Melbourne is a very cool city to both visit or live in – both of which I’ve done countless times. It's hands down the coolest city in Australia. It's even been voted ‘The Most Liveable City In The World’ for several years running. You can see why, coming here it is easy to feel at home quickly – the transport is easy, the people are sweet and the vibes are just good all round. Not to mention the food! Oh the food! I never find myself getting homesick if I travel overseas, however, I do often find myself missing my favorite Melbourne food spots terribly.
All that aside – it can get a bit pricey sometimes, but thankfully there is also lot's of 'Free Things To Do.' So I’ve listed here a few of my favorite things to do in Melbourne that need not cost you a cent!
Getting lost in Melbourne is one of my most favorite things to do because there are so many cool little spots that you would never find otherwise. Hidden alleyways have flights of stairs that lead up to un-named bars with amazing rooftop views. Little eateries that can only seat a dozen people are tucked away down more secret alleyways. And all of this is decorated with an abundance of colorful and often controversial street art.
So take the time to get lost and discover your own little Melbourne gem – then continue on with the other mini adventures I’ve listed below.
Brighton Bathing Houses
When backpackers and tourists visit Melbourne in the summer a lot of them will head to St Kilda Beach, which has some cool vibes, but can be a little overpopulated.
I prefer to head a little further up the coast away from the city to Brighton. It’s a significantly more affluent neighborhood than the hippie St Kilda and the beach is lined with a collection of the cutest little Bathing Houses (Boxes) you’ve ever seen. Make sure you pick your favorite and snap a cute photo!
If it's a weekend or public holiday you may even get to see what some of them look like inside. The ‘Boxes’ are all owned by locals and they keep them kitted out with assorted lawn furniture and alike.
Brighton Beach is super easy to get to if you’re driving, but also fairly easy to get to on the public train system – just take the Sandringham line from any central city Station.
Discover The Botanical Gardens
The Melbourne Botanical Gardens are so gorgeous and relaxing, make sure you at least take a stroll through when you visit Melbourne.
Even better though, they are filled with lots of lots of little spaces that are just perfect for a picnic or a nice relaxing afternoon with a great book.
For picnic food, pick up some delicious local nosh from South Melbourne Market, Queen Vic Market or Prahran Market.
Prahran Market is known as the ‘foodies market’ and this would be my recommendation. The artichokes from Sweet Greek are to die for and the Maker & Monger cheeses make any picnic into a gourmet feast!
Grab some yummy food, an Esky full of craft beer or sangria, plenty of blankets and cushions and enjoy a nice long chilled afternoon in the gardens. After all that's the Melbourne way – good food, good beer and no rush to be anywhere but right where you are.
Climb The 1000 Steps
Melbourne is surrounded by an abundance of beautiful native forest, not to mention in such close proximation to the lush Dandenong Ranges and the breathtaking Grampians National Park. These are both several hours drive out of Melbourne however. So if I’m in need of a little dose of nature and some fresh forest air I head somewhere a little closer – to The 1000 Steps Kokoda Memorial just past Fern Tree Gully.
It’s less than an hours drive from Melbourne and I usually allow about 90 minutes to enjoy the walk, so It’s a nice little half day trip.
I like to walk up the steps on the Kokoda trail and then take a nice slow walk down the Belview Track to return to the carpark.
The forest surrounding the Steps is so gorgeously lush and in my opinion – reminiscent of Native New Zealand bush. It’s not uncommon to spot an array of beautiful bright red parrots on the way up the steps and every so often I’ve even spotted a Wallaby on the side of the track.
The Belview Track to come down is more Native Australian Bush and if there are not too many people around you’re highly likely to spot a Kingfisher!
It’s definitely easiest to get here by car and there’s always plenty of car parking. However, if you can also get there by train from any central city station. Just take the Belgrave line to Upper Ferntree Valley Station, from here it’s just a short walk to The 1000 Steps Carpark to begin the trail.
Explore Melbourne’s Art Scene
Melbourne always has plenty of amazing art to explore. There’s epic Street Art to be found EVERYWHERE and creative exhibitions popping up all over the place. A lot of the galleries are also free to visit. My two favorites in the city being The National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road and The Australian Centre for Contemporary Art on Sturt Street.
The NGV building is an artwork in itself, with all the gorgeous stained glass and the ACCA like a magnificent sculpture.
If Street Art is more your thing – then you absolutely must take a stroll through the city and discover Hozier lane. Here artists are given free reign to create and spread their message, so the entire laneway is bursting with color and amazing creativity. The artworks are always changing, so even if you’ve visited Melbourne several times Hozier Lane will always be worth another look.
If you have the time, I’d encourage you to get a little lost in Melbourne’s laneways as there is an abundance more street art to be discovered all over the city.
The laneways are also great places to discover little, hidden bars and eateries – so if you need a little break from all the art exploration just duck into an alleyway, climb a few stairs and cool off with a local craft beer.
On that note – the entire suburbs of Richmond and Fitzroy are also full of street art if you have a little longer to get lost and explore.