I’m a frequent visitor to Melbourne, well over a dozen times in the last decade. So much so that I do appreciate the magic of Melbourne; yet still I always learn something new and exciting. You can find great deals for hotels in Melbourne through Expedia, just another reason why I am always going back.
On my most recent visit I was drawn to a leaflet in the hotel lobby referring to free walking tours. Yes free!
They are operated as a free service since the tour guide operates on tips given at the end of the tour. So if a dozen people go on the tour and each give him $20 at the end that is not too shabby an income. It also makes the tours affordable for people of every income.
These tours have only recently come about late in 2012 based on a successful walking tour based in Sydney.
The tours are for 3 hours which does include a ten minute break for you to replenish with drinks and snacks. Tours operate every single day, come rain or shine and you get plenty of both in Melbourne.
I joined our tour guide, Matthew at the meeting point of the Sir Redmond Berry statue outside the State Library of Victoria for 10:30am. This is on 328 Swanston Street, near the corner with Lt Lonsdale Street.
Our tour guide was easy to find as he had a green t-shirt on which had the company logo on.
The tour was very enjoyable and highly informative. I learnt a lot of new things which helped me to appreciate Melbourne even more.
For a start we learnt a little bit about Sir Redmond Berry who set up the State Library of Victoria, one of the first free public libraries in the world. It also helped Melbourne to be named one of only five UNESCO Cities of Literature.
We then ventured up to the Old Melbourne Gaol which amongst other things was the place of execution for the infamous Ned Kelly. For those who know little of Ned Kelly, whilst he was an outlaw he was maybe viewed as an Australian version of Robin Hood. He robbed numerous banks but also burnt mortgage deeds he found during his robberies, so effectively freeing many people of their mortgage debt. After a famous shoot out, he was caught, tried then hung in November 1880.
We then moved onto see a monument to the eight-hour movement. Melbourne was very pro-active and successful in pushing for the working day being broken into three 8 hour segments – work, play and rest.
Following this we headed to one of many gardens or green areas in the city, the lovely Carlton Gardens. Our tour guide from I’m Free also explained how card like circles are placed around trees to stop possums climbing and damaging the trees.
At the end of Carlton Gardens we came across the beautiful Royal Exhibition Building. Unfortunately some renovation work was taking place during our visit. I have seen it before though in all its glory.
The three-hour tour included many interesting and unique aspects which helps any frequent or infrequent visitor.
Matt explained the rather unusual hook turn rule within the CBD (Central Business District). Australia sees people driving on the left hand side of the road. Within the Melbourne CBD at many junctions you have to pull over further to the left to make a right turn. Effectively you wait for all traffic to clear and trams before you make a safe turn. This can be quite confusing for a visitor to the city and it certainly took a while for me to get the hang of it.
We explored the likes of Hosiery Lane and others where there is a wealth of street art or otherwise known as graffiti. Matt explained that some buildings apply to keep the graffiti on their walls as it is so artistic and striking.
The I’m Free tour also included explanations of famous people in the history of the city and it’s founders. Famous names included Bourke, Swanston, Flinders and Batman. Yes Melbourne has its own Batman who was one of the city’s founders.
We also explored the little side streets and shopping precincts with a history of how they developed to help Melbourne become the fashion capital of Australia.
I also found of interest the half price ticket office for the theatre and shows, located on Swanston Street. There is also the tale of the Princes Bridge over the Yarra River. Apparently Houdini performed one of his death-defying escapes after jumping from this bridge.
The tour itself was very relaxed without any high pressure selling or begging for tips. Matthew was very likeable and made a point of greeting and chatting with everyone in a comfortable manner.
I was very happy to offer up my voluntary tip at the end of the tour and think he deserved it.
To learn more about the walking tours in Melbourne or Sydney why not visit the I’m Free website. (I have no affiliation with this website and am offering my free review).
You can read more of my Magic of Melbourne stories by clicking the links below:-