Melbourne’s grungy laneways, independent fashion, art galleries, and ever-changing street art give this Australian city enormous character. The capital of the state of Victoria is regularly voted among the world’s most livable cities. Here’s how to best plan a three-day Melbourne city break.
Day 1 – Explore Melbourne’s past and present
Begin your exploration of Melbourne in Federation Square, which links the central business district and the Yarra River. It is always busy with people enjoying the sunshine, the cafes, and of course Melbourne’s vibrant cultural scene.
The bold modern architecture contrasts brilliantly with the heritage buildings surrounding it, such as the iconic Flinders Street Station and the cathedral. Get your bearings at the Melbourne Visitor Centre and dip into the National Gallery of Victoria.
Right across the road from Fed Square is Hoosier Lane – completely devoted to street art expression. Melbourne has become famous for its street art, maybe because its grungy laneways lend themselves perfectly to ‘hidden’ art. Stevenson Lane is another well-known canvas for street art, as is Croft Alley.
Melbourne’s influx of migrants started in 1788 when the first Europeans stepped ashore and went a little crazy with the gold rush of the 1850s and 60s. Melbourne is home to residents from 233 countries speaking over 180 languages and dialects! Some of the amazing stories behind their journeys are to be found at the Immigration Museum on Flinders St. You can also be whisked back in time to the social depravity of the 19th and early 20th centuries at the Old Melbourne Gaol on Russell Street.
In the evening head to Lygon Street in Carlton for Italian food and eat at Tiamo, a pizzeria with authentic food and atmosphere. Finish off with a sweet treat at Gelatissimo.
Day 2 – A day trip from Melbourne
Allocate one of your days to a trip out into Melbourne’s hinterland. The Dandenong Ranges are a lush antidote to the drier plains, and your first stop should be Sky High, for views over greater Melbourne. There is a restaurant and various attractions to trap tourists here but you can just pay a per car entrance fee and enjoy the views.
Next drive up the Mt Dandenong Tourist Road to the William Ricketts Sanctuary, a garden that is the setting for the mystical sculptures of Australian artist William Ricketts (1898–1993). He had a deep understanding of the relationship between Australia’s natural environment and her indigenous peoples and that is reflected in his work.
The giant stands of Mountain Ash and ferny gullies are home to a couple of quaint little villages – Olinda and Sassafras. Stop for lunch at Ripe in Sassafras – don’t miss the Lindt hot chocolate drinks and try the breakfast risotto. You can also pick up some snacks at the counter to eat later in the day.
Then set your GPS towards Healesville. This town in the heart of the Yarra Valley is home to one of Australia’s best wildlife centers. It’s not a zoo but a conservation organization dedicated to fighting wildlife extinction. It started out as a sanctuary where people could bring sick and injured wildlife for treatment and you can sometimes watch operations being carried out in the hospital. Make sure you catch the ‘Spirits of the Sky’ show, a spectacular introduction to Australia’s magnificent birds.
Day 3 – Melbourne from the water
Take a kayaking trip along the Yarra River, which meanders right through the center of Melbourne, starting from the historical Victoria Docks. From the kayak you see the ‘Melbourne Star’ Ferris wheel, pass under the huge Bolte Bridge and through the Melbourne central business district, looking out for the landing places where early settlers arrived. The experience allows you to see the city from a different perspective. A kayak tour takes around 1.5hrs and is suitable for all ages with no experience necessary.
After your kayaking trip wanders along the Southbank enjoying the atmosphere and views of the city. Grab a light lunch and a cool beer at Pony Fish Island – a bar/café perched under the Pedestrian Bridge between Melbourne city and the Southbank.
Sports fans shouldn’t miss a visit to the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The mighty ‘G’ is one of Australia’s most historic sporting venues, playing host to the AFL Grand Final and cricket’s Boxing Day Test match. Tours of the ground are available. The MCG is a short walk from Jolimont Station or tram route 46 or 75. Inside the MCG you will find the Olympic Museum, Sport Australia Hall of Fame and the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame, as well as the Melbourne Cricket Club Museum.
In the evening treat yourself to a ride on the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant and combine a tour of Melbourne with a gourmet dinner aboard a historical tramcar. The burgundy-painted, brass-tinged restaurant on wheels is decorated inside with red velvet curtains, fringed lampshades, and curved booth dividers. The staff really make this experience fun. The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant operates every day and travels through the city and surrounding suburbs, including Albert Park, St Kilda, and South Melbourne.
Plan a Three-Day Melbourne Travel Planning Tips
Melbourne has a good public transport system – see the website for journey planning – but if you plan to use it you will have to get Myki smart cards, which can be used on trams, trains, and buses. You can buy and top up the Myki card at station ticket offices and many retailers, particularly 7-Eleven stores.
In the central business district, the City Circle tram is a free ride that loops around the city. It circumnavigates central Melbourne every 10 minutes from 10 am to 6 pm and runs along Flinders St Harbour Esplanade, LaTrobe and Spring Streets.
About Our Guest Blogger
Natasha von Geldern (aka the Wandering Kiwi) is a travel writer and blogger passionate about making the pages of the atlas real. She has traveled to over 50 countries so far and contributes to a number of digital travel sites. She loves inspiring others to travel.