Adventure | City | Family | Road Trip | Food and Wine 21 March 2023

A First-Timers Guide To Melbourne

You’ve probably heard that Melbourne is renowned for its food, coffee and street art, but do you know what else there is to do when you’re visiting? 

Don’t fret – we’ve taken the hard work out of itinerary planning and compiled a list of must-see locations around Melbourne for your next staycation. 

Play to the gallery

The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is one of the most precious gems in Melbourne. Not only is it the oldest and most visited gallery in Australia, but with its wide range of international and local artists, exhibitions, programs and events, the history collected within its walls spans thousands of years and contains a wealth of ideas, disciplines and styles. 

In fact, the NGV’s encyclopaedic collection is so large that it’s actually spread across two sites – NGV International, which houses the gallery’s international art collection on St Kilda Road in the Melbourne Arts Precinct of Southbank, and the nearby Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at Federation Square, which houses the gallery’s Australian collection. 

From contemporary art to major international historic exhibitions, the NGV holds more than 76,000 pieces of work – the most significant collection of art in the region – and is definitely worth a visit.

A day at the Museum 

Want to indulge your cultural side? Melbourne Museum, which hosts an ever-rotating line-up of interactive exhibits in the Carlton Gardens on the northeastern edge of the CBD, is the perfect place to do so. 

From The Forest Gallery to The Science and Life Gallery, this museum has everything you need to explore the natural and cultural history of the area. 

Alternatively, of course, you could always walk in, pretend to absorb the exhibits, and walk out half an hour later with another item ticked off your Melbourne bucket list, before catching a blockbuster movie at the nearby IMAX Cinema. We won’t judge. 

Go wild at the Zoo

Have a soft spot for animals? We do too. Not only is the Melbourne Zoo –  located within Royal Park in Parkville, approximately four kilometres north of the city centre – an awesome place to go for entertainment, but the breeding and recovery programs being run here are helping to secure the future of these animals and fight wildlife extinction. 

Open every day from 9am to 5pm, with a variety of tours, informative keeper talks and animal encounters on offer, this is your chance to meet more than 300 different species from around the world, including Aussie favourites like koalas, kangaroos and wombats. 

Have a Garden party

Escape the pressures of day-to-day life and immerse yourself in calming nature at the Royal Botanic Gardens. The Gardens are an integral part of Melbourne’s heritage, and attract almost two million visitors each year – yet somehow, they never feel crowded. 

With historic spots such as Guilfoyle’s Volcano (disclaimer: not an actual volcano) and the magical Children’s Garden, and popular cafes like The Terrace and Jardin Tan, this is the place to sit back and enjoy gorgeous vistas, tranquil lakes and a stunning array of natural flora and fauna. 

Browse the markets

One of the world’s most iconic marketplaces, the Queen Victoria Market is another must-see location when you’re visiting Melbourne. From its opening in 1878, the Market has been serving the Melbourne area for over 140 years. 

Often referred to as ‘Vic Market’ or ‘Queen Vic’ by locals, it was added to the National Heritage List because of its connections to the early colonial population of Melbourne. Spread over seven hectares and two city blocks in the CBD, it’s the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. 

It’s a great way to take a step back in time and appreciate the city’s rich history, while browsing the clothes, gourmet food and souvenirs being sold by more than 600 vendors.

Go sky high

Want to take things to the next level? Checking out the Melbourne Skydeck is sure to give you a different perspective on the city. 

Their observation deck is the highest in the southern hemisphere, and features state-of-the-art virtual and augmented reality technology. Melbourne Skydeck is also home to the Voyager Theatre, which boasts 8K video screens and 6D sensory immersion. 

So sit back, get yourself a drink from Bar 88 if you’re so inclined, and feast your eyes on Melbourne from above.

Take an ocean-side stroll

Wanting a scenic experience that’s a little closer to the ground? St Kilda Pier and Breakwater is the perfect place to see panoramic views of the Melbourne skyline and Port Phillip. 

Dating all the way back to the mid 1800s as an early working jetty, the breakwater was constructed for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. 

Immerse yourself in nature and history, treat yourself to a snack from the heritage kiosk, or try and catch a glimpse of the penguins and rakali (native water rats) – either way you’ll leave feeling invigorated and content. 

Admire the street art

Often referred to as the “hidden city”, the street art in the Melbourne CBD forms one of the world’s most vibrant underground cultural scenes. 

You can casually stroll through the streets and catch glimpses of these masterpieces, or you can partake in an organised tour that will guide you to the hidden gems upon the walls and learn the stories behind their creation. 

From graffiti to yarn-bombing and blanking out, this is a cultural experience that will leave you dazzled.

Explore the Great Ocean Road

Visit the infamous 12 Apostles, get up close and personal to native wildlife, and take in the views of iconic surf breaks, pristine rainforest and misty waterfalls along Great Ocean Road.

You can go bushwalking, surfing or mountain biking, or take the cultural route and stop by galleries and museums along the way. Make sure you rug up as this beautiful environmental escape often carries some chilling ocean breezes, especially in winter.

Catch a match at the MCG

Established in 1853, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) is known amongst locals as the ‘home of sport’. The MCG has been the home of Australian football since 1859 and served as the foundation of modern day Test cricket and one-day international cricket in 1877 and 1971, respectively.

This iconic destination is affectionately referred to as “The G” by locals and is situated in Yarra Park, just a 10 minute walk from the CBD. You can participate in guided tours of this venue to enjoy an exclusive sneak peek at the inner workings of one of the world’s most iconic sport stadiums. 

Of course, this list only scratches the surface when it comes to activities on offer for you to enjoy on your first visit to Melbourne. There are dozens of options designed to suit every individual – but in our (not so) humble opinion, the locations on this list are some of the best.