We all like to get out and about in our glorious city, but sometimes the budget is a little tight. We’ve got your back though, getting out and having a ripper day doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. We’ve teed up some of the best cheap and free things to do in Melbourne to keep both you and your hip pocket happy.
The National Gallery of Victoria, both at Southbank and Fed Square, are entirely free to visit. They do have the occasional ticketed exhibition, but the permanent collections and the majority of shows are all there for you to enjoy free of charge.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Pack a picnic, bring a frisbee or a book, and spend your day in the serene Royal Botanic Gardens. The new Arid and Sensory Gardens are open for you to enjoy, so get back to nature in a shady pocket of the beautiful gardens.
Heide Sculpture Garden
Heide Museum of Modern Art’s sprawling sculpture garden is an absolute stunner—and not bad for anyone needing some Instagram fodder—it’s also completely free to wander through and provides a perfect locale for a stroll or a picnic. If you fancy spending just a little, you can also visit the gallery for a modest $20.
BBQ Along The Yarra
You can’t beat a barbecue for summer catch-ups, and in Melbourne, one of the best barbie spots is on the banks of the Yarra. Dotted along Alexandra Avenue, you’ll find public barbecues and picnic tables ready to go for your alfresco cook up. They’re free to use, just BYO food and remember to clean up when you’re done.
Wherever you live in Melbourne, there’s bound to be a farmers’ market not too far from you. They’re the perfect way to do your weekly veggie shop while getting to know Victoria’s farmers, and you might even get a hot tip for shaking up your weekly meals. Most require a gold coin donation at entry; check out our guide to Melbourne’s best farmers’ markets here.
Walk Around Albert Park Lake
Stretch your legs and take a leisurely walk around Albert Park Lake. You’ll be treated to one of the best views of the CBD, and there are plenty of cafes right on the waterfront if you need a bowl of chips at the end.
Dandenongs And Sherbrooke Forest
Forest walks, waterfalls, picnic areas, gardens, sweeping views—the Dandenong Ranges have got it all. Take the train or head up in a car for the day and enjoy that sweet serenity.
Collingwood Children’s Farm
You could be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into regional Victoria when you visit Collingwood Children’s Farm. Nestled on the Yarra bank just next to the historic Abbotsford Convent, this working urban farm is a bit inner-city oasis. Tickets are super cheap, with adult tickets at just $12 and children and concession tickets at just $5.
Queen Victoria Market
We’ve included this historic gem because entry is free, but we can’t guarantee you’ll have a cheap day. There are simply too many gourmet treats and handmade treasures to be found at Queen Victoria Market; we never leave empty-handed.
Laneway Art Trail
Melbourne’s laneway art is world-famous and constantly changing, so you’ll always have something new to see each time you wander through the city. You can take a guided tour or go your own way; the choice is yours—check out this guide to get started.
Melbourne is home to so many independent makers, artists and designers who collectively make up the iconic Rose Street Market in Fitzroy, the Sunday Market at the Arts Centre, the St Kilda Esplanade Market, the Heide Makers’ Market and several virtual marketplaces. Take yourself on a gander through the markets but be sure to keep a budget if you want to stay savvy.
Want to catch a great view without forking out for one of the observation decks? No problem, just climb up to one of Melbourne’s many rooftop bars. Entry is free, though we’d recommend buying a drink while you’re there. Some of our favourites are Madame Brussels, Naked in the Sky and Siglo.
Koorie Heritage Trust Centre
Learn about the history of Aboriginal Victoria at the Koorie Heritage Trust in Federation Square. The free exhibition space includes a gallery and holds events and workshops throughout the year. There’s also a shop where you can buy Victorian Aboriginal handmade gifts.
Tucked beside the State Library is the Wheeler Centre; if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve undoubtedly heard of some of their guest speakers—Paul Kelly, Helen Garner, Zadie Smith, the list goes on. This literature hub often hosts authors and free events for book buffs, so check out their website to see who’s coming up.
