OVERVIEW

Melbourne has a fantastic public transport network of trains and trams, the later being the biggest tram network in the world. The CBD is all walkable, and with plenty of 'free trams', so you should have no problem getting around.

Events are huge business in Melbourne so you should look up what's on, especially if you visit during the summer months - there is always something on. Food, shopping and music are also notable.

All the essential information you will likely need before visiting Melbourne is below, so take a look and get ready for a trip to this stunning city.

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Melbourne Essential Info

 

Getting Around Melbourne

Walking

Most of the main attractions are in and around the CBD and can be easily accessed on foot. It takes around 12minutes to walk from the bottom of the CBD grid, at Flinders Street Station/Fed Square, to the top at State Library.

It can be another 10 or so minutes of walking to reach attractions that a re beyond the grid, such as Melbourne Museum, The Shrine of Remembrance and The Royal Botanic Gardens. Using the free tram zone (below) to get to the edge of the grid is an easy way to lighten your journey without costing anything extra.

Trams and trains in Melbourne © Travel Unpacked

Tram

Melbourne has the most extensive tram network in the world with over 250km of lines. Some of these stretch far out into the suburbs but for tourists, using them in the free tram zone and for access to inner city suburbs is the most useful part.

The free tram zone covers the CBD grid and stretches up to Queen Vic market and across to Docklands. It does not cross the Yarra river. See this map here.

When using the free tram zone, just hop on and off as you please - no need to tap your myki card at all. Signs at tram stops and announcements on the tram will let you know if you are leaving the zone.

Using the tram to leave the CBD is most useful for the inner city suburbs (bigger distances are easier on the train - see below). St Kilda, Richmond, Fitzroy and Carlton are all a short tram ride away. Always tap on with your myki card when leaving the free tram zone (there are inspectors with large fines applicable) but there is no need to tap off.

Myki cards

these public transport cards are the way to pay for your trip on trams, trains and buses. You can get one at train stations, machines at some tram stops and convenience stores. Or, if you have an android phone, you can add Myki to your Google Pay account and use your phone to tap on and off.

Costs - The myki card itself costs $6 for adults, $3 for concessions. You then need to either add a 'myki pass' to it, or add 'myki money'. A myki pass is a 7 day pass that saves you money if you are making 2+ journeys for 6 days or more within that 7 period. If you will use it less than this, go for myki money, which is just a balance of any amount of your choosing which you use as you go. More myki card info here.

Fares - $4.50 per 2hr journey and a $9 daily cap for unlimited trips. This is the same across the whole public transport network (trains, trams and buses). Concessions are half price. More fare info here.

PTV App

Whilst your phones map is fairly good at planning any public transport routes for you, try downloading the PTV (public transport Victoria) app which has a great journey planner with accurate times for the next train/tram arrival and updates on any network disruptions.

Flinders Street station, Melbourne © Nate Watson

Train / Metro

Melbourne has an extensive Metro Train network with lines that cover large parts of city. The busier routes have trains every 7 minutes or so with the quieter ones usually having trains no more than 15 minutes apart, so you can just turn up and wait for the next train.

Currently all trains run to Flinders Street Station and most go to Southern Cross and around the city loop, which includes Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament stations (This will change for 2 of the lines when Melbourne Metro 1 opens in 2025). The trains are relatively fast and efficient, so they are a great way to get around.

The most popular 'Things To Do' on our list that are easiest to access by metro train are - Puffing Billy, Brighton Beach, Melbourne Zoo, Inner City areas (South Yarra, Camberwell, Brunswick, Williamstown) and Scienceworks.

V-line trains are regional Victoria trains and they all depart from Southern Cross station. The most useful for tourists are the lines to Geelong (to link to the Great Ocean Road), Ballarat and Bendigo. For these destinations and a few others, you can still use you myki card to access the train but the fare is significantly higher, so make sure you top up first. The more distant and less frequent trains require a paper ticket. More v-line train info here.

Bus

Buses are useful where the trains and trams don't reach but in Melbourne this is mostly out in the suburbs and there are not really any major attractions that require using the bus to get there. When you do need them, they always connect and cross routes with the trams and trains and use the myki card, so you can expect an easy journey.

Cycle

Melbourne has a decent cycle path network that is growing fast. A cycle can be useful for getting around, especially between inner city suburbs where there aren't always trams or trains that cross between them (all routes lead to the CBD). The city is mostly flat so the ride is fairly easy - just watch out for vehicles and trams.

