Melbourne

Everything You Must See & Do in Melbourne, Australia

Melbourne.

Voted the world’s most liveable city several times over.
Endless vibrant street art.
A not to be messed with coffee culture.
A trendy, international food scene.
Oodles of cafes churning out bomb diggity smashed avo toast.
A buzzing cultural scene with loads of art and music events.
Plus, beautiful beachfront and rolling mountains within easy reach.

It’d be an understatement to say we liked Melbourne- we absolutely loved it. Loved in in a way we talked about moving there one day.

Oh, and it’s pronounced ‘Melb’n’, not ‘Mel-born’.

Almost as soon as we arrived in Melbs, we understood why people love the city.

Most days in Melbourne, we explored the city, posted up at a new cafe for brunch, and then worked in the afternoon and evenings.

Our time there felt absolutely perfect.

What to Do

There’s no shortage of awesome activities to keep you busy in Melbourne. Our favourite bits from spending 2+ weeks exploring the city at a leisurely pace-

National Gallery of Victoria: Free to enter, filled with cool modern art

Street Art: Melbourne’s alleys and laneways are also home to some of the world’s best street art. Whether you’re always on the hunt for cool street art, as I am, or just appreciative when you happen to stumble upon it, you’d be hard pressed not to be ‘wow’d’ by Melbourne’s vibrant street art scene

Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes: Just like the ones I loved in Brighton, England, but more colourful, and painted with fun pictures. Visiting the bathing boxes is a nice way to spend an hour or so strolling along a beautiful stretch of sand, with city views in the distance

St. Kilda Pier: Home to a penguin colony that comes home every day at sunset, and nearby Luna Park, a small amusement park

The South Melbourne Market: Our favourite market in Melbourne- the almond pastries at Agathe Patisserie are ultra delicious. Plus, there’s a great cheese shop with generous tastings, and tons of food & cafe stalls. Oh, and did I mention all the fresh cut flowers? #HeartEyes

Queen Victoria Market: Another great market to wander, especially good for fresh fruit and veg

Princes Bridge: The best spot for a full-on view of Melbourne’s beautiful skyline

Cinema Nova: Adorable, small movie theatre

Workouts: Getting a good sweat in was important to us while in Melbourne, so we bought week long passes to two fitness studios- Bodhi & Ride (Soulcycle-esque spin), and CrossFit VLT

The Best Day Trips to Take from Melbourne

Wine Tasting in The Yarra Valley

Envisioning a visit to Melbourne, I pictured drinking loads of flat whites, having avo toast for brekkie daily, road tripping the Great Ocean Road, and wandering the city in search of vibrant, street art.

When friends of ours, who live in Melbourne, suggested we take a day trip to the Yarra Valley together, one of Australia’s top wine producing regions, I was surprised.

Great wine in Oz?

Sure, I knew Southern Australia boasts great vineyards, but I didn’t realize the same could be said for Victoria, and so close to Melbourne.

It literally feels like, one minute you’re in suburbia, and the next, you’re surrounding by rolling hills and vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see.

Whether you spend one day or several in the region, the Yarra Valley has a lot to offer.

When we visited the Yarra Valley, we left Melbourne fairly early- around 8 am to have brekkie at The Kettle Black.

Full from delicious avo toast and pancakes, we grabbed flat whites to go and started on our way. From the cafe we were at, it took just over an hour to reach our first stop on non-toll roads.

In the evening, we took toll roads back to the city since I had to be back to work, and the time estimate was much quicker on Google Maps than other routes.

I’ve mentioned there’s loads more to do in the Yarra Valley than just winery hop, and our first stop reflected that- the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery.

Ice cream and chocolate in a beautiful location, what could be better?

Next up, we visited three wineries- Moet & Chandon’s famous production house, Oakridge, and Helen & Joey.

