Things to Do in Melbourne
The Yarra River flows west for more than 240 km (148 miles) from its source in the Yarra Ranges, through rural and suburban Melbourne to the city center and Docklands, where it empties into Port Phillip Bay. Transport and pedestrian bridges cross the river, and you’ll find some of Melbourne’s most popular golf courses and parklands along its length.
Melbourne was established on the banks of the Yarra River in 1835, and it was a vital source of water and transport for the city's settlers. Today the Yarra River flows past the pedestrian Yarra Promenade and Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne.
Rowers stroke past from the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, and pleasure boats cruise up and down the river. Cycling and walking trails also mirror its path, and there are popular picnic grounds on the suburban fringe at Yarra Bend and Warrandyte.
Victoria's Great Ocean Road is great in every sense of the word. If you're driving, you'll discover one of the most famous and scenic coastal stretches of road in the world. If you're surfing, you'll find point break heaven. And if you're looking for breathtaking seaside vistas at every turn, you've found them.
This stretch of Victoria's coast - dubbed the Great Ocean Road - is known for its long empty beaches and crashing surf. It's holiday central for vacationing Melburnites in December and January, when thousands of visitors swell the local population, booking laidback holiday homes for the summer season. Local towns come alive in summer, with bustling cafes, boutiques and bars. Away from the coast, the surrounding mountains hide national parks filled with bushwalks, rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife.
Melbourne Museum provides a great experience for adults and children alike. A series of permanent exhibitions relating to the culture, history and the environment of Melbourne and Victoria are housed in several galleries including a lush Forest Gallery, an Aboriginal gallery and a Children’s area.
Exhibitions include Science and Life, Melbourne Story, Evolution, Mind and Body, and many more. Get to see bones and displays of Australia’s mega fauna (giant animals), experience the Dinosaur Walk, Bugs Alive!, Amazing Animals and The Human Body. Temporary exhibitions run about twice a year and cover a variety of themes. Visiting from March to July 2013 are hidden treasures from Afghanistan temporarily donated by the National Museum in Kabul. The Museum also houses a good café, an IMAX center and – the museum’s most popular object – a taxidermy original of Australia’s most famous racehorse, Phar Lap.
If early explorers could have had this view it would have made their jobs a lot easier. Situated high above Melbourne’s bustling streets, the Eureka Skydeck 88 is a 360-degree viewing platform towards the top of the Eureka Tower. From this elevated vantage point on the 88th floor, the Victorian countryside literally stretches from the mountains down towards the sea. Gaze east toward the 2,000-foot Mount Dandenong which can be coated with snow in winter, and south to the waters of Port Phillip and beachgoers lounging at St. Kilda. More than simply the view, however, it’s the Eureka Skydeck’s remarkable height that will leave you weak in the knees.
Even the elevators to reach the platform are an adventure unto themselves, and the 40 seconds to cover 88 stories make them the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. Once you’ve taken a lap of the 88th floor, step outside onto the open-air terrace to feel the wind rushing through your hair from nearly 1,000 feet off the ground.
Washed by crashing waves just off the craggy shoreline of western Victoria, the dramatic Twelve Apostles stand sentinel off the Great Ocean Road. Once joined to the surrounding mainland, the limestone outcrops are a Victorian icon and an enduring symbol of nature's mighty power and beauty.
Pounded by surf and tide for thousands of years, the limestone crags are gradually being whittled down in number – currently only eight of the Twelve Apostles remain – and the neighbouring rocky arch known as London Bridge has collapsed into the roaring sea.
The wild western Victorian coastline is a bewitching and beautiful part of Australia, the site of tragic shipwrecks in days gone by and the perfect place for exhilarating cliff-top walks, wreck diving and other untamed encounters with Mother Nature.
If you didn't know that Melbourne is a sport-loving city, learn all about it at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). A Melbourne landmark, and one of the seven wonders of the sporting world, no visit to Melbourne is complete without witnessing a summertime cricket match or winter game of Australian Rules football at the MCG.
Backstage tours on non-event days take visitors onto the hallowed turf and into the changing rooms of Australia’s largest stadium. A visit to the National Sporting Museum here reveals the MCG’s history as an Olympic Games venue, and particular sports are highlighted in several exhibits, including the alarmingly realistic Shane Warne Hologram. Exhibition spaces display the MCG’s historic collection of sports memorabilia.
