It is said that Melbourne is the coolest city in Australia, and after visiting we agree! Melbourne has regularly been named the most liveable city in the world and it is at the top of many people’s bucket lists of places to visit in Australia. We had the chance to take part in some of the best things to do in Melbourne while on a road trip through Victoria, and we can attest, that if we had the chance to live in Australia, we’d pick Melbourne as our home too!
Best Things to do in Melbourne, Australia
Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria and is a superb jumping-off point to explore Southern Australia and the Great Ocean Road. But it’s also a city where you could spend days relaxing and enjoying the funky city vibe. If you are planning a trip to Australia don’t limit yourself to Sydney alone. So, why visit Melbourne? Let’s take a look at all of the amazing things to do!
1. Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Flight Over the City
Melbourne is one of the few places on earth you can go hot-air ballooning over a city. It’s the largest urban center for hot air ballooning and the trip is spectacular.
The morning starts before sunrise when your guide picks you up at your hotel before heading out to a field for take off. It’s all hands on deck so make sure to dress comfortably and remember, even though it’s warm outside, it can still be brisk and cold in the sky. So wear layers.
The 45-minute flight takes you right over the city and gives a birds-eye view into the football, cricket stadium, and tennis courts. The flight is followed by a champagne breakfast. To book your hot air balloon flight over Melbourne, visit Global Ballooning for bookings
Winds change constantly in Melbourne so flights could be canceled at the last minute, so make sure that you have a couple of days on either side of your booking. That way you can get on the next day once the weather improves. That’s what happened to us, but we managed to get up in the air and had the adventure of a lifetime before most people had even woken up.
2. Queen Victoria Market Tour
I’ve never been one for market tours but the Queen Victoria Market Tour was a blast! We had so much fun meeting the vendors at this historic market that has been operating since 1878.
Taking the Queen Victoria Market Tour gave us insight into the history of the market (did you know it was built on a cemetery?) and allowed us to interact with the owners of shops while sampling their amazing foods like local cheese and honey, oysters, wine, beer, and chocolate. You won’t leave the market hungry that’s for sure.
Everything is top quality here. The Market is targeted at chefs and restaurants, so you only get the best. Visit the Victoria Market website for more details.
2. Graffiti Lanes Street Art
The Hidden Secrets Lanes and Arcades Tour will give you a taste of the Graffiti lanes of Melbourne. Melbourne is known for its street art and the two popular lanes for street art are Hosier Lane and Union Lane.
These lanes are dedicated to graffiti so artists aren’t tagging around the city. There is a lot of political and social commentary in the graffiti and you will most likely see an artist at work if you hang around long enough.
3. Hidden Secrets Lanes and Arcades Tour
This is the original lanes tour in Melbourne with more than a dozen year’s experience. Here you’ll discover quirky cafés like Melbourne’s smallest coffee shop, independent designers, and specialty retailers.
Melbourne is filled with narrow lanes and covered arcades. One can get lost exploring them all and you won’t truly appreciate their meaning and history unless you take the Hidden Secrets Lanes and Arcades Tours.
Like the Queen Victoria Market Tour, you’ll have the chance to talk with shop owners and explore the area in a more in depth way than you would wandering through the streets alone. It’s an excellent way to get oriented to the city/
4. Eureka Sky Deck
A city tour wouldn’t be complete without going up to a high lookout. Like most international cities, Melbourne has its own high lookout at the Eureka Sky Deck at Eureka Tower. It’s a great view of Melbourne and the river, but it does have a unique feature that we have yet to see in other city viewpoints.
The Edge is one of the world’s only moving glass structures that moves out and dangles over the edge of the Sky Deck on the 88th floor. Unlike Toronto’s glass floor which is free with entry, you have to pay $15 extra to enter the SkyDeck.
If you have a fear of heights, you will definitely get the thrill you are looking for. We had a young girl in the Sky Deck with us and she loved every minute of it. It is a neat idea to be locked in an elevator-type room, moved out from the main building, and then have the floors seem to fall away at your feet.
The Eureka Sky Deck is open daily from 12 pm to 10 pm, last entry 9:30 pm. For more information visit the Eureka Sky Deck website
5. Federation Square
Federation Square is just about the coolest city square we’ve happened upon. Sure there are flashy squares in the world, but Federation Square has a lot going on. Giant screens are set up for people to watch outdoor events. Pop-up theatre performances take place in back alleyways and artists hang out on the street showing off their talents.
There are art galleries, restaurants, cafés, and rooftop bars. Federation Square is the place to be. During the Australian Open, they have large screens set up in Federation Square so you can watch the event.
6. Sunset Over the Yarra River
Take a Walk along one of the many bridges or book a sunset boat tour to watch the sun go down in Melbourne. The city lights up to perfection as the sun goes down and you don’t want to miss it while you are there.
