Outback – Roadtrip through the Red Centre | Diary 006

After a few relaxed nights in Adelaide, I went on my second group tour that led us from Adelaide over Coober Pedy, the world famous Uluru to Alice Springs in 6 days. Like on the Great Ocean Road I did this tour with Groovy Grape* and it was once more an awesome experience.

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Saturday 13/10

Saturday started early with a pickup from the hostel and meeting our tour guide Bronny and my new travel mates. We were 13 people (a couple from Germany/the US, a mom and her daughter from the US, two Asian girls, a Dutch family of three and 3 solo travellers: Charlott from Amsterdam, Stephanie from Guatemala living in Canada and Harri from Wales). We were a great group and especially with the 3 other solo travellers I got along well.

The tour started with a long drive to our first stop and was only the start to very long upcoming drives. For lunch, we stopped at a super cute vinery run by an old couple who invited us to eat on their property and enjoy the idyllic scenery of their home. We had yummy buns and once again I was super happy to get great, fresh and mostly healthy food on tour.

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Afterwards, we drove to Alligator Gorge to hike through the canyon and enjoyed the nature and the silence in the gorge.

Arriving at our campsite for the night we got ready for our first night in a swag under the stars. We had a BBQ and delicious salad for dinner and crawled into our sleeping bags next to the campfire.

Swags are basically bigger sleeping bags with a thin mattress inside and made from thicker and denser material. In the inside, you have your real sleeping bag and that was our bed on the ground under the stars for 4 of 5 nights on tour.

 

The first night in nature immediately made me fall in love with sleeping outside and I enjoyed every single night. Even when it started to rain a little bit because it is such a cool feeling and you can easily put a cape over your head.

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Sunday 14/10

On tour, we either woke up early for a sunrise hike or to start driving to get to our next destination earlier. Sunday we finally made it to “the outback”. Red sand, less vegetation and less green outside the window.

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For lunch, we stopped at a super small “town” that consists of only one roadhouse with a refill station and about seven trailers. As there was basically nothing around, we had a very windy and sandy lunch: couscous salad, green salad and sandwiches.

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In the late afternoon, we arrived in Coober Pedy and got a very informative and interesting tour through old opal mines. Afterwards, we were able to shop some pretty jewellery and I bought something for my mom. As most things were made with silver, I didn’t buy anything for me as I usually were rose gold, but I already regret it as they had very pretty rings and necklaces…

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While watching the sunset from above the hill, we ate pizza and enjoyed the view.

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Afterwards, we went to one of my highlights of the tour: visiting a kangaroo sanctuary and being able to pet and watch disabled adult kangaroos that live there, and baby kangaroos, called Joey’s, that will be released back to wild when they are big enough. It was so cute to see this little animal with its big ears and eyes.

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This night we slept in another unusual place: under the rocks. Most houses in Coober Pedy have rooms under the earth as it gets super hot here and it was very nice to sleep in a cold and very dark dorm, so I had a great night sleep.

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Monday 15/10

On Monday we had to drive the most kilometres on tour (over 600km) so we got up at 5.30 am to see the sunrise over the opal minefields and fall asleep again afterwards on the bus.

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That day, we passed the border to the Northern Territory which was basically the highlight of the day.

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We arrived at the Kings Canyon Creek Campground, where one of my favourite picture from the tour was taken. It really sums up the vibe of our tour: many sunsets and sunrises, beautiful star skies, campfires and good company.

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Tuesday 16/10

Tuesday was finally the day of less driving and more adventures and we started right away with a hike around and through the Kings Canyon.

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We got up at 4 am, jumped in our comfy clothes, had a big breakfast and drove to the beginning of the trail called ‘heart attack hill’. It is named like that because the beginning of the hike super steep and exhausting, to get on top of the canyon. From there we watched a beautiful sunrise and then hiked around and into the canyon which wasn’t that difficult anymore. We had many wonderful views over the breathtaking nature and in that park, this first hike was my favourite.

When you wake up super early every day feels like two days because you do so much. It was only 11am when we finished the walk and drove to the Ayers Rock.

 

Arriving at the Uluru our guide told us about the history of the rock and some Aboriginal stories around it and we walked a bit around the Uluru/Ayers Rock.

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For sunset we drove to the best place with the best view on the rock and had yummy cheese and crackers while admiring how the red rock changes its colours while the sun sets.

