Weekends are precious. You want to make the most of those glorious days devoid of responsibility and overflowing with possibility. Luckily, Melbourne's got plenty happening to make sure you don't spend the days indoors binge-watching Netflix and instead discovering new bars, absorbing art and feasting your way through food markets. Here are our picks of the weekend's happenings.
Global Ballooning hot air balloon flights
Global Ballooning Australia is one of the best hot air balloon companies running in Melbourne, offering three flights in three different locations across Victoria.
There’s the mountainous rides over Mansfield, the romantic rides over the Yarra Valley, and (maybe the most impressive), the flights over Melbourne’s CBD. Melbourne is the only major city in the world where commercial hot air balloons can fly over the CBD.
Your day starts an hour or so before sunrise, so this can vary depending on what time of year you ride. Hot air balloon rides are commonly run in the wee hours of the morning because that’s when conditions are most stable.
The CBD flight can run right through the guts of the city or scoot right around it. If you do ride through the city, you’ll get to see some teeny tiny office workers making their way to their high-rises and spot a few of Melbourne’s most famous icons from above.
You’ll even get to see how the trees have been planted at Fitzroy Gardens to resemble a Union Jack (something you only really see when you’re several hundred meters above the city).
The ride itself is incredibly smooth, and there are no quick drops or turns to worry about. The only bump you’ll feel is when you land – but don’t worry, your pilots give you ample instructions on how to prepare for landing.
Sunrise rides will have you in the air for around one hour, but it’s about a four-hour experience all up including prep, packing up as well as the transport to the takeoff spot (which usually happens somewhere in Melbourne’s west) and back from the landing spot (usually somewhere in Melbourne’s east).
Punters can also opt to have breakfast post-ride, which is usually a buffet breakfast (with sparkling wine!) at Richmond’s Amora Hotel Riverwalk. Keep in mind that while you take off in Melbourne's west, you will need to meet the Global Ballooning team at the Amora Hotel (they'll then ferry everyone to the launch location).
You’ll have to rug up for a sunrise ride, but it’s well worth it as you’ll get to see the sky burst with color as the morning sun peaks over the horizon. Plus, when you’re up in the balloon there’s no wind as you’re effectively flowing with the wind towards your destination. And those burners sure do warm you up when they’re blasting.
Rides run every day of the week and start at $405 which includes complimentary in-flight photos. There’s also the option to book out the basket all to yourself (maybe for an extra special proposal?) which can be arranged with the team. Also good to note: Global Ballooning Australia is the only Victorian hot air balloon operator that offsets its carbon emissions.
Read more about this topic at https://www.timeout.com/
Werribee Open Range Zoo
Experience an African adventure just 30 minutes from Melbourne.
Get onboard a guided safari across the unique open range savannah and spot rhinos, giraffes and zebras.
On the walking trails come face-to-face with a pride of lions, visit one of the world‘s largest gorilla exhibits, see cheeky monkeys at play and discover a family of hippos in their wetland home.
For those looking for even more adventure, book into an encounter. Feed a giraffe, stroke a serval, see amazing animals on the Savannah from an open vehicle plus many more to choose from.
If you are looking for an evening experience the new Sunset Safari offers a three-hour program that includes dinner, safari and entertainment or for visitors looking for unique accommodation, check out the overnight glamping experience, Slumber Safari.
Children under 16 years of age receive free entry every weekend, during Victorian Government school holidays and on Victorian public holidays.
All zoo visitors and members must book a ticket online in advance.
Zoo visitor numbers will be limited to a maximum of 1500 people per day and all visitors (including babies and children aged 0-4) and Zoo Members are required to book a ticket online in advance.
Zoo member tickets will be free but must be booked online in advance.
Australian Sports Museum
The Australian Sports Museum at the MCG, home of Australia’s largest collection of sporting memorabilia, has reopened following a $17 million redevelopment.
This is no ordinary museum. From touch screens and avatars to climbable walls and sporting challenges, visitors get to be part of the action and discover the unique stories of Australian sport.
Tickets are now on sale on the website. Be one of the first to enjoy this exciting new experience at the MCG.
