I was going to make this a Top 5, but I just kept thinking of extra things! I’ve been to Melbourne a fair few times so tried to combine the more classic things to do on a first visit, as well as some more lesser known places to be discovered.
1. Coffee in the Lanes
To get an idea of what Melbourne is all about is to visit the lanes. These narrow little streets just off Flinders Street are rammed with amazing coffee spots, graffiti filled walls and so many artisan sandwiches you won’t know which pesto and mozzarella thing to eat first. Grab a coffee (or wine) and people watch!
2. Queen Vic Market
On a Wednesday night, the Queen Vic Market is the place to go! It’s rammed full of people but has a great vibe, food and drink stalls galore, and changing live music / entertainment. During the day its also full of fresh fruit and veg, meat produce, and speciality stalls (think souvenirs, fabrics, clothes etc). For me the night market is by far the best time to go, and runs throughout summer (check dates before heading down there).
3. Yarra Valley
Head an hour outside of Melbourne and explore the Yarra Valley, a cool climate wine producing region which is packed with cellar doors and vineyards. If wine isn’t your thing they also have beer and cider micro-breweries and on my last visit, a very welcome edition of a small batch gin distillery.
Some of my favourites are Chandon (pic above) for their impressive grounds and large scale, Yering Station for it’s arty charm and AMAZING wine, and Four Pillars for its Spiced Negroni Gin, but make sure you do a gin sampling to appreciate and taste them all!
The Yarra makes its way right through the heart of Melbourne city and taking a stroll along it
on the Southbank is a great way to spend an afternoon. This is a bit random but one of the places I love going on the Southbank is the casino… I’m not a gambler (honest!) but I like going there and grabbing a drink, sitting on the outside terrace overlooking the river. Once the sun goes down, there are fire caldrons that go off every so often along the river too. The Southbank is also where I first found out about Doughnut Time, so good memories all around.
5. Eureka Skydeck
If you see a shimmer of gold in the Melbourne skyline it will be the Eureka Skydeck, this 92 storey building is the highest vantage point in the Southern Hemisphere and the top 10 levels of it are 24 carat gold plated! If that’s not unusual, you will find the observation platform is! Take off your shoes and wear some silly looking socks, and you’ll be allowed to enter into ‘The Edge’ observation cube, which moves from inside the building to outside, the frosted floor becomes clear and suddenly you realise you are only standing on inch thick glass 300 meters from the ground below you. It’s an experience like no other and great value too.
6. The Yarra Bend Flying Foxes, Kew
I’d been to Melbourne several times before even hearing about this one. In Yarra Bend Park on the banks of the Yarra River there lives a colony of 30,000 grey-headed flying foxes, or to give them their more common name - fruit bats! They took up residency in 2003, moving from Melbourne’s Royal Botanical Gardens. During the day they hang from the tree branches quite happily, you’ll occasionally see one flying across the waters, and when you do you’ll realise how massive they are – their wingspan around 1 meter wide. Dusk is a great time to see the whole colony as it gradually makes it way out, swooping about in search of food.
Further along the track there’s also the Wurundjeri Spur Lookout which has great views over the Melbourne CBD.
7. Grab a burger in a rooftop tram carriage
Melbourne has so many amazing places to eat, so I’ve picked somewhere where the setting was a bit more standout. If your into burgers and quirky eating places, try Easey’s. This burger place in Collingwood has 3 trams on the top of the building, and you can eat in the tram car. I booked a few days ahead to make sure they had space in the tram car, there’s also an eating area on the ground floor but that defeats the object if you ask me! The burgers are amazing, good value with the added bonus of a really unique location, and very ‘Melbourne’ with graffiti filled staircase leading up to the restaurant.
8. Melbourne Gaol
Ever wanted to know what it feels like to be arrested? No, me neither – but here you can! Find out your crime and experience being locked up in the Old Melbourne Gaol, whilst learning about the history and what it was like living in the jail which dates back to 1842. One of the oldest buildings in Melbourne and most famous for being the place where Australian fugitive Ned Kelly was hung, the place is a *little* spooky with long corridors that were like ‘Green Mile’ and some. 133 people have been hung there so its definitely got its share of ghost stories…
9. St Kilda
If you’ve been spoilt for choice by Australia’s East Coast beaches, St Kilda won’t strike you as Australia’s best or biggest beach, but it’s proximity to the city is a major selling point as well as the cafes, cake shops and bars to enjoy along the main esplanade. Stop by the famous (slightly freaky) Luna Park face and soak up the chilled atmosphere, as this is known as the backpacker area.
As Brodie Dale once sung ‘My name is Brodie, I’m from Melbourne, Fitzroy Melbourne, Fitzroy Melbourne’… I digress, but Fitzroy is the heart of all things alternative in Melbourne and is a cool spot to just wander around on a sunny afternoon. There’s lots of great street art to spot, and the buildings all have a crumbling charm to them. Check out The Provincial Hotel (read: pub if you are British) its just a nice little place to stop in for a drink on your way down the main strip of Brunswick Street, and has a rooftop bar (my sister in law got married here so I may be bias!)