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Things to Do in Melbourne

Long in competition with Sydney for the title of Australia’s cultural capital, free-spirited Melbourne is often the people’s choice, consistently topping the list of the world’s most livable cities. There’s a lot to love, from its melting pot of inhabitants and distinctly European ambience, to its diverse foodie scene, cutting-edge art galleries, and eclectic nightlife. There’s also a lot more than meets the eye, so start your Melbourne discovery with a guided tour—on a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus, on a regular bus, or on foot—of the city’s top stops, colorful neighborhoods, and hidden hot spots. Begin beneath the skyscrapers of the Central Business District, admiring landmarks such as Federation Square and Parliament House; browsing the stalls at the legendary Queen Victoria Market; and strolling around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Then, escape the tourist trail to explore the shops and cafés of Melbourne’s atmospheric laneways, catch a film or show at the Southbank entertainment complex, or scour the hip neighborhoods of St. Kilda, Fitzroy, and Carlton. If you need a break from the city, Melbourne’s scenic surroundings are ripe for day trips. Tour the Mornington Peninsula, watch the Phillip Island penguin parade, or taste award-winning wines in the Yarra Valley. Alternatively, head west along the spectacular Great Ocean Road, one of Australia’s most famous coastal drives, where highlights include Apollo Bay, the Twelve Apostles, and Great Otway National Park.
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Yarra River
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The Yarra River flows west for more than 240 km (148 miles) from its source in the Yarra Ranges, through rural and suburban Melbourne to the city center and Docklands, where it empties into Port Phillip Bay. Transport and pedestrian bridges cross the river, and you’ll find some of Melbourne’s most popular golf courses and parklands along its length.

Melbourne was established on the banks of the Yarra River in 1835, and it was a vital source of water and transport for the city's settlers. Today the Yarra River flows past the pedestrian Yarra Promenade and Flinders Street Station in the heart of Melbourne.

Rowers stroke past from the nearby Royal Botanic Gardens, and pleasure boats cruise up and down the river. Cycling and walking trails also mirror its path, and there are popular picnic grounds on the suburban fringe at Yarra Bend and Warrandyte.

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Melbourne Southgate
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Southgate is a large shopping, eating and entertainment complex on the banks of the Yarra River. Occupying a central position opposite Flinders Street Station and next to the Victorian Arts Centre and Hamer Hall, Southgate offers an opportunity for visitors to dine in a riverside restaurant or cafe with views of the CBD across the river.

Catering to all types of budgets and tastes, the complex has a large food hall on the ground floor and more refined dining on the upper levels. Shops include a variety of boutique fashion stores as well as gift shops, bookstores and speciality shops. Open from 7am until late and located adjacent to the city’s major arts precinct, Southgate is the ideal place to stop for a pre- or post-theatre dinner or drink.

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Great Ocean Road
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Victoria's Great Ocean Road is great in every sense of the word. If you're driving, you'll discover one of the most famous and scenic coastal stretches of road in the world. If you're surfing, you'll find point break heaven. And if you're looking for breathtaking seaside vistas at every turn, you've found them.

This stretch of Victoria's coast - dubbed the Great Ocean Road - is known for its long empty beaches and crashing surf. It's holiday central for vacationing Melburnites in December and January, when thousands of visitors swell the local population, booking laidback holiday homes for the summer season. Local towns come alive in summer, with bustling cafes, boutiques and bars. Away from the coast, the surrounding mountains hide national parks filled with bushwalks, rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife.

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Twelve Apostles
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Washed by crashing waves just off the craggy shoreline of western Victoria, the dramatic Twelve Apostles stand sentinel off the Great Ocean Road. Once joined to the surrounding mainland, the limestone outcrops are a Victorian icon and an enduring symbol of nature's mighty power and beauty.

Pounded by surf and tide for thousands of years, the limestone crags are gradually being whittled down in number – currently only eight of the Twelve Apostles remain – and the neighbouring rocky arch known as London Bridge has collapsed into the roaring sea.

The wild western Victorian coastline is a bewitching and beautiful part of Australia, the site of tragic shipwrecks in days gone by and the perfect place for exhilarating cliff-top walks, wreck diving and other untamed encounters with Mother Nature.

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Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
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If you didn't know that Melbourne is a sport-loving city, learn all about it at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). A Melbourne landmark, and one of the seven wonders of the sporting world, no visit to Melbourne is complete without witnessing a summertime cricket match or winter game of Australian Rules football at the MCG.

Backstage tours on non-event days take visitors onto the hallowed turf and into the changing rooms of Australia’s largest stadium. A visit to the National Sporting Museum here reveals the MCG’s history as an Olympic Games venue, and particular sports are highlighted in several exhibits, including the alarmingly realistic Shane Warne Hologram. Exhibition spaces display the MCG’s historic collection of sports memorabilia.