- Actively welcomes people with access needs
- Suitable for guests with sufficient mobility to climb two or three steps, but would benefit from fixtures and fittings to aid balance
- Suitable for guests who depend on the use of a wheelchair in a seated position at all times
- Conference/convention facilities
- Nonsmoking establishment
- Public toilet
- Quality Tourism Accredited Business
- Museums Australia
- Australian Tourism Export Council
- Victoria Tourism Industry Council
Read more about this topic at https://www.visitvictoria.com/
When Scienceworks opened in 1992, its vision was a place for young people to play with science. Scienceworks linked Melbourne's industry, heritage and applied technology in one place: a new building looking across the arena to the century-old Pumping Station, all under the grand arc of the West Gate Bridge.
Today, Scienceworks is bursting with things to challenge curious minds of all ages. In just one visit, you can stroll among the gigantic machines that kept the city running, enjoy electrifying theatre in the Lightning Room, let your little ones roam safely in enclosed spaces, wander through immersive exhibitions and drop into deep space in the Melbourne Planetarium.
Like its visitors, the team at Scienceworks is always asking questions. How does it work? Why does it do that? How is our world-changing? Join them on an expedition to understand the mysteries of the universe and our everyday lives.
Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
If there’s anywhere you can escape the madness of the city CBD without actually leaving it, the Royal Botanic Gardens is the place. Located on the city’s fringe, this expansive garden is home to a cool 8,500 plant species, zen lakes and lush lawns.
Workshops, tours, walks and talks showcase the intricacies of the gardens – from star-gazing night tours in the Melbourne Observatory to science seminars, such as one exploring the phylogeography of coconut.
The Aboriginal Heritage Walk takes you on a journey into the history of the Koolin nation. An Indigenous guide will lead you around the gardens, through a traditional smoking ceremony and show you the uses of plants as both food and medicine.
Want to see the Gardens from a new point of view? Book in for a traditional punt cruise around Ornamental Lake, complete with beautiful views of the bays and mini islands. You even get your paper parasol.
Want to do your own thing? There are plenty of walks and plant collections you can explore at any time. The camellia collection is one of the world’s best with more than 950 different types; Fern Gully recreates a cool forest, which showcases many fern species; and the Tropical Glasshouse is filled with colorful flowers and palms.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are also home to the National Herbarium of Victoria, housing more than 1.5 million plant, algae and fungi specimens.
Queen Victoria Market
The open-air Queen Victoria Market is loud and proud, packed with veteran stallholders who are passionate about fresh produce (and are happy to tell you about it). It's popular with locals as their go-to for fresh fruit, veggies, meat and an outstanding variety of dairy and small goods, but has also become something of a 'must visit' for tourists.
And why not? With a huge number of stalls selling clothes, accessories and other BRIC a brac the markets have evolved into more than just the place to get your weekly shop. Cafés line the market's outskirts and are usually heaving with brunchers every weekend.
Be mindful of Queen Vic's opening hours before visiting (it's closed Monday and Wednesday) and be sure to get a hot jam doughnut before you leave.
In summer and winter, be sure to visit the Night Markets, held every Wednesday evening. Here, the market takes on a new guise as a hub for designers, food trucks and live performance.
Read more about this topic at https://www.timeout.com/
This grand modernist building on St Kilda Road is Australia's oldest and most popular art museum. That title has been won thanks to the gallery's top-notch and diverse permanent collection, their fantastic visiting collections and an ongoing series of additional events aimed at locals and tourists alike.
The permanent collection includes a Rembrandt, a Bonnard and a Tiepolo – not bad for a gallery that's only been around since the mid-1800s. All visitors to the NGV must pass the water wall upon entry, and yes, it is hard to resist touching it.
The ground floor is where you'll usually find the gallery's major exhibitions and it's also where you'll find the magnificent, boiled lolly-like stained glass ceiling in the Great Hall.
Upstairs you've got the permanent collections, as well as the smaller visiting exhibitions. Be warned the large, colonial-era rooms are easy to lose people in, so keep a close eye on any children looking to make a jailbreak. You cannot visit the NGV without spending a hefty chunk of time in the 19th Century Gallery (or Salon Gallery).
It gets its nickname from the style the paintings are hung in and houses one of the most emotive paintings in the gallery: 'Anguish' by August Friedrich Schenck.
