Greetings from Australia!

Greetings from Australia! I’ve been here for something like four days (I say “something like” because the time travel thing that happens when you cross the International Date Line is still confusing me), and I just love it.

Anne and I are in Melbourne, which I’ve found to be an absoulutely wonderful city. My sample size is very small, but every Australian I’ve encountered since I’ve been here has been friendly, kind, and generally awesome. The food is fantastic, and the city itself is beautiful.

When I’m not rehearsing for Thursday’s performance at the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Anne and I have been exploring the city. Yesterday, we made music by dancing around in front of a giant theremin, walked up and down about a dozen alleys (I think they call them “laneways” or something like that, here) that were covered with all sorts of gorgeous street art, and ate a pizza that was covered with nutella, strawberries, and slivered almonds. If you’d told me three days ago that I would eat that on purpose, I would have told you that you were crazy. If you’d bet me a million dollars that I’d actually enjoy it, I’d now be in your debt for the rest of my life.

So, yanno, build the time machine, meet me in Melbourne last Sunday, and start planning to make enough money from me to fund the construction of your time machine.

Hey, did I ever tell you about the time I helped build that time machine?

Restaurants I’ve fallen in love with: Cookie in the central business district, and The Local Taphouse in St. Kilda. Food I’ve fallen in love with: all of it, especially baked beans on toast for breakfast. And even though Anne wants to kill Vegemite with fire, I’m starting to like a thin smear of it on toast with honey or marmalade.

In case you’re here in Melbourne: come to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on Thursday for Video Games Unplugged: Symphony of Legends. It’s going to be amazing. Then, come to Supanova this weekend!

The weather has been nasty and cold, but it’s supposed to start turning around today, just in time for us to go to Brisbane on Monday. I’m super excited to have a few days to myself on the Gold Coast before Supanova happens there, a week from Saturday.

… I just realized that I haven’t yet listened to Men At Work or INXS in the original Australian, so I think I should go do that before I go to rehearsal.

Question for Locals (in Melbourne and Gold Coast): Can you suggest a “must see”, “must do” and warn me off of “not worth your time” activities? Anne and I like to get away from touristy things and find places that locals enjoy.

123 thoughts on “Greetings from Australia!”

  1. The weather in Brissy is slightly windy but beautiful at the moment.
    Many of my recommendations have been said already but I will second:
    Currumbin (GC) or Lone Pine (Bris) to meet some animals up close
    Mt Tamborine for scenic stuff
    There is a Belgian Beer Cafe in Brisbane as well as Melbourne
    Southbank in Brisbane is nice to wander around
    Stay away from Surfers

  2. Patriotic pride is overwhelming me, sending lots of anxiety attacks – crikey I hope the Wheatons have a wonderful time in Australia – please please please. It’s strange the need for us to have you enjoy yourself when you visit a particular country…I mean we’re all as rude, ignorant, selfish whatever I suppose so the odds are you’re going to encounter something that isn’t perfect, but geez I hope it is – perfect I mean. So silly.
    Anyway – echoing the “stay away from Surfers” mantra. Gold Coast is pretty much a huge tourist trap, but the Hinterland can be lovely.
    PS wish you’d had the chance to do Sydney – would have made it there. GC and Melbourne just too far. It’s expensive to travel interstate here πŸ˜‰ Also, Sydney = beautiful.

  3. This. My sister did all these things with me when I visited her in Melbourne in February. It was fantastic.
    One more thing: if you want to go to the Mana Bar, go to the original one in Brisbane; it is a lot smaller but there’s a good chance you’ll meet Yahtzee.

  4. This was the most amazing experience I had all month. If you only do one thing, do THIS.
    (Also – I odn’t know the Gold Coast really, but if you help yourselves to a little roadtrip down the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, you will see Koalas and Glowworms.)

  5. In Brisbane, if you’re looking for a really good restaurant that serves kangaroo, emu, crocodile and other native Australian foods, try Tukka in West End. Seriously good and tasty food and excellent Australian wines in a cute little restaurant.
    And no, I am not affiliated with the restaurant in any way, I just like to eat there and take my international guests with me.

