Melbourne, where I was born and bred, sits on Port Phillip, a giant natural bay. Like many natives of the city, I grew up very comfortable around water, having spent most of my summers on the beach. My two passions are first, sailing; second, scuba diving. There is nothing that can quite de-stress me like sailing for a few hours after a particularly busy day at work. In a way, I have the best of both worlds – if it is too windy to sail, I go diving; I get to be on and underwater.
For the last seven years, I was working in Singapore. I only recently returned to take on the twin positions of Residence Manager, Citadines on Bourke Melbourne and Director Revenue Management The Ascott Limited. It feels good to be home because I can enjoy all the water sports the city has to offer once again. Melbourne is truly the perfect destination if you want sun, sand and surf on your holiday.
Test the Waters (and Your Skills)
If you have tried the usual water sports and are looking for something more out-of-the-ordinary for your Melbourne experience, St Kilda Beach is the place for you. Just a 15 to 20-minute tram ride (No 96) from Citadines on Bourke Melbourne, the city’s most famous beach stretches 700 metres along the St Kilda Esplanade and Jacka Boulevard between the St Kilda Marina and the St Kilda Habour.
Here, you can kite surf. This sport is exactly as its name suggests – surfing with a kite attached to your board, except the kites used in this instance are power kites much like those used in paragliding. Kite surfing, then, is more liberating than windsurfing because you do not have a huge sail blocking you, and more powerful than surfing because you are harnessing both the powers of the wind and the waves.
Another water sport on this beach that will thrill adventure-seekers is stand up paddle boarding. Originating in Hawaii, it basically involved using a paddle while standing on a surf board. It began as a way of allowing surfers to paddle further out to sea and has since evolved into a sport in its own right. You can sign up for lessons on St Kilda Beach and create waves in Melbourne!
If bird watching is a sport, this next activity may be considered one, too – penguin watching. The breakwater which shelters St Kilda Harbour is host to a Little Penguin (also known as Fairy Penguins in Australia) colony. These smallest of the penguin family are most plentiful during summer and the best time to catch sight of them is just after sunset.
For surfing, take the hour-and-a-half to two-hour drive to the Great Ocean Road. There are beaches all along the 243-kilometre stretch, with the most popular ones being Torquay, Barwon Heads and Lorne. The road hugging the rugged Victorian coastline is an Australian Natural Heritage built by soldiers who had returned from World War I in memory of their compatriots killed during the war; and is the world’s largest war memorial. If you want a real challenge, though, head about an hour’s drive out of the city centre for the Gunnamatta, Portsea, Sorrento and Rye back beaches. The surfs on there come in from Bass Strait, considered one of the world’s most dangerous stretches of water.
If you cannot dive but want to have an underwater encounter, the Melbourne Aquarium’s Shark Dive Xtreme is the place for you. You can plunge inside the 2.2-million litre Oceanarium with a qualified instructor as your guide and come face-to-face with a shark and other creatures of the deep.
Treasures of the Water
With so much water around, seafood is naturally in abundance in Melbourne. Fish and chips is my standard go-to seafood choice and there are lots of fish and chips shops all over Melbourne. Hunky Dory in Bay Street, Port Melbourne is a fish and burger bar that I like to go to. There are lots to choose from by way of types of fish: Flake, Dory, Blue Grenadier, Baramundi and King George Whiting. You can also have your fried fish with other seafood items like calamari rings, prawn cutlets, and seafood sticks.
At St Kilda, I like to go to Claypots Seafood & Wine on Barkly Street. Their seafood is always fresh and prepared imaginatively with hints of Asian influence. They are famous for their Chilli Crab which is nothing like the Singapore version that comes with a thick gravy. This Chilli Crab has no tomato sauce at all and is not the least bit spicy. Instead, it is dry fried with just a little trace of sauce. The King Garlic Prawns drips with juicy goodness. Do not forget to sop up the sauce with the hunks of bread that comes with the dish. Of course, you have to try their claypots. There are four kinds to choose from: Malay, which comes with sticky rice, stingray, fish fillets and mussels in a laksa gravy; Moroccan, which has couscous, eggplant and chickpeas with the same seafood; Cajun, which is gumbo with okra, tomatoes, sticky rice and the seafood; and Kerela, which is spiced up with tamarind, coriander, garam masala and dried shrimps.
For those who enjoy being close to water, Melbourne offers endless options whether it is in fun or food. The next time you want a vacation that is wet, wild and wonderful, meet me in Melbourne.
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