The capital city trail is a popular 29km route that loops around the city - it follows the Yarra, coming into the city in Southbank, and goes as far north as Royal Park and Fitzroy North.

Cycling along the coast line is also very popular with a meandering path and plenty of spots to stop at. Try starting at Port Melbourne and head south through St Kilda and beyond. Bicycles can be taken on the train, so this can be an easy way to get back to the CBD.

There are several bike hire shops across the city with tours available at some.

Bus Tour

City Sightseeing have two routes with a hop-on hop-off system, an audio guide and tickets from $34. The first loop goes around the edge of CBD and up to the zoo. The second loop goes down to St Kilda and to Port Melbourne.

Taxi / Uber

Uber operates in Melbourne via their app. Taxis are present too and can be hailed if their light is on, indicating they are available.

driving melbourne

Flinders Street station, Melbourne © Kevin Laminto

Driving

If visiting the major attractions in the city centre, driving between them is not really an option - it's best to leave the car in a car park or at your accommodation and use public transport or walk.

To visit attractions outside the city, like the Great Ocean Road or Phillip Island, and you don't go on a tour, driving in a car is a flexible and easy way to do it. Melbourne has a few toll roads but these can easily be avoided - if you do use them you need to buy a pass - more info on this here. Note that hire cars usually already have a tag attached and will add the charge to your bill automatically.

There are some special safety tips for driving in Melbourne due to the presence of trams. First, when you are outside the CBD, often trams stop in the middle of the road to let passengers out. You should not drive past any stopping trams. A little STOP sign will flip out from the tram when it's doors open to let you know.

Secondly, the famous hook turns. Due to the tram lines right of way, you can often find that if you want to turn right, you must be in the left hand lane. It seems odd, but you must wait there until the light change and you have to react quickly to make your turn - when the flashing 'wait' sign turns off.

More safe driving info here.

Car Rental / Share car

All the major car rental companies operate in Melbourne. You can hire a vehicle across many suburbs, including at the airport and close to the CBD.

Car share operators are also present. Most need an account set up to use first(with an annual fee), but this can be a very convenient option, especially if you only need a car for a few hours. Info on providers here.

Orientation

 

 

This link takes you to a useful free downloadable tourist maps.

Melbourne Food

Brunch in Melbourne © Travel Unpacked

 

Food In Melbourne

Melbourne has the best food in Australia with great restaurants cafes all over the city. Whether it's high-end, casual or dirt cheap eateries, Melbourne has it all and it's usually delicious.

The CBD has it's wide variety of restaurants fairly spread out but Flinders lane, Little Collins and Bourke street are all good areas to look. There is also a concentration of mainly Asian restaurants at the upper end of Swanston street and in Chinatown on Little Bourke.

Southbank has a multitude of restaurants along the riverside with great views of the city. This extends across the front of the casino and beyond into South Wharf.

Brunch is a Melbourne institution and must be sampled if you get the chance. There are one or two good CBD options but the inner city and outer suburbs have the most options.

Great pastries can be found at well know Lune who have a shop on Russell street and their bigger bakery (with more options) in Fitzroy. Agate, at South Melbourne market and a hole-in-the-wall in Royal Arcade, is a french patisserie with delicious options.

If there is a particular cuisine you are after, Melbourne will have it. Try googling for a particular culture or food type - sushi, burger, seafood, greek, etc, and you will find plenty of advice.

More info on Melbourne food here, here and here.

melbourne shopping

Chadstone shopping centre, Melbourne © Kevin Laminto

Shopping In Melbourne

 

The CBD offers all the high street shopping you could need. Start on Bourke Street Mall which has Myer, David Jones, H+M, Zara and many others. The next block north of here has Emporium, a multi-level shopping centre with a slightly upmarket vibe but including Uniqlo, Nike and a good food court on the top floor. North of here is Melbourne Central, a long and packed shopping centre built above a train station and featuring the historic Shot Tower in the centre. On the opposite side of Swanston Street to here is QV - a smaller and more open air shopping centre that is worth a visit.

For boutique, unique and tourist centred shops, try the laneways of Degraves street, Centre Place, Block Arcade and Royal Arcade.

High-end shops can be found on Collins Street.

Outside the CBD there are plenty of shopping malls but all of them fall behind Chadstone Shopping Centre, which is the biggest and most prominent of them all. It's packed with 550 high street and high-end shops, a cinema, Lego Discovery Centre and lots of restaurants. To get there you have to take a train and then a bus or, (currently suspended) there is a free shuttle bus provided by the centre that departs from next to Fed Square.

