Ahh, summer in Melbourne. There’s nothing quite like it. The days are heating up (sometimes a bit too much!), bars throw open their windows, the days are longer, and there’s a palpable happy vibe buzzing through the city.
And after the past two years that Melbourne has had, we Melburnians are ready to get out and enjoy this city!
If you’re thinking about visiting Melbourne in summer, then prepare for warm weather and tonnes of sporting and cultural festivals and event to keep you busy. Daylight until the late evening means that you can pack plenty into your day.
But this is peak travel season, so make sure you book your hotels in advance – and prepare to pay higher rates. I’d also recommend booking must-eat-at restaurants well in advance.
Just to note, things look a little different these days in Melbourne with the ongoing pandemic, so make sure to check event and business websites before booking!
I’ve done my best to check that information in this blog post remains current in light of the uncertainty around the world, but please check with individual businesses before booking. If you see any errors, please let me know so that I can keep this article updated.
This blog post may contain affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you).
When is summer in Melbourne?
The summer months in Melbourne (and across Australia) are December, January and February.
The temperature across these three months ranges between 13 and 26 degrees (55 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit), but can sometimes top 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit). Those days are sweltering in the city – and can cause havoc on public transport. Luckily, there are plenty of indoor activities in Melbourne to escape the heat, and I’ll share a few of these throughout this post.
December has the highest rainfall of the three months, with an average of 60.3mm, while January and February bring around 46-48mm.
With daylight savings underway, the days are lovely and long, with the sun not going down until around 8/8.30pm. I love these longer days, when I feel like I can pack so much more into a day!
For full details about all the seasons in Melbourne, you can read my guide to the best time to visit Melbourne.
Summer public and school holidays in Melbourne
Summer means the start of the longer school holidays, which inevitably means larger crowds across the city.
For 2021/22, the term 4 summer school holidays are 18 December 2021 to 30 January 2022.
As for public holidays, we have four:
- Christmas Day – which falls on Monday 27 December given Christmas Day is on a Saturday this year
- Boxing Day – Tuesday 28 December
- New Year’s Day – falling on Monday 3 January
- Australia Day / Invasion Day – Wednesday 26 January
What to pack for summer in Melbourne
- Hat and sunglasses
- A good backpack like this Herschel classic
Things to do in Melbourne in summer
So, what are the best things to do in Melbourne in summer in 2021/22? Plenty! Here are a few ideas of festivals and events, attractions, and ways to stay cool in the heat.
1. Sparkle at the Christmas festival
Like many cities all across the world, Melbourne lights up around Christmas time. Federation Square turns into Christmas Square, with a 16-metre tree, photos with Santa and plenty of sparkling lights.
Whole buildings are being turned into Christmas wonderlands, with animated projections shown across St Paul’s Cathedral, Torrens University, Chapter House, Melbourne Town Hall and Hamer Hall.
Queen Victoria Market also has the String Bean Alley Christmas Night Market each Monday night between 6 and 20 December. It may be summer, but you can bathe yourself in fake snow – as well as take a pic with the giant gingerbread person, and eat street food. Handily, you can also do any last-minute Christmas shopping while you’re here!
2. Cheer on your faves at the Australian Open
It isn’t summer in Melbourne without watching the world’s best tennis players sweat it out in the Melbourne heat for the coveted Australian Open title. After crowds weren’t allowed last year because of a COVID outbreak, Aussies are ready and raring to cheer on their favourites.
Book well in advance to nab tickets to the men’s and women’s finals, but you can also pick up affordable ground passes for around $29. Book tickets online.
If you can’t get tickets, you can always take a seat in one of the beach chairs in Fed Square and watch the matches on the big screen.
3. Zipline across the Yarra River
For the first time in history, you can zipline across the Yarra River! Yes, you read that right – snap on a harness and whizz 130 metres across the river at 40 kilometres an hour for a fun day out.
It’s only running in December, though, so be quick to snap up one of the 5,000 tickets on offer. Book online.