The cricket season launches at the MCG with the famous Boxing Day Test match. The most important fixture on the football calendar is held here on the last Saturday in September – the AFL Grand Final.

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Federation Square
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Federation Square is Melbourne's focal point and favorite meeting place. Outdoor cafes surround the square, which is dominated by a huge outdoor screen. People flock here to people-watch or catch don't-miss sport or activities on the screen, and it’s the location for Melbourne's most important public events and ceremonies.

Back from the cafes you'll find the Australian art section of the National Gallery of Victoria, known as the Ian Potter Centre – the perfect place to get a sense of Australia’s art history from colonial days to the present day. Other cultural icons at Federation Square include cinema history at ACMI, art galleries and creative outdoor play spaces for kids.

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Loch Ard Gorge
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The Great Ocean Road is one Victoria’s most naturally stunning sights, and Loch Ard Gorge is a dramatic highlight of an already dramatic journey. It was at this spot in 1878 where a ship carrying settlers from England to Melbourne was tragically wrecked on the rocks. Of the 54 passengers aboard the ship only two of the passengers survived—a teenage boy who heroically rescued a fellow teenage girl. After spending the night in a coastal sea cave, the duo found help with local settlers after scaling the rugged cliffs. Today those cliffs have a set of stairs that lead to the golden sands, where a protected beach is tucked beneath the towering, time-sculpted bluffs. Though the weather can be spectacularly stormy in winter, summer days are an invitation for picnicking, swimming, and sunbathing, and the striated cliffs form a natural amphitheater of coastal beauty around you.

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Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
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The lovely landscaped grounds of Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens spread for almost 100 acres south of the city center, providing Melbourne with the much-appreciated foliage of more than 50,000 plants.

The gardens were established in 1846, and over the years they've become recognised as one of the finest examples of Victorian-era landscaping in the world. The mix of native and introduced species provides inspiration for would-be gardeners, and the manicured lawns are a popular spot for picnics and parties.

You'll find tranquil ornamental lakes dotted with waterbirds, a herbarium and an observatory, plus conservatories and glasshouses filled with exotic blooms. Follow winding pathways past fern gullies and eucalyptus, or join Melbourne's joggers running rings around The Tan, the gardens' running track.

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Eureka Skydeck 88
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If early explorers could have had this view it would have made their jobs a lot easier. Situated high above Melbourne’s bustling streets, the Eureka Skydeck 88 is a 360-degree viewing platform towards the top of the Eureka Tower. From this elevated vantage point on the 88th floor, the Victorian countryside literally stretches from the mountains down towards the sea. Gaze east toward the 2,000-foot Mount Dandenong which can be coated with snow in winter, and south to the waters of Port Phillip and beachgoers lounging at St. Kilda. More than simply the view, however, it’s the Eureka Skydeck’s remarkable height that will leave you weak in the knees.

Even the elevators to reach the platform are an adventure unto themselves, and the 40 seconds to cover 88 stories make them the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. Once you’ve taken a lap of the 88th floor, step outside onto the open-air terrace to feel the wind rushing through your hair from nearly 1,000 feet off the ground.

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Melbourne Museum
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Melbourne Museum provides a great experience for adults and children alike. A series of permanent exhibitions relating to the culture, history and the environment of Melbourne and Victoria are housed in several galleries including a lush Forest Gallery, an Aboriginal gallery and a Children’s area.

Exhibitions include Science and Life, Melbourne Story, Evolution, Mind and Body, and many more. Get to see bones and displays of Australia’s mega fauna (giant animals), experience the Dinosaur Walk, Bugs Alive!, Amazing Animals and The Human Body. Temporary exhibitions run about twice a year and cover a variety of themes. Visiting from March to July 2013 are hidden treasures from Afghanistan temporarily donated by the National Museum in Kabul. The Museum also houses a good café, an IMAX center and – the museum’s most popular object – a taxidermy original of Australia’s most famous racehorse, Phar Lap.

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More Things to Do in Melbourne

ArtVo

ArtVo

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St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral

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St Paul's Cathedral stands right in the heart Melbourne, opposite the cultural precinct Federation Square and diagonally across from Flinders Street Station, the city’s central transport hub. A metropolitical and cathedral church, it was built on the site of Melbourne’s first public Christian service that took place in 1835.

Built in sandstone in the Gothic Transitional style, the Cathedral has the second tallest Anglican spire in the world and a magnificent organ that is believed to be the finest surviving work of British organ builder T.C. Lewis.

Visitors are welcome to explore and worship at the Cathedral, and join the daily Evensong and other services. Sights of interest within its walls include the Moorhouse Tower Lantern, the processional doors, the Persian tile and the pentacles or five-pointed star. A range of gifts and religious items are on sale in the Cathedral Shop (10am-3pm) located inside the Cathedral.

