Melbourne is a hip, dynamic metropolis, with an exciting city center, inner-city neighborhoods that is full of unique character, and lush green parks and mountain ranges where you can enjoy Australian nature at its finest. The city is known for its many laneways, its cultural diversity, excellent dining options for all budgets, and amazing street art. It’s also known for being the coffee capital of the world, and for being regularly voted as the world’s most livable city!
Let’s explore the best things to do in Melbourne:
Take a day trip to the Mornington Peninsula
What is it?
A gorgeous coastal region of Victoria is located an easy 90-minute drive south of the CBD.
With beaches, wineries, parks, gardens and spas, Mornington Peninsula boasts an embarrassment of getaway riches.
A stop at the Peninsula Hot Springs or a stay at the Jackalope Hotel, if you can swing it. There’s also the Arthurs Seat chairlift, the Bushrangers Bay Trail at Cape Schanck, the Enchanted Adventure Garden, Pt Leo Estate winery and its stellar restaurant Laura, dolphin and seal spotting in the bay… see what I meant about an embarrassment of riches?
Picture this: You’re driving in a drop-top with the wind in your hair, zooming past beaches and catching the salty air on your nose, or whizzing around lush, green wineries. If ever a region were ideally suited to a motoring holiday it’s the Mornington Peninsula. Whether you’re seeking a family break, an outdoors adventure or a weekend of indulgence, its diverse attractions are best discovered by car.
You’ll find luxe accommodation, award-winning hot springs, gourmet restaurants, world-class wineries and pristine beaches and walking trails. It’s only an hour from Melbourne, but it definitely feels like a world away.
See and do
At Peninsula Hot Springs, you can spend hours enjoying the naturally healing waters of the property’s thermal pools and indulging in a day spa treatment. If you’re there with a partner, then book in for a Kodo massage, a treatment inspired by traditional
Aboriginal techniques and complemented by a range of native aromatic oils to leave you totally relaxed. The pools range from hot to extremely hot, and there is also an ice cave for a bit of cryotherapy. You can also sweat it out in the sauna and steam room to banish those toxins. The café upstairs is good for a light, healthy meal.
Once you’ve reached a state of bliss, take a walk on the wild side at Moonlit Sanctuary. You can feed kangaroos and wallabies, pet koalas and get up close and personal with birds, reptiles, dingoes and other animals during the day at this sanctuary.
But as the name suggests, Moonlit Sanctuary really comes alive at night, when you can go on a guided lantern tour through the sanctuary to meet numerous nocturnal animals, including feather-tail gliders, a nightjar, quolls, Tasmanian devils, owls, possums, squirrel gliders, bettongs and potoroos.
Golfing fanatics will make a beeline for Moonah Links, a 36-hole complex and resort with a spa and restaurant.
If the weather is good, going to the beach is a fantastic thing to do. Port Phillip’s beaches are flat and safe, ideal for families with small children or windsurfing; Dromana Bay, Rosebud, Rye and Mornington are among the best.
At 314 meters, Arthurs Seat is the highest point on the peninsula and the views are panoramic, reaching all the way to Melbourne’s skyline. Arthurs Seat State Park has a range of walks of varying levels of difficulty, and you can also take the Eagle chairlift up and down the mountain for some pretty epic views.
Flora fans will be impressed with Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, with its 25 acres of woodland and sculpted gardens. Three mazes – Cypress Hedge Maze, Circular Rose Maze and Lavender Labyrinth – will test your sense of direction.
Pt Leo Estate’s Sculpture Park has a giant Kaws statue on its perfectly manicured lawns among many other sculptures. It’s all set against a backdrop of the vineyard and the glittering blue waters of Western Port Bay.
On the way back to Melbourne, pick up a punnet of fresh fruit at the Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, where you can pick your own when the red devils are in season.
Or head to Torello Farm and pick up some seasonal produce, outdoor plants or fresh meat at the farmgate. It has its very own cookbook too which is well worth checking out.
Eat at Mornington Peninsula
The American south is known for many things, chief among them barbecue, good ol’ southern hospitality and banana pudding. You’ll also find excellent examples of all three at Red Gum BBQ, inside a former machinery shed on Arthurs Seat Road on the Mornington Peninsula.
The cavernous space is bright and cheerful, thanks to skylights in the high ceilings. Seating is communal, picnic-style tables, and the menu is designed to be shared. There’s pulled pork, fall-apart beef brisket with a gorgeous smoke ring, pork ribs, half or quarter chickens and homemade jalapeño cheddar sausage, which was rich and savoryMornington, with enough spice to warm the belly.