Outlet Shopping

There are three outlet shopping centres all close together just west of the CBD grid.

The most popular is DFO South Wharf which has sports shops, clothing, designer, outdoor and home furnishing shops, in addition to a food court and river side restaurants outside.

In Docklands, and including the Melbourne Star observation wheel and associated attractions, The District has lots of outlet shops, including H+M, and food options.

Above the Skybus terminal and adjoined to Southern Cross station is the Spencer Outlet Centre that has an assortment of shops across a single floor.

Markets

The main market of Melbourne is the Queen Vic Market, just north of the CBD and within the free tram zone. Second to this as a visitor is South Melbourne market, which is a fantastic and more manageable market.

Handmade products and local crafts can be found at the Rose street market in Fitzroy, St Kilda Esplanade Sunday market and the Sunday Arts Centre market.

Prahran market is like a smaller version of Queen Vic. Camberwell market, on Sundays, is an antique and second hand market with some interesting finds. Twice per year, the royal exhibition building holds the Finders Keepers Market, which is full of artistic and hand crafted goods.

Formula 1 race, Albert Park, Melbourne © Travel Unpacked

 

Events In Melbourne

Melbourne is events central with nowhere else quite like it. It's part of the culture for Melbournians to always be going to something, somewhere, lining up to experience the latest new exhibition or eagerly awaiting the annual roster of world class events.

Sports

There are several world class sports events that come to Melbourne each year.

  • The Australian Open(tennis) is in January and one of only four grand slam events alongside London, Paris and New York.

  • The Formula 1 race, at Albert Park lake, is usually in March and the opening race of the season.

  • The Moto GP at Phillip Island is in October and is a rather spectacular setting.

  • The AFL grand final is in September and held at the MCG.

  • Boxing Day test cricket often comes to Melbourne for the ashes series.

  • The Melbourne Cup horse race, 'the race that stops a nation' is in November and held at Flemington race course.

Cultural

There are many great cultural and civic events.

  • The International comedy festival is in March/April and welcomes international acts across hundreds of shows over a three week period.

  • MIFF(international film festival) is in August and held across several art house cinemas in and around the city centre.

  • Moomba, which happens in March.

  • White Night is a fantastic event but is set to morph into something else next year.

  • Many Night Markets. take place, notably the Noddle Night market in November and the regular Wednesday night markets at Queen Vic Market during the summer. South Melbourne market also has one.

  • The Tesselaar Tulip festival is a Dutch themed visual spectacular, with row upon row of beautifully coloured flowers, street food, music and more. September to early October.

  • Melbourne Fashion Week is on in October.

  • There is a Food and Wine festival.

  • Open House is a weekend when hundreds of normally closed to the public buildings open their doors for free tours.

  • Melbourne Knowledge Week consists of a series of exhibits and talks.

  • The Writers festival is in August/September.

More Events

The above are just the main events. There are so many more - take a look to see what you can find here.

Many events are held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition centre, which is the largest centre of it's kind in Australia, and it is located in South Wharf, a short walk or tram from the CBD. This includes comic con, Pax (gaming), music, lectures and all manner of trade shows.

The Princess Theatre, Melbourne © Travel Unpacked

 

Theatre and Music In Melbourne

Theatre

Melbourne is the best place in Australia to catch a show.

 

There are several theatres in the CBD that show Broadway style shows - recent ones include Harry Potter, Frozen and Moulin Rouge. These can be found at the Regents Theatre, Princes Theatre and Her Majesty's Theatre. The Comedy Theatre and Athenaeum are tow other theatres that show smaller musical and theatre productions, in addition to comedy and other shows.

 

South of the Yarra river, in the arts precinct, you can find the Hammer Hall and Arts Centre. Nearby is the Southbank Theatre, Malthouse Theatre and the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Search for show here.

Music

Melbourne has more music venues per capita than any other city in the world, so you won't be short of finding something that meets your musical interests.

 

Large venues include the MCG, Marvel Stadium, Rod Laver Arena, Arts Centre, Hamer Hall, Sydney Myer Music Bowl and the Exhibition Centre.

Medium sized venues are The Forum, 170 Russell and The Palais in St Kilda.

Smaller venues are generally in or attached to pubs and particularly prevalent in Fitzroy, Collingwood and Brunswick. There are some jazz clubs and lots of buskers on the CBD streets.

Search for a show here.

 

Nightlife In Melbourne

Melbourne has a vibrant nightlife. There are plenty of places to grab a drink or have a dance in the CBD. Melbourne is most famous for the hidden bars and rooftops. Check out our list of these types of places on the 'Things to do' page. There are many other bars spread across the CBD with the ones by the river being very popular. There are quite a few places that stay open late into the night, including a few clubs.

