I travelled to Melbourne to visit Gary, who was halfway through a working holiday visa at the time. I stayed in his beachside appartment (yay, no accommodation costs!) and spent six weeks checking out everything this great city has to offer. Alongside exploring Melbourne, we also hired a campervan to drive the nearby Great Ocean Road!
I soon realised why Gary had fallen for this part of Australia – Melbourne is awesome! It has everything you could want; from relaxed beach cafes and water sports along St Kilda beach, to a booming CBD lined with shops, restaurants and bars, to multiple green spaces and botanical gardens. It’s also pretty great in the food department and there is LOADS for vegetarians and vegans 🙂
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO MELBOURNE!
Get learning at the Melbourne Museum – Located in the beautiful Carlton Gardens, there is lots to see at the Melbourne Museum, including a giant room full of stuffed animals and mounted insects! There’s also a cool section where you can hop on to some scales and it tells you how much you are worth in gold. I’m apparently worth a grand total of $3,533,034!
Reach dizzying heights at the Eureka Sky Deck – Not one for those who suffer with vertigo! This 297-metre (975 ft) gold plated skyscraper is the world’s tallest residential building and offers the highest public vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere. If the views from inside aren’t enough, you can also opt for the Edge Experience, a glass cube that sticks out from the building, providing stomach-churning views…
Find your inner child at Luna Park – Overlooking the famous Port Phillip Bay, this historic park has provided entertainment for all ages since 1912. The park is most famous for its ‘Scenic Railway Roller Coaster’, the oldest continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world and the only one of its kind with a standing brakeman in control aboard its moving carriages. Pretty cool but also slightly terrifying… We also particularly enjoyed the joke mirrors which made us look 2ft tall!
Fill your belly and empty your wallet at Victoria Market – A historic landmark that encompasses two blocks, Victoria Market is a vibrant and bustling inner-city market where you can shop for everything from Australian fruit and vegetables, gourmet foods, cosmetics, clothing and souvenirs. They also have night markets every Wednesday night in Winter, which are a lot of fun! I was there in August, so we went to a couple. Alongside the market stalls there are lots of food and drink stalls (including mulled wine which I was particularly pleased about!). There is also live music or DJs; there was even a silent disco when we went, which was pretty hilarious!
Relax in Melbourne Botanical Gardens – These internationally renowned botanical gardens are located near the centre of Melbourne and are a great spot for a picnic lunch, or a scenic walk. Easily reached by tram, there are 38 hectares of landscaped gardens consisting of a mix of native and exotic vegetation including over 10,000 individual species. It’s also home to the Melbourne Observatory which holds regular public astronomic tours, to help you study the night’s stars!
Drink wine all day on a Yarra Valley Tour – There are lots of companies (we went with the Cafe Bus) that offer various wine tours in the Yarra Valley, and they are definitely worth doing. We were picked up from St Kilda early in the morning for a full day of eating and drinking! We stopped at a chocolate factory, four vineyards and a cheese farm, alongside a few small villages on the way. A large antipasti style lunch was also included which we ate on the terrace overlooking the one of the vineyards and we even played boules at one of the stops!
Learn about digital culture at the ACMI Museum – Found in the heart of Federation Square, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) is a museum celebrating film, television and digital culture through award-winning Australian and international exhibitions. There were some really interesting exhibitions on when we visited, and we even got to play some old-style Nintendo games – winner!
Pick up some new tricks on a photography tour – As an photography lover, I’ve done a few courses over the years. When I saw an ad for a photography tour in Melbourne, I decided to treat myself. I opted for a night tour with Greg Currier which was great 🙂 We spent a couple of hours exploring Melbourne by night, experimenting with slow shutter speed and other techniques, to get some funky looking photos!
Check out the Coburg Drive-In Cinema – Half an hour’s drive from the city you’ll find this drive-in cinema. This is hands down the best cinema experience of my life! You pay as you enter, park up your car in the relevant area (there are about three films on at a time) and sit back to enjoy a film from the comfort of your own car! We went all out and loaded up our boot with a mattress and duvet – laying down facing out of the boot towards the screen. Amazing!!