After something a little more luxe? Laura is the fine diner of the Mornington Peninsula, based in Pt Leo.
Fine dining is too much of an old-fashioned term to describe this very new-fashioned restaurant, where the warm brioche rolls are made with a variety of red wheat grown close by, chased with peppery Cape Schanck olive oil, and the menu doesn’t go the long-winded degustation route but a tighter two or three courses dotted with site-specific origin stories.
Pt Leo’s Estate Restaurant is the alternative to Laura and instead offers a seasonal à la carte menu with the option to choose two or three courses. Along with the extensive wine list there are dedicated Martini and Old Fashioned menus too.
Chutney Bar in Mornington is a great spot to ail your cravings for a good, hearty curry. Try the Maharaja Thali that comes with a mix of the chef’s selection from the menu – try a combination of curries like rich beef vindaloo, creamy dhal makhani and tender lamb korma, rice, plain naan, salad, a mango lassi and dessert (think gulab jamun) that comes in sizes fit for an individual or for sharing.
Or hit up Merricks General Wine Store, where you’ll find top country bistro-style fare. Order the bay mussels and the chicken and leek pie, and a glass of Elgee Park Family Reserve Riesling. At the Epicurean Red Hill, more than 100 local wines are showcased alongside Italian dishes.
Order the Porcolino or the Picantosa pizza. On the mains, the kalamata olive-crusted rack of lamb is the winner. The top cup of coffee in the district is found at Pier Provedore in Flinders, where the ham and gruyère croissant is also a must.
Drink at Morington Peninsula
A produce-led, fantastic restaurant, a fascinating sculpture garden and delightful wines crafted with care – Mornington Peninsula wineries don’t get much better than Montalto. The kitchen has done away with gas cooking entirely, replacing the traditional stove with an open fire.
The method gives everything a delightful fire-kissed flavor, with vegetables and meats seared quickly for a perfect char or cooked slowly in smoldering coals for a smoky undertone. Montalto is also famous for its yearly sculpture prize.
New sculptures are installed in the winery’s sculpture gardens every year, and visitors can wander through the art and enjoy each piece. Make sure you stop at the cellar door to taste Montalto’s range of cool-climate wines.
Montalto’s laid-back sister winery, Tuck’s Ridge, is next door, and they share sweeping views down the hill to a bird sanctuary. The winery does simple food, made from premium ingredients. Make sure you do a ‘taste the rainbow’ tasting at Tuck’s Ridge, too.
It’s a blind tasting, so you can get an honest sense of what you can taste before being prejudiced by talk of passionfruit, chocolate or woodsmoke. You can write your tasting notes on the table – which is a giant whiteboard – and you’ll get to try both the Now range (no points for guessing when you’re meant to drink it) and the higher-priced Tuck’s Ridge range, which will do well with a little cellaring.
Avani Winery serves up biodynamic and minimal intervention wines in a stunning setting. The cellar door and restaurant overlook the winery and the family’s story is well worth hearing. Shashi, or Shashi Aunty as she’s known by, is an Indian lady who migrated to Australia with her partner Devendra in the 80’s.
She went on to study viticulture and start making wine on her own with the help of her family. Now they churn out barrel after barrel of remarkable, natural wines that are perfect for any time of the day. The estate’s restaurant also hosts pop-ups in summer and winter that sees a guest chef coming in and cooking Southeast Asian fare that pairs beautifully with the wine.
Located in a statement building, Port Phillip Estate has several ranges available for tastings, and the drops that stand out are Port Phillip Estate Chardonnay, Kooyong’s Single Vineyard Faultline Chardonnay, and Port Phillip Estate pinot noir.
Paringa Estate is a hidden gem on the Peninsula, with the cellar door and restaurant located among the vines – a stunning setting. The wines are top-shelf, particularly the current chardonnays and pinot noir.
Or head to Foxeys Hangout, a chilled-out winery with absolutely delicious produce. It specializes in pinot noir and chardonnay, as well as a positively fluorescent (and completely moreish) rosé. Sparkling wine is also a big focus here – and you don’t need to wait for someone else to do it.
Foxes Hangout runs a make-your-own sparkling class, where the winemaker will teach you about how sparkling wine is made and show you traditional methods of riddling and disgorgement. You can design your own sparkling with your own preferred dosage (sugar) level, and you get to take home your very own labeled bottle.
Stay overnight at Mornington Peninsula
It is not an exaggeration to say Jackalope has changed the Mornington Peninsula. The cutting-edge, ultra-luxe hotel is what you might expect to find in New York’s uber-hip Meatpacking District, not set among rolling hills and gently swaying vines.