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Werribee Open Range Zoo

Werribee Open Range Zoo

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Werribee Open Range Zoo is an African-themed zoo located 32 kilometers southwest of Melbourne. Covering 225 hectares of land, the Werribee zoo has some of the largest animal enclosures in the world. This allows animals to live and behave more like they would in a wild setting.

Lion, hippo, and gorilla enclosures are accessible by a large, looped walking trail. The zoo also simulates the authentic African safari experience by offering free 40-minute bus tours of the “open range” animal exhibits. This allows visitors to get up close and personal with zebra, rhino, giraffe, bison, antelope and ostrich in a more naturalized setting.

For those seeking to get even closer to the animals, Werribee Open Range Zoo also offers a variety of behind-the-scenes animal encounter programs. Visitors can get up close and personal with the animals during a feeding or enrichment activity, meet the keepers, and tour the animal care facilities.

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Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo

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Animals from Australia and around the world have called the Melbourne Zoo home since 1862, making it Australia's oldest zoo. Surrounded by landscaped gardens, the zoo is a popular location for picnics and evening concerts during the summer.

Star attractions at Melbourne Zoo include the colorful inhabitants of the Butterfly House, families of gorillas at play in the Gorilla Rainforest, and native animals like kangaroos, wombats and koalas in the Amazing Australians exhibits. Most famous of all is the Trail of the Elephants, the Asian village home of the zoo's five elephants, including recent addition baby Mali. Orangutans are viewed from elevated boardwalks, and penguins and seals swim in the Wild Sea display. Don’t miss feeding time and Meet the Keeper presentations.

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Luna Park Melbourne

Luna Park Melbourne

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Enter through the iconic mouth of Mr Moon to experience the innocent joys of Melbourne’s Luna Park in St Kilda.

This ultimate city fair has brightened St Kilda’s Lower Esplanade for more than a century, featuring a classic Ferris Wheel, the Jewel in the Crown Carousel, the Silly Serpent Rollercoaster and a haunted Ghost Train, as well as many other family-fun and thrilling rides. The most famous Luna Park ride is the Scenic Railway Roller Coaster, which has delighted passengers with paramount views of Port Phillip Bay since the Park opened in 1912.

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Queen Victoria Market

Queen Victoria Market

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Fill up at Melbourne's marketplace, the historic, fun and friendly Queen Victoria Market! Operating since 1878, Queen Victoria Market is the finest place in town to shop for fresh fruit and veg, gourmet meats and cheeses, condiments, seafood – you name it, and you’ll find it.

Melbourne is a city that loves food, and Queen Victoria Market is where gourmets, chefs, office workers, families and just about everyone who eats come to do their shopping. The atmosphere is particularly busy and vibrant on Saturday mornings, especially if a feast like Christmas or Easter is just around the corner.

On Wednesday evenings in summer, a Night Market with food and entertainment lights up the marketplace. A souvenir and trash and treasure market operates on Sundays, with children's rides and outdoor cafes.

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Healesville Sanctuary

Healesville Sanctuary

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Healesville Sanctuary is the best place in Victoria to see and interact with native Australian wildlife. Set in natural bushland, the Sanctuary offers the unique opportunity to get up close to Australian animals in an environment that mirrors their natural habitat.

You can easily spend the best part of a day wandering the shaded paths around the sanctuary that take you past Australia’s iconic and lesser-known wildlife. Meet the dingo packs, koalas, kangaroos, wallabies, wombats and echidnas and view Australia’s most dangerous reptiles. See an array of colorful and unusual birds such as emus, cassowaries, parrots, owls and eagles, and watch the world’s most elusive water animal, the Platypus, at play.

Entry to the sanctuary includes admission to several wildlife shows including the fantastic Spirits of the Sky held in the sanctuary’s flight arena.

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Hosier Lane

Hosier Lane

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Appreciate Melbourne’s best street art and graffiti in Hosier Lane, one of the city’s ‘hidden’ laneways. Once forgotten but now very much on the Melbourne cultural map, Hosier Lane is a small cut through between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, filled with regularly changing graffiti and a series of light boxes that exhibit the work of up and coming contemporary artists.

Jutting out from the center of Hosier is Rutledge Lane; walk past the (graffitied) garbage bins until you hit the Until Never gallery, which displays work by emerging Australian artists (open Wed-Sat). Hang out in Misty Bar or enjoy excellent tapas in the compact but excellent Spanish bar, Movida Next Door (Cnr Flinders St & Hosier Ln). If you want to eat at the more spacious and original Movida (1 Hosier Ln), you’ll need to book at least two months in advance.