Get up close and personal at Melbourne Zoo – Visit an array of exotic and native species from dingos to penguins at Melbourne Zoo. They offer a bunch of hands-on experiences too – we opted to pay $25 to get in with the meercats 🙂
Treat yourself aboard the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant – Eating a five course meal on a tramcar, whilst being transported through Melbourne – what could be better?! This experience is a four-time winner of the coveted National Tourism Award and that doesn’t surprise me – this turned out to be one of our top experiences! Deep red velvet and lace curtains line the carriages and enhance the historical colonial vibe. The atmosphere is cosy, and the staff are amazing – our glasses were never empty. We splashed out for this at $120 per person but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, had a wonderful meal (and tour of Melbourne) AND got extremely drunk on champagne!!
Get lucky at Melbourne Casino – The Tramcar dropped us off outside the casino when our meal was over, and we (drunkenly) decided to try our luck. I’d never been to a proper casino before and was very pleased with myself when I walked out with triple my money!!
Hire a car and drive the Great Ocean Road – I’ve written all about our experiences here 🙂
Chill out in Federation Square – There’s always lots going on in Federation Square! Home to major cultural attractions, world-class events, tourism experiences and an array of restaurants, bars and specialty stores, this modern square is often referred to as the heart and soul of Melbourne. It’s also been voted the 6th Best Public Square of the World. There was a Mexican festival on when we were there, which was great as Mexican food is my favourite! We spent the day eating nachos, listening to live music and drinking cocktails 🙂 Be sure to check the What’s On page for your visit!
Go shopping in Melbourne’s huge CBD – The CBD or ‘Central Business District’ is the main shopping hub within the city. You’ll find the tree-lined streets bustling with people, trams, souvenir shops, jewellers (lots of opal jewellery!), restaurants, bars and designer boutiques. The retail precinct includes the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre (which has its own underground railway station!), Bourke Street Mall, Swanston Street Mall, and Collins Street which is home to exclusive fashion and jewellery stores.
Get sandy on St Kilda’s beaches – As Gary’s flat was in St Kilda, we spent the majority of our time there. St Kilda is a small and vibrant beachy suburb of Melbourne that is home to the famous Luna Park, Acland Street and Fitzroy Street, as well as several of Melbourne’s big events and festivals. This includes St Kilda Festival in February, where they close the roads and have a massive street party with live music – attracting 400,000 people each year! The beach is dotted with cute cafes and a variety of restaurants which overlook the sea, sunbathers and paddle boarders.
Eat and drink yourself silly on St Kilda’s Acland Street – The main street running through St Kilda is Acland Street, which holds an abundance of quirky coffee shops, restaurants, bars and shops. It’s also home to a row of cake shops selling amazing cakes of every kind! Time Out have even written a post on how to cake crawl your way through Acland Street!
Visit the Shrine of Remembrance -Built as a memorial to the people of Victoria who served in World War I, the Shrine of Remembrance is now a memorial to all Australians who have served in war. It’s used on ANZAC Day (25 April) and Remembrance Day (11 November) and is one of the largest war memorials in Australia. It also provides some pretty cool views across the city!
Explore Chinatown – Everyone loves Chinatown, right!? Found just off Bourke Street, this one is actually the oldest in Australia and its collection of mouthwatering restaurants, colourful decorations and Asian boutiques does not disappoint!
Admire the graffiti at Hosier Lane – Known for being one of the world’s greatest street art capitals, Melbourne allows graffiti/ urban art in specific locations around the city. You’ll find some incredible scenes decorating the walls of laneways that intertwine the main roads. Hosier Lane is one of the most well known, and although ever-changing, it’s always impressive!
