Melbourne, more than most cities, has numbers of hidden gems that only the locals know about (and not too many locals at that). These are places where you will rarely see a backpacker or mainstream tourist, because they are not listed in the popular tourist literature, the backpacker guides or on the web. The locals like it that way. After all if a place is promoted on a television program, listed in tourist guide or brochures or visited by regular tours then only they are obviously not 'secret' or 'hidden' and only the most gullible will believe that they are. And of course anything you find on the internet is neither 'hidden' nor 'secret'.
Some of Melbourne's Hidden Gems detailed in our newsletters have included:
For that reason we are not about to list them here. However we occasionally will surprise people on one of tours by making an unscheduled detour to visit one of these hidden gems. In respect to the owners and patrons of these places and in the interests of sustainable tourism (sustainable tourism is not just something that applies to the natural environment - responsible organisations also apply it to the cultural environment). we try to keep these places as hidden gems and only occasionally drop in on any particular one if we judge the group we have is appropriate.
We also usually mention at least one of them each week in our newsletter,
"Thanks for the great information you share with us, and the giggles we all have .
Keep up the fantastic work.
I have been able to point interstate visitors to several hidden gems recently, which I would never have known about myself, if not for this newsletter."
24 July 2003
Some hidden gems which have appeared in our newsletters can be found at:
- The White Hat Guide to 7 Monuments of Melbourne
- The White Hat Guide to 7 Bridges of Melbourne
- The White Hat Guide to 7 Murals of Melbourne
- The White Hat Guide to 7 Mansions of Melbourne
- A series of photos and videos where we ask what/where/why is it?
Many people walk through and past hidden gems in Melbourne without realising it. Many buildings and places have fascinating stories behind them that bring them to life and most of these stories aren't available in guide books or on the internet. Thus visitors often spend many hundreds of dollars travelling to Melbourne and then spend their time walking past or through invisible hidden gems without realising it because they don't want to spend $20 for a tour guide who could reveal the secrets. We often see locals wandering through Melbourne General Cemetery straight past numbers remarkable monuments holding important secrets because they don't want to spend $15 on a guided tour. These people are truly "sightseers" - they see sights without understating them or becoming involved with them.
Apart from the 'public' and 'invisible' hidden gems there are numbers of remarkable 'private' hidden gems. These are places like private homes, "off-limits" sections of public buildings, private clubs, 'protected' sites, corporate boardrooms and places which require security clearances, safety accreditation or high level 'letters of introduction'. As a result, these places are for invited guests only and many have specific dress and behaviour codes. If you receive an invitation to one of these private hidden gems we thoroughly recommend that you take it.
Some of the hidden gems of Melbourne are disappearing - see for instance Melbourne's Disappearing Hidden Gems from our Melbourne newsletter No.151. Fortunately, other different ones appear to take their place.
Melbourne also has a number of faded gems - places that were once important or 'must-see' but are now sad reflections of what they once were. Such places are often recommended but locals who "don't get into town much any more" and by popular travel guide books whose writers find it easier to recycle old recommendations. Such places often hold fond memories for locals but really have little to offer the current day visitor. Some of these faded gems include:
- 'Under the Clocks' - the clocks at Flinders Street Station showing train departure times were for many years a favourite designated meeting place for Melbournians - "I'll meet you under the clocks at 7 o'clock". Those times have long gone and not too many Melbournians would feel comfortable waiting in the environment of anti-social behaviour and foul language that has become associated with that place in recent years. However it still has fond memories for many locals, even if they choose to meet up elsewhere.
- Certain Melbourne pubs - a number of iconic Melbourne pubs have changed their nature and are no longer the 'must-visit' venues they once were. See some examples. Never mind - while some places fade in significance, others are quietly creating a pedigree that make them the new gems.
- The City Square. The City Square has never really taken off. It has had several complete redesigns but has never captured the public imagination or functioned nearly as well as a space for public events as does Federation Square and its associated park Birrarung Marr. As a result the City Square has really become the forecourt to the rather ugly hotel behind it with its main usage being as the outdoor section of the local Starbucks franchise. Still, major backpacker guides list it as a 'must-see' so we suppose you had better go along and see it.
- Overexposed places. There are numbers of places which were gems but after exposure in the mainstream guides, the locals (who gave them their flavour) moved elsewhere due to the influx of tourists and backpackers. At these faded gems you won't see any locals - just numbers of visitors clutching the Lonely Planet Guide and staring at each other.