Widely regarded as Australia’s arts and culture capital, the Victorian capital of Melbourne keeps families pouring in with a range of great family attractions and events year-round. Its hidden side streets and various suburbs are filled with trendy cafes and boutique shopping, while its stunning parks and museums also have lots to offer.
Old Melbourne Gaol
As well as housing some of Australia’s most infamous offenders, including the one-and-only Ned Kelly, the Old Melbourne Gaol is also one of Melbourne’s oldest buildings. Kids will love the ‘escape’ activity, which requires families to solve various clues and makes for a great bonding exercise.
Kids will love a visit to the dinosaurs and blue whale skeleton and, after saying a quick hello to the taxidermied Phar Lap upstairs, heading to the dedicated Children’s Gallery at Melbourne Museum. It includes both an indoor play area and outdoor garden with a water feature, sand pits to dig for fossils and little hidden creatures to discover.
Surrounding are the World Heritage-listed Carlton Gardens – be sure to a snap a pic in front of the fountain!
LEGOLAND Discovery Centre
A visit to Australia’s first LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Chadstone Shopping Centre is a must. The indoor LEGO playground is a cornucopia of brick delights, with incredible attention to detail. Plus, you can enjoy a hit of retail therapy after.
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium
Located within a stone’s throw of iconic Flinders Street Station, Melbourne’s SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is home to a beautiful array of marine creatures the kids will love discovering. Our favourite is the Gentoo penguin enclosure!
Drop by Fitzroy Gardens to find Captain Cook’s Cottage, play on the dragon slide and climb on the dolphin fountain. With a little exploring, you’ll also find a carved fairy tree and miniature Tudor village, all in the one park.
Best time to go to Melbourne
If you’re visiting from up north, you’ll find Melbourne is a touch cooler than some of Australia’s other sunny capitals. In summer, this can make a great escape from the oppressive humidity, if that’s not really your style. But whenever you visit, you’re bound to be delighted by Melbourne’s endless array of attractions, with plenty of indoor ones for the wet weather days.
December to February, with average high temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius and an average five days of rain per month.
March to May, with average high temperatures of around 21 degrees Celsius and an average six days of rain per month.
June to August, with average high temperatures of around 14 degrees Celsius and an average eight days of rain per month.
September to November, with average high temperatures of around 19 degrees Celsius and an average eight days of rain per month.
Melbourne’s major airport is Melbourne Airport. It’s serviced by all domestic carriers and most international. There’s a regular bus charter that goes directly to Southern Cross Station in the CBD, from which you can catch a range of buses, trams or trains to nearby locations.
Melbourne is well serviced by public transport. In the inner city, the trams are frequent and within the CBD they are free (the free zone is bordered by Spring Street, Flinders Street and La Trobe Street).
Heading further out, there are lots of buses and trains. You can also hire your own car, or hail the easily identifiable yellow taxis.
Food and drinks that kids will love
A big foodie hotspot, Melbourne caters for all shapes and sizes – including your little ones. Whether they’re a mini gourmet or the picky eater, there is sure to be something that will tickle their fancy.
Families on the go will be pleased to hear that Melbourne has hundreds of options dotted through the city that do the trick when it comes to hangry toddlers. All the usual child-friendly chains are present, and places like Din Tai Fung take special care to cater to pint-sized patrons in the form of plastic cutlery for little ones and plentiful high chairs. If you’re shopping up a storm in the Emporium, their food court is well worth a sticky beak, particularly as it has a parents room with all the essentials close by.
Famous for their coffee and their cafes, a trip to this city would not be complete without checking out some local businesses. Fortunately, there are lots of places that appreciate that you might have tots in tow and have catered accordingly. In trendy Brunswick, search out Crafternoon for cake, coffee and craft projects to keep kiddies busy, or visit Miss Marmalade for a rustic atmosphere, a big family room for playtime and a choice selection of Bloody Marys. In Armadale you’ll find Cubbyhouse Canteen, a cute brunch spot sandwiched between two playgrounds with a great kids’ menu. To turn a coffee date into a real outing, take a trip to The Farm Cafe in Collingwood. Their menu is divine with plenty of kids options, and the chickens wandering in from Collingwood Childrens’ Farm are always a source of delight.
As you’d expect, the arts and culture capital of Australia has some of the best shopping in the country. The perfect activity for when the famously unpredictable weather hits, there is something for everyone: manicured shopping centres, eclectic boutiques, narrow arcades and op-shops galore.
Bourke Street Mall is a one-stop-shop for all your favourite outlets with lots of great places to stop for a snack. There are a number of skilful buskers playing rain or shine and the street is only open to pedestrians and trams, easing the stress if you have little ones in tow. An added bonus: the tram stops right outside, making it a hassle-free journey for visitors. The Emporium is another option, a mall with a luxe upgrade that has all the best designer brands on hand.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Melbourne without visiting one of the many vintage and op shop areas in the city, not to mention their one-of-a-kind boutiques and the famous laneways. The renowned lanes and arcades are a great place to start for an off-the-beaten-path shopping spree where Centre Place provides some chic shops, great coffee and street-art eye candy. The Block Arcade is a another must-visit with Renaissance architecture and fan-favourites like Crabtree & Evelyn, or you can visit its sister, Royal Arcade, which is the oldest arcade in Australia. When it comes to scoring vintage bargains, take to the streets of trendy suburbs Fitzroy and Brunswick to search through piles of second-hand gems. Brunswick and Smith Streets get a special mention for a high density of quirky store fronts and beloved thrift shops.
If you prefer to spend in the relaxed setting of a market Melbourne has you covered there too with the famous Queen Victoria Markets an obvious recommendation for those who feel like a browse. Camberwell Market is the biggest market for pre-loved wares and a great place to score some bargain antiques, and the annual Finders Keepers market is not be missed for lovers of artisan crafts and handmade goodies.
Tipping is appreciated, but not expected in Australia.
What to wear
Melbourne will famously require that you are prepared for four seasons in a day. Don’t trust your window! Always check the forecast, and be prepared with warmer and cooler layers alike.
Mains voltage in Australia is 230V AC, 50Hz. Use a two-pin (shaped like a “V”) or three-pin adaptor (different to British three-pin adaptors).
No special immunisations or vaccinations are required to visit Australia unless you have come from, or have visited, a yellow fever infected country within six days of your arrival. However, regulations and medical advice can change at short notice, so check with your doctor and the Australian Department of Health before you leave home.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Australian cities.
By and large, Melbourne is considered a safe destination, although still exercise regular safety precautions as you would at home.
Eureka Skydeck 88
As the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere, it’s easy to figure why Eureka Skydeck 88 is a great photo op. If you dare, The Edge even looks down straight through a glass door – we wouldn’t recommend this if you’re afraid of heights!
A day trip to Phillip Island won’t disappoint, because the parade of fairy penguins is truly a sight to behold. These super-cute feathered friends certainly deliver on the “aww” factor – bonus points if you catch a snap with the sun setting over the water.
National Gallery of Victoria
Just near Flinders Street station, the National Gallery of Victoria is Australia’s oldest and most visited public art museum. The fountains out front and huge water wall are a Melbourne photo fave, plus there is a dedicated interactive kids’ space.