… ah, Melbourne. God I miss that city.
I had always known that one day I would live in Australia, but Melbourne? It wasn’t exactly where I had pictured myself living as I craved beaches, surfing, The Great Barrier Reef, and hot weather all year round. When a family from Melbourne asked me to come live with them as an Au Pair, I thought what the hell… I am going. As it turns out, I ended up living in one of the best cities in the world.
I may be bias as I lived there for the whole year and obviously had a lot of time to explore it but I loved it. The coffee… unbelievable. The food? Even better. Melbourne is full of unique little cafes and restaurants, amazing bars, markets, music, interesting people, cultures, and things to do. You’re only an hour each way, East or West outside of Melbourne if you’re looking for some amazing coast lines and surfing, which is pretty sweet too.
I have compiled a list of what I think would be considered the top fifteen things to do while visiting Melbourne. Now, remember that I am a 23 year old woman… my list may not be ideal for everyone but it does have variety. These are not in any particular order, they’re all equally amazing. I hope you’re as interested in this epic city as I am, explore away.
1. Eat at Vegie Bar/Visit Brunswick St.
Okay, Okay… you’re probably sick of hearing about how much I am in love with Vegie Bar at this point in my blog… if you’ve been reading, but that is just how good it actually is. Brunswick St. in general is a really cool place to go hangout for a few hours or a whole day. In my case… this is where I spent most of my free time, every single weekend. It is a street full of graffiti, cafes, restaurants, hipsters, hippies, great shopping, used bookstores, tattoo shops, live music, and an unreal night life. You can be whoever you want here.
Vegie Bar is the vegan/vegetarian restaurant that I always talk about. The atmosphere is cool, artsy, and hip. The food is devastatingly good. If you’re planning on going here, be prepared to wait. It’s okay though, it’s worth it.
2. Have a drink at Rooftop Cinema in the CBD
Rooftop Cinema is actually a rooftop cinema… BUT when they aren’t playing movies, it’s a really cool bar. I only ever drank here once, on a Monday night, with an Italian, a Kiwi, and an American, but it was awesome. You have to walk all the way to the top, that’s okay though… burn some calories before you drink anyways, it doesn’t hurt and the view is worth it. When you get to the top, you can expect a pretty unbelievable view of Melbourne’s CBD. I liked it because it was a very chilled out bar, people sitting around in cool chairs just having some casual drinks and sharing stories. I didn’t have the opportunity to experience the whole cinema part but I think that would be really cool too.
3. Explore Chinatown and Eat Dumplings
Definitely one of my favourite things to do as I have a fiery hot passion for food, especially Asian food. Chinatown in Melbourne is full of great dumpling houses and they’re cheap, which is the best part. You can sit and stuff your face with as much as your stomach can endure and it costs next to nothing. For example, I went with three of my friends and I think we ate over 60 dumplings plus some spring rolls and vegetables between the four of us and it was only $12 each, #winning. Chinatown is busy but it’s interesting and unique and the food is epic. There are lots of little alleyways to explore as you never know what bar or restaurant you may find. One night I ended up in a small bar called Double Happiness at three in the morning where the the drinks were flowing, chill music was playing, and the party wasn’t even close to ending.
4. Hangout on Ackland St./Visit St. Kilda Beach
One of my favourite things to do in Melbourne… spend the day in St. Kilda. The first time I went down to St. Kilda Beach was on a date and I was more focused on everything going on around me than the guy who I was with. A massive pathway along the beach full of people on long boards, roller blades, walking, running. Open park space with people playing sports and laying in the grass. Bars with cool, hanging chairs that face the ocean and that are full of people enjoying a cold drink on a nice day, it was paradise. When you live on Lake Ontario in Canada and your hometown beach is dirty, polluted, and rocky… this is so much better.
