Australia: Top things to do in Melbourne
Melbourne is an incredible city. Cosmopolitan, exciting and full of amazing coffee, there are so many ways to spend your time in and around the city.
To help begin your time in this amazing place, here are our top 10 things to do in Melbourne.
1. Drive The Great Ocean Road
The Great Ocean Road is one of the iconic routes and relatively easy to drive from Melbourne. Whether you're lucky enough to have a weekend to explore or are trying to squeeze it into one day, there are itineraries that will suit every adventurer. For those tight on time, our one day itinerary for driving the Great Ocean Road will give a flavour of what can be achieved with a rental car and a lot of caffeine.
2. Phillip Island
For any animal lover Phillip Island is an absolute treasure trove - Little Penguins and koalas abound, there are seals, whales and nobbies running amok. The jewel in the crown is Penguin Parade, when the Little Penguins come home from a long day of swimming to roost.
As well as excitable wildlife the Island offers wineries, spas, restaurants and accomodation. For a day trip or long weekend, it would be pretty hard to beat!
3. Puffing Billy Railway
Just outside of Melbourne in the Dandenong Ranges is Puffing Billy, a heritage steam railway that takes you back in time for a magical morning trip.
Puffing Billy is not an attraction solely for train enthusiasts but caters to all tastes - who doesn't enjoy hanging their legs over a train, hanging over a bridge, and counting how many lost shoes they trundle past?
4. Flinders Street Railway Station
This may seem like a bit of an unusual suggestion, but Flinders Street Railway Station in Melbourne is a cultural icon. Completed in 1909 the building covers 2 whole city blocks and is instantly recognisable in the skyline. All of that said, it's also a huge transport hub allowing transit in and out of Melbourne to dozens of suburbs quickly and easily.
5. Dandenong Ranges National Park
The Dandenong ranges, approximately 35km from Melbourne, are a beautful set of rolling hills covered in forest. The Dandenongs themselves are worth the trip, and at the summit of Mount Dandenong is Sky High.
Sky High has a lot to offer, but I am not recommending it for the SkyHigh Maze, the Cafe, the viewing platforms or the incredible gardens.
I am recommending it because it has easily the fiestiest wildlife I have ever had the pleasure to witness. Frank disclosure: I am a big fan of wildlife with attitude.
Outside the Sky High cafe there were 2 kookaburras who had perfected a buddy system for dinner time. As we watched, one perched on the roof of the cafe and one took a stance on a cafe umbrella. As a diner moved a piece of cake from her plate to her mouth, the umbrella dwelling kookaburra took the opportunity to swoop down and snatch the cake, mid movement between table and face!
It then had the gall to land next to the table and eat the cake within kicking distance of its victim.
The kookaburra's then swapped perches and we moved our lunch inside whilst being watched by a beady eye looking for it's chance!
6. Old Melbourne Gaol
In the mid 1800's Old Melbourne Gaol would have been hugely impressive, standing out amongst the smaller buildings. The site of 133 hangings is infamous for holding Ned Kelly and other members of his notorious gang. Throughout the museum the stories of previous detainees are told - from petty criminals to notorious murders to the mentally ill. Displayed throughout are some of the death masks made of the detainees after their executions.
The venue offers night time tours including a ghost tour and a hangman's tour as well as access to the the City Watch House- an interractive tour where you are "arrested" and given an insight into being taken through the custody process.
Whilst a prison does not sound like much fun, this museum is a fascinating way to discover how the criminal justice system has developed and to what conditions must have been like.
7. State Library of Victoria
Following neatly on from Old Melbourne Gaol, the State Library of Victoria is a few blocks away. Entrance is free and allows you access to the displayed home made armour of Ned Kelly.
There are a number of free exhibits to visit, including more information about the Kelly Gang (if you haven't had enough at the Old Melbourne Gaol!) but also the beautiful stained glass windows and architecture to admire.
Ned Kelly's armour is not the only super cool exhibit. Within the 2,000 million books are the diaries of the cities founders!
A short walk from Flinders Street Station is Chinatown. Based on Bourke Street and the surrounding alley ways, Chinatown offers historic buildings and, most importantly, delicious food options!
Chinatown is a fantastic place to wander and drink in the atmosphere and enjoy the architecture - the area dates back to the 1850's, so there is plenty to enjoy!
Food in Melbourne can be expensive and it is definitely worth dropping into Chinatown to enjoy the array of amazing dishes on offer. Bonus tip: Chinatown is especially good for feeding vegetarians and vegans.
9. Cooks' Cottage
Fancy visiting a cottage built in 1755 in Yorkshire, UK? Well, you're in luck! In the middle of Melbourne are the heritage listed Fitzroy Gardens which is the new home to Captain Cook's Cottage.
The cottage was built in the UK by the parents of Captain James Cook. It was painstakingly broken down brick by brick and transported to Australia in 1934 before being rebuilt.
Information sheets are available in multiple languages for you to enjoy a self guided tour around the little cottage and gardens. And, if the fancy takes you, you can make use of the dress up rack outside!
10. Aussie Rules Football
If you enjoy beer and shouting then Aussie Rules Football may well be for you. Played on a oval shaped field by huge goliaths of athletes, the sport is a cross between rugby and quidditch.
The rules took us a bit of time, but it appeared to boil down to 6 points for each kick of the ball between the central posts, 1 point for each kick through the outer posts and 1 point for each time the ball was forced over the line. To be honest, after 3 beers it all seemed much easier to understand.
The atmosphere at Aussie Rules Football is incredible- the fans of opposing teams mix together to watch the game and there is no segregated seating.
Aussie Rules was a real highlight of our trip as we learnt a fantastic catchphrase from a Roo's fan: "If it bleeds you can kill it".