  6. Okay melbourne here…
    My absolute favourite alley (and I call them alleys) is Heffernan La. It runs between Lt Bourke St and Lonsdale St. You can probably find it on a map easier than I can describe it. It’s *amazing* please please go. There are a whole lot of bizarre and wonderful signs and IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE I SWEAR.
    For food:
    Breakfast: hit up the belgian waffle stand near the exit of Flinders St station on Degraves St. Delicious!
    Lunch: Don Dons on Swanston St just south of Melbourne Central. They do a fabulous tofu curry and you will not get faster service anywhere on earth – it’s incredible. Grab it for takeaway and cross the road and eat on the lawns outside the State Library (assuming the weather warms up the way they claim it will!!) *OR* there are loads of wonderful cafes on Degraves St in the city!
    Dinner: check out the Moroccan Soup Bar in North Fitzroy. All Vegetarian, easy to make vegan. no physical menu (they deliver it verbally as it’s different every day). Very much an experience and (I’m told – not suited to my digestive system which basically doesn’t approve of food) super delicious! *OR* Lygon Street! That’s where the locals go for italian food. Totos is a famous one but not that great in my opinion. I’m a big fan of La Notte.
    Desert: You can’t go past Casa Del Gelato on Lygon Street (actually there are loads of great Gelati places on Lygon Street, it’s that kind of area). Delicious gelati and there are quite a number of really yummy soy-based options at Casa Del (I don’t remember if you guys are fans of dairy). My favourite flavour is Jasmine. It tastes like soap (and yet, still my favourite flavour!)

  7. For all folk that has tasted Marmite will know Vegimite is second rate. πŸ˜‰ Still, if you like beans on toast for breakfast, try putting Marmite Vegimite on that toast and then beans on top. If you find some Worcestershire sauce, sprinkle a bit of that on as well. Savoury heaven.

  8. I’m not from Australia, but I’ve just been in Melbourne recently πŸ˜‰
    I really enjoyed the Queen Victoria Market (right next to the city loop tram). It’s full of little stalls, and if you like food – there is a huge eatery πŸ˜‰

  9. Really must recommend Lygon St in Melbourne as many have above. Casa Del Gelato is the best icecream in town, and Brunettis has incredible pastries and sweets and the coffee is fan-freakin-tastic.
    If you two find yourself with a little more time up your sleeve (unlikely, I know) and can manage to get about 40 minutes out of the city, Healesville is lovely for two reasons: If you feel obligated to do the “Australia has weird animals” thing, the sanctuary has them in native habitat and is very nice, and secondly, the Innocent Bystander/White rabbit winery/brewery is down there, the food is excellent (even the vege options) and, as you’ve no doubt worked out by now, the local craft breweries down here are awesome too. If you or Anne are wine drinkers, their spread is great too, particularly the pink moscato, so popular they actually have to have it on tap.
    Transport bar in Fed Square (next to the ACMI recomended above) has generally got a 150 beers on their list, which is handy if you want to try ours, and you’d do well to drop into Little Creatures on Brunswick St or the James Squires brewhouse on Russell st.
    Finally if you’re just looking for the closest thing to a home cooked meal, the waiters club is on meyers lane, just off Burke.. it’s a dinky little place that used to be a mob hangout/taxi drivers midnight meal, but the food is lovely, everytime. Try the gnocci if they have it going.
    Finally, feel free to tweet out if you need any guides, we’re all friendly and willing to give you hand if you need it.

  10. I also recommend the Mana Bar! [
    It’s a pair of video game themed bars, the original in Brisbane, and a new larger venue in Melbourne! They have many games consoles set up, with semi-serious and casual games, and game-themed drinks (check out the website for descriptions of the drinks and games lists).

  11. The Gold Coast is pretty laid back, but it is a tourist trap. If you want to avoid the touristy areas, head up Tamborine Mountain. There’s some stunning scenery and amazing restaurants and lots of little arty crafty stores. Of course, if you REALLY want to avoid the tourists, you and Anne should stop by our place for dinner and hang with our little midgets….open invitation, seriously : )

  12. Seconding Byron Bay! (Don’t bother with Surfer’s Paradise.) And definitely seconding the Mana Bar (in Brissy. Haven’t been to the one in Melb).
    If you’re driving, I suggest taking the scenic route from Byron to Brisbane, through Springbrook. It’s a bit of a detour, but it’s utterly, utterly beautiful:,_Queensland
    Also! If you have some time once in QLD, I beg you to go to Fraser Island. It’s paradise.