For the next/last two nights we stayed at the Uluru Campground.

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Wednesday 17/10

Another day another hike. So we got up at 4am again and drove to the famous Olgas/ Kata Tjuta. The scenery was amazing once again and on top of the mountain ranges our guide had the idea to stay completely silent for 3 minutes and just be in the moment and I really enjoyed that quiet time and it was a beautiful experience.

On our way back, I got to know Stephanie the Guatemalan girl more and we had such a fun time together. We really got along so well and I was once more amazed by how easy it is to meet likeminded people while travelling – but that’s probably because you already have one similarity: the urge to travel and adventure.

Steph invited me to come to Guatemala one day when she is there too and she would be my travel guide and show me around her favourite places and I already know, that I’ll do that for sure!

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For our last dinner together we had an amazing veggie curry with coconut milk and rice noodles (called Laksa) – a special recipe from our guide Bronny.

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We had another wonderful sunset view in the evening. This time with a view over the Olgas and the Uluru from more far away and it was gorgeous once again!

And then it was already the last night under the stars. I am already considering getting one myself at home to be able to go to beautiful places in summer and sleep outside wherever I want to…

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Sleeping under the stars was an awesome experience every night. I really enjoyed sleeping with fresh air, light wind and snuggled up into my warm sleeping bag. The matrass in the swag was comfy and it is the best feeling to fall asleep looking at the beautiful dark sky full of light stars and when you wake up at night (to go to the toilet or turn to the other side) you are amazed every single time by the beauty of nature and I could never resist smiling. Furthermore, waking up at 4 am is much easier when the first thing you see is the endless sky.

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Thursday 18/10

This day, we got up early for the last time again to see sunrise over the Uluru. Another special morning and wonderful view. We enjoyed pancakes for breakfast while watching the sun rise and it was another favourite moment on this tour for me.

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Afterwards we did the base walk around the Uluru (around 8km) which was a great and easy trail and I had time to talk and get to know my travel buddies even more.

As Alice Springs is another 5-hour drive north from the Uluru, we had a last very hot and exhausting drive, but arrived full of new memories at our final destination.

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In the evening our tour group met again at Uncle’s for burgers and waffle fries (so yummy!), beer or cider for me and playing pool, which was so much fun. Afterwards, we went to another pub and had a great night, but didn’t go home that late because we were all super tired from the eventful last days.


My days in Alice Springs

…consisted of going food shopping with my friends from the tour, writing the blog, saving pictures and editing and cooking a yummy dinner together at night. We had sweet potato spinach bowls topped with salted cashews (so so amazing!) and watched Karate Kid and talked.

Saturday and Sunday I basically did the same: went for a run, bringing postcards to the post, working and cooking dinner.

On Monday I flew to Sydney and left the red outback with hundreds of new memories, experiences and new friends.

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*Disclaimer! Just to clarify that: I got a discount for my tour with groovygrapetours, but I am obviously still 100% honest with all my reviews and thoughts!

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The Great Ocean Road Tour | Diary 004

The three days on the Great Ocean Road where an amazing experience with the best views, picture spots, lovely people, good music on the road and delicious food!

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Friday 5/10

My Friday started the earliest I ever woke up in Australia as I had to check out, grab all my belongings and walk 2km to the pickup point where my Great Ocean Road Tour with groovygrapetours started. It was pretty hard to walk for half an hour with my big backpack and my small backpack in the front and I probably couldn’t have walked for much longer as my shoulders were itching, but I made it and it was beautiful to walk through the city that early.

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On our tour, there were only eight people, all girls and five of them from Germany, two from Great Britain and one American girl. We were a pretty cool group and some of the girls love photography as well which is awesome! The American girl is even a Freelance photographer and pretty known on Instagram (@lizaherlands_). She takes manly New York, interior and food pictures and I really like her and it was super interesting to talk to her and learn a few things.

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After getting out of Melbourne the famous Ocean Drive started and we had such a wonderful view over the sea. We were super lucky with the weather as well, only a few clouds, lots of sunshine and not that much wind.

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We enjoyed the beautiful coastal drive, stopped for many viewpoints and “Insta-time’ – stops as our guide called the photo stops :D

Followed by lunch with a view over the ocean and a beach walk afterwards. We had wraps with lots of fresh greens and veggies and I was completely impressed by how much fresh food we got over the whole tour. I never ever expected the food to be this good!

