If you like (great) coffee, and (great) city, Melbourne is certainly on your bucket list
Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, is a cosmopolitan and very lively city that will delight many travelers. You can’t get bored here, and your days are sure to be busy as there is no shortage of activities.
The second Australian city which is in constant competition with Sydney has a wide choice of things to do: culture, beaches, cool districts, nightlife, gardens, sports, etc … everything is there. It is a city with a very European style as much for its climate as its population and its habits. We have put together for you a list of things to do in Melbourne to inspire you during your stay!
1. Enjoy the best coffee on Earth!
Around the world, Melbourne is renowned for its obsession with coffee. The city offers more than 2,000 kinds of coffee prepared by some of the best baristas in the world. The love story between Melbourne and coffee goes back to World War II, with the arrival of Italian and Greek immigrants. This attraction for coffee is now considered an art in its own right.
To never disappoint the refined palate of their customers, the city’s coffee leaders roam the best producing regions of the world in search of coffees of unique origin. These experts not only offer espresso, “flat white” or cold brewed coffee, they also use filters and siphon coffee makers.
2. Walk around the “famous” laneways and check out the amazing street art
Melbourne, like Berlin or New York, is one of the capitals of street art (stencil capital of the world, they say). We walk there with our noses in the air to spot the design that we could have forgotten, we explore each lane, amazed by the colors, the patterns, the creativity. Street art in Melbourne is like the city: multicultural. Here, the origins mix, and it shows on the walls.
To understand the importance of street art in Melbourne, you must first look at the laneways, these tiny alleys that are found everywhere in the city. Formerly reserved for the storage of garbage cans, these alleys crisscross the city center. At the same time hidden from view but clearly visible, the laneways quickly became the playground for graffiti artists.
The population generally found their account there, considering that these paintings made the alleys less gloomy. However, the government has put in place very tough laws around street art. But it was too late, Melbourne was already becoming famous for its graffiti, and a compromise had to be found to satisfy tourists, artists and politicians.
3. Stroll the Royal Botanic Gardens
From Federation Square in the CBD you have the continuity of 3 large gardens along the Yarra River: Alexandra Gardens, Queen Victoria Gardens and the Royal Botanic Gardens. In order to access these parks which are located on the other side of the river, you have to go through Princes Bridge from where you will have a magnificent view of the Yarra River (to be done day and night, with the lights it is wonderful).
Our favorite being the Royal Botanic Gardens, have a picnic at the edge of Ornamental Lake. You will be able to admire the boats passing by and there are often wedding ceremonies, it’s really cute.
4. Go on a day trip in the Yarra Valley
Located just 1 hour east of Melbourne, the Yarra Valley is mainly known for its wine-making activity. However, this region offers many more activities and places to discover. Some wine tastings are inevitable in the Yarra Valley. The “Cellar Door” (tasting counters) are very developed in Australia.
We recommend Maddens Rise for its calm and original Cellar Door, offering very good organic wines with European roots. Also visit Riverstone Estate for the breathtaking view and warm welcome. Plan a visit to Tarrawarra for their great wines, the immensity and the beauty of the place. Finally, Medhurst Wine is to be tested for the quality and passion invested in their wines, as well as a menu of elegant and tasty dishes.
If you love gin, the new and intimate Alchemy Distillers offers an unforgettable experience and unique creations. The same is true for the famous and majestic Four Pillars Distillery, 200 meters away, which is growing and improving day by day.
5. Sunbath at Melbourne most famous beach: Brighton Beach
In Brighton Beach, expect to see 82 very cute and multi-coloured bathing boxes. It is one of the symbol of Melbourne, and a must-see if you travel to Melbourne. Brighton beach is also a very nice beach, ideal sport for swimmers and sunbathers. If the wind is strong enough, it can also be a good spot for surfing. The beach is also very close from all the restaurants and cafés that make Brighton one of the most popular suburbs.
6. Watch Penguins in the wild at Phillip Island (Yes, Penguins!!!)
Phillip Island is not very large with a length of 26km by a width of 9km. To access it, there is a bridge that connects it to the mainland. This island is mainly known for its penguins who, every evening, return by the thousands to spend the night there. The island is also famous for the presence of the largest Australian colony of sea lions! These little penguins will offer you a stunning spectacle.
A grandstand has been built for you to attend the show without disturbing them. As soon as dusk appears, these few little black heads will come out of the water and you will see them start to come out in small groups. The best part is that they are all waiting for the exit of the water before starting their long walks to the coast. Seeing them waddle and advance to the dunes is a magnificent sight. They also utter little cries, strident enough to communicate! It is prohibited to take photos because the flash dazzles and disturbs them.
This number of visitors are limited every day, hence we recommend to book your entry ticket in advance. You can book it here.
We recommend to spend a day on Phillip island, as there are more than just the Penguins to see. Also the Penguins can only be seen in the evening, hence take the whole day to see the many other things that the Island has to offer.
Koala Conservation Center
Originally, koalas did not live on Phillip Island. They have been introduced in the past by English settlers. Unfortunately, today Koalas are affected by chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that causes infertility and blindness. The population of koalas has declined sharply. The Phillip Island Koala Conservation Center is not a traditional zoo, although koalas live in captivity.