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Flinders Street Station

Flinders Street Station

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The striking Edwardian facade of Flinders Street Station is one of Melbourne's two transport hubs; the other is the far more modern Southern Cross Station at the other end of the city. Australia's oldest station, the current building with its copper dome, red and yellow tower, arched windows and famous clocks opened back in 1910, though there's been a station here since 1854.

The busiest station in the Southern Hemisphere, the station is packed at peak hours, but quieter for a wander through at other times. Stained glass features in the atrium, and all manner of takeaway stalls offer quick snacks for passers-by and travelers alike.

For an interesting art and shopping stroll, follow the historic underpass that takes you under Flinders Street to Melbourne's funkiest cafe enclave at Degraves Street. Along the way you'll pass local boutiques and a changing parade of street art in one of the city's most unusual gallery art spaces.

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Shrine of Remembrance

Shrine of Remembrance

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Stark and solemn, the Shrine of Remembrance is Melbourne’s memorial for all Australians who fought in a war. The Shrine was originally built to remember those who fought in World War One and is now open to the public for commemoration and education about all Australian victims of war. Permanent exhibitions show metals awarded to soldiers and records of service men and women. Temporary exhibitions and free daily tours at 11am and 2pm also allow visitors a chance to expand their understanding of Australia’s involvement in international conflicts. The unique shrine is easily recognised by the two identical porticoes supported by eight Doric columns and topped with a pyramidal roof inspired by an ancient Mausoleum. The result of combining the Athenian and Turkish architectural designs in a bold white structure is nothing short of stunning.

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Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

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One of only four giant observation wheels in the world, along with the London Eye, the Singapore Flyer and the Las Vegas High Roller, the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel has some big names to live up to, but with its 360-degree panoramic views reaching as far as the distant Mount Macedon and Dandenong mountain range, there’s no other attraction like it in the city of Melbourne.

Riding in one of the 21 air-conditioned capsules is an experience in itself, reaching heights of up to 400 feet (120 meters or the equivalent of 40 stories) during the 30-minute tour and offering an unbeatable bird’s eye view of the surrounding Docklands and Port Phillip Bay from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The most atmospheric time to ride the Melbourne Star is during the evening hours, when the wheel’s specially engineered multi-colored LED-lighting creates a dazzling lightshow over the waterfront.

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Grampians National Park

Grampians National Park

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Grampians National Park is listed as an Australian National Heritage List for a reason. The outstanding natural beauty and plethora of indigenous rock sites makes Grampians an outstanding visit from near or afar. Long an Australina national treasure, Grampians is known as an all season destination, and that means that any time of year is a great time to visit. Boasting over 600km of roads and 160km of walking trails, visitors here can spend their time among hundreds of waterfalls, ancient fern gullies, and do their best to nab a quick peek (or coveted photograph) of some of Australia’s unique flora and fauna. See wild emus and kangaroos foraging amongst trees and ravines that are multiple millennia old. And while engaging with the rugged wilderness here, also realize that Grampians (and particularly the Wartook Valley) is also home to some of Australia’s best wineries, and many visitors enjoy watching the abundant wildlife while sipping their glass of locally grown Chardonnay.

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Parliament House of Victoria

Parliament House of Victoria

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Impressively stoic, with bold white columns commanding attention, Parliament House of Victoria is one of Melbourne’s most recognisable landmarks. The great steps that lead to the entrance only hint at the opulence behind the impressive façade. Built in 1856, Parliament House of Victoria is the largest public Australian structure to be built in 19th Century.

Visitor experiences in Parliament will depend heavily on whether Parliament is sitting. When Parliament is not sitting, the chambers, halls and eateries are open to the public. Visitors can take a 90 minute tour through the esteemed halls and chambers.

After touring, visitors may relax with a traditional High Tea of finger sandwiches, scones with cream and jam, and assorted pastries at either The Parliament or The Corridor. During sitting weeks, visitors can only view live debates and decisions from the public galleries.

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AAMI Park

AAMI Park

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With a bold profile of gleaming triangular panels in a unique bioframe roof, it’s no surprise that Melbourne’s AAMI Park has quickly become an iconic sporting stadium.

Located only one kilometre from the city centre, between the sweeping Yarra River and the internationally-loved MCG, AAMI Park is Melbourne’s premier medium-sized soccer, rugby union and rugby league venue. AAMI Park’s star teams include the National Rugby League's Melbourne Storm, Melbourne’s Super Rugby team, the Melbourne Rebels, and soccer’s A-League teams, the Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart. The stadium has a capacity of more than 30,000 spectators and boasts a popular roof design that offers seating cover and a notable lack of pillars and walls obstructing the view. Recognizing the unique value of this Melbourne attraction, in 2012 AAMI Park was awarded the World’s Most Iconic and Culturally Significant Stadium by the Stadium World Congress.

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