Top 7 free attractions in Melbourne – Family Travel Blog

Melbourne is a great city to visit whether it be for a weekend or for a week, there’s plenty to keep you busy.  I recently had friends come and stay who have never been to Melbourne before. This of course, put me in my element, tour guide for the day in my home town. Melbourne is an awesome city but unfortunately I only had one day to sell it to them! Sally’s top things to do in Melbourne with kids of all ages!

They arrived into Avalon airport on Thursday night and departed on Sunday morning at 6am. This gave me 2 days to show them the best of this great city. My friend is originally from Port Macquarie so I wanted to show her some of our great Victorian beaches. On Friday we headed down to watch Craig at Barwon Heads Sky Dive then we spent the day along the Bellarine Peninsula. Lunch at Jack Rabbit Winery gosh life’s hard!

Our top things to do in Melbourne with kids

This left all day Saturday to show them the best of Melbourne! There is so much great stuff to see and do so its hard to know where to start but I gave it my best shot and below is what we did to fill in our day. Melbourne was showing off too, giving us a 37 degree day, yay Melbourne you are the best! There are so many things to do in Melbourne, I suppose that is why we are continually voted the ‘Most liveable city in the world’. A badge that we so proudly wear!

1. Spring St, Treasury Building and Windsor Hotel

This was our first stop, reason being my kids just weren’t coping with the itinerary and hot weather and I knew we had at least another 4kms walking ahead of us. My mum (as awesome as she is!) happened to be in town and because she is so awesome she took them home for me so I could do my Tour D’Melbourne in peace.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
Inside the Windsor Hotel just before mum took the kids home.

We also walked past the Treasury Gardens and Parliament House. We stopped in at the Windsor Hotel for a quick beer and a bowl of wedges just to give us some energy! The Windsor Hotel was completed in 1884, it was sold in 1886 and by 1888 it was twice its original size. Its is one of the grandest hotels in Melbourne and serves one of the most expensive if not the best high tea in town!

2. Docklands

Next stop Docklands located 2kms west of the CBD. This area is very accessible via public transport as all trams in the CDB grid are now free, this was introduced at the start of the year and will hopefully make it easier for tourists to get around Melbourne.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
Looking back at the city from the end of the pier at Docklands.

Docklands is the home of some of our most modern landmarks including Etihad Stadium, Southern Cross Station and the long awaited Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel. Etihad Stadium was completed in 1999 and at the time it was one of the only things there. The urban renewal project kicked in during 2000. It is now home to nearly 6000 people in high-rise apartments and has is also a sought after business address with national Australia Bank, ANZ, Medibank Private, Customs, Bureau of Meteorology, Myer, Ericssons & Bendigo Bank basing the regional headquarters in this area.

There are a variety of restaurants and pubs located at Docklands and there are lovely views of the city skyline from the end of the pier. Its also an expensive place to park your yacht with a marina located just outside your door.

Back on the free tram! Next stop….

3. Bourke Street Mall

The 96 tram from Docklands took us straight into the Bourke St Mall. Bourke Street Mall officially opened in 1983 by Prince Charles and Princess Diana and is home to Myers and David Jones Department stores. What’s also exciting for Melbourne, is the new GPO shopping complex located in the old Melbourne Post Office building that houses H&M, the first H&M Department Store in Australia. Bourke Street Mall is closed to vehicle traffic, only trams (of course) and emergency vehicles are allowed in the mall.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The new H&M in the old Melbourne GPO building.

Another famous shopping icon located off Bourke Street is the Royal Arcade. The Arcade features high glass roof with speciality stores and runs between Bourke St and Little Collins St. This leads to the Block Arcade  which runs between Little Collins St and Collins St and is as equally beautiful as the Royal Arcade.  Its a Victorian era arcade and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register and was fully restored in the early 2000’s.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The Royal Arcade.

From here we headed on by foot to…….

4. Flinders St Station and Federation Square

Flinders St Station is considered the heart of town and located on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets with Federation Square on the opposite corner. Also listed on the Victorian Heritage Register the dome and clocks at Flinders St Station opened in 1909 and is a famous meeting place for people catching up in the city ‘under the clocks at Flinders St Station’. The actual station itself dates back to 1854.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The famous Flinders St Station clocks.

Federation Square was opened to the public on October 2002 amid a huge amount of controversy due to a blow out in budget and construction delays.  Interesting enough, Melbournians have grown to love this architecturally designed building even though in 2009 it was titled the ‘Worlds fifth ugliest building’. Now I think that’s a bit harsh, its certainly different and a bit quirky but its ours. Best of all is Transport Bar at the back of the square facing the Yarra River, it’s a great place to park your butt and watch the world go by. We stopped here after our walk and had a couple of pre-dinner beers. From here you have a great view of Princes Bridge and the Art Centre Spire and you can see all the way down to the mighty MCG.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The Yarra River with fed Square in the background.