The cricket season launches at the MCG with the famous Boxing Day Test match. The most important fixture on the football calendar is held here on the last Saturday in September – the AFL Grand Final.
Federation Square is Melbourne's focal point and favorite meeting place. Outdoor cafes surround the square, which is dominated by a huge outdoor screen. People flock here to people-watch or catch don't-miss sport or activities on the screen, and it’s the location for Melbourne's most important public events and ceremonies.
Back from the cafes you'll find the Australian art section of the National Gallery of Victoria, known as the Ian Potter Centre – the perfect place to get a sense of Australia’s art history from colonial days to the present day. Other cultural icons at Federation Square include cinema history at ACMI, art galleries and creative outdoor play spaces for kids.
The lovely landscaped grounds of Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens spread for almost 100 acres south of the city center, providing Melbourne with the much-appreciated foliage of more than 50,000 plants.
The gardens were established in 1846, and over the years they've become recognised as one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world. The mix of native and introduced species provides inspiration for would-be gardeners, and the manicured lawns are a popular spot for picnics and parties.
You'll find tranquil ornamental lakes dotted with waterbirds, a herbarium and an observatory, plus conservatories and glasshouses filled with exotic blooms. Follow winding pathways past fern gullies and eucalyptus, or join Melbourne's joggers running rings around The Tan, the gardens' running track.
The Great Ocean Road is one Victoria’s most naturally stunning sights, and Loch Ard Gorge is a dramatic highlight of an already dramatic journey. It was at this spot in 1878 where a ship carrying settlers from England to Melbourne was tragically wrecked on the rocks. Of the 54 passengers aboard the ship only two of the passengers survived—a teenage boy who heroically rescued a fellow teenage girl. After spending the night in a coastal sea cave, the duo found help with local settlers after scaling the rugged cliffs. Today those cliffs have a set of stairs that lead to the golden sands, where a protected beach is tucked beneath the towering, time-sculpted bluffs. Though the weather can be spectacularly stormy in winter, summer days are an invitation for picnicking, swimming, and sunbathing, and the striated cliffs form a natural amphitheater of coastal beauty around you.
More Things to Do in Melbourne
St Paul's Cathedral stands right in the heart Melbourne, opposite the cultural precinct Federation Square and diagonally across from Flinders Street Station, the city’s central transport hub. A metropolitical and cathedral church, it was built on the site of Melbourne’s first public Christian service that took place in 1835.
Built in sandstone in the Gothic Transitional style, the Cathedral has the second tallest Anglican spire in the world and a magnificent organ that is believed to be the finest surviving work of British organ builder T.C. Lewis.
Visitors are welcome to explore and worship at the Cathedral, and join the daily Evensong and other services. Sights of interest within its walls include the Moorhouse Tower Lantern, the processional doors, the Persian tile and the pentacles or five-pointed star. A range of gifts and religious items are on sale in the Cathedral Shop (10am-3pm) located inside the Cathedral.
Bold, brash and open 24 hours, Crown Casino is the beating heart of Melbourne's Southbank entertainment complex. The crown-emblazoned tower is a Melbourne landmark, and the casino is just one piece in a massive jigsaw of leisure, arts and recreation facilities on Southbank known as the Crown Entertainment Complex.
Dominating the bustling Southbank promenade, the casino welcomes visitors with dramatic jets of fire, water features and brilliant laser shows. In the casino, games include blackjack, poker and roulette, along with poker machines and VIP gaming rooms. The glossy shopping mall leading to the gaming tables features the biggest names in fashion, from Prada to Louis Vuitton. You'll also find upmarket hotels, ballrooms, concert venues, cinemas, nightclubs, games arcades, food courts, bars and some of Melbourne's finest restaurants, including Nobu, Rockpool and Bistro Guillaume.
Healesville Sanctuary is the best place in Victoria to see and interact with native Australian wildlife. Set in natural bushland, the Sanctuary offers the unique opportunity to get up close to Australian animals in an environment that mirrors their natural habitat.