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In the afternoon we stopped by a rainforest and walked through it and I really felt like in another world. Huge trees, fronds, all green and beautiful silence and bird noises.

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On time for sunset we made it to the most famous stop on the GOR – the twelve apostles. And we had a blast watching the sun drowning in the ocean water and the stones, sky and water changing colours. It was truly one of the most beautiful spectacles I ever watched in my entire life… have a look yourself:

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After this adventurous day, we had lots of pizza for dinner and fell asleep immediately.

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Saturday 6/10

Day two started early which a big breakfast (tour breakfast consists of toast, jam, chocolate spread, peanut butter, muesli & cornflakes, yoghurt and milk – I asked for vegan milk in advance which is no problem at all) to be fit for more viewpoints and looksouts.

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The Ocean Road was complete, so we had a wonderful view over sheep and cow fields, little mountains and the hinterland.

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Our tour guide luckily knew the best spot to see kangaroos very close and it was so cute to watch them eating grass. Some even had babies that looked out of their mom’s pouch.

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Afterwards we visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre of this area and drove further to a Tower Hill National Park where we saw our first koala sleeping in the tree.

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For lunch we had a burger BBQ at a public BBQ place (which is very common in Australia). I ate a burger salad which was delicious!

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Afterwards we hiked to the McKenzie Waterfall and ended our day with cooking together in our lovely cabin we stayed for the night. We had pasta with (veggie) Bolognese and roasted oven zucchini.

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Sunday 7/10

Sunday started with a very early but beautiful morning hike. I really enjoy that you go on hikes together on the tours because I love hiking and walking in nature and it is a welcome change to the sitting on the bus a lot.

The view over the mountain ranges was beautiful and it is great that you get up super early on the tours and be the first one at the lookouts, because travelling alone/privately it is very difficult to motivate yourself to get up so early.

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On day three we had a lot of driving to do and only two lookouts over the mountain ranges and at a pink lake. This was the first time for me seeing one and it is kinda funny.

For our last lunch, we had leftovers and took a long nap on our way to Adelaide.

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As a group, we decided to meet again in the afternoon at 48 flavours in Adelaide that our tour guide recommended. This Ice Cream place is worldwide known as it created the best ice cream flavour of 2017: Gorgonzola, Fig, Walnut. Sounds weird but tastes amazing. They also have lots of vegan flavours and I tested their peanut butter soy which was super creamy and delicious!

In my next Diary blog post I’ll tell you more about my time in Adelaide!

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*Disclaimer! Just to clarify that: I got a discount for my tour with groovygrapetours, but I am obviously still 100% honest with all my reviews and thoughts!

Melbourne Travel Guide – Things to Do, See & Eat

My first destination in Australia now got my new favourite city in the world. Being overwhelmed at first and feeling uncomfortable, I fell in love more and more day by day and now I am already excited to go back.

Besides the wonderful cafés, pubs, shops and sights obviously the people I met there are a huge reason for my Melbourne love as well.

In this travel guide, I tell you all my beloved places to go to, things to see and facts to know that I discovered in 2 ½ weeks in the city and I will hopefully be adding more experiences and favourites when I go back soon.

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Blog posts from Melbourne

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Things to know

When you arrive at the Melbourne Tullamarine airport you can take the Skybus to the city for 19$

Melbourne has a Free Tram Zone in the CBD area which means that you don’t need to pay when travelling in this zone or when you use the Free Tram Route 35 that goes around the CBD. This makes exploring the city 100 times easier, quicker and cheaper and it was so practical to not worry about your ticket.

 

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I only paid for going to St. Kilda and Brighton Beach (both 20-30 minutes away from the centre) and otherwise I used the free tram and walked the rest.

Melbourne has a free Wifi in the whole CBD area which was great to use google maps, check out places and it also worked in my hostel (as most hostel Wifi’s are shit :D )

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I never ever thought that Melbourne is so cold! I’ve been there in the End of September / Beginning of October and even though it was 18-24 degrees at that time, I always wore all my warm clothes because the wind is freezing. When you are in the sun and protected from the wind it is nice but in the shades and windy streets, it feels like winter.

