Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published May 12th 2012
A bit bored with the usual tourist attractions in Melbourne? Feeling like you've 'been there, done that'? For the days when you just feel like doing something totally random and discovering something quirky and entirely useless, and which will stand you in good stead for Trivia Nights in any Melbourne Pub, here's my pick of slightly wacky things to go and visit:
1. The Mad Max Car Park at Melbourne University
Tucked away under the grand lawns of Melbourne University, at the end of Professors Walk, is possibly the most over-the-top car park you will see anywhere, anytime. It's actually listed with the National Trust and its vaulted gothic interior was the setting for a famous Mad Max car chase scene.
2. The Lava Bubble, Williamstown Who knew that Melbourne has one of the rarest geological phenomena in the world just on our doorsteps? The 2m lava blister, hidden amongst the rocks and saltbush on the edge of the beach at Pt Gellibrand was formed when a huge bubble of magma formed as it slowly cooled. It is one of only very few known of globally, but is fitting given that Melbourne is built on the third largest lava plain in the world.
3. The Fairy Tree & Model Tudor Village, Fitzroy Gardens The beautiful Fairy Tree in Fitzroy Gardens, is an absolute must-see for anyone under the age of 90. It was carved in the 1930's by Ola Cohn, as a gift for the city's children. It sits beside a scale model of a Tudor Village, a somewhat bizarre sight for an Australian city, though widely loved by Melbourne's kids, which was presented to the people of Melbourne from the people of South London as thanks for the food parcels which were sent there during the war.
The old morgue in Ann Street, Williamstown, is a fairly nondescript little bluestone building, with a grizzly history. Melbourne's first morgue, it provided a place for autopsies which were previously performed in the local Williamstown pubs, and which patrons and publicans found dampened their thirst. First built on the end of Gem Pier, tourists also found it a little confronting so it was relocated here to be out-of-sight-out-of-mind.
5. Wunderkammer Shop, City A wunderkammer is German for 'cabinet of curiosities', and this weird and fascinating shop at 439 Lonsdale Street certainly lives up to its name. It is filled with stuffed dead things, medical instruments, maps, steam engines, storm glasses, kaleidoscopes, butterflies, scorpions, skeletons, fossils - think gothic horror film set design and you are there.
Cabinet of Curiosities, Wunderkammer (c) Wunderkammer
6. The Honey Bees, South Bank
When you are next wandering across the Yarra River from Flinders Street to Southbank, take Travellers Bridge and look up! On top of one of the ubiquitous Southbank modern buildings, you will find some quirky giant golden honey bees. We love architects with a sense of humour.
7. A Retirement Village for Champion Racehorses at Woodlands
We take our racing seriously in Melbourne, as anyone who been to the Melbourne Cup can attest. In fact, we even have a posh retirement village for our racehorses, known aptly as Living Legends. Located at Woodlands Historic Park Homestead, near Tullamarine Airport, its the place to go to have a chat with crowd favourite, Rogan Josh, Fields of Omar (Foo for short) and fellow legends of the track.
Rogan Josh (c) Living Legends
8. Gilligans Island, Sugarloaf Reservoir
OK, so if on reading this, you have that annoying song ("...a three hour tour...") going around in your head, and you were a fan of that eccentric 60's TV shipwreck sitcom starring Gilligan, the Skipper, the Professor, Ginger, Mary Ann, Thurston Howell the Third and his wife, Lovey, you better pop up to Sugarloaf Reservoir near Christmas Hills, and see Gilligan's Island for yourself. Don't expect to see the SS Minnow though - on a quiet day you may see mobs of kangaroos grazing instead.
Gilligans Island, Sugarloaf Reservoir (c) JP Mundy
9.Burke and Wills starting line, Royal Park
In Royal Park, just past the Zoo, is a rugged memorial cairn to explorers, Burke and Wills. It marks the departure point of their ill-fated 1860 expedition to cross Australia from south to north. Some 15,000 Melburnains were there to wave them off, but sadly could not welcome them back, as they both perished on their return journey.
10. A Cow in a Tree, Docklands
Well, only in Australia are you likely to see a Cow In a Tree, it's true. Or not entirely true, as this wacky 8m high sculpture by Australian John Kelly, was first exhibited to international acclaim in Paris. The artwork which is now permanently in Docklands, commemorates a moment during some big floods in Gippsland when, indeed, a cow was in fact stuck up a tree. Enough said.
John Kelly, 'Cow In a Tree', Docklands (c) JP Mundy
Oh my gods, thankyou so much! I've got two days in Melbourne, and I'm not going to waste them - and by that I mean I'm going to the Wunderkammer Shop ASAP, because I've always wanted a taxidermy specimen. Heh.