You could easily spend a whole day in the building so be sure to make regular pit stops; if you're feeling fancy the Tea Room offers high tea as well as cakes and light meals while downstairs you can fill your belly with the seasonal menu items at Garden Restaurant.
Weekend getaways: the Great Ocean Road
Justifiably one of Victoria’s most popular tourist destinations, the Great Ocean Road snakes all along the southwest coast of the state, starting in Torquay (1.5 hours from the CBD) and finishing up just before Warrnambool.
This winding stretch of road provides ample opportunity to reconnect with the ocean, the bush and the sounds and sights of nature whether driving, walking, horseriding, surfing, sailing or cycling.
It's about a four-hour drive without stops, but heed our warning: you'll want to stop. There's just too much happening along the coast not to. Take a day trip, stay the weekend or just pack up and move there – plenty is going on down the Great Ocean Road.
Torquay and surrounds
You’ll be jealous of the locals who get to eat and shop at Surf Coast Wholefoods daily, but you can pretend you’re a local for a drop-in visit if it makes you feel better. The Buddha Bowl is fantastic, as is the plant-based taco. Avocado, brown rice, kale and tofu ensure you’re well fuelled for a day of surfing, walking and discovering Torquay.
Front beach Taphouse & Restaurant is an all-day destination for meals and craft beers. Look out over the Torquay front beach and relish the serenity.
Serenity Accommodation provides reliable, meticulously decked-out holiday homes whether it’s for a couple or the whole family. Serenity has two identical houses, both located in Torquay. Plus, guests can easily check-in via an app rather than fussing with keys and lockboxes on arrival.
Take a surfing lesson with the professionals at Torquay Surfing Academy. Whether you're entirely new to the sport or your rusty skills could use some refinement, the team here has been operating for almost 20 years so they're experts at getting you on that board. All gear (including fully sealed wetsuits and surfboards) can be purchased and hired here, as well.
Lorne and surrounds
The Bottle of Milk in Lorne on Mount Joy Parade is a must-visit. Whether you're craving smashed avocado with fresh chili on sourdough or a hot rod bagel (scrambled eggs, chili jam and goat's cheese), they've got you covered.
Grab a seat outside and toast to a day well spent at Ipsos Restaurant and Bar.
Mantra Lorne greets you right as you enter Lorne. Packed with facilities, Mantra has beautiful large grounds, an in-house restaurant and rooms that can facilitate solo travelers through to the entire extended family.
Go for a morning walk along the beach, even if it’s just an hour before spinning on your heel and returning. Nothing beats that view of the sun rising over the coastline. Locals and their furry friends are often out to catch the view too, which is always a bonus for dog lovers.
If you only do one thing…
Visit Live Wire Action Park, a huge adventure playground just outside of Lorne where you’ll climb, swing, leap, wobble and fly through towering eucalyptus forest.
Apollo Bay and surrounds
It's the beach, so of course, you'll be craving fish and chips. Apollo Bay Fishermen's Co-op delivers on the crispy, crunchy potato chips and local seafood goodness. Crayfish, prawns and oysters are all available to eat out on the deck overlooking the ocean. Otherwise, buy a bunch of fresh crabs and fish and prepare your own seafood feast at home.
It's a beautiful big red-brick building with outdoor seating, pub meals and a classic pub vibe, so make sure to direct the crew to Great Ocean Road Brewhouse at the end of the day.
The Apollo Apartments are located opposite the beach in a super modern glass and concrete building. They're at the mid-point for budgets and have the basic mod-cons of Wi-Fi with parking and kitchen included.
Without a doubt, the Great Ocean Walk must be on your itinerary. With beautiful bush/coast and sea views, this is the ultimate way to escape modern life and get back into the heart of nature. Make sure to stock up on water. Maps are available online or via the tourist center. Read our guide to hiking the Great Ocean Walk here.
If you only do one thing…
Head to Cape Otway, the southernmost tip of Victoria's western coast. Veer towards the Cape Otway lighthouse and point your noggin up to the sky to spy koala bums among the native gum trees. You can also go chasing waterfalls – Beauchamp Falls (pictured) and Hopetoun Falls are located in the nearby Beech Forest.
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