  • Moet Chandon: Moet’s grounds are stunning- they’re expansive with gorgeous vistas. Here, we tried a sparkling wine flight, which included a few varieties only available in Australia. Tastings were affordable at $6 AUD per flight, an awesome, ‘don’t break the bank’ option for tasting high quality wines
  • Oakridge: Known for their great pinot noirs, chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons, Oakridge is a beautifully designed winery
  • Helen & Joey: A stunning estate where roos are known for hanging out, with delectable wine and cheese pairings. If you’re a fan of pinor noirs or shirazs, as I am, you’ll enjoy a tasting here.

To end our visit in the region, we hit up the place I’d been most excited to visit- Napoleone Cidery. For $12 AUD, we shared a paddle of four cider samples- apple, apple and pear, pear, and sherry and apple. The sherry and apple was absolutely delicious, as was the apple and pear mix.

As with elsewhere in the Yarra Valley, the grounds here are gorgeous. Napoleone is great spot to while away an afternoon, sipping cider and playing card games with friends.

// A Day Winery Hopping in One of Australia’s Best Wine Regions, The Yarra Valley //

Road Tripping The Great Ocean Road 

Australia’s Great Ocean Road is home to heart-stoppingly gorgeous coastlines, thundering waterfalls, and lush rainforests.

A long stretch of southern coastline, the Great Ocean Road begins about an hour outside of Melbourne and continues through the bottom of the state.

When we arrived in Melbourne, we rented a car at the airport for a week- planning a few other half-day and full day excursions.

For a full week rental, we paid ~£80 all-up, which saved us loads on day trips. By means of direct tour comparison, most GOR tours alone run £100+ per person. Same goes for the Yarra Valley, another day trip we took from Melbourne.

It takes about 4.5 hours to drive from Melbourne to the 12 Apostles, but plan for longer if you’re making stops (which you will).

In total, I’d estimate, it took us ~7 hours to drive one way along the coast, and only 2.5 to drive back to Melbourne, inland.

A long day?

Sure. But, the coastal drive is easy (say nothing for how stunning the views are), and coming back inland on highway saves tons of drive time.

We leave early morning, stopping at St. Ali in Melbourne for coffee before hitting the road.

If memory serves correct, we stopped in Torquay (the first town along GOR, if you’re coming from Melbourne) for breakfast around ~8:30/9 am.

We reached the 12 Apostles early afternoon (likely 2 pm), and left the area by ~3:30/4 pm to head back to Seddon for dinner.

If you’ve got someone to share the drive with, the day will fly by. Having a car allowed us much greater flexibility to pull over for vistas, take our time hiking, or simply, just stop and gawk at the view.

We had an incredible day, but remarked how easy it would be to spend an additional few days leisurely exploring this part of Australia.

Our favourite bits:

  • Torquay: A surfer’s paradise outside of Melbourne, your journey begins here
    • Once we arrived in GOR, we stopped here for a flat white top up and early brunch at Moby’s, a local institution
  • Lorne Beach: One of the best beaches along GOR
  • Logan Beach: Great platform for whale watching (June – September)
  • Kennett River: The best chance of spotting koalas on the GOR. To up your chances of seeing them awake and alert, visit early morning or late afternoon. We made it here near mid-day, and while the koalas were snoozing, it was amazing spotting so many of them in the trees flanking the path
    • When we were in Kennett River, there were dozens of colourful birds hanging around the entrance to the eucalyptus tree lined path. Unfortunately loads of tourists were buying birdseed to feed the birds- please don’t participate in this activity. Like the koalas high up in the trees, the birds are also wild animals and feeding them makes it harder for them to survive on their own
  • The 12 Apostles: These stunning formations were created from constant erosion of the limestone cliffs on the mainland, beginning 10-20 million years ago. Currently, there are only 8 Apostles, the rest have been lost to erosion. The path at the top of the cliffs is well maintained, and takes about 20-30 minutes to walk, so it’s a nice way to break up your drive and ogle coastal views
  • Gibson Steps: At the 12 Apostles, these steps provide pathway down onto the beach so you can stand near these incredible formations. Do note, the steps are only open when the wind isn’t too high
  • The Grotto: Like London Arch, the Grotto is a quick walk and photo stop- also known as, a chance to gawk at nature
  • London Arch: A beautiful rock formation and short walk
  • Port Campbell: Like Lorne or Torquay, Port Campbell would be a good town to stop in for a night if you’re taking your time driving GOR. Or, a good place to have lunch or dinner, pending your arrival time

Not listed above are all the one-off vistas we pulled over for over the course of the day.

