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Victoria’s capital is full of culture and quirks, with a strong sense of artistry and home to some of the best food, dining and live music in the country.
It’s also home to a number of great attractions both natural and man-made, and with plenty of appealing surrounding destinations within easy reach of a day trip too, there’s something to keep everyone happy when visiting Melbourne.
But with such a wide variety of experiences on offer in the city and its surrounds, what is the first-time visitor to Melbourne best off doing with their time here? And if you’ve got multiple days on your itinerary, what opportunities are there for exploration outside the city’s boundaries?
From art, to attractions, to architecture and more, here, we look at the top 10 things to do in Melbourne & surrounds.
- Eureka Skydeck
Location: 7 Riverside Quay, Southbank, Melbourne
If you’re looking to begin your visit to Melbourne by getting an idea of the city’s layout – including the location of a number of other landmarks listed on this list – there are few better places to do so than the Eureka Skydeck.
Begin your journey with awe inspiring views from the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform that boasts not only a central location overlooking the city and beyond, but a great starting point for any trip to Melbourne as it will allow you to get your bearings and determine where you’d like to go while also providing some great scenery to boot. For those that dare to take the views a step further, you’ll be able to experience Skydeck’s “The Edge” – an activity that will see you taken over the edge in a glass box, with views directly down into the cityscape.
Begin your journey with awe inspiring views from the Southern Hemisphere’s highest viewing platform that boasts not only a central location overlooking the city and beyond, but a great start point for any trip to Melbourne.
- The Shrine of Remembrance
Location: Kings Domain Parkland, St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
This wonderful feat of construction serves as both a fitting tribute to our veterans from wars throughout our history, as well an ideal starting point for your adventures in Melbourne for a variety of reasons.
The Shrine of Remembrance’s central location serves as a great “lay of the land” spot from which to get your bearings in the city, it offers visitors great views from the top that provide an overview of Melbourne’s Paris-style layout, and it’s an impressive piece of architecture in its own right.
Situated on a hill that provides a solid vantage point close to other Melbournian highlights such as the Botanical Gardens and Government House, the Shrine of Remembrance is easily accessible via a short walk from the city’s free City Circle Tram service.
Thus it – along with Eureka Skydeck – can serve as viable options as Item No. 1 on everyone’s Melbourne itinerary. As an added bonus, the Shrine’s views come free of charge.
“It offers visitors great views from the top that provide an overview of Melbourne’s Paris-style layout, and it’s an impressive piece of architecture in its own right.“
- Go Hot Air Ballooning
Location: Flights available over Melbourne CBD and Yarra Valley
Those with a bit of extra coin to spare and who are wanting some unforgettable views will want to take a hot air balloon ride over Melbourne, as it’s one of the few cities in the world that allow such an experience directly over its skyline. Take in the beauty of the city as the sun rises and enjoy a bird’s eye view of all that you survey amidst the pure calm and serene skies.
Balloon flights typically depart very early in the morning to take advantage of the calm morning air, so you’ll get the added benefit of seeing Melbourne illuminated by the glow of the sunrise which makes for a particularly scenic experience.
“Balloon flights typically depart very early in the morning to take advantage of the calm morning air, so you’ll get the added benefit of seeing Melbourne illuminated by the glow of the sunrise which makes for a particularly scenic experience.“
- See St. Paul’s Cathedral / Flinders St Station
Location: Flinders and Swanson Streets, Melbourne CBD
Despite its modern and cosmopolitan reputation, Melbourne is home to numerous examples of impressive older architecture – two of the most impressive of which lie within short walking distance of one another.
Perhaps the most prominent and impressive of these is St. Paul’s Cathedral. A truly stunning building constructed in typical Gothic style, the cathedral sits just across the road from Melbourne’s historic Flinder’s Street Station, and the two combine to make for a small “hub” district that feels a world away from Australia’s second-largest city despite being located right in its heart.
“Despite its modern and cosmopolitan reputation, Melbourne is home to numerous examples of impressive older architecture – two of the most impressive of which lie within short walking distance of one another.“
St. Paul’s Cathedral is just as impressive inside as out; the interior boasts impressive craftsmanship as a lot of passion and work obviously went into its construction; from the wooden pews to the carvings on the walls and stained glass which emanates an array of colours from on high, the interior is both an impressive and tranquil place.
- The Dandenong Ranges
Location: Approx. 1 hours’ drive east of Melbourne CBD
Those looking for a dose of nature while getting out of the city for a day or two can look inland and head towards the lush reaches of the greater Melbourne region’s Dandenong Ranges, an area that’s both scenic and provides several unique activities of its own.
The majestic mountain range is famed for its towering Mountain Ash trees and features a blend of wonderful scenery, spots to get fantastic local food, charming little villages and small stores offering various hand-crafted goods. Options for exploring the ranges are numerous; ride on Australia’s most notable narrow gauge railway through the breathtaking Blue Dandenong Ranges, visit the area by coach, join a smaller tour for the full Dandenong Ranges experience, or have the best of both worlds with a combined city and Dandenong Ranges tour.