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The vibe of the city reminds me of a mix between London, Seattle and New York (even though I haven’t been to NY). I can’t really describe why, but the people, their style, the shops and restaurants have this urban hipster vibe (in a very good way!) – especially Fitzroy.

There are a lot of awesome Vintage Shops in Melbourne. This is another reason why I really want to go back – so I can shop the perfect Vintage Levi’s Mom Jeans and Shorts as well as Dr. Martens, cool Hoodies, band t-shirts and awesome jackets…

Fitzroy is the coolest, hippest, nicest area in Melbourne and especially the Brunswick street is awesome! Nice shops, cafés, restaurants, pubs and vintage shops.

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Apparently, Melbourne has the best coffee in the world! I don’t know if that is really the case, but at least they have the most coffee shops in the world (per person), but not the big chains – Melbourners love their individual, cute coffee places and you find them at every corner.

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Where to Stay

Of course, I can’t tell you which place is the best to stay in Melbourne as I haven’t tried them all.

In the beginning, I’ve stayed in the CBD area the Nomads All Nations hostel that was cheap, but not very clean and nice. The vibe and the kitchen weren’t that great and considering that it wasn’t even a good price (24$ for a 12-bed-dorm). They offer free pancakes for breakfast as well as tea, coffee, pasta and rice which is great!

Afterwards, I moved into The Nunnery in Fitzroy. I really recommend this area and also this hostel, but it is also pretty expensive (35$ for 12-bed-dorm). The vibe there is super chilled, it isn’t that big and it’s easy to meet people. Everything is clean and they offer free breakfast, tea, coffee and pasta as well as specials like a pub crowl, soup, BBQ or movie night every week.

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What to do

For me, the most important thing when visiting a city, is walking through its streets and soaking up its vibes. Not the sights but the streets, buildings and people give it its charm.

You will see a lot of Asian people, shops, supermarkets and restaurants, many barbers & hairdressers, coffeeshops, chocolateries & bisquiteries.

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Streets I recommend to check out are: Brunswick Street in Fitzroy (vintage shops, cute cafés, restaurants & pubs, many vegan places), Lygon Street in Calton (many European and especially Italian restaurants), Fliders St, Bourke St, Swanson St, Elisabeth St, Collin St (in the CBD) and Little Bourke St (Chinatown).

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At Federation Square a lot of open-air (Veranstaltungen) take place. You also find an aboriginal museum and ACMI Museum (modern, technology) there. The immigration museum is another recommended one on Federation St.

The Eureka Tower is the highest building in Melbourne and you can enjoy an awesome view from above over the city. Sadly I didn’t do it, but it is on the top of my things to do next time for sure!

 

The Queen Victoria Market is one of my favourite places in Melbourne. They don’t just sell fresh fruits & veggies for a great price (and offer so many different options), but also the best hummus I ever had and yummy bread, sweets and take-away dishes. There is also a part that sells shoes, clothes, souvenirs and everything else you could think of.

Another market in Melbourne is the South Melbourne Market that is meant to be great as well.

 

South of the Yarra River, you can find the Royal Botanical Garden (that I only saw a small part of and want to go back to!)…

…as well as the National Art Gallery that had a Moma exhibition from New York at the moment and the Arts Centre Melbourne where I really wanted to see the Australian Ballet dancing Spartacus, but the tickets where too expensive sadly.

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St. Pauls Cathedral, State Library Victoria, City Square and Melbourne Town Hall are worth a look as well.

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Walk101 do a Free Walking Tour in the centre of the city as well as in St. Kilda. Originally I wanted to do both, but I only made it to the centre tour which was a lot of fun and I highly recommend it.

You go to the meeting point, join the tour, meet a lot of other travellers, learn a lot about the city and history as well as some insider tips from the tour guide and in the end you pay as much as you can / want to.

The laneways in Melbourne are very famous with their street art. You just need to walk through some smaller streets and you will find amazing artworks. At ACDC lane and Flinders Lane (and the areas around), you will find the most famous pieces and walls. But also the streets of Fitzroy are great to see some pretty street art. The cool thing is, that they change daily/weekly because artists make new sprays all the time.

Furthermore, Arcades are very popular in Melbourne and I recommend to walk through the beautiful Royale Arcade and Block Arcade for it’s amazing architecture and the  Centreway Arcade to find cute book, vintage and soap shops.