You can easily spend the best part of a day wandering the shaded paths around the sanctuary that take you past Australia’s iconic and lesser-known wildlife. Meet the dingo packs, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and echidnas and view Australia’s most dangerous reptiles. See an array of colorful and unusual birds such as emus, cassowaries, parrots, owls and eagles, and watch the world’s most elusive water animal, the Platypus, at play.
Entry to the sanctuary includes admission to several wildlife shows including the fantastic Spirits of the Sky held in the sanctuary’s flight arena.
The striking Edwardian facade of Flinders Street Station is one of Melbourne's two transport hubs; the other is the far more modern Southern Cross Station at the other end of the city. Australia's oldest station, the current building with its copper dome, red and yellow tower, arched windows and famous clocks opened back in 1910, though there's been a station here since 1854.
The busiest station in the Southern Hemisphere, the station is packed at peak hours, but quieter for a wander through at other times. Stained glass features in the atrium, and all manner of takeaway stalls offer quick snacks for passers-by and travelers alike.
For an interesting art and shopping stroll, follow the historic underpass that takes you under Flinders Street to Melbourne's funkiest cafe enclave at Degraves Street. Along the way you'll pass local boutiques and a changing parade of street art in one of the city's most unusual gallery art spaces.
Enjoy a quintessential Australian wildlife experience – in the dark – by taking a nocturnal tour at Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park. Revealing mysterious nocturnal creatures that visitors seldom see, the eco-conscious crew at the Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park offer both day and night viewing sessions.
Your wildlife encounter may include patting koalas, feeding wallabies and watching for dingos and snakes by day, before searching for quolls, owls and sugar gliders in the moonlight.
Sprawled across 10 hectares of bushland at the top of the picturesque Mornington Peninsula, the Moonlit Sanctuary Conservation Park is just outside of Melbourne and makes an easy daytrip for groups, tourists and locals alike. Best of all, you can leave feeling like you’ve not only encountered Australian wildlife in natural environments, but also helped to support the conservation and education programs run by Moonlit Sanctuary.
Part of the draw of any visit to Australia is to see some of its much-heralded rustic beauty. Ayers Rock has its fan-base, as does Byron Bay, but to many a Aussie, there’s nothing more beautiful than watching the sun set over the pristine beaches of Wilson’s Promontory.
Lovingly referred to as “The Prom” by locals, this coastal outcropping is the furthest south one can go on Mainland Australia and features 50,000 hectares of untouched granite peaks backed by white sand beaches . Miles of walking tracks meander all through the pristine coastline, and hikers get to see the Australian wilderness as nature intended it. Teams of kangaroos, koalas, emus and wallabies scurry about the brush and grasslands, while penguins come to roost along the beaches at nightfall. Though Wilsons Promontory is a widely beloved spot, it is famous for its short-yet-seemingly long distance from civilization.
Fill up at Melbourne's marketplace, the historic, fun and friendly Queen Victoria Market! Operating since 1878, Queen Victoria Market is the finest place in town to shop for fresh fruit and veg, gourmet meats and cheeses, condiments, seafood – you name it, and you’ll find it.
Melbourne is a city that loves food, and Queen Victoria Market is where gourmets, chefs, office workers, families and just about everyone who eats come to do their shopping. The atmosphere is particularly busy and vibrant on Saturday mornings, especially if a feast like Christmas or Easter is just around the corner.
On Wednesday evenings in summer, a Night Market with food and entertainment lights up the marketplace. A souvenir and trash and treasure market operates on Sundays, with children's rides and outdoor cafes.
Appreciate Melbourne’s best street art and graffiti in Hosier Lane, one of the city’s ‘hidden’ laneways. Once forgotten but now very much on the Melbourne cultural map, Hosier Lane is a small cut through between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, filled with regularly changing graffiti and a series of light boxes that exhibit the work of up and coming contemporary artists.
Jutting out from the center of Hosier is Rutledge Lane; walk past the (graffitied) garbage bins until you hit the Until Never gallery, which displays work by emerging Australian artists (open Wed-Sat). Hang out in Misty Bar or enjoy excellent tapas in the compact but excellent Spanish bar, Movida Next Door (Cnr Flinders St & Hosier Ln). If you want to eat at the more spacious and original Movida (1 Hosier Ln), you’ll need to book at least two months in advance.