- The Queen Victoria Market
Location: Corner of Victoria Street and Elizabeth Street, Melbourne
Those with a need for knick-knacks will be in their element with a visit to Melbourne’s Queen Victoria Markets, a bustling outdoor hub with an item, souvenir or meal to suit pretty much every taste.
This is the Queen of all markets and the vibrant, exciting mix of cultures and ethnicities of Melbourne can be discovered here, with a variety of foods and souvenirs from all corners of the Earth on offer.
The markets also serve as a great place for breakfast or lunch, and you’ll likely be able to grab yourself a meal from some far-reaching country for an entirely reasonable price that makes for a nice change of pace from the typical “dine-in cafe” experience that is most popular in Melbourne.
- Experience the Great Ocean Road
Location: Starts approx. 1 hour, 15 minutes’ drive to the south west of Melbourne at Torquay.
Often acclaimed as the most stunning drive in Australia – and one of the best in the world – no trip to Melbourne that lasts a decent amount of time would be complete without setting foot (or wheel?) on The Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s most scenic vantage points.
Stretching over an expanse of 243km along the Victorian Coast, the sheer array of vistas and views on offer with a trip along the Great Ocean Road is staggering – enough that it’s been voted as one of Australia’s Top 10 Destinations to Experience 2013 as well as having one of Australia’s Top 10 Sunsets in our national polls by the Aussie public.
- Travel to Phillip Island
Location: Just under 2 hours’ drive south of Melbourne
One of the most popular natural destinations that’s reachable within a reasonable distance outside Melbourne, Phillip Island is especially famous for one reason: its penguins.
With a trip to Phillip Island, you’ll be able to watch thousands of Little Penguins make their way to shore every night at the home of the world’s largest Little Penguin colony, an occurrence which is known as the “Penguin Parade”.
There’s plenty of other things to do on Phillip Island, as well: be sure to visit the nearby Koala Conservation Centre which will let you see dozens of these cute Aussie icons up close, and check out the geographical highlights offered by Churchill Island (home to a throwback working farm environment that reflects Victoria’s heritage) and The Nobbies (a stunning stretch of headland featuring a range of scenery-rich wooden boardwalks).
“With a trip to Phillip Island, you’ll be able to watch thousands of Little Penguins make their way to shore every night at the home of the world’s largest Little Penguin colony, an occurrence which is known as the ‘Penguin Parade’.“
- See the Wildlife at a Zoo or Aquarium
Location: Melbourne Aquarium – King Street, riverside in the Melbourne CBD; Melbourne Zoo – 4km to the north of the city CBD; Healesville Sanctuary – approx. 1 hour drive east of the Melbourne CBD; Werribee Open Range Zoo – roughly 30 minutes’ drive to the south-west of the city CBD.
Melbourne benefits more than most capital cities by offering an array of high-level wildlife attractions of various kinds, covering all the best local Aussie animals as well as exotic species from abroad.
The city and its surrounds is rich in both zoos and aquariums, both of which are generally quite reasonably priced and provide a great destination to take the kids or to spend some time if the notoriously unreliable Melbourne weather turns sour.
- Explore the city’s Laneways
Location: Various locations, Melbourne CBD & surrounds
Note: Click the following link for a detailed breakdown of some recommended Melbourne Itineraries for stays of 2, 3, 4 and 5 days, or here for our comprehensive guide to Melbourne in One Day.
Melbourne the city itself is, undisputedly, the main attraction, and whether by bike, by bus or by foot, exploring the city is an absolute must. Filled with quirky alley ways, hidden shops, art galleries and indie theatres, it certainly earns its reputation as Australia’s culture capital – Melbourne simply wouldn’t be Melbourne without its laneways, thus simply exploring the city serves as viable entertainment in itself.
Dining is also an obvious focus that Melbournians take pride in, and there are entire dedicated streets and laneways to offering all manner of quality fare – while coffee is its most famous product, the mix of international cultures in Melbourne means that the likes of Greek, Italian, Chinese, and various other cuisines all have standout restaurants offering great dishes here.
Melbourne Airport, also known as Tullamarine Airport, is the primary airport serving the city of Melbourne, and the second busiest airport in Australia.
It was opened in 1970 to replace the nearby Essendon Airport. Melbourne Airport is the sole international airport of the four airports serving the Melbourne metropolitan area.
The airport is 23 km (14 mi) from the city centre. The airport has its own postcode—Melbourne Airport, Victoria (postcode 3045). This is adjacent to the suburb of Tullamarine.
The Melbourne–Sydney air route is the third most-travelled passenger air route in the world and the third busiest in the Asia Pacific region.
The airport features direct flights to 33 domestic destinations of Australia in addition to destinations in the Pacific, London, Asia and North America.
Melbourne Airport is the number one arrival/departure point for the airports of four of Australia’s seven other capital cities.N1 Melbourne serves as a major hub for Qantas and Virgin Australia, while Jetstar Airways and Tiger Airways Australia utilise the airport as home base.