There are many restaurants and bars along the river where you can catch a glimpse of the sunset. We enjoyed the view from the rooftop patio at Transit Rooftop Bar at the Transit Hotel located just above Taxi Kitchen.
7. St. Kilda Beach
Speaking of the Beach, you must make your way down to St. Kilda Beach for some Stand-Up Paddle Boarding, walking along the boardwalk, and penguin watching.
The Pier of St. Kilda Beach is a historic Edwardian building that has been renovated and is worth walking out along the long pier to view. A colony of penguins lives out here as well so you may get lucky and spot one.
It was hot while we were there so the penguins were either staying cool under rocks (we spotted many a back and bottom) or out in the water somewhere hunting for food. There was no doubt about it though, the smell was 100% that of a penguin colony.
8. Take the Free City Circle Tram
Melbourne has a unique feature where tourists and locals alike can take the free City Circle Tram anywhere within the city circle of Melbourne. It’s easy to hop on and hop off and it will take you to the majority of places you want to go to in the city center.
There are historic trams and newer trams, but both are free. If you want to try the complete loop for some city sightseeing, the tram takes 45 minutes to complete the loop. Check the City Circle Tram website for details.
12. Melbourne Museum
The Melbourne museum is a great place to learn more about Australian history and the Aboriginal people. There are plenty of exhibits on social, scientific, and environmental aspects of Australian history. The dinosaur and insect collection is a must-see here and a favorite among children.
Make sure to take a guided tour of the Royal Exhibition Building next door to see the Dome Promenade. It was the first building in Australia to be awarded UNESCO World Heritage status and the Dome Promenade offers tours to give visitors the opportunity to overlook the gardens and view the Melbourne skyline. It had been closed
13. Royal Botanic Gardens
Take a break from the rush of Melbourne and delight in nature at the royal botanic gardens. This beautiful park that is home to 8500 species of plants and trees, a range of birds, and other wildlife. The gardens span 96 acres along the Yara River
While entry is free, having an informed guide is the best way to explore the expansive gardens. You can
14. Flinders Street Station
The clock at Flinders street railway station is one of Melbourne’s oldest and most iconic landmarks. The old Victorian-era building that is flinders street station is just as impressive. Not just for its old age (dates as far back as 1854) but also for its impressive architecture.
Learn more about the train station’s history or hop onto a train and explore the Melbourne metropolis.
15. Melbourne Cricket Ground
Affectionately referred to as the ‘G’, a tour of Melbourne cricket ground is a must-do for cricket lovers. It is arguably the largest and oldest stadium in Australia as well as the Southern hemisphere.
The Melbourne cricket ground has been host to many memorable games and concerts over the years. The stadium is host to a variety of sports matches such as; Australian rules football and rugby and not just cricket.
With a paid tour, you get a look into all that goes on behind scenes, access to the pitch, the media room, changing rooms, and the terrace. Also within the MCG is the National Sports Museum.
A sports and Olympic museum full of displays and memorabilia from all of Australia’s sporting legends.
16. National Gallery of Victoria
Expect nothing but the best from Australia’s oldest gallery.
Located in the middle of the city center, there are actually two galleries. The NGV: International which focuses on art pieces from around the world and The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia which focuses on art pieces from Australia and is located on the other side of the Yarra river.
The aboriginal art pieces at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia are a must-see.
Marvel at the different classic and contemporary pieces. The National Gallery of Victoria is truly an art lovers’ paradise with pieces from famous artists such as; Picasso and Monet.
17. Immigration Museum
Located in the old customs house, the immigration museum helps to tell the stories of immigrants to Australia from pre-colonial times all the way to the present. This museum, one of a kind in the world, is well worth a visit.
The stories are sometimes side, happy, and sometimes fun, these stories offer a great insight into immigrants and how they have shaped Australia’s history and culture.
Some of the displays are interactive, you can even try out the Australian citizenship test. Lots of audio guides, and videos to keep you informed.
18. Royal Exhibition Building
Located in Carlton gardens, the royal exhibition building is one of the oldest and few remaining exhibition buildings in the world.
Built in 1880, the royal exhibition building was built exclusively as an exhibition pavilion for trade shows and fairs. Today, it hosts much more than just commercial exhibitions.
The building is a fine example of Victorian architecture and has received a UNESCO listing. Carlton gardens on which the buildings sit is just as impressive and worth a visit when in Melbourne.
19. Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
The Centre is definitely a hidden gem. Art lovers will enjoy its large collection of unique art pieces that range from paintings to sculptures, ceramics, and much more.
As with contemporary art, the goal is to surprise and challenge everyday perceptions. Must-see here are the thought-provoking aboriginal art pieces that tell of the suffering of the first nations people.
20. Fitzroy Gardens
Located at the edge of Melbourne CBD is Fitzroy gardens. An impressive green space so close to the city yet just as peaceful and tranquil.
