Rich in history while embracing the future, Melbourne provides an appropriate backdrop for its eclectic live music scene and rich foodie culture.
It’s also the gateway to Victoria’s world-class wineries, spectacular coastline and lush rainforests. In short, it’s the perfect playground for adventurers, foodies, road trippers and art lovers. Discover rugged beaches, listen to the sounds of guitars, soar across the sparkling waters on a kayak tour, or stroll through art-covered laneways.
Let’s explore 15 incredible things to do in Melbourne.
1. Spot penguins at St Kilda
For over a century, Australians have let their hair down at St Kilda, strolling along the esplanade and sunning on the radiant beach. You can rent a stand up paddle board, rollerblade along the foreshore or join in a sandy game of volleyball. And don’t forget to explore the breakwater end of St Kilda Pier, where little penguins are present year-round, usually spotted waddling across the rocks after sunset.
Insider tip: Use one of the three Bike Share stations at St Kilda to rent a bicycle for the day.
2. Stroll the Royal Botanic Gardens
Sprawled over 38 hectares, the Royal Botanic Gardens attract nearly 2 million visitors each year. And that’s not surprising, considering the tranquil lakes and stunning vistas you’ll find at every turn. Once immersed in this meticulous natural sanctuary, it’s hard to believe that you’re just moments from the buzzing city outside.
Insider tip: You can picnic anywhere, except areas marked private and the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden.
3. See a Picasso at the National Gallery
A stone’s throw from the Royal Botanic Gardens, the National Gallery of Victoria rivals any world-class art museum. Admire masterworks by Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol and Tiepolo, but don’t forget to step back and appreciate the gallery itself, which spreads across two ultra-modern buildings.
Insider tip: Download the NGV app before your visit for maps, exhibition details and special programs.
4. Jump into a painting at ArtVo
And speaking of art, if standing in front of a painting doesn’t get you close enough, you may want to experience ArtVo, Melbourne’s new immersive gallery. At Artvo, you can step right into optical illusions, experiencing art like never before. Each themed room is completely covered with a large painting, so you can interact with the characters and scenery.
Insider tip: Whatever you do, don’t forget your camera, and try to plan your trip for early in the day to avoid the crowds.
5. Browse the stalls at Queen Victoria Market
Warm up the chilly evenings with a Wednesday-night visit to Queen Victoria Market. Stroll through the stalls sipping deliciously spiced mulled wine. Taste mouth-watering food and warm your hands by the roaring fires. After you’ve finished wandering through the market sheds, join in the silent disco, stand back and watch the quirky entertainers, or listen to the live music.
Insider tip: Sign up for a Queen Victoria Market foodie tour to learn about the heritage-listed food market halls and sample the delicacies produced by some of the market’s best traders.
6. Track down some street art
You don’t have to visit a gallery or museum to see the latest artistic creations on display in Melbourne. Any keen photographer should visit the city’s most beloved street art hotspots. For instance, you can’t miss the cobblestone Hosier Lane for eye-popping colour. And then there’s luminescent AC/DC Lane (named after the Australian rock band). Finally, Caledonian Lane is a tiny, colourful street with a big history; it’s the birthplace of the festival, St. Jerome’s Laneway, which has moved on to a larger venue.
Insider tip: Take a break from walking by visiting MoVida, a graffiti-covered tapas restaurant on Hosier Lane.
7. Get locked up at the Old Melbourne Gaol
Some of Australia’s most notorious criminals walked the halls of the Old Melbourne Gaol, and you can walk right in their footsteps. Bushranger Ned Kelly and serial killer Frederick Bailey Deeming served time in these cell blocks, constructed way back in 1839. Included with your admission are tours of the Old Magistrate Court and City Watch House. You’ll have your mugshot taken and be sent to your cell before being released back into Melbourne. Freedom!
Insider tip: Accept the offer to take a guided tour. The knowledgeable guides will entertain you with historical hair raising stories.
8. Shop the laneways
Charming laneways and Victorian arcades thread through Melbourne like sophisticated marbling on exquisite stone. Each turn and byway offers new delights with every kind of shop imaginable. You’ll bump into alfresco eateries, cosy bars and one-off shops, all nestled together in hodgepodge harmony. Go out and explore, but if you need some suggestions to get you started, try Tattersalls Lane, Croft Alley or Duckboard Place.