The first time I saw Ackland St. was when I had first arrived in Melbourne and it happened to be the first nice day of the year. I couldn’t believe how many people could crowd into one street, on a week day afternoon. The bars and cafes spilled out onto the sidewalks and were packed with people enjoying the beautiful weather. Ackland St. is literally two seconds from the beach and is also where St. Kilda Festival is held every year, in February. If you happen to find yourself in Melbourne during this Festival… you have to go, no excuses. You need to be prepared for massive crowds but it’s pretty amazing seeing all of these people, hearing live music, eating, browsing markets, and just simply lounging by the beach if you want a break.
5. Visit the Queen Victoria Market
Located five minutes walking distance from Melbourne Central Station, the Queen Victoria Market is a massive tourist destination. I actually met a lot of backpackers who lived at the nearby hostels in the city who worked at the Queen Victoria Market temporarily. It is a huge, busy market… mostly full of tacky tourist items like keychains and stuffed koala bears, but it also has a lot of really cool stuff too AND… great food. If you’re feeling adventurous you can even try kangaroo jerky (gross).
I think the coolest part of the market is that on Wednesday nights from 5-10 pm, November to February, there is a Night Market. The Night Market is completely different and has food from all over the globe, which is the best part. I only ever made it there once… it was last minute and unplanned (usually the best things in life are) but the food was epic and the vibes were good.
6. Drive the Great Ocean Road
If you don’t have a car while you’re visiting Melbourne, it’s not a big deal. There are plenty of tours that run out of the city, take you on a full day drive down the Great Ocean Road, and back. It is supposed to be one of the most beautiful drives in the world and trust me… it lived up to my expectations. I am a lover of the ocean and coast lines, this had me written all over it. If you’re in Melbourne and have a day to spare… you have to do this. I also know a lot of people who rented cars and drove it but stayed at hostels along the way and spent a little more time in each place. There is some really awesome surfing, park space full of koalas, a rainforest, beautiful beaches, and the Twelve Apostles, need I say more?
7. Visit Mornington Peninsula… Hot Springs, Beaches, and Wineries
I was very fortunate and had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time here as the family I lived with owned a beach house in Sorrento. I think it may actually be one of my favourite places in the world… I spent Christmas day walking along the coast, overlooking the ocean. Christmas time may in fact be the best time to go to Mornington Peninsula, Sorrento in particular because it is bumpin’ over the holidays, just be prepared for limited parking etc.
The drive to Mornington Peninsula is roughly an hour from the city and is easy to do. You can literally take the Napean Highway all the way there and you’ll have a view of the ocean the entire time. You can also drive through Red Hill and stop at one of the many wineries along the way with beautiful views of the hills. I remember spending one day sitting at a busy winery, eating pizza, drinking wine, and enjoying the sunshine, sometimes they even have live music. Maybe you enjoy relaxing in hot springs? Well no worries, you can hit up the Peninsula Hot Springs too. They’re beautiful… a variety of pools with different temperatures to suit your preference, saunas, and plunge pools in the middle of nowhere. I would highly recommend visiting Mornington Peninsula in the summer as this is when you can swim in the ocean, you’re almost guaranteed nice weather, and it is busy if you like socializing.
8. Visit Philip Island for the Penguin Parade
Philip Island is approximately an hour and a half to two hours by car, from Melbourne. If you have a car, it’s great because you can stay overnight at a hostel and spend some time exploring the coast, seeing koalas, and petting kangaroos during the day, followed by the Penguin Parade and drinks at a local bar at night. I should probably mention however, that my friends and I had too much fun at the hostel we stayed at and had to deal with a few angry travelers… and the bar we ended up at in Cowes was pretty strict too. If you don’t have a car, there are still tours that run to Philip Island for the day and come home after the Penguin Parade.
The Penguin Parade was actually one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. Hoards of penguins come in to shore at the same time everyday (around sunset and shortly after) in order to make their way back to their nests along the sand banks. The neat thing is that it happens every single day and has been happening for years. They also don’t seem to mind all of the tourists that have come from all over the world to see them. Tickets to the Penguin Parade can be purchased online and I highly recommend the Penguin Plus seating because it isn’t expensive to upgrade and it is totally worth the view.
