After a month of road-tripping around New Zealand, staying in a new place every 1-3 nights, we emphatically settled into our apartment in Melbourne. We’d have nearly five weeks to explore the city, build routines, and live like locals.
Within our first few days, we’d filled our fridge with fresh produce and tupperwares of home-cooked left-overs. We’d rented bikes for the month and picked up metro cards so we could get around, enjoy the sunshine, and avoid the hassle of a car. We’d sought out our neighborhood haunts — the best playground within walking distance, the smoothest streets for toddler scootering, the coffee shop that opened early — and lined up a collection of less regular activities like boating down the Yarra River and attending an Aussie Rules Football match. We quickly fell in love with the city’s warmth, verve, and greenery.
About halfway through our stay, we were ready to take local life to the next level, exploring what Victoria had to offer outside of Melbourne itself. But to do that, we had to take a few steps to unlock day trips with ease.
What we’d done in the past
We’d come to a similar juncture while visiting other cities across Europe and Central America, and had a few day-tripping strategies we were comfortable with. Amsterdam, for example, was incredibly easy: the Dutch train network was inexpensive, efficient, bike-friendly, and wide-reaching. In Barcelona, we sent one parent to the car rental agency about 45 minutes from the historic center to then come back and pick up the others. In Mexico, we took buses and hired a car service for different trips.
At the end of the day, each of these strategies worked by enabling us to explore freely and safely with our toddler. The biggest variance was around convenience and cost.
What we did this time
In Melbourne, we started by considering some of these prior options. While the train and tram network within the city was fabulous, it wouldn’t take us into nature as we desired. While there were car-rental agencies around the city, many were far from us and had expensive fees for car seats. Car services and bus lines were costly or unavailable.
So we got a bit creative, deciding we needed two things: a car and a car seat. For the car, we tried something new and looked into car-share apps. We ultimately downloaded Turo and found a car about 15 minutes from us. The app afforded us a lot of flexibility with pick-up and drop-off times, and plenty of options for cars around the city.
Next, before we could hop in our rental, we had to sort out a car seat. I started by looking up baby gear rental agencies, but found the prices a bit steep. I next went to Facebook Marketplace, and that’s where I scored: I was able to find a family right around the corner who was getting rid of their car seat for free, as their kids had outgrown the model. It was a great fit for our son, and was a solution we’d be able to use for as many trips as we wanted over the month.
Together, Turo and Marketplace gave us the gift of freedom — we started lining up trips, knowing we were just a few clicks away from hitting the road.
Where we went
I couldn’t end this post without gushing about our first trip to Phillip Island, just under 2 hours outside of Melbourne. The island boasts beautiful beaches and incredible wildlife. We drove out during my son’s nap, arriving in the early afternoon. We started our visit at the Koala Reserve, where we admired the furry marsupials from raised platforms in the trees. We also spotted wallabies and various birds exploring the area.
After dinner, we visited the Penguin Parade, just as the sun set. Over 1000 tiny penguins emerged from the ocean and made their way up the beach to their sandy nests.
The long day ended with a drive back to the city around 10pm, with our toddler conked out in the backseat. We dropped the car, brought the car seat inside, and started dreaming up our next mini getaway.
What my son wore for our day trip to Phillip Island: it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit as we left Melbourne, so he wore an Original Adventure T-shirt for the first chunk of the day. As it cooled down at the Penguin Parade, we layered on a Seawool Flannel.