What are some fun things to do in Melbourne, Australia?
May 8, 2013 8:52 PM   Subscribe

What are the most fun things to do in Melbourne on holiday? I've got 4 days as a solo female traveller in my 30s. I'm not into footy but open to shopping, good places to eat (cheaply), cultural things and tourist attractions. Inspire me!
posted by EatMyHat to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Melbourne Aquarium is pretty awesome.
Bridge Road for shopping, Chappel St for designer goods.
Melbourne is famous for hundreds of small streets filled with interesting sights, sounds, smells etc. If you can, just wander around and explore for a day.
At dusk the flying foxes fly out, one place is Yarrabend Park, if you like that kind of thing. I do!
St Kilda has a real retro beach feel, equally as nice in winter.
And so many places to eat!!!
posted by Youremyworld at 9:01 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I moved to Melbourne three years ago from the US and I love it!!

My recommendations:
Queen Victoria Market
Ian Potter Centre (Australian art, free)
funky cafes and bars on Brunswick St in Fitzroy
Italian food in Carlton
dumplings in Chinatown
pretty parks to walk around- Royal Botanical Gardens, Fitzroy Gardens, Carlton Gardens
day trip to Yarra Valley or Mornington Peninsula (wineries and beautiful scenery)

FYI- depending on where you come from, you may find the shopping shockingly expensive. Clothing and shoe prices at least double what you'd pay in the US.
posted by emd3737 at 9:35 PM on May 8, 2013

Recently, the Melbourne Zoo has been running an after hours exhibit called "I, Animal" ($39, tickets via Moshtix). After everyone has gone home, you walk through the zoo after dusk. You listen to an iPod touch that talks to you about things, occasionally shows you videos, and occasionally asks you to interact with it. At the end you ride on the beautiful lit up carousel while listening to what was for me, a very nostalgic mix of music from my early twenties (You Am I and the Smashing Pumpkins).

I worry that nothing I can write here will really capture the essence of what made this so memorable, but it is utterly unlike any other installation / tour I have ever been on (and I've been on a few). I have now been twice - the first time I did "Penguins" which is themed around fear, and the second time I did "Elephants" which is about birth and death. There are also Chimpanzee and Giraffe programs, of which I can't say anything.

It was profoundly moving experience, and I'm actually tearing up a little bit in my office thinking about how it made me feel. But that might just be me. In any case, I recommend it to you without reservation (although you will need a reservation to get in.)

Melbourne has lots of other great things to see as well. As well as seeing live music or eating at great restaurants, if I was only going to be here for four days, I would try and do the following:
  • go to the National Gallery,
  • rent a bike and ride up the Capitol City Trail from Federation Square to Dights Falls and then eat icecream and drink coffee at the Studley Park boathouse,
  • visit the botanical gardens, and if you run, take a few laps of the Tan Track,
  • walk along St Kilda pier, and
  • Melbourne Street Art Tour.
Feel free to memail me if you've any questions!
posted by curious.jp at 9:44 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

The old Melbourne Gaol
posted by brujita at 9:49 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

There is lots of excellent cheap food in the Melbourne CBD at lunch time.

Try Sushi Monger in the CBD. You can eat well there for ~$10 at lunchtime. But arrive before 12 to avoid the large queue.

At the Vic markets there in the deli section there is an excellent german sausage place. You can also get a Borek for $2.5. Two of them would make a good meal.

Don Don in the CBD is good.

Wander into a bookshop in the CBD and look for 'Cheap Eats', have a quick browse there or use Urban Spoon for more.
posted by sien at 10:43 PM on May 8, 2013

Could you be a bit more specific? I work for an Australian events site, and can tell you exactly what's on each day there. I'd check out the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), which always has great exhibits.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 11:06 PM on May 8, 2013

ACMI and NGV are great if you like that kind of thing. The former even if you don't normally, I'd say. The inner north (5-10m tram up Bourke or Collins st on the 86 or 96) is great for food and bars. Gertrude st is very hip and smith st has a lot of great restaurants. Brunswick st has been popular for longer, is a bit more mainstream but prob also easier to find stuff on than Smith if you're a tourist.

Melbourne is not a big city so your attractions are probably going to be bars, art, food and maybe artsy-shopping. The zoo and acquairium are fun I guess but I don't think they're particularly better than elsewhere. Really not my forte though.

St Kilda is fun- beach, etc. but the weather is declining and IMO it's not a great winter place.

This site is pretty good for keeping up with good things that are happening. Www.broadsheet.com.au/Melbourne (sorry can't make link work on ipad).

If you were willing to go outside of the city there would be other options also. Or if you specified interests a bit more narrowly?
posted by jojobobo at 11:19 PM on May 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

You don't specifically mention an interest in wildlife, but I reckon this counts as a tourist attraction: if you're up for a day trip, or even just an afternoon trip, go and watch the little penguins coming in from the sea on Phillip Island. They're utterly adorable, and although I don't know where you live, I bet you're usually a lot more than a 90-minute drive from a colony of little penguins. It's not really doable by public transport from Melbourne, but there are plenty of tours if you don't/won't have a car; I took an earlier version of the Go West! penguin tour a few years ago and it was a highlight of my trip, even though I'm *really* not a tour group kind of person.