Insider tip: Take the train to Flinders Street Station as a launch point. Then head over to Collins Street and start at the Block Arcade.
9. Drive the Great Ocean Road
After a few days in the city, head out on the open road for coastal freedom and salty sea air. The sensational Great Ocean Road winds along the scenic Southern Ocean, where you’ll pass iconic surf breaks and waterfalls. You’ll also discover the Twelve Apostles, craggy limestone stacks rising regally off the shore of Port Campbell National Park.
Insider tip: Take your time and stop in the small towns along the way. Soak up the hippy vibes in Anglesea or sample the fresh seafood in Apollo Bay.
10. Sample regional wines
Head out to the scenic countryside just a short ride from Melbourne’s CBD, and experience the exhilarating sights and smells of wine country. Five distinct wine regions offer special blends unique to their climates, and you can taste the tempting bounties of each one. Chardonnay, pinot noir and shiraz varieties dominate the Mornington Peninsula, Yarra Valley, Geelong, Macedon and Sunbury areas.
Insider tip: Join a wine-tasting tour, where you’ll be able to explore some of the region’s best wineries and enjoy a delicious lunch set against a vineyard backdrop.
11. Catch a live music gig
Love live music? Melbourne’s the spot for you. Without skipping a beat, you can dash from a club with onstage techno DJs to a swanky jazz club. Whatever you love - folk, indie, rock, country - you can find it in Melbourne. And the venues are not without character.
Take Howler Bar, for instance, which began its life as a wool store before being converted into a bar with two stages for live music. Or how about Section 8? An open air club for Melbourne’s cool kids, offering an extensive craft beer selection and decorated with street art.
Insider tip: Smoke out the best live music using the Melbourne Gig Guide.
12. Visit the cool outer suburbs
The cool factor that infuses Melbourne has spread to the suburbs, so lay your sights on hipster communities like Fitzroy, Windsor and Collingwood.
Melbourne’s oldest suburb, Fitzroy, dates back to 1839. Admire the street art, galleries and cold-drip coffee at Industry Beans. Windsor occupies the bohemian end of Chapel Street and embraces eclecticism to the max. And you can chow down on deep-fried Pop Tarts at Easey’s in Collingwood.
Insider tip: Skip the train and take a bus to your suburb of choice. Buses run every 4-5 minutes and cost just $3 per ride.
13. Indulge in a gourmet Greek dinner
Melbourne has the largest Greek population of any city outside of Athens, and you know what that means: divine Greek food!
In addition to sweets, Hellas Cakes serves mouth-watering breakfast offerings as well as spanakopita and tiropita for lunch. If Greek street food calls your name, don’t miss ENA, which prides itself on meats slow-roasted over a coal fire pit and the freshest seasonal ingredients.
Insider tip: For a snack or picnic food, try a Greek deli like Big Vic Deli in Queen Victoria Market.
14. Grab a cup of coffee in Little Italy
Melbourne loves coffee. In fact, it’s tough to walk a single block without sniffing the powerful aroma of roasted coffee beans. The city’s coffee scene meshes with its artsy culture, encouraging nuance in every handcrafted cup. For the coffee-est cups around, head to the birthplace of Melbourne’s cafe culture, Lygon Street. The heart of Little Italy, Lygon Street has it all: charming baristas, rich cappuccinos, elegant espressos and Italian pastries for dunking. Perfecto.
Insider tip: Take a taste of Lygon Street home with you by purchasing ground coffee or beans at Grinders.
15. Go bushwalking in the Dandenong Ranges
Escape the city to the lush forests and glades of the Dandenong Ranges. For unforgettable bushwalking, you can’t miss the Dandenong Ranges, one of Australia’s loveliest National Parks. Gaze up at some of the world’s tallest trees, and listen to the bubbling creeks and powerful waterfalls.
Insider tip: To access the track, take a train to Belgrave, and then walk along the footpath next to Belgrave-Monbulk Road until you reach the Bleakley Track.
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