  13. Glad to hear you’re enjoying your Melbourne time!
    If you’re wanting a peaceful and quiet morning, I’d reccommend going to Studley Park boathouse and bringing a loaf of bread for the ducks. Beautiful old restored boathouse, with some real vintage arcade games hidden away– the mechanical kind that use no power, only pennies. Back when Australia had pennies, which is long before any Atari.
    You’ll feel like you’re miles away from any worry — and it’s close to the city, too! Essentially a relaxing low-brow spot to wind down and they serve an amasing breakfast.
    And in the day, you could always drop in on the Games Design students at RMIT on Swanston St. Being one of them, I know those who were too poor to get to Supanova would shit themselves. Thursday all the third years are polishing their presentations for their year long games, so it’ll be a hive of activity with some (hopefully) flashy student works.
    The Exertion Lab is worth a look too, brainchild of Florian Mueller, trying his best to get some kooky games that use physical exertion out into the world.
    Some of their projects include such things as the Joggobot
    And it’s the favoured haunt of honors students and their own projects like Once Upon a Spacetime by Digitalis, which recently received Honorable mention for the Independant Games Festival in San Francisco.
    There’s a large group of us who will be heading out to see you host the Video Games Unplugged later in the evening, and we’ll be hanging around all day waiting, wishing and re-rigging our models. (Working hard, too — we SWEAR!)
    All the games rooms are a pretty casual scene, people come and go as they please working on projects, so feel free to drop in if you want to chat to a few locals and spy at the goings on of RMIT.
    The Games Labs are in Building 14, level 11 on Swanston St, between the city baths and Melbourne Central station.
    The Exertion lab is in Bowen lane behind building 14, in building 9, level 1, room 27.

  14. That sound great! Another thing I can recommend if you like to see some science stuff… At Melbourne Uni, we’re building a bionic eye – or as I like to think of it: a Visor :)

  15. Hey Wil,
    I’m born and bred in Brisbane and have lived down at the Gold Coast as well.
    Although it’s not as exciting as Melbourne (one of my favourite cities in the world), there are some memorable places to visit.
    In Brisbane:
    – Southbank is nice to wander through. It links up with the Art Gallery, Museum and Gallery of Modern Art (which I highly recommend)
    – Take a ferry or Citycat around the River. It’s a cheap experience but very relaxing
    – For a nightlife experience, the Valley is the place to go (but it gets a bit rowdy – this comment is coming from a 41 year old mind you!)
    – The city centre is nice during the day for all your shopping needs, but tends to get a little seedy at night, so be careful. Best coffee – Aromas.
    – Park Road at Milton is also kinda nice, but West End at night has a real vibe. Try The Three Monkeys for a meal or coffee – a real experience.
    At the Gold Coast:
    – A trip up to Tamborine Mountain really is delightful, like everyone else is saying. Great natural beauty, nice village atmosphere and also plenty of boutique wineries. Thoroughly recommended.
    – Go and have a look at Surfers Paradise, but it’s not really a memorable experience. The Mall is getting redeveloped at the moment, so it’s pretty messy.
    – Broadbeach has some nice restaurants and it’s literally a stone’s throw from the Convention Centre. You can either walk or get the monorail over.
    – Head down to the “Spit” area – Marina Mirage for shopping (and Max Brenner chocolate bar – yummy), fish and chips at “Peters” and go to the end for a nice walk along the jetty.
    Hope that helps – trying to get to Supanova on Saturday, but always happy to play tour guide if you need one (I’ve learnt how to unlock the chain around my ankle at my accounting firm!).
    Enjoy our beautiful country and our beautiful people!