The Fitzroy gardens are a great place to relax as you admire the greenery. Have a picnic on the lawn or take a stroll through the beautiful pathways as you admire the Elm trees.
A must-see here is the floral displays, the model village, the hand-carved fairy tree, and Captain Cook’s Cottage. Captain Cook’s Cottage was brought to Melbourne in 1934 from Yorkshire England. It was transported to Melbourne to honor Captain Cook who “discovered” Australia in 1770.
21. Phillip Island
Visit Phillip island for a unique experience with wildlife, sandy beaches, motorsports, and water activities. While the island might be small, there is something for everyone. Watch adorable penguins or get up close with koalas at the conservancy. Or better yet, enjoy a relaxing day at the beach as you admire the coastline.
Located along little Bourke street between Swanson and spring street, what started as a small Chinese community center has grown into a cultural attraction in Melbourne.
Fun fact, Chinatown Melbourne is one of the oldest in the world and dates as far back as the 1850s. Lots of places to eat and shop. There is a great selection of restaurants to match all types of budgets and tastes.
23. South Melbourne Market
South Melbourne market is the oldest market in Australia and has been open for a little over a century. Expect a diverse selection of goods and merchandise.
Locals and visitors alike stop by the market for fresh produce, deli, meat, baked goods, flowers, and even pet supplies. The market is a great place to meet, eat and drink as you shop.
24. Kings Domain Gardens
Located near flinders street station, King’s domain gardens are a stretch of green spaces by the Yarra river all the way down to the botanical gardens. The gardens include the Queen Victoria gardens, the government house, the shrine of remembrance, and the Myer music bowl.
The expansive gardens are full of majestic oak trees with beautiful flower beds giving Melbourne its reputation of beautiful gardens.
Statues of prominent people also scatter the gardens along water fountains.
25. Port Phillip Bay
Commonly referred to as ‘the bay’ by the locals, Port Phillip bay is actually made up of 16 bays. It serves not only as a recreational area but also as an entrance to one of the busiest ports in Australia.
Lots of activities for outdoor enthusiasts such as; exploring shipwrecks, scuba diving, or fishing. You can also learn more about sea life at the marine reserves, spend a relaxing day at the beach, St Kilda pier, or at the nearby botanical gardens.
26. State Library Victoria
State Library Victoria has been open since 1854 making it Australia’s oldest library. The library is worth a visit for its stunning architecture – a true masterpiece of its time.
It also boosts a huge collection of mixed media with over two million books, thousands of pictures, audio tapes, videos, and more. A must-see here is the La Trobe reading room, one of the most photographed spaces in Australia.
27. Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Melbourne gaol is the oldest prison in Melbourne. It was once a feared prison but has now been transformed into a museum. There are 3-levels of cells with each cell containing information and displays on inmates who once lived there and their living conditions.
Do not miss out on the interactive tour at the Watch House where the guides take on the role of wardens and take the visitors through the process of what would happen if they were arrested.
28. Block Arcade
The block arcade is the best and most popular shopping arcade in Melbourne. It is a great place to visit for its beautiful architecture alone.
Fun fact, the block arcade boasts of having the largest mosaic floor in the southern hemisphere. Something for everyone here with unique and fun stores
29. St. Paul’s cathedral
Located opposite flinders street station, St. Paul’s Cathedral is an oasis of peace in the middle of Melbourne. The neo-gothic cathedral is well worth a visit for its grand architecture with its beautiful stained glass windows and intricately tiled floors. It is a Melbourne landmark located at one of the busiest places in Melbourne at Flinders Street Station so make sure to go inside to take a look.
30. Collins Street
Affectionately known as the heart of Melbourne, Collins Street is a great place to visit for a fun shopping experience. The premier street is known for its high-end flagship stores such as; Chanel, Dior, and Giorgio Armani. You can get there by taking the City Circle Tram or simply walking around downtown from Federation Square. Who doesn’t love peeking into the designer windows?
31. Day Trip to the Great Ocean Road
There is no doubt that The Great Ocean Road is Victoria State’s premier attraction. It’s just a three-hour drive from Melbourne and if you are visiting the city, it is a must-visit. There are tours that happen daily, or you can rent a car to see the 12 Apostles.
The views are worth the hype, but we recommend giving yourself longer than a day to explore. We took part in the four-day Great Ocean Walk to the 12 Apostles and it was magnificent. We’ll be writing about it more in the coming weeks.
Visiting Victoria, Australia? Pick up your Lonely Planet Guide for more ideas of What to do in Melbourne.
As you can see, there is no shortage of things to do in Melbourne. It’s a city that can keep tourists occupied for days.
Have you been to Melbourne?
Our trip to Australia is in partnership with Tourism Australia and Air New Zealand. Air New Zealand offers daily flights from Canada to Australia. All opinions are our own.