Also on the wildlife theme, Healesville Sanctuary was easily my favourite native-animal wildlife park of the five or six I visited in Australia. It's another day trip, though at least this one is manageable with public transport (or was, in 2007).

A third day trip possibility, moving away from wildlife and towards art: although I never made it there myself, a friend enthusiastically recommended the William Ricketts Sanctuary to me - whimsical statues in a beautiful natural environment.

Other than that, seconding Youremyworld that Melbourne is a very rewarding city to just wander round and explore. And the food's great. I picked places to eat at random and was never disappointed.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:34 AM on May 9, 2013

Gosh, I just got back from Melbourne! Solo female traveller with about the same amount of time as you have. I really, really enjoyed myself.

I thought the Queen Victoria Market was lame at first - yeah fruit and veg whatever - but I went anyway, and it was fab. There isn't much in season now, but whatever you can get will taste great. Also, The Bratwurst Shop inside is very, very good. I got a brat with sauerkraut piping hot for $4.50. I also thought ACMI was lame, until I was stuck there during a downpour. The Hollywood Costume exhibition is well worth the money. And there's free wifi at Fed Square, which comes in handy.

I really enjoyed the State Library of Victoria - they have free exhibits; right now one on books and ideas - for its architecture and, well, beauty. Most of the enjoyment I found in just walking around, really, like traipsing through a carpark to find it attached to the most beautiful cathedral, turning a corner in Chinatown to find myself suddenly surrounded by Greek-speaking old people... stuff like that.

Outside of the city, Brighton Beach! Bathing boxes! It's nice for sunset, I think, because I got there for sunrise and found the sun behind me.

I found shopping pretty expensive so I didn't do any, but walking along Chapel St there did seem to be some nice stuff 'on sale' - whether or not the prices concur with this description depends on where you come from. Chapel St is cool, anyway - there's the crazy bric-a-brac of the Chapel St Bazaar and a few thrift shops, if that's your thing.

As far as eating cheaply goes, it may have been that I'm from Asia, so Coles held a really wonderful discovery: Pitango soups from New Zealand. Microwave to eat, and the lamb stew was so good I wanted to cry.
posted by undue influence at 12:55 AM on May 9, 2013

For good places to eat cheaply, stop, do not pass Victoria St Richmond! Home to 1,000,000 (approx) amazing cheap Vietnamese restaurants, awesome Asian groceries and knick-knacks. Catch a 109 tram from Collins St . You want to be going up the hill. Two great Melbourne experiences in one! (OR catch the train from Flinders St to North Richmond.)
posted by t0astie at 1:22 AM on May 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's a very hard question to answer! I think Melbourne is best if you either are the kind of person who is happy to wander around and explore things serendipitously or if you have a native guide who knows what you're interested in.

That's Melbourne has a pretty good overview of the kinds of things you can do, and nice photos to inspire you.

Something which is a perennial favourite with non-Australians (and non-NZers, but for different reasons) is lurking round one of the inner suburban/outer city parks like the Fitzroy/Treasury gardens around twilight/early evening, which happens pretty early this time of year. Be patient and you will see lots of brushtail possums. I probably shouldn't advise feeding them but plenty of people do. I did myself back when I was new to Melbourne and was fascinated by the cute furry little beasts and didn't know how much of a nuisance they can be. They like bread and fruit and no rabies!
posted by Athanassiel at 1:48 AM on May 9, 2013

Disclaimer: I've worked in the cultural/arts sector in Melbourne for years (though not at the moment) and I've worked for a lot of the institutions below.

Melbourne Museum is excellent. I would recommend the Wild exhibition if you are into natural history and Melbourne Story if you want to get a sense of Melbourne's history. Afghanistan is a temporary exhibition on currently that I think is extraordinary.

As noted above NGV is awesome.

There is a very active theatre scene in Melbourne. There is a lot of mainstream stuff going on at places like Her Majesties (gorgeous building to work in, never been to anything as a punter) but there is also a lot of stuff going on a little off the radar, or at least a little left of the radar. Check out places like the Malthouse.

A very good website for this kind of stuff is Artshub, though it is very much aimed at insiders.

In terms of where to look at things I would recommend the Gertrude, Smith st and Brunswick st area as a few people have said above. But make sure you get into the smaller laneways. Please have a beer at the Labour in Vain for me.

A more unusual walk you could do is up through Melbourne Uni, into Royal Park and then up Sydney Rd. That would be cool. But not a normal tourist thing.
posted by deadwax at 2:33 AM on May 9, 2013

I am an aquarium ho, it's true, but I really genuinely love the aquarium (pro tip: go on a weekday for the love of god). If you are not from Australia, you will see all kinds of great aussie aquatic life.

Shout out to my one-time workplace, ACMI. Check the screenings - if there's a movie you like showing, you should catch, the theatre is *superb* (I ushered way too many Barry Lyndons there).
posted by smoke at 4:54 AM on May 9, 2013

Take a Great Ocean Road tour. It's a full day, but the most amazing scenery I've ever seen. I think I took the one from Go West, but there are a lot of companies to pick from. It's a full day, but lots of stops.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 12:57 PM on May 9, 2013

Some things to do can be found at TimeOut and Broadsheet. Mainly food & drink related.
posted by bdave at 6:36 PM on May 9, 2013

I believe there is a big Monet exhibition which has just opened down there.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:18 AM on May 10, 2013

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