8 Free and Fun Things to do in Melbourne
Coming in at the 15th most expensive city in the World, it’s no surprise that you’re searching for some free and fun things to do in Melbourne.
Affordability aside, you’re about to be swept up by one of Australia’s largest and most multicultural cities. Melbourne is diverse in more than one dimension. It has stunning art, and prides itself on its unique sense of culture which is just one of the many contributing factors to its 7 years running as most liveable city in the world.
But travelling or moving to Melbourne from interstate definitely calls for some smart budgeting, and meticulous planning.
It’s time to get savvy and start preparing your list of free and fun things to do in Melbourne with some help from our below guide.
8 Fun and Totally Free Activities and Places to Visit in Melbourne
Whether you’re visiting family, taking a holiday, or moving – here is our list of 8 free and fun things to do in Melbourne.
The Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens
It’s free, it’s good for your fitness, and it’s fun for the entire family. On the very edge of the CBD lays a glistening green oasis, juxtaposed alongside a concrete jungle. The Royal Botanic Gardens is a lush escape that is truly reminiscent of the Victorian era.
The gardens are extremely well kept, and provide a serene environment for light activities, such as walking, jogging, yoga, and meditation. On of the most popular running tracks in Melbourne, The Tan, winds around the perimeter of the Gardens and is a hit with walkers and runners alike, with many high profile “fun-runs” taking advantage of the beautiful path.
Throw yourself into the Gardens for a morning, an afternoon, or even the whole day, with every intention of getting lost. This way, you’re bound to discover a pocket of paradise you never knew existed. If you would rather receive the grand tour, you’re in luck because this is also free! Guided tours of the Gardens depart the visitor centre daily.
There are plenty more fun and free things to do at the Royal Botanic Gardens, including:
This historic reservoir offers striking views of the city skyline and showcases a variety of low-water, sustainable plants. You can find Guilfoyle’s Volcano in the south-east corner of the gardens.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden
Heading to the Gardens with the kids? This majestic place will impress even the most technology-obsessed child. The Children’s Garden provides an imaginative environment, which allows children to connect with plants and nature.
Take a break while you let them run free to dig, build, and explore their creativity.
Pavilions and Rest-houses
While you walk through the many landscapes of the Gardens you will stumble upon shelters to stop at. These pavilions and rest-houses provide an ideal break to take a breath and take in the views of the gardens.
Not restricted by native flora, the Botanic Gardens embrace and highlight many plant species from foreign origins. The Tropical Glasshouse puts the world’s most colourful and spectacular tropical rainforest plants on display, such as King Fern, Titan Arum, and plants from the orchid and bromeliad species.
National Herbarium of Victoria
The National Herbarium of Victoria houses a large collection of 1.5 million dried plant, fungi, and algae species. A vast majority of this collection is of Australian origin, however, there is a lot of foreign specimens also making up the collection.
While you’re exploring the Royal Botanic Gardens, make sure to keep an eye out for the following fauna:
- Short-finned Eel
- Rakali (Native Water-Rat)
- Brush-tailed Possums and Ring-tailed Possums
- Grey-headed Flying Foxes
With an area of around 38 hectares, you will be too busy to notice all the energy you’re burning, so make sure to pack a lunch and enjoy a picnic on one of the many lawns.
The City Circle Tram
We usually consider public transport as a means to an end, and rarely consider it as a destination or experience.
However, the City Circle Tram is just that – an experience, which encompasses Melbourne’s history and major landmarks.
The City Circle Tram is free, operating every day between 10 am and 6 pm, travelling on a route which runs through and around the city centre and Docklands.
Hop on the heritage W-class City Circle Tram and enjoy the guided audio commentary, which will provide you with details of the city’s most iconic attractions, including:
- City Museum
- Parliament House
- Docklands and Etihad Stadium
- Federation Square
- Melbourne Aquarium
- Princess Theatre
Melbourne City Circle Stops are located throughout the city, sharing stops with other tram routes. To hop on, simply hail a City Circle tram at one of the stops.
If you’re ticking other fun and free things to do in Melbourne off your list, just know that the City Circle Tram also stops by other trams, train, and bus stops, which service routes connecting you to other areas of Melbourne.
Fun and Free Things to Do For Lovers of Art and History
Shrine of Remembrance
The serenity of the Royal Botanic Gardens is positioned only inches from the Melbourne Shrine of Remembrance.
Make your way up to the Shrine from Anzac Avenue and allow yourself to really absorb the significance of this meaningful structure. Learn and discover about the courage, endurance, and duty of the soldiers who have fought and sacrificed for the country.
A deep look into Australian History, the nine stations of the self-guided tour will take you through the Gallery of Medals, the Changi Flag, the Crypt, the Sanctuary, and then on to the balcony.
Following your climb up the Shrine, you will be presented with sweeping views of the Gardens and city skyline. Take time to walk around the balcony and look out to all directions to truly take in the city.
National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is a grand and monstrous exhibition of local and internationally acclaimed artwork.
NGV International houses a colourful collection of works from Europe, Asia, Oceania, and America.