Day Trip To Yarra Valley
Nominate a deso-driver and spend your day sampling some of the region’s best wine. Pack a picnic and take in those rolling hills before you roll on home. Stop by Four Pillars for some gin samples while you’re there too.
Herring Island Sculpture Trail
You can only get there by punting across the river from Como Landing, but once you’re there, chances are you’ll have this tiny island almost to yourself. Herring Island, the only island along the Yarra, is a little slice of nature just outside the city with a free sculpture trail and picnic area for you to enjoy.
Free Comedy At Spleen Bar
Have a laugh at the house at Spleen Bar every Monday night. These guys have hosted big names in Aussie comedy like Josh Thomas, Frank Woodley, Tom Ballard and Adam Hills, to name just a few. Drinks are cheap, so you’ll be laughing all the way home.
Melbourne Theatre Company
We know what you’re thinking; theatre tickets can be pricey. But did you know you can get preview tickets for Melbourne Theatre Company script readings at just $12? You’ll be the first to hear new stories as they’re coming together, straight from the playwrights themselves.
Take the ferry to Williamstown for the day. An adult ticket is just a $32 return, which leaves you plenty for fish and chips.
The Break Room
Buy a $60 ticket to The Break Room. Break things. Feel good.
Level up your picnic game and scope out the best picnic spots in Victoria here.
Island Hop On Your Private Yacht (It's Affordable!)
The Whitsunday Islands offer some of the world's finest sailing, with mostly perfect winds, calm seas, beautiful scenery and 74 islands to hop through (69 of which are uninhabited). It's called bareboating: hiring a boat, stocking it with provisions and friends and sailing off into the sunset.
Even if you have no sailing experience, companies such as Cumberland Charter Yachts will give you a yacht and a safety briefing and then set you free, with the requirement that you respond to their twice-daily radio schedule to say where you are and where you're going. Leave from the coastal town of Airlie Beach or have your vessel delivered to Hayman or Hamilton Island.
Ride A Luxury Train Across The Continent
Named after the Afghan camel drivers that used to roam Australia's centre, this unforgettable train journey takes 2979 kilometres (1851 miles) of tropics, the mountains of the Flinders Ranges, scorched desert, Katherine Gorge and the Red Centre. The Ghan takes three days to cross the continent, from Darwin to Adelaide or vice versa, including fascinating whistlestop tours in Katherine and Alice Springs. You can also opt for a trip on the Indian Pacific, a four-day journey from Sydney to Perth or vice versa.
Enter Another World At The Pinnacles
On the Turquoise Coast of Western Australia, 250 kilometres (155 miles) north of Perth, you will find the Pinnacles Desert, where hundreds of ancient limestone pillars look like extraterrestrial tombstones. The park is fringed by secluded white beaches, wildflowers, unique fauna and excellent fishing. Stay in the nearby fishing village of Cervantes or journey up the Indian Ocean Drive to discover all the colourful beauty and incredible wildlife interactions along the way.
Take A Foodie Road Trip Around Tasmania
Start with a breakfast of fresh doughnuts and bagels at the Farm Gate Market in Hobart, then spend a few days feasting through Tasmania. There is lots of local produce to sample, with rarely more than an hour's drive between gourmet towns and stores.
Eat apples at Willie Smith's Apple Shed; a cider house turned museum in the Huon Valley; just-shucked Tassie oysters at Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed in Port Arthur; Belgian-style chocolates at the House of Anvers near Latrobe; and the triple cream brie or chilli camembert from Wicked Cheese in historic Richmond. Tasmania is famous for its cool-climate wines, and the Tamar Valley, running north from Launceston, is Tasmania's premier wine region. Don’t miss the pinot noir, Tasmania's signature wine variety, from the state's oldest vineyard at Providence.
See The Sydney Harbour New Year's Eve Fireworks
One of the first places in the world to welcome the new year, Sydney Harbour, puts on a spectacular show. The fireworks at 9 pm and midnight on New Year's Eve are not to be missed, with pyrotechnics from the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Opera House, and light shows and more fireworks from barges on the harbour. There are vantage points to suit every budget.