9. Visit the Brighton Beach Houses
Okay, okay… so I am a little bias since I happened to live just down the street from Brighton Beach during my stay in Melbourne… but this is definitely a huge tourist destination and something to see. The beach houses are lined up along the beach and painted with different designs and colours. They’re actually really beautiful and you don’t need to spend an entire day exploring them as they only take a half hour to see. If you have a nice day however and want to spend time at a beach, this is a cool place to go. People do own the beach houses (for a steep price) but you’re more than welcome to hangout down there and take photos in front of them… everyone does it AND it’s free… bonus.
10. Spend an Evening at the Moonlight Cinema in the Royal Botanic Gardens
So this was definitely one of the coolest dates I have ever been on, that is until I stepped in a pile of dog poo whilst bare foot (thankfully my date wasn’t with me at the time). Aside from that however, this was an overall great experience. Moonlight Cinema takes place on a lawn, where people can put out blankets, bring their own chairs, bring their own food/drinks, or sit in bean bag chairs that are provided. Once the sun goes down you can enjoy whatever movie happens to be playing that night amongst a group of people enjoying wine and having a good time. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne are a must see anyways… so it’s a win win.
11. Go to a Footy Match in the City
Melbourne is a footy city, plain and simple. Most of the AFL‘s teams are based in Melbourne and the fan base is beyond anything I have ever witnessed in my life. When there is a game on in the city, which is every single weekend (during footy season), everyone is out rocking their footy scarves, hats, and shirts. The games are pretty cheap to go to and you can always find last minute tickets upon arrival. People do drink there but it isn’t all about the drinking, the fans are far too intense for that. I loved going to the games because I actually understood the sport as opposed to American Football. I also loved the atmosphere in general and the fact that all of the footy players were close to my age (not to mention that they wear tight short shorts and are extremely fit… whew).
12. Enjoy a Drink at Naked For Satan’s Rooftop Bar
My friend and I spent a lot of time on Brunswick St. in the North end of the city and every time we were there we noticed a cool, weird, rooftop bar but had no idea what it was. Finally after months of wondering, some of my friends had spent a night there partying and told me how unreal it was. You take an elevator to the top of the bar, you can sit inside or outside, you’re surrounded by glass, and have an unbelievable view of the North end of the city, which is especially pretty at night. Naked For Satan is definitely a place to be.
13. Visit Degraves Street in the CBD
Degraves St. is located two seconds from Flinders Street Station in Melbourne’s CBD. It is a little, almost hidden street that is full of restaurants and cafes, shopping, graffiti, buskers, and so much more. I instantly fell in love with Degraves the second I saw it, it’s cute. There also happens to be a phenomenal soup place, which also offers freshly squeezed juice, hidden along Degraves back alley on the right hand sand, it’s small but you can’t miss it.
14. Have Lunch or Dinner on Melbourne’s Restaurant Tram
The coolest part about Melbourne’s Restaurant Tram is the fact that while you eat your five course meal, you get to see the entire city out of the window. The tram car offers lunch or dinner and you need to book a reservation/pre-pay online a few weeks before. It may seem a little expensive but it is fine dining, five courses, and an amazing experience. There are different sittings, which usually run for about three hours each. You can catch the tram in the city, down by Crown Casino and there is public parking nearby as well. I highly recommend this experience!
15. Explore Chapel St. & Visit the Prahran Market for Vegan Cupcakes
I didn’t end up spending a lot of time on Chapel St. until my last month in Melbourne, which I kind of regret. Chapel St. runs through a bunch of suburbs and can be easily accessed by car, train, or tram. It is full of great bars, hot yoga studios, cafes and restaurants, shopping, and of course… the Prahran Market (in Prahran). The Prahran Market is a cool place to check out but it is mostly food products. My favourite thing for a long time was to drive down and go to the Mister Nice Guy Vegan Cupcakes stand in the market… they are absolutely the best cupcakes in the entire world and were totally worth the $75 dollar parking ticket I received the one time.