Neighbours is Australia’s longest-running drama series. It is now shown in over 50 countries around the world and is one of Australia’s most successful exports. It has helped launch the acting careers of Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Pia Miranda, Radha Mitchell, Jason Donovan, Jesse Spencer and Margot Robbie, as well as the music careers of Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Holly Valance and Delta Goodrem. So, it’s not surprising that visitors to Melbourne are keen to get a glimpse behind the scenes and to perhaps even have the chance to meet one or two of the cast members on a Neighbours Tour.
NEIGHBOURS TOUR OPTIONS
There are two daytime Neighbours tour options. Option A includes a visit to Ramsay Street and the chance to meet one of the actors from the show. Option B runs only on weekends and includes entrance to Global Television Studios to see the exterior sets. While you don’t get to meet a cast member with Option B, you see a lot more and, if you go to the Neighbours Trivia Night on a Monday evening, you could meet cast there instead.
After meeting at the offices of Bunyip Tours on the western end of Flinders Street in Melbourne’s CBD, you’re greeted by a very lively Irishman called Gerry, who has been a Neighbours tour guide for many years and couldn’t be more perfect for the role. Not only is his knowledge of all things Neighbours related astonishing, he could very easily be a successful stand-up comic.
MOST DANGEROUS STREET
As the facts keep coming, you realise just how ridiculous the plot of Neighbours has been. During its 29 years on our screens, there have been 49 deaths, including six hit and runs, eight car crash fatalities, four shootings and quite a few more linked to suspicious circumstances. For its size, Ramsay Street is incredibly dangerous. Getting engaged in Erinsborough appears to be the kiss of death, while losing ones eyesight is a surprisingly frequent but rarely permanent occurrence. When you hear all of these kinds of facts laid out by Gerry, it really makes you think and it’s highly entertaining.
PIN OAK COURT
Pin Oak Court is the real name of the cul-de-sac that doubles up as Ramsay Street. The first thing that strikes you as the tour bus pulls up is its size. It’s absolutely tiny. It’s also inhabited by real residents. As the producers only film scenes from outside these houses one day a week for 40 weeks of the year, the locals can generally go about their everyday lives undisturbed. There is also a security guard to make sure that Neighbours-crazed fanatics don’t come and cause havoc, and the locals are compensated very well for the inconvenience.
THE MAIN SIGHTS
Obviously, not all of Neighbours takes place on Ramsay Street. The actual studios are a short drive away and it is there that you’ll find the sets of some of your favourite Neighbours hangouts, including Grease Monkeys, Harold’s Store, Lassiters and the Waterhole.
Sit outside and pretend you’re acting out a scene, marvel over the insanely reasonably priced food on their fake menu, or take a peek behind the doors to find out what these buildings are actually used for. Since all of the indoor scenes are filmed inside one large red brick building on site, the interiors of some of these places may come as a bit of a shock – especially to die hard fans who like to believe it’s all real.
SOME LESS OBVIOUS FILMING SETS
You can also stroll past the hospital and its car park, where Dr Rhys Lawson died of complications after the fire at Toadie and Sonya’s wedding. Then there’s the plant nursery owned by Sonya, complete with plastic fruit and stale cookies. Many scenes have taken place under the small gazebo by the lake, including the recent mystery shooting of Kate Ramsay. And don’t miss the timetable at the fake Erinsborough bus stop.
Since the houses on Ramsay Street have real residents, any shots of the interiors are taken inside the red brick building. The back yards also needed to be constructed at the studios. These are all fenced off, so the only way to see them is to do some strategic fence climbing, or to ask Gerry to do it on your behalf and to take a few photos for you on your camera.
While a lot of the locations are fake buildings, the garage formerly owned by Lou Carpenter, and where many of the characters, including Steph Scully, Lucas Fitzgerald, Chris Pappas, Drew Kirk and Stuart Parker all worked at one time or another, is very real.
After we’d taken it in turns to pose as the receptionist, Gerry took me aside to show me that the fridge actually contained real beers. Unfortunately, they were open, half drunk and growing something furry, but kudos to them for keeping the set looking so realistic, even behind closed fridge doors.
Another part of the studios that is very real is the selection of cars used by each of the actors. While not instantly recognisable, Gerry was on hand with his immense and very impressive knowledge to tell us whose was whose.
Since the security at the studios is already tight, there’s not much need to lock the vehicles, making it possible for visitors to climb inside some of them. Pictured above is the legend Dr Karl Kennedy’s car. We gave the horn a toot, but sadly weren’t allowed to take it for a spin.
For a really special experience, and for the chance to meet cast members, make sure you’re in Melbourne on a Monday night, when Neighbours Trivia is usually held (subject to availability) in the seaside suburb of St Kilda.
This is your opportunity to have your photo taken with some of the stars, to compete for prizes and to hear either Dr Karl Kennedy or Paul Robinson sing live. Can you imagine a better night out?!
MORE FUN IN MELBOURNE
Join a city discovery tour with Contiki and you can explore some of Melbourne’s top sights in the company of likeminded travellers. The four-day experience includes highlights like St Kilda and the 12 Apostles.
SEE MELBOURNE WITH CONTIKI
AND HAVE NO REGRETS!
WHERE TO STAY IN MELBOURNE
For my three-night stay in Melbourne, I was a guest at the Exford Hotel. Located at the crossroads of Little Bourke Street and Russel Street in the heart of the CBD, the location couldn’t be handier.
The Exford Hotel was built in 1854 and has its own historic pub as well as a lounge bar, providing plenty of entertainment, from indie nights to comedy. They serve a free breakfast of toast and cereal and there’s a large kitchen, computer area and lounge with a wide selection of DVDs as well as Foxtel. All of this combines to create a cosy English bed and breakfast feel. Dorms start at $27 per night, but there are also twins and doubles available. The beds are very comfortable, and there are lockers in the rooms to keep your valuables safe. Staff were on hand 24/7 to answer my questions and were very knowledgeable.
I was a guest of Bunyip Tours. Any opinions expressed in this post are my own. For further information on the Official Neighbours Tour or other tours offered by Bunyip Tours, check out their Facebook page here.