4. Enjoy the weather with a scavenger hunt picnic
With so many beautiful gardens and parks across the city, Melbourne is a great place to enjoy a picnic. Gather up some cheeses and meats, a few sandwiches and maybe even a bottle of bubbles, and lay out a blanket on the lawns at the Royal Botanic Gardens or the Fitzroy Gardens.
Even better – solve a few clues and gather your picnic goodies on a Mystery Picnic Date. You’ll end up with a basket of gourmet goodness to enjoy in a mystery location. You can do the mystery picnics with a significant other, your family or a group of friends.
5. Explore Melbourne’s laneways
It’s not news to anyone that Melbourne has some of the best laneways and laneway art in the world.
Take some time out to explore the perennial favourites – but also delve into a few of the lesser-known laneways with Flash Forward. This dazzling collaboration brings together 40 artists, 40 acts and 40 laneways to showcase that power that is Melbourne’s creative industry. Plus, it’s all free! Check it out online.
6. Stay cool inside a museum
On those sweltering Melbourne summer days, there’s nothing better to do than head straight indoors to one of the city’s incredible museums. Even if you’re not a museum buff, you’ll be happy to escape the heat – and see some great art or exhibits.
Some of my favourites that I always tell visitors to check out are:
- NGV International – incredible blockbuster exhibitions as well as an array of permanent displays
- Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia – discover some of Australia’s best artists
- Melbourne Museum – a fun, interactive museum that’s great for everyone, with dinosaur exhibits, First Nations displays and plenty more
- Immigration Museum – learn about Australia’s immigrant past and present
- ACMI – play video games, watch movies and create your own epic playlist at this entertaining museum
- Scienceworks – from storytelling for the little ones to nerding out in the Lightning Room, Scienceworks is a lot of fun for all
- Australian Music Vault – a celebration of Australian music legends
I also recommend visiting the Melbourne Museum to escape the heat – wandering through the Milarri Garden Walk and the forest garden are both enlightening and cool.
7. Check out the NGV
I’m calling out the NGV specifically here because it’s always worth a visit – no matter what the season of year. But this summer, fashion-lovers can experience Gabrielle Chanel. Fashion Manifesto. The exhibition celebrates the designer, and Friday nights bring DJs, live music, and French-inspired dining and drinks.
Also opening on 6 December is pond[er], a stunning pink pond that will make all your Instagram friends jealous. The installation allows visitors to cool off during the heat of summer and “reflect on their relationship with the environment”.
8. Catch a flick outdoors
As soon as the weather warms up, Melburnians seemingly flock to parks and gardens to enjoy a movie outdoors. And with plenty of options, you shouldn’t have too much trouble nabbing a ticket.
A few places to see a film outdoors this summer in Melbourne include:
Grab some popcorn and a drink and enjoy the fresh breeze on your face as you watch the latest movies!
9. See a free concert
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has put on free concerts at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for more than 90 years! In February 2022, there are three free concerts scheduled under the open air over Melbourne summer. It’s one of the best summer experiences in Melbourne, but as you can imagine, tickets go quickly, so jump online to stay updated about ticket releases.
10. Boat down the Yarra
Allowing people to captain their own boats down the river could be a foolhardy business model – but it sure is a lot of fun! In the past few years, a couple of companies have popped up allowing people to self-drive their own boat down the Yarra River. Go Boat and On A Boat are the two companies currently offering the chance to motor down the river.
You can BYO your own picnic food and drinks, and hand over the reins (rudder?) to a member of your group while the rest of you enjoy the view.
BYO captain’s hat!
11. Check out amazing music
Save the date for Melbourne Music Week from 3-12 December.
In 2020, the festival brought people together – virtually – with a 3-month, extended “week” as we all battled with lockdown and musicians dealt with the financial blow of cancelled shows.
In 2021, you can experience live music – in person!! – with genres for everyone, from electronic to hip hop, jazz to punk. Check the program out online.
12. Explore an immersive digital gallery
I mentioned this incredible exhibition in my Melbourne in spring post, but it’s so worth mentioning again.
Instead of simply looking at art on walls, at The Lume you’re actually immersed in the art. The digital gallery is enhanced with sound and aromas, creating a true sensory experience.