Our rule was simple: If the scenery was beautiful (usually was), and we saw a pull-off or photo point, we’d stop for a few minutes to check out the vista and let ourselves feel grateful for the whole adventure of it all.

// The Ultimate Guide to Driving Australia’s Great Ocean Road //

Where to Have Coffee

With perfectly poured cold-drips and seriously creamy flat whites, Melbourne is a coffee lovers dream.

Most days, we checked out at least one or two new cafes- it was one of our favourite activities while exploring.

These spots topped our list, and in most cases, we were return visitors- that’s how much we loved them:

  • Market Lane: A speciality cafe and roastery, they do one thing and they do it well: high-quality coffee. You know it’s going to be good when the cafe’s slogan is- ‘we love to make coffee for the city that loves to drink it’. Don’t miss their original location in one of Melbourne’s coolest markets- Queen Victoria Market
  • Common Galaxia (Seddon): Full stop, the best avo toast we had in Melbourne. If you’re not staying in or near Seddon as we were, it’ll be a trek from the CBD (20-40 minutes, pending trains), but it’s so worth it. The avo toast here comes on sourdough with generous cubes of avo, feta, grapefruit, toasted almonds, soy, radish, and balsamic. Of course, you have to order it with a side of halloumi and lemon, as well as a flat white. Literal Aussie dreams
  • Proud Mary Coffee Roasters: A brunch institution in Melbourne, their drip is ace. This is a must-visit for brunch- the seasonal hotcakes are incredible. When we visited, cinnamon hotcakes were on offer with crystallized white chocolate, honeycomb, pumpkin ricotta whip and coffee syrup
  • Duke’s Coffee Roasters: Our favourite spot for flat whites in the CBD, Duke’s is a quintessential Melbourne cafe. Trendy, intimate, and with an ultimate focus on brew, Duke’s is the spot for your caffeine fix any time of the day. They don’t allow photos inside, which we loved- a totally different kind of vibe- less pretentious- than other cafes in Oz
  • Hardware Societe: Our first avo toast in Melbourne sure didn’t disappoint- order it with feta and hashbrowns on the side, so tasty
  • Hash Speciality Coffee: This cafe was right by the CrossFit box we worked at out, so we were repeat customers- especially once we tried their magics and corn fritters, both of which are next level awesome. Hash is also known for their hot chocolate, which they serve with fairy floss for you to pour it over- the ultimate sugar rush
  • Brother Baba Budan: Hailed as one of Melbourne’s best cafes, Baba’s has a line through the door the match the accolades. Epic magics, a must visit on your Melbourne coffee tour. Plus, the decor is too cool- chairs mis-matched and hanging from the ceiling? Into it
  • The Kettle Black: A gorgeous cafe in South Melbourne, the black and white exterior draws you into a cafe with minimal, chic design. It’s great for breakfast with a trendy twist- the avo toast on sourdough comes topped with salty cheese, pickled jalapeno, lime juice and herbs, and is every bit as delicious as it sounds
  • St. Ali: Such a cool space, huge and in an area with loads of street art. We loved the coffee at St Ali, and the vibe even more, and wished we could return as regulars
  • Hello Sailor: A gorgeous interior with tons of plants, brass fixtures and neutral furniture. Talk about my dream cafe. The magics here are also great, and we loved the larger than life mural on the side of the cafe
  • South of Johnston: The avo toast tour continued at SoJo, the brunch menu is great, and the vibe here is awesome- busy, even on a weekday. We liked they kept the avo toast here fairly simple- smashed avo, heirloom tomatoes, feta, lemon and herbs. Simple and delicious. Vibe wise, there were loads of people lounging on sofas, constant hum of conversation, a roaring fire, and tons of dogs
  • Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters: An airy, bright space with plenty of tables to sit at while you chat over a flat white. Let’s just say there’s a reason Seven Seeds is so popular among the Melbourne cafe scene
  • Higher Ground: Brekkie at this uber trendy and beautiful cafe should be a must-do for any first time visitor to Melbourne. Built in an old power station, the interiors are epic, and the food is pretty beautiful, too. I had a bagel with avo, whipped goat cheese, egg and scallions, and edible flowers, and while I enjoyed it, let’s just say I’m def a fan of simpler avo toast
  • Bonnie: Moody interiors, and the best cold brew I had in Melbourne

