For my husband’s birthday, being the great wife that I am, I didn’t buy Jude any gifts. No surfboards. No Omega watches. Instead I planned a fun, activity-filled weekend, charging through our Victorian bucket list with a red Sharpie. Just as good as a surfboard, right? <insert hopeful, I’m not a bad wife face here>.
After a predominantly eating-centric couple of days, I pulled out the big birthday guns and finished it off with a six-kilometre walk from Port Melbourne to St Kilda, along the foreshore’s solar system sculpture installation.
It sounds boring, to me anyway, but my space nerd of a husband was giddy with excitement, sprouting off words like ‘gamma ray’ and ‘nebula’ . While I was happy just to work off the previous night’s dumplings.
Why is this walk so special?
Artists and scientists joined forces in 2008 to create a model of the solar system that stretches along the foreshore from St Kilda to Port Melbourne, at a scale of one to one billion. Essentially the 5.9-kilometre walk is a miniature replication of what navigating the 5.9 billion kilometres between the Sun and Pluto must feel like, without the need for a spaceship and breathing apparatus. Or if you’re not so fit maybe you do need the latter.
Every centimetre you walk is equivalent to travelling 10,000 kilometres in space – a fact Jude was blown away by, given he kept repeating it every 15 minutes. I was more so blown away by the full-frontal coastal views.
Where to start the solar system coastal walk?
Apparently you’re supposed to start at the sun (which is in St Kilda), working your way to the outer planets (with Pluto in Port Melbourne), but I gently, yet aggressively, suggest doing it the other way around – start with Pluto and orbit towards the sun – for two reasons.
Firstly, the models naturally get more interesting the bigger they get. Trust me, as you’re feeling aches in strange parts of your body after your just-about six-kilometre trek, finishing off with the pea-sized piece of steel that is Pluto will be a disappointing anti-climax. Secondly, Pluto, Neptune and Uranus are all spaced quite far apart, which you can handle with fresh legs, not so much with tired, grumpy legs.
Given we’d walked to Port Melbourne from the CBD (and we had walked there from Prahran!), we had to backtrack to find Pluto. I desperately tried to convince Jude that we should start with Neptune, given that Pluto isn’t even a planet anymore, and that my boots were starting to show signs of rubbing. But no, he insisted we had to do the space walk PROPERLY.
After walking the 1.4 kilometres out of our way just to sight Pluto, we then spent a good 20 minutes trying to find the damn sculpture. Scouring the beach like beachcombers, I wished I’d packed the metal detector that I don’t own, having absolutely no clue what we were looking for, nor the ability to find it. All I knew from the City of Port Phillip’s map was that we were trying to find something smaller than an almond. Wonderful.
“This is ridiculous,” I thought. “We would have more luck looking for Miley Cyrus wearing clothes and sans wrecking ball.”
After finally spotting Pluto just past Princes Pier, I actually felt like I’d discovered the real planet of Pluto, I was that ecstatic. Morale of this story is never wear boots on a giganormous walk.
Neptune, Uranus and Saturn
The crescent shape of Port Philip Bay means that throughout the entire walk you can spot the giant metal sun off in the distance, which provides a good indication of how far you have left to put up with those rubbing boots.
Given we’d wasted so much time looking for the ball bearing-sized Pluto and it was getting late in the day, when we came across a Melbourne Bike Share station on our way to Neptune, we decided to speed up the walk and cycle it instead. Something I highly recommend! For only $9.80 total we were able to ride along the foreshore’s bike path and then return the bikes once we got to St Kilda (the closest station is in Cleve Gardens, St Kilda, at the intersection of The Esplanade, Beaconsfield Parade and Fitzroy Street).
It was super speedy then. Just don’t do what I did and get so distracted by the ocean that you nearly mow down an oncoming cyclist. Sorry buddy! I totally understand why you were angry.
Jupiter, Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury
The inner planets are all along the St Kilda foreshore and easy to walk between, so here we ditched the bikes. At which point the sun was fast setting, and while Jude was intently reading each planet’s inscription plaque, I was intently in awe of the beautiful sun-streaked sky.
The all mighty Sun
By the time we made it to the big kehuna of a sculpture that is the Sun, the actual Sun was a blip on the horizon, but we could still make out this impressive sculpture. So impressive it actually momentarily took my attention away from the pretty sunset.
Found at the southern end of St Kilda beach, it’s a great way to end an interesting walk.
Jude was buzzing from his planet lesson all week, talking about how much he enjoyed it for days. Even burdening his poor colleagues with his space story. And I was just totally pumped that I delivered an awesome birthday gift that cost me nothing but a few blisters.