Let me just say right off the bat – we love Melbourne. We have been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time there in the last 10 years. We first visited Melbourne as a family in 2011 and found there was so much to do. Our last couple of trips it has just been Brenden and I and we have really enjoyed exploring the city together. But a week in Melbourne is no where near long enough to enjoy this fabulous city.
We nearly always stay in St Kilda as we think it is quite a central location. There are loads of places to stay, plenty of places to go for a meal or a drink and lots to do around the local area.
St Kilda Pier
St Kilda has a wonderful foreshore area that you can walk along for ages. There are lovely grassed areas and places where you can get something to eat or drink. One of our favourite spots is along the St Kilda Pier. The pier curves around a bay and here we stood and watched kite surfers for ages. The tricks and air time these guys and girls get is seriously nuts.
Walk further along the pier and you will discover the rebuilt St Kilda Pier Kiosk. After it burnt down in 2003, there was such a sense of loss amongst the community that it was faithfully rebuilt in 2005 from the original 1904 drawings. It’s a great spot to grab an ice cream or something to eat on a hot day.
But the absolute highlight of the St Kilda Pier are the Fairy Penguins that come in late every evening to roost in the rocks for the night. They attract a large crowd so make sure you head down early to find a spot to watch. The area is supervised by volunteers and Victorian Parks and Wildlife staff. The penguins are delightful to watch and seem very non-plussed by all the attention!
Just a short drive south of St Kilda is the world famous Brighton Beach where you will find the colourful bathing boxes that Melbourne is so well known for. These bathing boxes appear in character as they would have 100 years ago. With Victorian style architecture they are a functional reminder of days gone by.
There are 82 bathing boxes on Brighton Beach and no two are the same. Each one sports colourful paintwork and are an absolute mecca for tourists. To be able to photograph even one without other people in it is almost impossible but they are still a must see. Plus it’s a lovely beach as well.
Port Phillip Bay
For the first time ever, we explored some of the areas located on the western side of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay. We discovered some great spots like Altona Beach. If you are looking for a surf beach and arrive at Altona you will definitely be in the wrong place. As it is part of Port Phillip Bay it is very calm so absolutely perfect if you have kids. There is a pier that you can walk out onto and this proved to be a popular spot with fishermen and teenagers alike.
Another great spot we found was Point Cooke. This Coastal Marine Park covers a large area and has plenty of places for walking, cycling or having a picnic.
Another lovely spot worth a visit is Werribee South Beach. It is a quiet little spot with a large foreshore area. We found a good takeaway and enjoyed fish and chips in the park. But as often happens it Melbourne it was cool and windy so take a jacket!
Puffing Billy, Dandenong Ranges
Something we had been wanting to do for a long time was to drive out to the Dandenong Ranges and go on the famous Puffing Billy Railway. The Puffing Billy Rail Line was first opened in December, 1900 and was used by the people of Melbourne for day trips and weekend excursions. A landslide in 1953 forced the closure of the track the following year.
Through hard work by a team of dedicated volunteers, Puffing Billy reopened partially in the 60’s, with another section opening in 1975 and the final section re-opening in 1998.
We boarded the train at Belgrave Station which is about an hours drive from Melbourne and travelled to Lakeside Station at Emerald where we got off and had lunch and a walk around.
Lakeside is a lovely spot and here you will find plenty of spots for a picnic or even a swim in the enclosed pool section of the lake. There are also paddle boats available for hire. For the real train buff there is also a very interesting model railway that is open to the public.
Tickets fro Puffing Billy start at $61.00 per person but are so worth it as it’s such a fun day out. Check their website for special events or experiences like their Steam and Cuisine Luncheons.
Old Melbourne Gaol
If you are even remotely interested in the history of Australia, then a visit to Old Melbourne Gaol is an absolute must. It is a truly fascinating look into incarceration in the 1800’s and early 1920’s.
The first cell block opened in 1845 and by 1850 the gaol was already over-crowded. The Gaol covers three floors and has displays of what gaol life was like in most of the cells.
The Old Melbourne Gaol is perhaps most famous for being the place where Ned Kelly was hanged in 1880. On display at the Gaol is his death mask and also the original hangmans trapdoor.
The Gaol closed in 1924, re-opened briefly during the World War II when it was used as a detention centre for AWOL soldiers. It was reopened by the National Trust as a Museum in 1972.
Make sure you combine your visit to the Gaol with the Watchhouse Experience at the Old Police Station next door. It was a bit of fun and a reminder to not get ‘locked up’!
Entry to the Old Melbounre Gaol is $28.00 for adults or free if you are a National Trust Member.
Docklands is an area located close to the centre of Melbourne. It is a great spot for shopping or to grab a bite to eat. It’s waterfront location makes it a great spot to relax. From Docklands you can take advantage of two great ways to see the sights of Melbourne – either by taking a ride on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel or catching the free City Circle tram.
We have taken advantage of the free tram a couple of times. It’s a great way to get into the city, sporting venues or just to take a look around Melbourne City.
Where to Stay
The last time we visited Melbourne, we stayed at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in St Kilda. From there it is just a short walk to Acland Street – St Kilda’s foodie hot spot. The tram stop is also just around the corner as is a variety of other shops.
The hotel itself is well appointed and modern. We opted for a Deluxe Room which was very spacious and had a king-sized bed and a good sized ensuite. It was also very quiet as it had double glazed windows so noise from the trams and traffic was minimal.
At the end of the Follow the Sun Relay in 2019 we stayed at the Discovery Park Melbourne which is in the suburb of Braybrook. This was a large park, but didn’t feel crowded. There were heaps of level sites, the amenities were clean and there was a large camp kitchen and BBQ area. There was also a lovely pool area and a small kids playground.
Right next door is a Woolworths and there was also a Go Karting and Laser Tag place across the road which might be handy if you are travelling with kids! It is also just a 30 minute drive from the Melbourne CBD.
I’m sure we have really only skimmed the surface of all the things Melbourne has to offer. So I’m sure we will visit again in the not to distant future.