MELBOURNE TRAVEL GUIDE

Why visit Melbourne?

For international visitors, Australia’s so-called Culture Capital is often overlooked for the bright lights and big attractions of Sydney, the dazzling white beaches of Queensland, or the mystery of the dusty red Outback.

But if you plan a trip a little further south, you’ll discover a city that is brimming with art galleries, cool cafés, top-notch restaurants, hip street art, gorgeous parks, eclectic music venues – oh, and who could forget, some of the best coffee in the world.

Whatever your interests or reasons for visiting Melbourne – called Naarm in the Woi Wurrung language of the traditional owners of the land – this city has something for everyone. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed when you spend some time in Melbourne.

I’m a Melbourne local who’s returned home after 8 years living abroad. I’m rediscovering this city that I love and have missed – and I’m excited to share this city with visitors on this Melbourne travel blog.

On M is for Melbourne you’ll find guides to the best things to do in Melbourne, including itineraries, where to eat and practical info like how to get around the city.

If you’ve got more burning questions about visiting Melbourne, drop me an email or come join the discussion in the Melbourne Travel Planning Facebook group.

Can I visit Melbourne right now?

As of mid 2021, Australia’s borders remain closed to international visitors. The only people who can travel to Australia are:

  • Australian citizens
  • Australian residents
  • Immediate family members
  • Travellers who have been in New Zealand for the previous 14 days

Our vaccination program is only just getting underway, so it’s hard to say with certainty when our borders will open up again to foreigners. Keep an eye on the Department of Health website – and keep planning your trip using the resources on this Melbourne website. We will welcome you here one day soon!

Melbourne is open to domestic travellers. As all Australians know, the situation and state border restrictions can change pretty quickly (snap lockdown and border lockouts anyone?), so check the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services website when you’re planning a visit to Melbourne.

How do you pronounce Melbourne?

Australia has some strange place names, many of which are challenging to pronounce. If you’re not from Australia, here’s how to say Melbourne properly: it’s not Mel-BORN, it’s MEL-buhn. Here’s a video.

Best time to visit Melbourne

Melbourne has a temperate climate and can be visited year-round, but there are some pros and cons to each season. I have an article dedicated to the best time to visit Melbourne, which includes a huge list of the best events to plan a trip around.

But, for a quick summary, I’d say spring and autumn are the best months to visit Melbourne. The weather is mild and it’s really pretty (in autumn the leaves are changing colour, in spring flowers are blooming). Depending on what events are going on, you might also be able to get some good shoulder season bargains.

Summer can get pretty hot, but the vibe in the city is fantastic! Bars pop up everywhere, people are out walking and there’s always an event going on. But, it’s also peak season which means crowds and higher prices.

Winters can be downright miserable and rainy – but not always! It was winter when I originally wrote these words and that week was sunny with temperatures of 16 degrees each day. Prices are far cheaper during this time of the year, and there are still some fun events scheduled. Read more about Melbourne in winter.

Regardless of the time of year, Melbourne has a “four seasons in one day” adage that applies year-round. Come prepared for unexpected weather: maybe a heat wave followed by rain and then a drop of 10 degrees. Who knows what kind of weather you’ll get?!

You can check the latest Melbourne weather forecast online here as you get closer to your trip departure date.

Useful resources for planning a trip to Melbourne

If it’s your first time – or even your fifth time – visiting Melbourne, here are some handy resources I use to book travel in Melbourne (and around the world).

  • Skyscanner, Momondo and Kayak – I check prices for flights on all these sites to compare and get the best deal
  • Booking – this is the site I use to book hotels (plus they give me a “Genius” discount because I book so frequently and I’ll never say no to being called a genius)
  • Airbnb or VRBO – when I want something with a kitchen and a few more homely amenities, I’ll book on Airbnb or VRBO
  • Rentalcars – while you don’t need a car to get around Melbourne, you will need some wheels if you want to do a few day trips from the city
  • GetYourGuide and Klook – there are some great tours around Melbourne to explore the city’s culture, history and food, as well as entrance fees and transport options
  • WorldNomads – if you’re coming from overseas, you definitely need travel insurance for peace of mind when it comes to medical emergencies or losing your bag

In full disclosure, this page 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).

How much time do I need in Melbourne?

I think you need at least two or three days to really explore Melbourne and get a sense for what makes this city tick.

Melbourne itineraries

To help you plan your visit to Melbourne, I’ve prepared a few Melbourne itineraries:

More itineraries coming soon!

Best Melbourne attractions

While Melbourne doesn’t have the iconic sights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Opera House, we do have a tonne of things to keep you busy. A trip to Melbourne will be more focused on experiencing the city.

My top 5 things to do in Melbourne are:

  1. Get lost in the laneways and arcades and go hunting for street art
  2. Eat your way around the world at the incredible restaurants we have
  3. Go neighbourhood-hopping and explore the different vibes of Melbourne’s suburbs
  4. Learn about Indigenous Australian culture on tour of the Botanical Gardens
  5. Visit one of our many museums

I have a full guide to the 25 best things to do in Melbourne, plus some cool Melbourne tours to check out.

Visiting Melbourne with kids

I don’t have children myself but I know that this city is great for kids. I consulted a few experts for the best things to do, and the top 5 are:

  1. Melbourne Museum – dinosaurs, animal displays and all things creepy crawly
  2. ArtVo – a fun, immersive, “trick art” gallery
  3. LEGOLAND Discovery Centre – LEGO everywhere!
  4. ACMI – a visual museum of film, TV and video games
  5. Melbourne Star – a 120-metre-high Ferris wheel overlooking the city

Here’s my full guide to the best things to do in Melbourne with kids.