This first exhibition showcases the works of Vincent Van Gogh. Tickets are already selling out. Sessions run daily, from 10am on weekdays and from 9am on weekends, with prices starting at $39 for adults. Tickets are available online from Ticketmaster. Book online here.
13. Go surfing
I’ve tried surfing in my life – but I am always (unnecessarily) petrified by sharks. Luckily, there are no sharks at URBNSURF, Melbourne’s first surf park. In a controlled environment, you can learn to surf – or more experienced surfers can hit up The Point.
There are also hot tubs on site, plus Three Blue Ducks, the restaurant run by several award-winning chefs.
14. Sip a cocktail by the river
Sip a cool cocktail by the river – or even right on the river at one of Melbourne’s many riverside bars.
Tucked under Fed Square, Riverland is an all-day beer garden with prime river frontage. Arbory Bar & Eatery stretches 100 metres along the riverfront – and its sister bar, Arbory Afloat, is a pop-up floating bar that’ll have you thinking you’re on the Amalfi Coast.
Ponyfish is a classic spot – sitting smack bang in the middle of the river. It’s small but mighty, serving up great cocktails and snacks.
15. Hit the beach
I need to say it up front – we don’t have the beautiful beaches of Sydney or the Gold Coast. But if you need to cool off, Melbourne does have some beaches that are good for a paddle.
Brighton Beach has the famous colourful bathing boxes, and has calm waters – although the waves can come in when the weather gets a little wild.
St Kilda Beach is probably Melbourne’s most famous beach. With barely a wave to be seen, it’s popular with swimmers and kiteboarders. As soon as the weather starts warming up, the beach packs out, so come early to grab a spot for your towel.
Half Moon Bay is a little further out of the city, but more secluded. The crescent-shaped bay is a great spot for swimming.
16. Show your pride at Midsumma Festival
Midsumma is Melbourne’s premier queer arts festival, and over three weeks (from 23 January to 13 February 2022) you can enjoy theatre, cabaret, film, public forums and social events.
Sunday 6 February heralds Pride March, a colourful celebration that brings together around 50,000 people in St Kilda.
Check out the full program online.
17. See the inside of Flinders Street Station
It’s very rare to see the inside of the ballroom that sits above Flinders Street Station, but artist Patricia Piccinini’s A Miracle Constantly Repeated gives you the chance.
This incredible exhibition includes silicone sculptures, video, sound and light to create an immersive, unreal experience.
Tickets are available throughout the summer months and until 12 June 2022. Book online.
18. Cool down with some ice cream
I’ll eat ice cream no matter the weather, but in summer that icy cold treat tastes even more delicious.
Some of the best ice cream in Melbourne can be found at Pidapipó, Gelato Messina and Piccolina.
19. Head to the theatre
After many delays and unexpected intermissions, theatre is back in Melbourne – and we have some great shows on over summer. The big blockbusters are of course Moulin Rouge and Harry Potter.
Baz Luhrmann’s Tony Award-winning musical will be shown at the Regent Theatre until April. There’ll be all the glitzy, embellished costumes, over-the-top, glamourous sets and fiery performances that you’d expect of a show of this calibre. Book Mouline Rouge tickets at Ticketmaster.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child continues to cast its magical spell on Melbourne. The two-part show is playing at the Princess Theatre, and tickets can be booked online.
20. Celebrate Lunar New Year
In February each year, Chinatown comes alive with traditional dances, music and food to celebrate Lunar New Year. It’s an event not to be missed – but stay tuned, as dates for 2022 are still to be confirmed.
21. Enjoy St Kilda Festival
St Kilda always has a festive vibe, so it’s no surprise that it’s hosted one of the city’s most beloved festivals for more than 40 years. St Kilda Festival is a celebration of community, summer and live music, and from 5-13 February 2022 you’ll find plenty of all this there.
The festival line up is still being developed, so sign up for updates on the website.
Final thoughts about summer in Melbourne
If you’re heading to Melbourne in summer, there’s so much to see and do here. With plenty of outdoor activities, bars, restaurants, festivals and events – plus many ways to escape the heat indoors – summer is a great time to visit Melbourne and see the city in all its splendour.