Welcome to Melbourne, one of the most culturally diverse places in the world! This is a city where people speak over 200 languages from as many different countries. So you won’t find another place quite like it.
Add to our international melting pot some great shopping and fashion, fantastic art, world-class food and real natural beauty, and it’s no wonder Melbourne’s been named the world’s most liveable city for seven years running.
Suppose you need a break from the city. In that case, Melbourne is a fantastic base for exploring Victoria with picturesque seaside villages, historic gold rush towns, stunning beaches, and lush rainforest, all easily accessible.
On these day trips from Melbourne, you can go wine tasting, swim with seals, soak in hot springs, get up close with penguins and koalas, and drive one of the most scenic coastal roads in the world—the famous Great Ocean Road.
With so much going on, it’s a great place to travel to as a female traveller, solo or otherwise. But it can be a little overwhelming for a first time visitor, so here are a few tips to make sure you really enjoy your visit.
Unfortunately, Melbourne still doesn’t have a train connecting the airport to the CBD, but there’s a bus service that will get you there, as well as taxis that are always available.
However, once you’ve settled in, getting around the city on public transport (trains, trams and buses) is pretty straightforward.
Just as in other big cities like London or Tokyo, you can purchase a transport card (a Myki) to load funds onto, and you tap on/off as you travel, with money being deducted as you go. You can also access free travel within Melbourne’s Free Tram Zone within the CBD, which is a great way to save money!
Where to stay
While Melbourne is generally considered to be a reasonably safe city (where women are on an equal footing to men than many other parts of the world), it’s not exempt from crime.
If you’re a first-time visitor, and especially if you’re travelling alone, staying in a hotel in the CDB would be the best option – there’s a greater police presence, the area’s well-lit has busy streets, and there are always lots of people around. If you’re a repeat visitor, it’s great to have you back!
For those of you looking for a different scene, look at staying a little further out of the city in areas like Carlton, Collingwood, Fitzroy or Richmond. It’s also important to note that Melbourne is a safe and welcoming city to people of all faiths and races. So whichever area you choose to stay in, you’re sure to find something that will suit your tastes.
The ladies of Melbourne LOVE to shop! In the city, check out the Bourke Street Mall for some of the bigger name stores like Myer, Zara, David Jones and H&M; Melbourne Central for big labels like Country Road, MIMCO, Sephora and Gap; and Emporium for designer brands like Kate Spade, Michael Kors and Carla Zampatti.
If you’re ready to take a short tram ride out of the city, you’ll find some fantastic Melbourne fashion labels on Gertrude Street in Fitzroy, outlet malls on Bridge Road in Richmond and vintage heaven on Smith Street in Collingwood.
Free activities in CBD
Melbourne can be an expensive city, so it’s good to make the most of the free activities on offer. For starters, you can feast your eyes on the fine artwork at the National Gallery of Victoria, but if street art is more your thing, then head on over to Hosier Lane or Blender Lane.
Other activities include enjoying the greenery at the Royal Botanic Gardens, walking through the gorgeous State Library of Victoria or joining a free walking tour! You can also window shop your way through Queen Victoria Market, depending on how well you’re able to resist shopping and eating your way through.
Explore the city’s cultural areas
As with any city with a huge mix of cultures, you’ll find that different areas have particular ethnic slants. You can find a community of people who share your culture or even experience many other cultures without leaving Melbourne. Some areas where immigrants typically established themselves include:
- Italians on Lygon St in Carlton
- Vietnamese on Victoria St in Richmond
- Lebanese on Sydney Rd in Coburg
- Chinese in Box Hill and Doncaster
Every city has hipsters areas, and Melbourne is no exception. Two of my favourite hipster streets in Melbourne, just outside the CBD, are Smith Street in Collingwood and Brunswick Street in Fitzroy.
You’ll find an incredible collection of world-famous coffee spots and artisan bakeries, boutique clothing labels and little purveyors of vintage and pre-loved items, constantly changing street art and pop-up shops. Suffice to say, this is where the cool kids hang out, and you wouldn’t want to miss out.
Food and drinks
Sometimes, the best way to experience a city is through its food. Our reputation for good food and coffee is solid and something we’re super proud of, but lunch and dinner isn’t as big a deal here as they used to be.
