Melbourne has an energy you’ll feel just by being there. From an ever-changing skyline, to excellent restaurants, a small bar movement, street art and dynamic cultural precincts, Melbourne is an exciting destination that’s easy to explore on foot or by tram. Here’s a guide to what you can see and do there.
Melbourne’s streets are lined with many imposing buildings built after the 1850s gold rush. Most impressive is Collins Street, renowned for its churches, majestic bluestone buildings, high-end boutiques and deluxe hotels.
Melbourne’s arcades are stunning. The Royal Arcade dates from 1870, while the nearby Block Arcade has a beautiful domed ceiling and decorative mosaic floor tiles. While here, visit the Tea Rooms that since 1892 has served exquisite cakes and scones.
Melbourne’s laneways are spread across the city. From elegant to spray painted with graffiti, they are one of the city’s most distinctive tourist attractions. Hosier Lane, a cobbled laneway, showcases street art. Less known street art laneways include Platypus, Rainbow and Lang’s Lane, while Degraves Street and Hardware Lane are renowned for their bars, restaurants and pavement cafes.
From Melbourne Museum, the largest museum in the Southern Hemisphere, to the State Library, and Immigration Museum, to performances at the Arts Centre and theatres, Melbourne has a rich cultural heritage. The National Gallery of Victoria is stunning and vast, showcasing Australian and international art, while the Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square showcases Australia’s finest collection of Indigenous Australian art.
Parks and gardens
Melbourne is surrounded by several splendid gardens, including Treasury, Carlton and Fitzroy Gardens. Alongside the Yarra River is Birrarung Marr Park that means “river of mist” in the language of the area’s original inhabitants, the Wurundjeri people. Nearby Southbank’s riverside promenade is lined with restaurants and bars.
Founded in 1846 the Royal Botanic Gardens is one of the world’s finest botanical gardens with plants from around the world. Highlights are the lakes, fernery and majestic pines.
Queen Victoria Market
For over 140 years stallholders have offered a staggering array of fruit, vegetables and fresh produce, the market as good as any in the world. Visit the continental delicatessen for cheeses, small goods, cakes and bread.
Discover Melbourne’s neighborhoods
Take time to discover Melbourne’s distinct neighborhoods by tram. Efficient, and extensive, it’s the largest tram network in the world.
Fitzroy and Carlton Fitzroy’s shopping precinct, bounded by Brunswick, Gertrude, Smith and Johnston Streets, is where you’ll find retro and designer boutiques, bookshops, cool cafes, bars, and art galleries. In neighboring Carlton, the Italian heritage is especially evident along Lygon Street. Stop by Brunetti’s for coffee, pizza, gelato and cakes.
South Yarra and Prahran A walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens leads to the exclusive dining precinct on Domain Road and nearby, bustling Chapel Street lined with restaurants and high end Australian fashion. Catch the tram back to the city after stopping by the Prahran Markets.
St Kilda Visit Acland Street for coffee and a slice of rich European cake, before heading to the beach for a swim and walk along St Kilda pier. The best day to visit is Sunday for the outdoor craft market. If you’re driving, continue along the bayside suburbs to the brightly painted timber huts on Brighton Beach.
Explore the stunningly beautiful Mornington Peninsula of hills and valleys, quaint seaside villages like Balnarring and Flinders, lush farmland, boutique vineyards and a rugged ocean coastline with pounding waves. This is one of Victoria’s most beautiful regions, and my home for ten years. To maximize your visit, take the Flinders hinterland scenic drive and consider an overnight stay. Drive by surf beaches including Point Leo and Gunnamatta, visit farms for fresh fruit, especially strawberries, sample wine at cellar doors, and dine at one of the many renowned restaurants such as Point Leo Estate with a stunning sculpture garden.
The most enjoyable way to experience the beautiful forests and fern gullies of the Dandenong Ranges is to take a ride on the historic Puffing Billy steam train from Belgrave, one hour east of the city. There are also many quaint villages to explore including Sassafras, Olinda and Tecoma, with cafes, art galleries and craft stores.
North of Melbourne a great day can be spent exploring the Yarra Valley. Visit Healesville Sanctuary where you can encounter Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos and emus in a bushland setting.
The Yarra Valley region excels in premium cool climate wines with boutique wineries and restaurants offering food that’s locally sourced and grown, farm gates and farmer’s markets. This is Victoria’s premier food and wine destination.
- Fly to Melbourne with Virgin, Jetstar, Qantas or Rex, or from Sydney and Adelaide, it’s a scenic drive or train trip onboard the Overlander or XPT.
- Plan your stay with the What’s On Melbourne website.
- Getting around by tram is easy and free in the city. For nearby suburbs, purchase a MYKI travel card, a reusable smart card. Exploring outlying areas is best done by car. I’d recommend spending a few days in Melbourne. The city is packed with dining and retail precincts, theatres and galleries. My picks for deluxe hotels are the Sofitel or Grand Hyatt, with a Ritz-Carlton and Shangri-La nearing completion, midrange the Hilton or Novotel on Collins, and for affordable, the Ibis Budget on Elizabeth Street in a superior room.