Animals from Australia and around the world have called the Melbourne Zoo home since 1862, making it Australia's oldest zoo. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, the zoo is a popular location for picnics and evening concerts during the summer.
Star attractions at Melbourne Zoo include the colorful inhabitants of the Butterfly House, families of gorillas at play in the Gorilla Rainforest, and native animals like kangaroos, wombats and koalas in the Amazing Australians exhibits. Most famous of all is the Trail of the Elephants, the Asian village home of the zoo's five elephants, including recent addition baby Mali. Orangutans are viewed from elevated boardwalks, and penguins and seals swim in the Wild Sea display. Don’t miss feeding time and Meet the Keeper presentations.
Charming and picturesque, Brighton Beach is a cove on Port Phillip Bay that is adored for its rainbow bathing boxes and views of Melbourne city skyline.
There is classic coastal feel to Brighton Beach, with its bayside cafes, boardwalk, yacht club, boutique shopping and two cinemas nearby. The cove is protected from southerly winds and patrolled by Surf Lifesavers, making it a safe place to swim if you can brave the water temperature. Along Dendy Street beach, the bathing boxes have earned tourism icon status, offering a splash of colour against the white sandy shore, and giving the cove a European feel. There are 82 coveted bathing boxes in total, built to heritage standards with weatherboard and timber, and owned by local residents.
One of only four giant observation wheels in the world, along with the London Eye, the Singapore Flyer and the Las Vegas High Roller, the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel has some big names to live up to, but with its 360-degree panoramic views reaching as far as the distant Mount Macedon and Dandenong mountain range, there’s no other attraction like it in the city of Melbourne.
Riding in one of the 21 air-conditioned capsules is an experience in itself, reaching heights of up to 400 feet (120 meters or the equivalent of 40 stories) during the 30-minute tour and offering an unbeatable bird’s eye view of the surrounding Docklands and Port Phillip Bay from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The most atmospheric time to ride the Melbourne Star is during the evening hours, when the wheel’s specially engineered multi-colored LED-lighting creates a dazzling lightshow over the waterfront.
Stark and solemn, the Shrine of Remembrance is Melbourne’s memorial for all Australians who fought in a war. The Shrine was originally built to remember those who fought in World War One and is now open to the public for commemoration and education about all Australian victims of war. Permanent exhibitions show metals awarded to soldiers and records of service men and women. Temporary exhibitions and free daily tours at 11am and 2pm also allow visitors a chance to expand their understanding of Australia’s involvement in international conflicts. The unique shrine is easily recognised by the two identical porticoes supported by eight Doric columns and topped with a pyramidal roof inspired by an ancient Mausoleum. The result of combining the Athenian and Turkish architectural designs in a bold white structure is nothing short of stunning.
With a bold profile of gleaming triangular panels in a unique bioframe roof, it’s no surprise that Melbourne’s AAMI Park has quickly become an iconic sporting stadium.
Located only one kilometre from the city centre, between the sweeping Yarra River and the internationally-loved MCG, AAMI Park is Melbourne’s premier medium-sized soccer, rugby union and rugby league venue. AAMI Park’s star teams include the National Rugby League's Melbourne Storm, Melbourne’s Super Rugby team, the Melbourne Rebels, and soccer’s A-League teams, the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart. The stadium has a capacity of more than 30,000 spectators and boasts a popular roof design that offers seating cover and a notable lack of pillars and walls obstructing the view. Recognizing the unique value of this Melbourne attraction, in 2012 AAMI Park was awarded the World’s Most Iconic and Culturally Significant Stadium by the Stadium World Congress.
Things to do near Melbourne
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in Yarra Valley
- Things to do in Mornington Peninsula
- Things to do in Phillip Island
- Things to do in Ballarat
- Things to do in Great Ocean Road
- Things to do in Burnie
- Things to do in Hobart
- Things to do in Seven Mile Beach
- Things to do in Adelaide
- Things to do in Sydney
- Things to do in Tasmania
- Things to do in South Australia
- Things to do in Port Arthur
- Things to do in New South Wales