The tour of the center begins with a small exhibition to learn a lot about Koalas. Did you know that Koala spent most of the day sleeping to save the little energy they get from food, which is made exclusively from eucalyptus leaves from certain specific species. It is also from eucalyptus leaves that the koala draws the water necessary for its survival. Except in case of strong heat, the koala does not drink water. It is from this peculiarity that this animal takes its name since in the aboriginal language, koala means “who does not drink”
After visiting the exhibition, you can head to the park, which offer ride on wooden pontoons that allow you to observe the koalas at their height. The enclosures are large and the number of koalas very low (around ten). Also, you really have to take the time to look for them in the trees as you would in nature. We have seen people pass too quickly in front of the koalas without even seeing them. You have to really look everywhere because the koalas do not move much.
We took advantage of the low tide to go to Forrest Caves, a beach where you can admire rocks dug by erosion. You can even enter a cave dug by the waves in the rocks. Check the tide times carefully before going there because the place is only accessible at low tide. We must also be careful with the rising tide so as not to get stuck in the cave (even if the path is very short to get out).
The location is easy to reach, a short walk (about 1 km) onto the beach from the Forrest Caves parking lot. Between September and May, thousands of short tailed shearwaters nest in the dunes. For this reason, you are asked to walk as close to the water as possible to limit the discomfort caused and thus ensure their reproduction.
Spend the nigh on Philip Island
While many locals told us that it is not really necessary to spend a night on Phillip Island, we did not want to drive back all the way to Melbourne. So we decided to book a hotel. And we absolutely loved it. Phillip Island is very quiet, and it was quite nice be away from the crowd of the city. In the morning we went to Cowes to enjoy some breakfast (in a place called Madcowes) and great coffee while looking at the sea. A real pleasure and fantastic gateway.
7. Visit Melbourne Federation Square
Federation Square is perhaps the most popular place in the city of Melbourne. Real center of Melbourne, this unique space brings together many places of interest such as the Melbourne tourist office, the national gallery of Victoria, the Australian Center for the Moving Image, offices but also many cafes, bars and restaurants or shops of all kinds. The space, with an original and modern design, constantly hosts many cultural events. Music festivals, food festivals such as markets.
8. Go to Queen Victoria Market
This place is not just an ordinary market where people come to buy their food. This market which opened in 1878 is a historic monument, a tourist attraction and an institution for all the inhabitants of Melbourne. Every Wednesday, the Queen Victoria Market opens its doors in the evening to welcome thousands of visitors who come to eat, drink and listen to live concerts. An opportunity to taste local specialties and international food from Italian, Greek and Indian communities, but also wine from the Yarra Valley.
9. Go on a road trip on the Great Ocean Road
Not all of the best activities are found in Melbourne itself. One of Australia’s most visited attractions is the Great Ocean Road. It is a very winding coastal road of almost 250km, which is reputed to be magnificent. The route begins around Torquay, 1 hour and 15 minutes from Melbourne. The most beautiful and spectacular point is the site of the Twelve Apostles, impressive rock formations, 4h30 from Melbourne. This is an opportunity to enjoy superb landscapes during a long weekend away from buildings.We wrote another article about it in our blog here.
10. Shop until you drop
Think Melbourne, think Bourke Street. Bourke Street is the best spot in Melbourne to go crazy on shopping. There are many shops in the area as well as major departments store such as Myer and David Jones.
Also try your luck down one of the nearby lanes or alleyways. Spy some of the city’s most creative street art in Union Lane or at The Melbourne Shop in the gorgeous Royal Arcade.
Melbourne is a great and pleasant city, with plenty of things to do and amazing food, coffee and wine !
Where to stay in Melbourne?
Melbourne is a large city with many neighborhoods of different styles, history and ambience.
Located at the foot of Harbor Bridge, The Rocks is Sydney’s oldest district. The area has been completely rehabilitated and hosts many shops and cafes. If the view of the Opera is iMelbourne city center is truly atypical. Even if this one, like many Australian cities, is made up of huge buildings hosting business, separated by wide avenues, the center of Melbourne has a fascinating historical side. Indeed you will easily find many small alleys, buildings in Victorian style but also many parks which make this hyper center of Melbourne more pleasant. You will find countless cafes, bars, restaurants and museums. An ideal place to stay during your visit to Melbourne.
Former bohemian district of Melbourne, Carlton, the Italian district of Melbourne is today a residential area with a wealthy population. The district is dotted with imposing Victorian buildings. Carlton is located north of the CBD, in the direct vicinity of the hyper center.
Melbourne also has a Chinatown. This population immigrated in the middle of the 19th century at the time of the gold rush which made the wealth of the city. This district includes many Chinese restaurants but also Japanese, Vietnamese or Thai.
Neighborhood located northeast of the CBD, Fitzroy is the bohemian neighborhood of Melbourne. Place where all artists meet, you will find many fashion stores, thrift stores, bookstores but also designer stores.
The Docklands district is one of the newest districts in Melbourne. The old dock district has been completely rehabilitated and is today an ultra modern district with brand new buildings, shopping centers and attractions. Here, for example, you can find the new Melbourne stadium: the Etihad Stadium, the Harbor Town Shopping Center and the huge Melbourne Ferris wheel, the Melbourne Star.