The tour must go on, next stop……….

5. Southbank and Crown Casino

We crossed Princes Bridge and walked along the south bank of the Yarra River. There were loads of people around being a Saturday night and 36 degrees. There are some great restaurants along this stretch all opening up on the boardwalk next to the Yarra. The buskers were out in force and pulling a crowd as per usual.

Southbank first came about in the early 1990’s and is now home to Eureka Tower, Australia’s tallest tower (for now). This area also has numerous apartment complexes and many businesses including Price Waterhouse and Coopers.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The Art Centre and the Spire on Southbank.

Crown Casino and Towers opened in 1997 and is the largest  casino complex in the southern hemisphere. We went for a walk through the casino but unfortunately my friends teenage son was unable to go into the casino as you have to be over 18 years old. As far as casino’s go, its pretty flash. I’m not a fan of casino’s but I am a fan of the Crown complex and the tourists it has bought to Melbourne. Some of the top restaurants in the country are located at Crown, for example Nobu, Table 8, Silks, Spice Temple, Rockpool and The Atlantic. The Atlantic has this quirky bar underneath it called The Den and its definitely worth a visit if you are in town. I have eaten at all those restaurants except The Atlantic as I don’t eat seafood.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The Crown Towers Atrium decorated for Chinese New Year.

We went to view The Atrium fountain, light and sound show which normally happens on the hour every hour but due to the decorations on display for Chinese New Year it wasn’t being shown. If your into high end shopping this is the place to go with Prada, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Paspaley, Omega and Hugo Boss all in the one spot! Not to mention the 5 star hotel sitting on top. I have stayed there once but it was some time ago and it was worth every penny.

6. South Wharf

South Wharf is the new home of the Polly Woodside and Jeff’s Shed, only a local will know what these are! Polly Woodside was first sailed in 1885 and was built in Belfast. She was purchased by the National Trust of Australia in 1968 and in 2007 was added to the Victorian Heritage Register. Jeff Shed is also known as the Melbourne Convention Centre and where all our large exhibitions are held, for example the Travel Expo, Motor Show, Health and Lifestyle Expo and Sexpo!

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The water front restaurants at South Wharf.

This area has now been transformed into a entertainment hub full of restaurants and bars. All the old shipping sheds have been turned into bars and restaurants with the prime position of opening onto the Yarra River. We had dinner down here at Gasolina on our way back to the car. The meal was great and reasonably priced. They even gave us a free bowl of nachos as they were pretty busy and they thought it would take a while for our meals to arrive. I didn’t think they took that long at all but was happy to take the free nachos, they were good too!

7. St Kilda and Luna Park

We didn’t have enough time to spend at St Kilda as my friends had an early flight back to Sydney at 6am from Avalon. This meant a 4.15am start from our house to get there in time. I couldn’t let them go without having at least a drive through St Kilda. Its a great part of Melbourne and one I could easily spent a whole day exploring. We drove past Luna Park and took a photo and I have promised next time they are here we will have dinner in Fitzroy St, cake in Acland St and few beers in The Espy and a few hours at Luna Park.

things to do in Melbourne with kids
The famous mouth of Luna Park. Iconic St Kilda landmark.

I wish my friends had longer in Melbourne, I might be a tad bias but its a pretty awesome city and we only got to scratch the surface. Next time I would like to do Lygon St and Brunswick St, Harbour Town and more time in the city. High Tea at one of our posh hotels, lunch at the Casino or even a ride on the Melbourne Star not to forget a visit to the Mighty G during footy season. Another time, I cant wait till they come to Melbourne again.

If you’re short on time and not sure whether Melbourne or Sydney is right for you, I would definitely say Melbourne has more culture and is a foodies haven but Sydney you just can’t go past for the spectacular harbour. I always say you have to visit both as they are very different cities. There are also some amazing day trips from Melbourne that you could consider for a longer stay. I highly recommend the Yarra Valley, only an hour from Melbourne and is a world class wine region and the local produce is pretty great as well. A Yarra Valley wine tour is a must to sample the best the region has to offer.

Safe travels.






This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Ahh these photos brings back memories. A nice little list which I will refer back to as we’re headed back down to Melbs.


    1. Sally

      Yes it was a glorious day weather wise too, Melbourne really does shine when its sunny. I wish I had more time to show them around. If you haven’t been here recently make sure you head down to South Wharf, its pretty impressive the transformation down that end of town. I would love to meet you for a coffee next time you are in town, it would be great to meet you and the family.

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