Also part of the NGV is the Ian Potter Centre, which is located at Federation Square, a short tram or walk from the St Kilda Road location.
General entry to both these galleries is free and will ignite the imaginations of both young and old.
NGV has been host to acclaimed travelling exhibitions, which include works by:
- Van Gogh
- David Hockney
- Jan Senbergs
- John Olsen
- Andy Warhol
Take to the streets when you’re in Melbourne and discover the tiny cafes, boutiques, and walls splashed with colour, on a seriously slick self-guided tour of hidden laneways.
If you’ve heard of Melbourne’s mysterious laneways but are not too sure where to locate them, don’t worry – we have listed below just a few of the many cobbled-laneways worth visiting.
Make sure to have your smartphone or digital camera with you on your escapades through Melbourne’s following hidden laneways:
- AC/DC Lane
- Block Court
- Hosier Lane
- Meyers Place
- Tattersalls Lane
- Hardware Lane
Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk (1000 Steps)
For those travelling or moving to Melbourne and seeking a challenge, it’s time to set your sights on the Kokoda Trail Memorial Walk, known to locals as the “1000 Steps”.
Set among the tranquil and temperate Mount Dandenong Forest in Ferntree Gully, is a nature walk that is loved by all. Masses of fitness groups, couples, friends, and families flock to the 1000 Steps every weekend.
Likened to the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea, the track takes you on a windy climb and features small pillars with informational poster cards, comparing the trail’s environment to that of the real Kokoda Trail in World War II.
As well as the informative historical information, you will also find yourself succumbing to the beauty of the rain forest flora and fauna.
With a steep (but manageable) climb that will take most people around half an hour, you will be more than happy to take a breath and relax at One Tree Hill Picnic Ground, which is slightly beyond the top of the steps.
Just remember to take the 1000 Steps at your own pace and that it’s going to be easier on the way down (the whole circuit takes around an hour). Persevere and experience the rewarding feeling of accomplishment.
Although not centrally located, getting to the Kokoda Trail 1000 Steps, Ferntree Gully is reasonable simple. For those with access to a vehicle, your journey to the 1000 Steps will take roughly 50-minutes from Melbourne CBD.
Taking public transport from Flinders Street Station will take just under 1.5 hours and will involve up to 20 minutes of walking to reach the base of the Steps.
The World’s Largest Fireballs at Crown
Image: stephenk1977 / flickriver.com
If you’re visiting Melbourne, whether, for business or leisure, you must take a night stroll down Southbank.
Take in the atmosphere, the buzz of the busy riverside restaurants, the street acts, and the masses of people out to enjoy their evening.
Moving to Melbourne? Even for locals, the sight of the city lit up in all its glory at night never fails to leave you in awe.
As you walk down Southbank and take in Melbourne’s evening vibe, make sure to stop by the outside of Crown for the grand, fireball displays.
This spectacular light show can be viewed at every hour, on the hour:
- Monday – Friday 9:00 pm – Midnight
- Saturday – Sunday 8:00 pm – Midnight
St Kilda is one of Melbourne’s more trendy suburbs, a mixing pot of artistic locals, creative professionals, and tourists. It’s also home to Australia’s oldest amusement park, Luna Park, and boasts an energetic night-life.
Visitors seeking a day out in St Kilda often make their way down to its long and lively beach, where people spend summer days relaxing in the shade or getting wet with some seriously cool watersports.
St Kilda’s two main precincts, Fitzroy Street, and Acland Street offer some seriously good food options. From fish and chips to fine dining, St Kilda offers a tantalising selection of restaurants.
If you check-in for an early dinner, make sure to take a walk down to the St Kilda Breakwater just before sunset to watch the penguins come home.
The St Kilda Penguins first colonised in the early 1970s, and since then, the colony of small penguins have called the small pocket of Port Phillip Bay their home.
The general public is welcome to watch the penguins swim back to the bank, every night following sunset. A St Kilda-based conservation group, Earthcare, have been monitoring and working to protect these penguins from public harm since their settlement.
The conservation group advises that the public:
- Do not use flash when photographing the penguins.
- Do not try to pick up or handle the penguins.
- Place red cellophane over torch lenses (penguins see less in the red spectrum of light).
- Do not climb on the rocks at the Breakwater.
- Do not use camera extenders or ‘selfie sticks’ to reach into the holes of the penguin homes.
This a truly unique and free, natural experience that is situated south of Melbourne CBD.
Even More Fun and Free Things To Do In Melbourne
Finding fun and free things to do in Melbourne is far from difficult, especially if you’re energetic and inclined to explore the outdoors.
If you’re still looking for more things to add to your list, how about adding these free things to do, and landmarks to view, to your list:
- The Historic Carousel, Luna Park, St Kilda
- The State Library of Victoria
- Chadstone Shopping Centre (with free Shuttle Bus)
- Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI)
- Queen Victoria Market
- St Paul’s Cathedral
- Brighton Beach Houses
- City Walking Tour
If you’re thinking of relocating to Melbourne from interstate, it’s time to get excited. This city offers some seriously fun activities, which won’t cost you a cent!
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