I really do feel like every other day there is a new ‘independent report’ that cites Melbourne as being the world’s most liveable city. I could substantiate this with a quick Google search, but what’s more interesting to me than finding the facts is the way that Melbourne is often idealised in our minds as being that café-cultural, grid-based utopia that inter-state Australians love to visit.
Being Sydney born and based, I often look to Melbourne as not a rival city but a contemporary worthy of comparison. What it lacks when compared to our surf beaches, harbour and hustle and bustle it makes up for in interesting alternatives.
The cafes, obviously, but also the rooftop terraces and hidden restaurants make for a refreshing surprise when you visit from out of town. Similarly unique establishments would be over-crowded in Sydney, with a huge queue to get in. Experiencing them in their most fitting environment – down a Melbourne city alley way, on the top of a non-descript CBD building – is an experience which almost makes one think, oh, so this is what Sydney could be like but for some reason isn’t.
But what I think I value about Melbourne so much is how this dichotomy between the two cities creates not an unsettling sense of inter-city FOMO, but instead an accessible travel destination which feels more like a second home rather than a holiday spot.
What I can find in Melbourne is everything I love about Sydney, but almost in a completely new light.
One of my favourite places to spend time when I’m down south is along the Yarra River. The meandering nature of the waterway means that every bend is in itself a slice of tranquillity, the kind that offers something similar but entirely different (but not wholly better or worse) than a Northern Beaches headland or quiet spot on the Harbour in Sydney. A great place to take this in is at Studley Park Boathouse, one of the most historical waterfront venues in Melbourne.
In comparing the two cities, both liveable and with their own draw cards, what each provides to a resident of the other is perhaps the most charming aspect of the opposing city. When I travel to Melbourne, I love it, but I return knowing that I can appreciate the nuanced uniqueness of Sydney. It’s not a case of the grass being greener on one particular side of the state line, but instead a matter of acknowledging how lucky we are to be able to enjoy two of the world’s most liveable cities however and whenever we like.
This post was written with support from Studley Park Boathouse.