These days, brunch is king. All over the city and around the suburbs, you’ll find friends, couples and families catching up for a mid-morning feed that’ll put your standard bacon and eggs to shame. Naturally, this meal is perfectly paired with those great cups of coffee that Melbourne is so well-known for.
As for where to go, throw a stone, and you’ll hit half a dozen fabulous great friendlies. A few places to consider visiting in the city area are Manchester Press in the CBD, Kitty Burns in Abbotsford, The Vertue of the Coffee Drink in Carlton, Pillar of Salt in Richmond and Rustica in Fitzroy.
You’ll also find that halal food options aren’t scarce in Melbourne. There’s a plethora of Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine to choose from, and some restaurant options include Abdul’s Halal Takeaway Foods and Sawasdee Thai.
Of course, it’s always best to be on the safe side and simply enquire with a restaurant regarding their halal status.
Melbournians love a rooftop bar. It’s little surprise why, as there’s nothing better than indulging in a friendly cold cocktail as you watch the sun go down over the city on a warm summer night.
For retro kitsch and fabulous cocktails, try Madame Brussels or Palmz Rooftop. If you’d like to nibble while you have your drinks, Campari House will serve up a great pizza, while Pacos Tacos has a tremendous laid-back Mexican canteen vibe.
Be smart around animals
I’m sure that at some point, you’ve probably heard some variation of the phrase, “Everything in Australia wants to kill you.” While that may be a bit of an exaggeration, the animals in this country are some of the deadliest in the world.
You generally won’t come across anything too dangerous in the CBD, but if you take a day trip or head out to more rural areas, here are a few things to be aware of with regards to spiders and snakes:
- Don’t ever reach under rocks, into brush areas, into holes in trees or pick up fallen tree branches – that’s where some of our snakes and spiders like to hide.
- Another favourite hiding spot for snakes is around bodies of water surrounded by long grass and shrubs. Always be wary, especially in hot weather.
- If you do come across a snake (one of the more common, venomous breeds is the Eastern Brown which is found in drier areas), they’re generally only going to attack if they feel threatened, so give them a wide berth and make sure your exit path doesn’t block them into a corner.
- While they certainly aren’t all deadly, a general rule of thumb is that if you see a snake or spider, just assume they are venomous and act accordingly.
Best Guide Trips in Melbourne
Most of these day trips from Melbourne are best experienced with your own car.I recommend checking Rental Cars to search for the best car rental deal. If you aren’t renting a car for your entire stay, make sure you choose a rental from downtown Melbourne as the airport is 23km away.
For one of our day trips, we used Car Next Door, which is a car-sharing site where you borrow a car from a local. It was more expensive than a traditional rental, and the car wasn’t as lovely, but it was more convenient.
We were able to choose a car just around the corner from our Airbnb in North Fitzroy, we didn’t have to complete any paperwork in person (it was a contactless key collection), and we didn’t have to refuel before returning it. It’s a good option if you’re not staying in the CBD and only need a car for one day.
Tips Everyone should know in Melbourne
In Australia, 15 minutes in the sun is sometimes all it takes for your skin to burn. Protect yourself from Australia's intense sun in a few easy steps:
- Slip-on sun-protective clothing
- Slop on SPF 30+ broad-spectrum sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure, and reapply every two hours outdoors
- Slap on a wide-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears
- Seek shade
- Slide on sunglasses
- Wear sunscreen, a hat, and goggles or sunglasses to block UV light and sun reflected off the snow.
Beaches can be dangerous, with rips and undercurrents, so make sure you swim on lifeguard patrolled beaches, between the red and yellow flags, and be sun bright. Learn about water safety in Victoria.
Locate patrolled beaches and learn about rip currents from the beachsafe.org.au website or download the BeachSafe app.
Bites and stings
For advice on bites and stings, based on your symptoms, visit the Symptom Checker at healthdirect.gov.au. In an emergency, phone triple zero (000) and ask for an ambulance. An emergency involves any of these symptoms: central/crushing chest pain, unconsciousness, a seizure (fit), difficulty breathing or turning blue, badly bleeding, a victim of a severe accident.
Watch out for natural hazards such as changeable weather conditions in Victoria's alpine regions or remote national parks.
Plan your activities and let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to return. Check Victoria's weather and current warnings on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website.
In an emergency, phone triple zero (000) and ask for an fire, police or ambulance help.