  16. Hi Wil,
    Glad to have you here in Melbourne! Wonderful suggestions by Georgie there :)
    If you do have free time I’d strongly suggest you drop into RMIT’s Games Design corner in Building 14 Level 11, and then the whacko Exertion Games Lab in Building 9 Level 1. We may even get to play a game of Small Worlds ;D
    Other than that, you might like to check out some of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival shows. Pop Up Playground has a wonderful theatrical game of Werewolf played along with the audience that is on tomorrow, not sure if it’s appropriate timing though :(
    But yes, I look forward to seeing you at Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performance! :)
    P.S. We both have fez wearing avatars πŸ˜€ We both must be truly awesome!

  17. I know that Scott tweeted about going to Phillip Island to see the penguins – talk to him about that, it was one of my favourite things about being in the Melbourne area. There’s also a Koala Conservation Centre there too that I really enjoyed. Got within about 10 feet of a wallaby too, which was awesome. :) And I still highly recommend the Shrine of Remembrance. All touristy things, but still worth seeing IMO. I did tons of “local” stuff when I was there too, as I was staying with friends that lived in Melbourne, but the memories that stand out the most for me are of those three places, and the trip was almost exactly 5 years ago now.

  18. always start out thin with vegemite. most newbies get it confused with sweeter spreads and pile it on. rookie mistake. that’s basically like eating salt on bread lol.
    i totally forgot you were down here. i’m bummed i can’t make it on thursday [thank you crappy job!] but i’ll see you at supernova. can’t wait!

  19. I visited Melbourne a few years ago, and one of my favorite things was the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant. You catch it over by the Casino and they drive you around and feed you.
    It might be considered touristy, but it was really enjoyable. They had great vegetarian options too, as I recall.
    The other thing I enjoyed, even though it was my first time driving on the left, was driving the Great Ocean Road down to the apostles. It was stunning.

  20. Hi Wil!
    Abbotsford Convent, have breakfast/brunch there on a weekend morning in Melbourne, walk around the market and gardens, visit the Collingwood animal farm next door and walk along the river to Yarra Bend Boathouse and have tea and scones by the water. So pretty!!
    Bronwyn :)

  21. G’day, Wil
    Geez, I miss checking your blog for a few days and you sneak this in? :) Oh well. (I used to be Night Manager at the hotel Supanova stayed at last year, so if I hadn’t changed jobs I’d probably be popping a nice bottle of complimentary bubbly in your room about now :) )
    (If you are where I think you are, ask Jenny or Fotios to get you up on the roof at night. No better view of the city exists. Tell ’em Peter sent you! )
    Not much of a foodie myself, but I can recommend De Graves St for lots of great cafes. My fave is Quattro. Best Baked Beans on Toast in Melbourne!
    So far as must-do’s go I cannot let you leave Melbourne without checking out the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library. Look up and be in awe!
    I also *strongly* recommend the Shrine of Remembrance. It is quite simply the most powerfully affecting place in the city.
    Enjoy the MSO. They know how to play and how to have fun. Saw them once doing a whole show of John Williams music. They also did a show where they provided the soundtrack to a whole bunch of classic old Looney Tunes cartoons. They’re terrific.
    Enjoy Melbourne. Might see you round!

  22. Awesome suggestions… you guys are here for another fortnight right? No? Well you’ll def need to come back again to really have a good crack at everything Melbourne has to offer … James Squire Brewhouse, cnr Russell & Lt Collins Street, settle in & try as many of there beers as you like (already go to beer Amber Ale) … The Werribee Open Range Zoo is spectacular, almost like visiting Africa

  23. Right so posting to a blog from a tiny smartphone screen whilst having limited 3G coverage on a train in the city loop isn’t the easiest and for some reason logging in from a browser on a different device won’t allow me to modify my entry above *tech sigh*… comment should have said (already mentioned to Anne that my go to beer is the James Squire Amber Ale)

  24. I asked my friend from Brisbane, and she had more to say than I could probably comment here.
    Much of what she said has already been suggested, but this sounded quite fun to me.
    ” I would suggest a trip up and down the river on the CityCat, hop off at Southbank or the West End, Museum and Gallery of Modern Art are at Southbank, along with MANY excellent eating establishments.”
    It was great seeing you at ECCC, and your ninety minute panel was much to short. If you do, in fact, get a cloak of dicks, be sure to share the pictures!