Melbourne food

Melbourne has everything you could ever want to eat. With a multicultural population, you can choose from everything from Afghani food to Greek eats to Yemeni cuisine.

There are cheap eats, funky cafés serving brunch (a Melbourne institution), cutting-edge restaurants, and fine dining experiences to be had in Melbourne.

Check out my guide to where to eat in Melbourne as a starting point, and come to Melbourne with a healthy appetite.

How to get to Melbourne

Melbourne has two airports: Tullamarine and Avalon.

Tullamarine (more commonly referred to as Melbourne Airport, code: MEL) is the largest airport and it’s where most international flights arrive. This is the closest airport to the city, although it’s still a 30-minute drive into the CBD.

The second airport is Avalon (code: AVV), which is further from the city, near Geelong. This is the airport where most budget airlines fly into, including a small number of international flights from Asia.

How to get to the city from Tullamarine Airport

Unfortunately, Melbourne is still without a train to and from the airport, so to get from Melbourne airport to the city, your options are Uber or taxi, renting a car, or taking the SkyBus.

An Uber or taxi will cost you around $45-$75. The taxi rank is clearly marked when you leave the terminal, and there’s a special pick up area for shared vehicles (follow the signs). You can estimate your fare with this handy online calculator.

The Skybus is a bus transfer that operates 7 days a week. It goes from Melbourne Airport to Southern Cross Station (it also has services to St Kilda and Southbank/Docklands but those services are currently disrupted). One-way fares cost from $19.75. You can buy tickets online here.

Another transfer option are the smaller vans operated by StarBus. You can book online here from $20 per person.

Rental cars are easily accessible from the airport. All the rental companies are located outside Terminal 2. During peak periods, it can be really slow to pick up a car. I use Rentalcars.com to compare the major car rental brands to get the best price.

How to get to the city from Avalon Airport

If you decide to book a flight into Avalon because it’s super cheap, remember that you need to also factor in the cost of then getting from the airport to Melbourne.

As the airport is around 50 kilometres from Melbourne, an Uber or taxi will set you back $100-$135.

A far more affordable option is the SkyBus, which costs $24 one way and takes around an hour to get to Southern Cross Station.

How to get around Melbourne

Public transport

While all Melburnians will complain at some point or another about our public transport system, it’s actually pretty good, especially if you’re sticking to the inner city and major tourist areas.

Download the Public Transport Victoria app to figure out how to get from A to B.

Trams are great – and can be fun for first-time visitors! They’re also free around the CBD. The Free Tram Zone conveniently passes by the top Melbourne city attractions. The Free Tram Zone map online shows you what’s covered.

If you’re heading outside this free zone on the trams – or taking a train or a bus – you’ll need to get a myki travel card (not very convenient if you’re only visiting for a few days). You can pick up a myki Explorer Pack at the SkyBus ticket booth or at a major train station like Southern Cross Station. Some hotels also have them available. As well as a myki card, it comes with a map and some discount coupons. Or, buy just the myki card at one of the major train stations.

Recharge your myki at 7-Eleven stores, ticket offices at train stations or the myki machines that are at some tram stops.

When travelling on public transport, you simply tap your myki on the green readers when you get on and off the tram, or tap it to enter the train station. It’ll then deduct the fare for your trip. You can check your myki balance at the top-up machines.

When you leave Melbourne, gift your myki card to someone else or leave it at your hotel, as it’s reusable. Or keep it if you’re planning to return to Melbourne in the near future.

There is a myki app but it’s currently only available on Android phones (come on Melbourne, where’s the option for iPhones?!).

Ride sharing and taxis

Beyond public transport, Ubers are everywhere. 

Taxi ranks can usually be found in front of hotels and out the front of major train stations. If you’re in a taxi between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. you’ll need to pay an upfront estimated fare (thanks to all the drunken passengers skipping out on paying!).

Renting a car

A car really isn’t necessary in Melbourne if you’re just sticking to the inner city. You can rely on public transport to get around. Parking can be expensive. Plus, we have these weird things called hook turns in the CBD that will confuse the hell out of you! You also need to remember to stop for trams.

But if you want to do some day trips from Melbourne, renting a car can be an affordable way to do it. Check out Rentalcars for rental options that you can pick up from the airport or at other locations in the CBD.

Bike

If you want to burn some energy, it’s easy to get around Melbourne by bike. There are several marked bike lanes around the city. But do keep an eye out, because some Melbourne drivers are aggressive when it comes to cyclists. Helmets must be worn.

Unfortunately, our bike-sharing system was scrapped some time ago, but you can rent a bike from a private company like Rentabike.

Where to stay in Melbourne

There are some great neighbourhoods (suburbs) to stay in Melbourne. I’ve got a guide to deciding where to stay in Melbourne, but for a quick overview:

  • Where to stay in Melbourne for first-timers – the CBD
  • Where to stay in Melbourne for nightlife and funky bars – Collingwood or Fitzroy
  • Where to stay in Melbourne for foodies – the CBD (or anywhere inner city really!)
  • Where to stay in Melbourne for sports-lovers – Richmond
  • Where to stay in Melbourne for shopaholics – Prahran
  • Where to stay in Melbourne for families – St Kilda, East Melbourne or the CBD

Regardless of where you decide to base yourself, it’s really easy to get around Melbourne, so you’ll never be far from the action.

What to pack for Melbourne

Final Melbourne travel planning tips

I hope this Melbourne travel blog has helped you with planning your Melbourne trip. I’ll be regularly updating this website, but feel free to get in touch if you have further questions. Or come say hi in our Melbourne Travel Planning Facebook group!