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With its colourful street art, quirky coffee shops and cosmopolitan edge, Melbourne has a well-deserved reputation as Australia’s coolest city.
Whether you feel like perusing an art gallery or strolling through botanical gardens, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Melbourne to keep you entertained.
If you’ve just finished a nature-filled Adelaide to Melbourne road trip like I had, arriving in such a big city may seem a bit of a shock! But you’ll soon become absorbed in the mixture of old and new architecture, hidden laneways and variety of Melbourne attractions.
I spent about two weeks in Australia’s second-largest city, and got out and about exploring as much as I could. Here are my top 15 things to do in Melbourne, along with tips on finding accommodation.
1. Melbourne’s Laneway Cafes
Melbourne is well known for its amazing coffee and stylish, independent cafes (apparently thanks to the early Italian settlers). You won’t have to look too far to find your caffeine fix, but tucked-away Degraves Street and Centre Place, both in the city, are especially worth a visit.
2. Melbourne Botanic Gardens
If you’re craving a slice of nature, head to Melbourne’s beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens, just two kilometres from the city centre. You can enjoy a lakeside picnic, see over 8,500 different plant species from around the world, or enjoy coffee or lunch with a view in The Terrace cafe.
3. The Great Ocean Road
A must-do road trip from Melbourne is the famous Great Ocean Road. Allow at least three days if possible, as this 243-kilometre stretch between Torquay and Allansford is packed with natural attractions.
From the towering Twelve Apostles limestone stacks to fun surf towns like Lorne, you won’t run out of fun things to do and see. Check out my guide for more:
4. Queen Victoria Market
The sprawling seven-hectare Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, and dates back over 140 years.
Visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday for food, clothing, gifts and more (including evenings during the summer), or Tuesdays and Thursdays for fresh produce and speciality shopping.
5. Melbourne Beaches
While Melbourne set on Port Phillip Bay rather than the ocean, you can still spend a day at the beach.
St Kilda Beach is the most well known, with cafes, nearby Luna Park and plenty of youngsters strutting down the promenade. Try Brighton Beach for the famous painted beach huts, or Black Rock Beach instead.
6. Eureka Skydeck
Out of the many things to do in Melbourne, the Eureka Skydeck on Riverside Quay in Southbank has to be my top recommendation. The 360-degree views of the city from the 285 metre-high viewing platform are absolutely breath taking.
Arriving just before sunset and watching the city light up is particularly pretty, although a bit crowded.
7. Melbourne City Architecture
Compared to the more modern-looking cities like Brisbane and Perth, Melbourne still has plenty of older, character-filled buildings, so make sure you take a wander around the city to take it all in.
Be sure to check out Flinders Street Station as well as the beautiful State Library of Victoria. For a more modern touch, head to Federation Square, home to restaurants, bars and multicultural events.
8. Phillip Island
This popular getaway off the Mornington Peninsula is best known for its population of little penguins. To watch them waddle in from the sea to find a bed for the night, buy a ticket for the very cute Penguin Parade.
Phillip Island is also worth visiting for its rugged coastal scenery and nature. If you’re travelling on a budget, stay overnight at the very modern and eco-friendly YHA like I did:
9. Melbourne Street Art
Almost as famous as its coffee culture is Melbourne’s colourful street art. You can’t help but stumble upon it, especially in funky suburbs like Fitzroy, but popular spots include Hosier Lane and Union Lane.
10. Melbourne Docklands
Once the main industrial and docking area of the city, Melbourne Docklands is now home to modern restaurants, bars and shops at Waterfront City, as well as public art and promenades at New Quay.
11. Dandenong Ranges
A popular day trip from Melbourne is the Dandenong Ranges, less than an hour away from the city. You’ll find quaint country villages, hiking trails and amazing views like the one below.
12. South Bank Art Galleries
If you want to kill a few Melbourne attractions in one day, this is a great activity to add onto a trip to the nearby Botanic Gardens.
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV International) houses thousands of pieces of artwork and has a very snazzy stained-glass ceiling! The nearby Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is also worth visiting, with its iconic building and range of exhibitions.
13. Wilsons Promontory
Another great multi-day trip from Melbourne is Wilsons Promontory, a beautiful coastal national park to the south-east of the city.
With miles of hiking trails, campsites, wildlife and lovely beaches, ‘The Prom’ is ideal for nature lovers. It’s also the most southern part of mainland Australia.
14. Eat & Drink in Funky Melbourne Suburbs
To get a better feel for the city, beyond the tourist hotspots, head slightly out of the centre into the arty Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy and neighbouring area Collingwood.
The two main streets are Brunswick Street and Smith Street, where you’ll find a range of cafes, bars and restaurants to enjoy a meal or drinks.
15. Shopping in Melbourne
If you’re feeling inspired by all the hip Melburnians (I felt quite the scruff arriving in my backpacker shorts and t-shirt!), head to the city for some retail therapy. Popular spots include Bourke Street Mall, Melbourne Central and the Block Arcade.
Accommodation in Melbourne
I’d highly recommend booking your Melbourne accommodation in advance, particularly if you’re visiting in summer or school holidays. I almost had to spend a night in my car when I arrived off the boat from Tasmania with nothing arranged!
I stayed in a variety of accommodation in Melbourne (since I passed in and out a few times) including the filthiest house sit I’ve ever had, the sofa at a giant homestay and a number of hostels and Airbnbs!
The best value I found for two people on a budget was sharing someone’s spare room on Airbnb, which started at less than some hostel dorm beds (about $65 per room).
I’ve stayed in both of the hostels below, and would recommend them both:
The Nunnery – a quirky, converted nunnery in buzzing, arty Fitzroy.
HabitatHQ – a modern hostel in beachside St Kilda, with a focus on sustainability.
To search through over 2,000 Melbourne accommodation options, including hotels, apartments and hostels, take a look on Booking.com:
There are so many amazing things to do in Melbourne, but each of Australia’s cities has its own particular attractions. Take a look at my other city guides below to find out what you can do in the other state capitals of Australia. Happy travels!