// 22 Ace Cafes in Melbourne: The Best Spots for Brekkie or Brew // 

Where to Eat

During our adventures in Oz, we kept to a pretty tight budget of ~$20 AUD per day on coffee and meals out (per person).

Usually, this meant a nice brunch out, plus a few coffees, and maybe a street snack.

For other meals (breakfast, dinner), we bought groceries from Aldi’s and cooked. Doing so proved to be a great way to try local brands, eat healthy, and keep cost down.

All that to say, I don’t have a ton of restaurant recommendations for Melbourne. On a few occasions, we treated ourselves to dinner out.

Additionally, most of the cafes I’ve recommended above, and in my cafe guide, serve a bangin’ brunch.

A couple of other great eats in the city-

  • Agathe Patisserie: The best almond croissant I’ve ever had. Full stop
  • Shortstop Coffee & Donuts: Excellent donuts, the honey glazed cruellers with sea salt are perfectly salty sweet
  • Pidapio: Creamy gelato, where flavours are isolated in their own containers, including individual spoons, which means people with allergies (like me, hi pistachios) can enjoy a cool treat from here. The salted caramel is stellar
  • Chin Chin: An Asian fusion joint that came highly recommended, and sure didn’t disappoint. Grab seats at the kitchen bar to watch the action unfold. Everything is sharing plates, which we loved. We tried the corn fritters, DIY vegetable rolls, roasted broccoli and chili tofu roti
  • Rice Paper Scissors: Another Asian fusion pick with good vegetarian bao buns
  • Pizza d’Asporto (Yarraville): Truly excellent Italian pizza and tiramisu
  • Betty’s Burgers: The Aussie version of Shake Shack, good for a Friday night treat
  • Lentil as Anything: Great spot for vegetarians in search of healthy eats

Also, while in Oz, don’t miss out on trying Tim Tams. These cookies are practically a national treasure. We enjoyed them most when doing ‘Tim Tam slams’, where you bite off the tip of a Tim Tam, dunk it in hot chocolate, a mocha or coffee, and sip the drink through the cookie. The remaining cookie bits are soft and gooey in the best way possible.

Where to Drink

We didn’t drink much while in Australia, especially while out to help keep cost down, but did spend one afternoon day drinking in the sunshine at Union Electric’s rooftop bar with friends, and it was pretty much perfection.

Post rooftop tipples, we checked out the laneway bar, Beneath Driver Lane and also rated it for drinks.

Where to Stay

Throughout Australia, we stayed in private rooms with en-suite bathrooms of people’s homes, via Airbnb. When we visited in winter, these were 50-60% less per night than staying in budget hotels or private rooms of hostels.

In Melbourne, we chose to stay outside the city centre in Seddon, which is about 20-30 minutes by train to the CBD (pending how long you wait).

We loved Seddon, it was central enough that we felt connected to everything downtown, but residential enough to give us a taste for what living in Melbourne would be like. The town itself was small, but cute and had everything we needed (cafes, shops, restaurants).

It’s also walking distance to Yarraville, another ‘hood with great cafes and restaurants, plus an old timey movie theatre.

As for our Airbnb itself, it was gorgeous- our room was upstairs, and the hosts lived downstairs. We shared the upstairs kitchen, dining area and living room.

