Melbourne is a creative and vibrant city that both tourists and locals can’t get enough of. It’s the gateway to the Yarra Valley wine region and the Great Ocean Road – must-visit locations that are very capable of draining your bank account.
To save some dollars for these once-in-a-lifetime activities, consider checking out travel-hungry local Jordan’s favourite free things to do in the Victorian capital. Jub (they sure do love their nicknames down there) also blogs about his world adventures over at Tiki Touring Kiwi.
1. Head to St Kilda to see little penguins come ashore
Penguins capture the hearts of people all around the world. You won’t find emperor penguins in Australia, but you can see the world’s smallest penguin 365 days a year in St Kilda.
The penguins start arriving around dusk, so be sure to admire the sunset from St Kilda Beach before heading to the pier to watch them come in. Out of respect for your new friends, don’t use the flash on your camera or shove selfie sticks into their personal space.
Photo credit: Richard Fisher
2. Watch balls of fire light up the Yarra River
The Crown Casino Complex is massive. It’s full of designer shops, movie theatres, food courts, bars, and clubs, in an addition to the casino, of course.
It’s a place where money can quickly leave your wallet, but if you head outside to the Yarra River between 9 pm and midnight you’ll see huge fireballs shooting up in the air from eight gas towers.
If you’re travelling with friends, try to arrive at 9 pm and have them suspect nothing. The incredible warmth of the fireballs will surely surprise and excite them.
Photo credit: soundingblue
3. Check out some awesome street art
Graffiti was once seen purely as vandalism, but nowadays it’s considered a form of creative expression thanks to the street art movement. Melbourne is one of the street art capitals of the world, and in selected locations around the city artists have free reign to show off their work to all who walk by.
Three of the best street art spots are Hosier Lane, Croft Alley, and Finlay Lane. Keep your eyes open for street art all over the city!
Photo credit: Fernando de Sousa
4. Get cultured at Federation Square
Federation Square opened in 2002 and now receives 10 million visitors a year. Given its location, there’s a good chance you’ll end up at the square at some point during your trip.
It’s the cultural heart of the city and is always lively thanks to its numerous restaurants, bars, and specialty stores. Depending on when you visit, you might find a festival, an art exhibition, or lots of locals watching footy on the big screen. You never know what you might find!
Photo credit: Rexness
5. Visit the Shrine
Originally a memorial to World War I soldiers, the Shrine of Remembrance is now a memorial to all Australian soldiers.
The Shrine itself is impressive as it looks over the city skyline, but exploring in and around it will give you a better sense of its meaning. End your little expedition with a relaxing stroll through the neighbouring Royal Botanical Gardens.
If you happen to be in Melbourne on April 25th, attend the ANZAC Day Dawn Service; a moving experience that’s worth waking up early for.
Photo credit: Fraser Mummery
6. Free tram rides, yay!
Thanks to wise city planners back in the day, Melbourne has an extensive network of trams that service the city and its surroundings. The no. 35 tram is designed for tourists, looping around the city centre and stopping at major landmarks. You can stay on it all day if you like!
Trams are a quick and easy way of getting around, and the entire CBD is Free Tram Zone.
Photo credit: Ilaria
7. Tempt your senses at the Queen Victoria Market
The Queen Victoria Market is the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere. It will tempt you in all sorts of ways and can provide endless fun.
Listen to the banter in the fish halls, smell the different treats in the dairy sections, and stop by the fruit vendors for some tasty samples. In addition to Australia’s best produce, you can find awesome clothing, jewellery, handicrafts, and souvenirs.
Photo credit: Colin Adland
8. Go plane spotting (just make sure you don’t miss your flight)
Planes fly above Melbourne at all hours to destinations all around the globe. Most of the time they’re flying thousands of feet above the city and are only distinguishable to the well-trained eye. Yet, if we get the chance to see them up-close, we watch with awe.
There’s a great spot at Melbourne Airport where you can watch planes land; it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours before you head off to your next destination!
Photo credit: Simcityfreak
9. Take a dip in Brighton Beach
You have lots of beaches to choose from within a couple of hours of Melbourne. One of the closest is the incredibly photogenic Brighton Beach, which is part of Port Phillip Bay.
You’ll find a row of colourful bathing boxes lining the foreshore, screaming out for their next Instagram appearance. Over a century old, the boxes still retain classic Victorian architectural features. Just be sure to put down your camera and take a dip at some point!
Photo credit: Indigo Skies Photography
10. Visit the UNESCO-listed Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens
Located on the edge of the city centre, Carlton Gardens is a beautiful place to relax. During the day you’ll find many locals enjoying their lunch break here.
The Royal Exhibition Building, located in the gardens, is one of the world’s oldest and largest exhibition pavilions. Designed by Joseph Reed in the late 19th century, the building and grounds combine elements from various architectural styles.
Photo credit: Ben Britten