Melbourne Day Trips Within 1 Hour
Heide Museum of Modern Art
As an easy day trip from Melbourne is to the Heide Museum of Modern Art in the northern suburb of Bulleen.
This modern art gallery features Australian art in three exhibition buildings which were once the home of arts benefactors John and Sunday Reed, who purchased an old dairy farm in 1934. It became the gathering place of young modernist painters known as the Heide Circle.
The galleries are set within 15 acres of beautiful gardens where you can wander amongst the sculptures.
There’s also a great cafe featuring produce grown in their kitchen garden. The museum is currently open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10 am to 5 pm (and public holidays) and costs $20 for adults. Entry for children under 16 is free.
Heide is located 15km north of Melbourne CBD. The easiest way to get there is to drive or get a taxi which takes 20 minutes.
There’s free parking on site. You could also take the train (Hurstbridge line) to Heidelberg station and then the 903 bus (Mordialloc bound) to Heide. Disembark at the Bridge Street/Manningham Road stop and walk to Heide through Banksia Park.
Located only 20 minutes away from Melbourne CBD, Brighton is an excellent destination for people who want to get away from the city without having to travel for too long.
This coastal suburb is the perfect place to visit if you’re going to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the beach. The Brighton Bathing boxes are the most famous landmark in the area. Not only are they beautiful and colourful, but they are also a historical site. They’ve been around since the 19th century!
From the station, it takes less than 10 minutes to reach the bathing boxes. There are quite a few of them, and you will love taking beautiful photos there.
Pro tip: the most famous beach chalet is the one with the Australian Flag. People usually queue to take pictures in front of it. If you walk further down, you will discover many other beach chalets that are just as beautiful and don’t get as much attention.
It’s also an excellent spot to soak up the views of the Melbourne skyline. Once you are done with the beach, roam around Brighton and discover the local shops. For the whole experience, grab some fish and chips!
This is one of the best short trips from Melbourne. You can quickly get to Brighton by car (20 minutes drive) or by train (15 minutes from Flinders Street Station). If you opt for the train, you can either buy a ticket or use your Myki card. It costs less than $5.
While you’re visiting the Melbourne region, explore the mysteries and history of Hanging Rock. This former volcano lies 718 metres above sea level near the small town of Woodend.
It was created 6 million years ago by magma pouring from a narrow vent in the bedrock and is an excellent example of a mamelon mountain.
The walk up to the summit is only 1.5km long (almost one mile), but you should allow about one hour to explore all the rock formations and admire the views.
As a class 3 track, it is recommended for closed in shoes and for people with some bushwalking experience. Alternatively, there are also wineries, parks, markets, and gardens to visit in the area.
Hanging Rock is so famous in Australia that a small group of boarding school girls disappeared after a picnic in 1900. A book was written about the story in 1967, and a movie produced in 1975, which has ensured the story has survived more generations.
Hanging Rock lies about 70km north of Melbourne city and takes about one hour to get there. As it’s a self-guided tour and a free walk to the summit, there is no need for tour operators. This means the fastest and easiest way to get there is by driving yourself.
The forested slopes of the Dandenong Ranges are the perfect green escape just an hour from the city. You’ll find beautiful gardens and hiking trails as well as cute villages for a delicious lunch or afternoon tea.
It’s a popular local exercise spot that involves a challenging climb up steps through eucalyptus trees and ferns—we even saw a wallaby. There’s no view at the top—it’s more about experiencing the rainforest and getting your heart pumping.
A few doors down is an excellent organic shop, The Organic Fanatic, where we treated ourselves to a bouquet of beautiful poppies and some locally made vegan chocolates by Medita.
Next up was our favourite stop of the day—the William Ricketts Sanctuary, a fabulous sculpture garden in the forest. The unique clay sculptures merge with the rocks beneath the towering eucalyptus trees.
Other popular places to visit in the Dandenongs if you have more time are the Puffing Billy steam train, The Piggery for afternoon tea, and more gardens such as Alfred Nicholas and George Tindale.
The Dandenong Ranges are best visited with your own vehicle. We started in the south and worked our way north before heading back to the city. The 1000 Steps are 40km east of Melbourne CBD and take less than an hour to reach.
Melbourne is famous for its culture, and the National Gallery of Victoria is the jewel in the crown. It's not only the oldest public art gallery in Australia, it's also the most visited. Here, you can admire more than 70,000 works of European, Asian, Oceanic, and American art in two city locations.