The theme of the hotel is alchemy, the process of turning ordinary things into rare and precious things. The most famous examples are lead into gold and the creation of the elixir of life, but Jacklope turns an ordinary hotel experience into something special and extraordinary.
The hotel opened in April 2017 and quickly racked up the accolades, being named Hotel of the Year by Gourmet Traveller magazine in its very first year. It’s a boutique, with only 45 rooms, which is small enough to make every guest feel special and appreciated. The staff are very attentive, showing you to your room and familiarising you with all the whiz-bang accoutrements and luxurious touches therein.
Don’t want to shell out $650 for your Mornington Peninsula accommodation? Check out Lindenderry at Red Hill, which sits on almost 14 hectares of vineyards and gardens. Inside the hotel, it feels like one big, glam country house: there’s all of the space and elegance with none of the kitsch.
Dotted throughout the hotel’s winding corridors are semi-secluded nooks stuffed with plush lounges and often an open fire – perfect for some reading, no? You’ll find more of those crackling open fireplaces inside the rooms, which are appropriately luxe. Book yourself a balcony suite, where you can stretch out on the ample bed, in an armchair by the fire or with a glass of the estate’s wine on your balcony while pretending you’re lord or lady of the manor.
Find out more at https://www.timeout.com/
Puffing Billy Railway
Another popular railway station, Puffing Billy Railway Station, is next on our list of the best places to visit in Melbourne. This railway station is famous all over the world for its steam trains. If you’re an old-school person, this will be your favorite among other tourist places in Melbourne.
The train journey takes you back to the good old days where you’re traveling in open coaches through the sloppy roads of mountains. If you want to learn more about the evolution of railways, then you can also visit the museum here.
Location: 1 Old Monbulk Rd, Belgrave VIC 3160, Australia
- The most loved open carriage station
- Trains here run on steam even today
- The journey is set to give you picturesque views as it crosses over Dandenong Ranges.
- The place also has a train-based museum.
Timings: 9 am – 5 pm on weekdays and on weekends 9 am – 12 pm
Find out more at https://www.thrillophilia.com/
Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Melbourne
- Float up, up and away in an incredible hot air balloon
- Amazing views of Melbourne CBD
- Enjoy a delicious breakfast after the flight
Hot air balloon rides over Melbourne are a breathtaking way to see the town! Depending on the wind at dawn, your ballooning adventure may take you over the CBD, inner suburbs, parks and gardens, with Port Phillip Bay creating the perfect backdrop as you discover this gorgeous city from the air!
- One hour flight over Melbourne for two people
- Hotel champagne breakfast
Your hot air ballooning flight over Melbourne starts when we either meet at your hotel or at the meeting location before first light.
You will be advised of the exact time and place the evening before your flight. Your pilot will give you a short briefing and you will be transported to the launch site, where you may help with the launch or stand back and take pictures. Then away we go, drifting gently over the city of Melbourne in our beautiful balloon.
Your flight will last for approximately one hour. Afterward, we make our final landing, pack the balloon away and invite you to join us for a traditional champagne breakfast at the Amora Hotel Riverwalk Melbourne.
Please note that this voucher is for two people, but this is not a private flight. There is a minimum of four people on the day.
- Minimum fitness level required: passengers need to be able to climb into the basket and stand for the hour’s flight
- You need to inform the experience provider if you have a medical condition that may preclude you from flying e.g. a back problem
- Not suitable for women more than 12 weeks pregnant
- You must be 18 years or older to be served alcohol; photo ID may be required
- Once confirmed, you will receive a flight confirmation email from the provider – if you don’t receive this to your email, it is your responsibility to follow up prior to your flight date
- Once this experience has been confirmed, changes are at the discretion of the experience provider and arranged directly with them according to their policy.
- This experience is non-refundable – if the flight is cancelled due to weather, you can reschedule your flight within 12 months.
- Once booked, please ensure you read the experience providers terms and conditions, located on your flight confirmation.
Have a night-time book hang at Readings
What is it?
It’s not often that you see crowds hanging out at a bookshop at 10pm on a Saturday night, but that’s Readings for you – proof that there’s still a place for great independent bookshops.
The original Carlton outpost took out the top prize at the 2016 London Book Fair’s International Excellence Awards, and for good reason: aside from its unparalleled range, helpful staff and great atmosphere, the shop has a strong history of community outreach and support for local authors with their literary prizes.
Checking out this book shop’s illustrious Lygon Street neighbours, including the arthouse Cinema Nova, fromagerie Milk the Cow and famous Italian pasticceria Brunetti.
Find out more at https://www.timeout.com/