Because both of the hosts worked during the day, and we worked at night, we really only saw them minimally.

Our room had the comfiest king size bed, a beautiful bathroom, a tv equipped with Netflix, high speed Wi-Fi, bluetooth speakers, plenty of storage, plus a few homey touches, like extra blankets, plants and candles.

If we could have extended our stay in Melbourne, we would have- that’s how much we loved our Airbnb and the city, itself. But, unfortunately, at the time, we’d already booked exit flights to New Zealand.

Extra Oz Travel Tips

Language: English, with some quirky slang thrown in for good measure 

Safety: Never once, traveling across Australia did we feel unsafe. Still take the normal precautions, like locking your car at night and keeping an eye on valuables, but I’d compare most of the cities and places we visited to cities in the UK and US

Currency: Australian Dollar

While in Oz, I paid for most things with my Revoult card, as many things are contactless payment. I did carry a small amount of cash with me to cover tiny purchases- like a pack of gum here and there

Budget: Oz gets flak for being expensive, and while it is costly in comparison to nearby Southeast Asian countries, I found things to be a bit more affordable than in the US or UK. 

As with other destinations, there are ways to scale back on spending- eating meals in, staying in hostels or private rooms of Airbnbs, limiting alcohol, and so on.

Getting to Melbourne: We flew in from Cairns, which was affordable on a Jetstar flight. Book ahead for the best deals. 

Once at the airport, we rented a car, but there’s also a bus downtown with metro connections, plus Uber and taxi services available.

When to Visit: Summer (December – February) and the fringe months before and after offer the best weather, so to speak. 

We visited in winter (mid-August), and enjoyed moderate temps (50-65 Fahrenheit most days), as well as pretty good weather (lots of sunny days, a few bouts of rain).

Getting Around the City: Depending where we were going, we either took a train or bus, and then walked for the most part. 

Get a Myki card when you arrive for seamless top-ups on public transit. There’s also a free city tram that stops at Parliament House, the Docklands, Federation Square and the Melbourne Aquarium- it’s hop on/off style.

On a few occasions, we took Uber, but tried to avoid it as it’s a lot costlier than public transit.

Tipping: Tipping is not common practice in Australia 

WiFi Access: WiFi was good throughout the city. In our Airbnb, we even had high speed WiFi, which was perfect for me to work. 

Many cafes in Oz do not offer free WiFi, so if you’re planning on connecting to check directions as you visit, you may have a tough time doing so.

SIM Card Options: I bought a 30-day SIM upon arrival at WA’s airport with Optus, which was still active when we were in Melbourne. Optus was running 50% off deals, making a 30-day SIM with loads of data pretty affordable (~£15).

Packing Necessities: What you bring depends on the season you visit. Coming to Oz after months in SE Asia, I was concerned my clothes wouldn’t be warm enough.

We stopped at a Target in Perth to stock up on warm weather essentials at minimal cost. Key bits I picked up, which allowed me to layer with what I already had: gloves, a hat, fleece joggers, long leggings, two sweaters, and a sweatshirt.

When we finally left Oz two months later, I donated the sweatshirt and joggers, and brought the rest with me back to Asia.

Have you ever visited Melbourne? Are there any places or tips you’d give to a first time visitor? 

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2 comments

  1. I’ve yet to visit Australia, and if I end up going, Melbourne is definitely on my list! It took me a while to realize that the city’s pronounced more like “Mel-bin” and not “Mel-bourn,” as you mentioned…the colorful beach boxes are a delight, and it’s true that Tim Tams (and Tim Tam Slams) are delicious; I was introduced to the latter by an Australian friend in France, and I wish to try it again, ideally in its country of origin! Thanks for sharing, and I can’t wait to read more of your time in Australia. 🙂

    1. So true, city pronunciation was one of the biggest tips I got before visiting. Just writing this now, I’m looking up ways to have Tim Tams delivered to Ireland- soooo good! 😉

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