubles their commuting time? Are city planners making suggestions to improve or are they just re-hashing the same models? I’m going to check out the entire documentary as it would be really interesting to see how developing countries navigate change.

  2. Thanks for the chair-side travel guide to Melbourne. I think the idea of a free street car or bus in TO would be great for tourism and even for local who want to know a bit more about their city as well.

  3. Hi Amanda, great post! Really enjoying reading them! I know the feeling about longing for Toronto..you’re lucky that you found such similarities between Toronto and Melbourne. It’s not quite the same for me. Nairobi is no Toronto, but it will be soon 🙂

  4. Melbourne looks AMAZING! It’s nice that you could find a temporary place to relieve a bit of your homesickness. Despite your missing Toronto, Australia looks absolutely amazing, and I’m jealous of your bravery to move somewhere completely different and commit to this change for at least two years. Do you plan on moving back to Canada in 2014, or do you think you’ll stay a while longer?

    • Hi Tiana – We’re heading back this June! It was a completely strategic decision: avoid the cold Canadian winter and spring and head back as things are warming up and cooling off in Australia. Granted, Australian “cool” isn’t the same as Canadian “cool” but it can still get pretty darn cold. Houses don’t have insulation in Brisbane. In fact they’re designed to remove warm air. What?!?!?! I’ve never worn so many layers of wool socks here than anywhere else!

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