Melbourne is notoriously known as Australia’s alternative city, which is also full of some of Australia’s best attractions. In this 2021 guide to Melbourne, we’ll cover everything from the city’s famous landmarks to hidden gems many don’t get the chance to experience.
This Australian city is home to world-class museums (many offering free admission), buzzing restaurants and bars and beautiful natural sights. You can see the world’s smallest penguins out in the wild at St. Kilda Breakwater or at Phillip Island, relax in the spa baths at Peninsula Hot Springs, stroll through the city’s botanical gardens and have a laugh while watching a live act at Malthouse Theatre. And this is only the beginning!
Photo by Denise Jans on Unsplash.
Disclaimer: Venues mentioned in this blog may currently be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please consult the individual venues and government websites for the most up-to-date information. Localsearch nor the author is not liable for the misuse of information.
15 Things to Do in Melbourne
1. See the world’s smallest species of penguins at St. Kilda.
Did you know you can see the world’s smallest species of penguins at St. Kilda? The St. Kilda pier offers visitors the opportunity to see penguins in their natural habitat at St. Kilda breakwater. Only 7km from Melbourne’s CBD, it’s only a short Uber away.
If you miss the nightly penguin viewing, don’t worry! Even during the day, you can sometimes see baby penguins nestling between the large boulders and rocks, waiting for their parents to return with dinner.
Fun Fact: This small penguin species is named Little Penguin.
*See updated notices for if the viewing platform is open.
2. Visit Phillip Island.
Besides seeing the beautiful sunset over the ocean, you also get to watch the best parade there is — the little penguin parade. You can also view the penguins from the boardwalks, where you can watch them from nearby and see the babies waiting for their dinner to arrive.
The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit Visitor Centre and Go Karts is a dream for those who love go karting. Sitting next to the 4.5km circuit, there is the 750 metre replica for go karts. Although it’s far shorter than the real thing, it’s still quite a ride!
Make sure to take those corners slow, otherwise you might end up on top of the tire barricades like I did…
3. Stroll through the Botanic Gardens.
Open daily, 7:30AM until sunset.
Melbourne’s Botanic Gardens are located in the middle of the city and cover 38 hectares with over 8,500 species of plants. Take a stroll through the gardens to admire over 50,000 plants and the wildlife that lives amongst them.
If you’d like an even more relaxing experience, have a picnic by one of the lakes or ponds and watch ducks float past.
4. Visit Federation Square.
Federation Square is centrally located, so it’s a great, easy thing to do in Melbourne. It gives locals a meet-up spot and visitors a diverse and fun-filled destination.
Besides world-class museums and galleries, a modern outdoor hub and the nearby bridge and gardens, there are also events on nearly every weekend, so don’t miss out!
5. Jump on a roller coaster at Luna Park.
Luna Park is located in St Kilda and is Australia’s oldest amusement park. While most people instantly think of Sydney’s Luna Park, Melbourne’s Luna Park is actually the original Australian Luna Park. The park dates back to 1912 and has many different rides and fun activities, from funky mirrors to the wooden roller coaster following the perimeter of the park.
*Check to see if the park is open.
6. Admire the ever-changing graffiti art at Hosier Lane.
Hosier Lane is a popular landmark in Melbourne. No matter how many times you go, the art will never be the same. It’s likely you’ll even see street artists spray painting over the latest works of art during your visit.
This urban art scene is like no other — see murals, stencils and beautiful paintings and some abstract art in Hosier Lane.
However, there is some controversy with the new addition of Culture Kings being added to Hosier Lane, so don’t be surprised if people walking into the store get dirty looks from nearby watchers.
7. Walk through Brunswick Street.
Brunswick Street is a more urban and bohemian area of Melbourne. From cool street art amongst the buildings to wacky and weird shops and restaurants, come to Brunswick to see a different side of Melbourne.
Explore the fashion shops for some cheap and alternative clothes, or head to the award-winning Smith & Daughters for its trendy atmosphere and highly-rated vegan dishes; people say they taste like the real thing!
8. Admire Chapel Street.
Yet another one of Melbourne’s cool streets, Chapel Street is also filled with alternative restaurants, shops, bars and more. As Melbourne’s largest shopping, entertainment and lifestyle precinct, Chapel Street has much to offer. The buildings are each unique to themselves, but overall are cohesively alternative.
Stroll through Chapel, or head to one of the top bars, like OneSixOne for a rooftop bar experience, accompanied by great music, drinks and company.
9. Peruse Melbourne’s top museums.
Melbourne Museum offers visitors a fresh insight into life in Victoria. Enjoy permanent and temporary exhibitions highlighting Victoria’s culture, history and natural environment from different perspectives. From the Forest Gallery to the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre, there is plenty to see and learn at this museum.
The National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest gallery in Australia, founded in 1861. Boasting local and international collections, exhibitions, programs and events, it’s no surprise this is also the most visited gallery in Australia.
With over 70,000 pieces of art, the National Gallery of Victoria is home to the most significant art collection in the region. The gallery has held the works of Warhol, Dior and Van Gogh in the past, and we’re excited to see what comes to the gallery next.
FREE admission, always.
The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) is a free museum, offering always rotating contemporary art pieces. From abstract to motion picture, visiting the ACCA is always a fun time; not to mention the building itself is a standout design that you cannot miss.
The ACCA describes itself as “…adventurous, provocative and ambitious…” which I can vouch is absolutely on point. Bringing local and international contemporary works to display in the heart of Melbourne is what the ACCA does best.
*Reopening 11 Feb 2021.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image, or better known as ACMI, is yet another visual experience. ACMI is now the top visited moving image museum internationally, in addition to undergoing a $40 million redevelopment last year. The upgrade will make the museum more open and enhanced, incorporating new technologies and innovations to make the experience it offers un-image-inable.
10. See a play at the Malthouse Theatre.
The Malthouse Theatre is home to some of Melbourne’s best live acts. From plays to comedy acts, the theatre will not disappoint. Local and international artists collaborate with the theatre to produce the standout performances you can see here.
11. Take a trip down the Great Ocean Road.
The Great Ocean Road is a 243km road spanning along the southwest coast of Victoria. Stretching from Torquay to Warrnambool, the road winds through the bush and is parallel to the ocean, offering travellers incredible views of nature and wildlife.
12. Swim at Brighton Beach.
Brighton Beach is arguably Melbourne’s top beach, famous for its brightly coloured bathing boxes lining the beach. Locals can be seen bringing their beach chairs and umbrellas out of their bathing boxes to relax on Brighton Beach. Ensure to bring a camera (and swimmers) to enjoy the beach and take some shots of the iconic bathing boxes.
13. Shopping at the Block Arcade.
The Block Arcade is Melbourne’s oldest and most famous shopping centre, first opening its doors in 1892. Boasting boutique fashion, cafés, restaurants and other shops, there is so much to marvel at.
14. Plan a relaxing day at Peninsula Hot Springs.
The Peninsula Hot Springs boast surreal relaxation for those 16 years and older. From signature spa treatments to standalone geothermal bathing, there are so many different ways to have a tranquil experience while at the springs.
Soak up the day while in one of their many pools, test the temperature with their hot and cold therapy and enjoy one of their divine meal packages.
15. Sip wine at Yarra Valley.
Yarra Valley is renowned for the state’s premier wine region, producing excellent Chardonnay, sparkling wine and Pinot Noir. Less than a 30 minute drive from Melbourne CBD, Yarra Valley boasts top wineries, with most offering wine tours.
So, grab a group of friends and take them to taste some of Australia’s finest wines!