Plant a picnic rug at one of the many parks around Sydney's foreshore, jump on a ferry or boat cruise to view from the water, book into a waterside hotel room or attend one of the many ticketed events such as the parties on Fort Denison and Shark islands or the family celebrations at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Darling Harbour.
Cruise The Kimberley
One of the best ways to see the Kimberley – one of the last actual wilderness areas on Earth – is by cruise ship, and there are lots of options.
You'll get up close to the rocky shores, secluded beaches, ochre-coloured gorges, lush waterfalls, and complex river systems as you enjoy gourmet meals and luxury sleeping quarters.
Ride Roller Coasters And Water Slides On The Gold Coast
For fun, not much beats the Gold Coast's theme parks, offering huge thrilling rides, water slides and wildlife.
You can bundle Dreamworld with WhiteWater World next door or buy a combination pass for SeaWorld, Warner Bros Movie World and Wet'n'Wild.
The ''big five'' fun parks are between The Spit and Coomera, north of Surfers Paradise, where there is plenty of accommodation with excellent proximity to the Gold Coast beaches.
Dine Under The Stars At Uluru
In this unforgettable, intimate dining experience overlooking Uluru and the distant domes of Kata Tjuta, you'll watch the sunset to the sound of a didgeridoo, sit on top of a dune to savour a degustation feast under the many stars (while learning all about them), then listen to Dreamtime stories by the campfire.
Tali Wiru ("beautiful dune" in the local Anangu language) operates four times a week from April to mid-October, with hotel transfers from Ayers Rock Resort an hour before sunset. There are no more than 20 guests at any one time, making for an unforgettable experience.
Enjoy A Gourmet Feast By The Beach In Margaret River
The annual Western Australia Gourmet Escape (held each November) is one of Australia’s largest food and wine festivals, celebrating the delights of Western Australia with delicious food and wine, pop-up events, cooking classes and celebrity chefs.
The Margaret River region is the perfect place to experience the festivities. You'll find wineries, restaurants and beautiful beaches to explore. From Perth, hire a car to drive three hours south to Margaret River or fly to Busselton, a town 50 kilometres (31 miles) north of Margaret River.
Dive With Great White Sharks In Port Lincoln
Being underwater with a great white shark (even if you are in a strengthened aluminium cage) is an adventure to tell your friends about. Calypso Star Charters and Adventure Bay Charters run one-day great white shark tours to Neptune Island, 70 kilometres (43 miles) off Port Lincoln, a 50-minute flight from Adelaide.
No scuba experience is necessary (air is fed into the cage via a hose). Suppose you're looking for something equally memorable but without the cell. In that case, you can also swim in the open ocean with the gentle but giant whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia between March and August.
Stay In A Unique, Luxury Australian Hotel
Many of Australia's luxury lodges and resorts offer unique experiences. Longitude 131 is an intimate wilderness camp with luxury tents in the heart of Australia, where you can enjoy spectacular views and the wilderness of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, bespoke safaris and gourmet meals.
Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley is a spa resort set in a conservation and wildlife reserve within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, with private pools, wildlife tours and delicious food.
Sun lovers should experience qualia, a wonderful adults-only experience on Hamilton Island. At Tasmania's Saffire Freycinet, top-quality produce, service and coastal views are front and centre.
- Go to a museum, aquarium or zoo. Many aquariums, museums and zoos waive admission fees on certain days. ...
- Read a book. ...
- Catch a movie. ...
- Play, or watch, a game. ...
- Volunteer. ...
- Visit the farmers market. ...
- Go thrift shopping. ...
- Spend time outdoors.
- Catani Gardens.
- Flagstaff Gardens.
- Carlton Gardens.
- Docklands Park.
- Fitzroy Gardens.
- Kings Domain.
- Queen Victoria Gardens.
- Treasury Gardens.