Opt for a FREE Walking tour – There are lots of walking tours available in Melbourne – some of which are completely free and are a great way of familiarising yourself with the city! ‘I’m Free‘ offer two free tours a day, which last 2.5 – 3 hours. I was lucky to have my own personal guide in Gary, but would definitely have done a tour if not!
Get lost in the crowds at Flinders Street Station– This station is worth a visit, even if you don’t plan on getting the train! On the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, the station covers two entire city blocks and provides a huge number of rail and metro services. The busiest station in Melbourne, Flinders Street can see nearly 100,000 people through its doors each weekday! It was the first rail station in an Aussie city and in 1920 was the busiest station in THE WORLD. Alongside its functions, the station is now a cultural icon and many people visit to photograph it’s domed entrance and row of clocks which is now so recognisable.
Stroll around Fitzroy Gardens – These Victorian era landscaped gardens are located Southeast of the CBD. Adding to Melbourne’s claim of being the ‘garden city’ of Australia, these 64 acres contain an ornamental lake, conservatory, Cooks’ Cottage, model Tudor village, fountains, sculptures and more – so there’s plenty to see!
Indulge in a coffee or beer along Degraves Street or Flinders Lane– Degraves Street is a tiny laneway which runs from Flinders Street to Flinders Lane in Melbourne’s CBD. The cobbled street offers a bustling avenue for commuters heading into the city from the busy Flinders Street Station. Lined with quirky cafes and restaurants, you can perch on the benches which extend the length of the street to enjoy a beer, coffee or nibbles in a cosy yet buzzing atmosphere.
Enjoy a river walk along Southbank Promenade – The Southbank Promenade stretches along the Yarra River from the popular Southgate shopping centre to Melbourne’s huge (Crown) Casino. Southbank is overflowing with shops and restaurants, posh hotels, art displays and plush modern appartments. It’s home to the Melbourne Arts Centre, Concert Hall, Melbourne Recital Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, the Malthouse Theatre, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art and Victorian College of the Arts, but also offers a lovely riverside walk!
Splash some cash at Collins Street – Regarded as Melbourne’s ‘premier’ street, and arguably the city’s most well known, Collins Street is found in the centre of the CBD. Containing an impressive display of stunning Victorian era buildings, it’s also where you’ll find expensive boutiques, fine dining restaurants, banks and many top specialists in fields ranging from law to medicine.
Visit St Paul’s Cathedral – Designed by William Butterfield, this ‘Gothic transitional’ style landmark is found opposite federation square and close to Flinders Street Station.
Enjoy a wildlife wonderland on Phillip Island – Found 90 minutes from Melbourne, Phillip Island is 40 square miles of coastal scenery and is home to an abundance of native Australian wildlife, but is most well known for its penguins! There are loads of different tours available; some even involve getting aboard paddle boards to watch the penguins from the sea, whilst others offer cruises to spot fur seals too. Many are as the sun sets, to watch the penguins waddle back to their homes in the sand dunes.
Get sporty at Melbourne Cricket Ground – In the Yarra Park, you’ll find the home of Melbourne’s cricket club. The 12th largest stadium in the world, this iconic venue was also part of the 1956 Summer Olympics, 2006 Commonwealth games and two Cricket World Cups. There’s a National Sports Museum on site, and behind-the-scenes tours operate regularly each day (when there’s not a game taking place!).
Explore Wilsons Promontory National Park – One of Australia’s best loved parks, you’ll find over 50,000 hectares of idyllic beaches, dense rainforests, mountain peaks and rugged islands with a labyrinth of scenic trails weaving in between. This picturesque park is only 2.5 hours away from Melbourne, so many companies offer tours leaving from Melbourne. Many offer overnight stays; from camping to luxury wilderness cabins! I discovered the park after I’d left, so sadly never got to visit. I plan to spend time in the park on my next trip to Aus 🙂
If you are planning a trip to Melbourne, I hope this comes in useful and you have as much fun as we did! 🙂 If you’ve been to Melbourne already and think I’ve missed something out, please let me know in the comments section below and I’ll add it to the list!