Outside of the CBD, the most popular areas for a drink are Fitzroy, Brunswick, South Yarra and St Kilda -  all have nightclubs.

See this guide for more. This website also has some good info.

 

Weather

Melbourne is cold in winter and warm in summer with not much in between. Expect the good weather from October to March and the cold from April to September.

 

Melbourne is notorious for it's 'four seasons in one day' weather, so it's essential to put in your day bag an umbrella, water bottle, sunglasses and light jacket, plus the sun cream and a hat in summer.

 

Best Time To Visit

Those warm weather months bring not just the nice temperature but all the best events too. Come between November and April and there will always be something on to go and check out - better still if you plan for a specific event you are interested in.

 

Safety

As a tourist in the CBD, there's nothing different about Melbourne than any other major Australian city.

Driving has it's own special hazards in Melbourne due to the trams - see above for the details.

The beaches on the ocean side - in Mornington and on the Great Ocean Road - are very rough and can be dangerous. Heed any warning signs and stick to swimming where lifeguards are in attendance.

 

History

Several aboriginal groups under the Kulin nation occupied the Melbourne area for at least 40,000 years. The Wurundjeri people occupied the area where Melbourne's CBD now stands. St Kilda and other southern suburbs are on Bunurong land.

Melbourne the city was begun in 1835 as a settlement that was part of the New South Wales penal colony with the 'Hoddle grid' layout of the CBD being commissioned shortly after. Melbourne grew quickly and was declared a city in 1845. In 1851 it separated from New South Wales to become the colony of Victoria.

 

This was fortuitous as later that year gold was discovered which sparked a gold rush. Within months the population almost doubled from 25,000 to 40,000. This growth continued and by 1865 Melbourne had outgrown Sydney. Many of the arrivals were immigrants from Europe and China.

 

All the wealth that the gold brought funded the many grand buildings that you can still see today.

Read more here.

The Grampians, Victoria © Travel Unpacked

 

Where Next?

In addition to the potential multi-day trips mentioned in the list of 'Things To Do' - The Great Ocean Road, Phillip Island, Wilson's Prom, The Snow and the Mornington Peninsula - the following options are a little further away, so could be the next stop in your trip across Victoria.

 

Grampians - This spectacular national park (pictured above) is around 3hrs from Melbourne and has plenty of walks, waterfalls and incredible views from the platforms on top of the rocky outcrops. Halls Gap is the small settlement that acts as the hub to the park and has accommodation options, including a campsite. Another campsite is down by the reservoir dam and is notable for the wild emu and kangaroos. More info here.

Goldfields - Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine and the surrounding area makes up the Goldfields region, and area filled with history and lots of fun country attractions to visit. You can even go into the old mines themselves. More info here.

Kelly Country - This is the area towards the NSW border that is famous for it's connection to famous outlaw Ned Kelly. There are several attractions and historical sights to see, including the Big Ned Kelly at the place of his last stand, Glenrowen. The town of Beechworth is particularly nice. More info here.

Gippsland - East of Melbourne, this area is known for it's lakes, coastline and natural attractions. Wilson's Prom is on the way. More info here.

Adelaide and Overland Train - This train is run by the same company who run the Ghan and Indian Pacific luxury trains. It departs twice per week and runs during to daytime with a journey of around 10hrs. More info here.

Murray River Towns - The Murray river runs along the NSW border and towns from Mildura to Echuca take advantage of their riverside location and offer lots of attractions to do, including taking a trip on a paddle steamer. More info here.

Tasmania - The Spirit of Tasmania ferry runs overnight (and during the day in summer) from Port Melbourne to Devonport and is the only way to get your own vehicle over to the island. More info here. Or our guide to Hobart is here.

Cruises - Many cruise ships call to port in Melbourne alongside the Spirit of Tasmania in Port Melbourne. They usually go to other Australian ports or to New Zealand. See what's scheduled here.

Sydney and Canberra - Aside from Adelaide and Tasmania, already mentioned, the closest state to Melbourne is New South Wales with it's fabulous capital, Sydney. See our guide here. Canberra is on the way and worth a day or two.

Need info on 'How to get to Port Douglas?' or 'Where to stay?'

Go to the second page of our travel guide for the full run down.

Or, go to page 1 to discover all the 'Things to do'.

AUTHORED BY

Christopher Jubb, Founder of Travel Unpacked

More information available on our About page

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