To get a little bit outside the big city vibes I highly recommend to go to St. Kilda for one day. Especially when the weather is nice. The pier is only 25 minutes by tram away from the centre and you will find some vacation and beach vibes there. It’s great to stroll through the pedestrian zone and the not so busy streets, enjoy the peace in the Botanical Gardens or sit at the beach.

Behind the famous amusement park, I found a real oasis: VegOut an urban garden community that allows you to walk through the patches and forget that you are in a huge city.

Another great getaway that is even more quiet and peaceful is Brighton. A suburb of Melbourne about 25 minutes by train away from the city centre. The famous Brighton Bath Boxes are located there and you can enjoy some sunny time at the beach.

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Where to eat

Melbourne and especially Fitzroy is full of amazing (vegan) food places. Literally, every pub offers vegetarian and even vegan dishes but you can also find hundreds of beautiful, hipster, chic cafés that all have avocado toast, granola and even acai on their menu. Many coffee shops sell raw slices and vegan cookies as well as delicious looking banana bread or carrot cake.

It would already be worth coming back to Melbourne just to try out more food places, as I obviously couldn’t (or wouldn’t want) to afford eating out every day for every meal – but I really wished to!

 

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Degraves St is a pedestrian street where cafés, coffee shops and bakeries as well as restaurants and bistros are side by side and everyone can for sure find something to satisfy their taste buds.

I’ve been to Mock Turtle on Degraves St and…

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…here I ate the best Avocado Toast of my life. I can not really imagine someone being able to top it. Sadly it wasn’t vegan and I forgot to ask for a vegan option, but it was amazing and so worth it… I mean look at the variety of toppings and the bread was just delicious (which isn’t always the case if you are used to the great German bread :P ) and the Avo smash perfectly ripe and creamy. The price was pretty high but I would still always come back!

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Slow Poke

Another great breakfast place that is located on Brunswick St. A super quiet café that has a small courtyard where you can sit peacefully and enjoy the sunshine. Their orange juice is fresh pressed and they have some amazing looking baked sweets. They also have a yummy lunch menu.

I ate buckwheat chocolate granola with coconut yogurt and cacao nibs, almond milk and canned peas which was amazing. The Avo Toast looked good, but by far not reach the one from Mock Turtle.

Lentils as Anything

I fell in love with the philosophy of this place and I am so lucky that they have one local in Sydney (and about 5 in Melbourne, even in St. Kilda). This place is run by volunteers and they offer a completely vegan buffet for lunch and four dishes to choose from every day for dinner, as well as a dessert. At the end you pay the amount you think the food was worth it – and I tell you, the food is amazing!

We tried all the dishes they had that evening and everything was super delicious and I am really sad that I only went there once in Melbourne. I’ll definitely go there lots in Sydney!

Lord of the Fries

If you crave some unhealthy food, go to Lord of the Fries! A completely vegan fast food burger chain that make amazing burgers and delicious fries. They don’t advertise to be completely vegan, to attract everyone and to amaze them with the vegan deliciousness. And it’s also fairly cheap!

I ate a “Fish-burger” and sweet potato fries with vegan aioli and tried the normal fries and the classic burger from a friend and everything was yummy. But I still wouldn’t want to go there every second day, because you can really taste that it’s not healthy at all :D

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Madam Saigon

… is a better option when you want something healthy and cheap. This bistro makes great Asian dishes and they have vegan options on their menu. I tried the vegan noodle salad bowl with tofu and it was delicious, fresh, healthy and great for lunch while only costing 11$ (7€).

Zero Gradi Gelateria

A friend who has been living in Melbourne for a while crowned this place to the best Gelataria in town and they have vegan flavours too (and not only fruit sorbets). I combined vegan chocolate and coconut and it tasted amazing – creamy, chocolat-y and not too sweet.

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More great (vegan/healthy) places that I sadly could not try this time:

  • Fina’s Vegetarian Café
  • Pina Chocolate Café
  • Veggie time
  • Smith & Daughter
  • Veggie bar
  • Nice Guy
  • Particle
  • Urban Projuice
  • Yong Green Food
  • Vegilicious
  • Radhey Chai Bar
  • Tahina Bar
  • Mantra Lounge
  • Rue de Creperie
  • Loving hut Richmond

And you will find a lot more by just walking through the streets (especially Brunswick St)!