  25. Beans on Toast! That’s definitely a carry over from England. You should try a dinner of Eggs(fried), Chips(fries), and Beans(baked) a typical quick dinner when I was growing up in England.
    I envy you being in Australia, from every travel show I’ve seen it’s just about perfect and has almost everything. A very beautiful country. Enjoy yourselves.
    e.p.s. I thought the 9 hour flight from England was bad, you’d have to sedate me for a 16 hour flight!!!

  26. I’m currently touristing about Melbourne as well, and while I’m with you on avoiding the general tourist hoypoloi, take 10 minutes and head into the National Gallery Victoria in Federation Square.
    It’s the Aussie-focused bit of the NGV, and while you probably don’t have time to hit much of it, on the ground floor right now is Living Water, a collection of contemporary Aboriginal art from all across Australia that is absolutely stunning. It’s free, so wander in whenever from 10am to 5pm, and prepare to be completely blown away.
    I headed in for an air-conditioned break a week or so ago when it was really warm out, and I stayed for more than 2 hours. Really, really worth seeing.
    Hope you’re able to see everything you’re keen to!

  27. Melbourne is ace! and yes, all Australians are ridiculously nice. I think it’s from all the sun they get. they’re oozing vitamin D. Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder doesn’t exist there.

  28. Hey Wil, as you’re an old space traveller, don’t forget to get to a dark site and check out the stars. Nothing will beat seeing Orion upside down for the first time.

  29. In my view, as a life-long Brisbane boy whose family and wife are from the Gold Coast…
    The Gold Coast is rather built up and tacky. A quick drive down to Northern NSW provides beaches just as lovely, but without the overwhelming numbers of tourists and skyscrapers. Byron Bay is also very tourist trappie.
    Currumbin Sanctuary is fabulous and probably the best way to spend some time with wildlife. I’ve not been for some years, but it’s the place to go.
    The hinterland (the ‘mountains’ just inland), are worth the trip. You’ll get a proper feel for our vegetation, and there’s some lovely views.
    Natural Arch (or Natural Bridge) is a first rate trip. A nice easy walk through a national park, to a waterfall that falls through a hole in the roof of a cave full of glow-worms. If you can time it for twilight, do so.
    Meanwhile in Brisbane…
    South Bank Parklands is nice to wander through, and leads to the Cultural Centre, with the Museum, the ScienCentre, The Art Gallery, the Gallery of Modern Art and the State Library, all of which are worth a visit and are mostly free. The State Library just opened a new exhibition about the flood of 2011. I can’t tell how much interest it holds for foreigners, but it’s really a wonderfully assembled combination of modern curation (Augmented Reality iPad apps etc) in context with historical pieces (a room on the great flood of 1896).
    West End is good for a morning or afternoon, as is The Valley. I love my home, but it is a small scale city. A wonderful, easy place to live, which I used to describe as ‘just the right sized pond for this little fish’. But I am often at a loss for ‘great things that tourists should do’.
    The River is a wonderful feature (and the thing that floods), and other have suggested taking a CityCat ferry. It sounds mundane, but it’s a delightful trip. South Bank to New Farm Park is probably the most convenient segment, but going further in either direction will be rewarding.
    If you have time, and you may not, you could consider a trip to Stradbroke Island. Moreton Bay is a place of great beauty, with 365 islands, and the barge to Straddie is a great trip to a remarkable place, but it’ll take at least a day.
    Lord, I just asked Wifey what she would recommend, and she’s watching your bowling episode of BBT. I had to confess I was asking What Should Wil Wheaton Do…
    Good luck to you and Anne and I hope you have a good time. I mean, you will have a good time because, hey! you’re on a working holiday in Australia and a that’s a fun thing to do (I’m sure). I hope my home and neighbours make a good impression.

  30. Men at Work? INXS? How about AC/DC? Or their big brother The Easybeats? Also, Mental As Anything, and Hunters And Collectors. No, I’m not Australian, but I do like Vegemite. I get it at the local Indian store (there used to be an Australian store in Laguna Beach, but it closed :-( )

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