A Visitors Guide to One Day in Melbourne, Australia
THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. WHEN YOU CLICK ON THESE LINKS WE RECEIVE COMPENSATION, AT NO EXPENSE TO YOU, THAT HELPS THIS BLOG RUN. ALL OPINIONS ARE OUR OWN.
Melbourne has consistently won the world’s most liveable city and for good reason. It is also a favorite for many travelers to Australia (us included). Not only is it close to the water, but a trip to Melbourne offers access to world-renown restaurants, cultural events, stunning architecture, a laidback atmosphere, one of the best street art scenes, and many amazing day-trips. While you could spend a week lounging around the city, one day is all you need to see the main sights and get a feel for the city. The true draw to the state of Victoria is the famous Great Ocean Road, so after your day at Melbourne, rent a car and get out of the city!
Where to Stay in Melbourne
Melbourne’s CBD (Central Business District)
If you’re only spending one day in Melbourne, the CBD is the place to be for all of the action. You will be close to all of the best shopping, street art, some of Melbourne’s most famous sights, free public transit, and amazing restaurants. The central business district is Melbourne’s city centre. There is a mix of skyscraper office buildings, hotels, high-end shops, and every type of restaurant you can imagine. Due to the melting pot demographics of Melbourne, you can find almost every cuisine. Melbourne is also known for its efficient tram system that can take you around all the street’s in the CBD’s grid. The free tram zone covers most 0of the hotels and popular sights in the area, so you’ll be able to travel around for free!
Great Southern Hotel Melbourne – For the budget-conscious who want their own room, this hotel is perfect. It is located right across from the main train station and airport shuttle drop-offs.
Forest-Themed Airbnb – For a truly unique place, check out this decked-out Airbnb decorated like a magical forest. It is centrally located and might end up being one of the coolest places you’ll ever stay.
Grand Hyatt Melbourne – Located within walking distance of Federation Square and Hosier Lane, the Grand Hyatt is a great option for travelers with an upper or mid-range budget. It is a classy hotel with great amenities and some of the best views of Melbourne. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt and were a bit sad that we only had one night there. One large benefit though is that they have a car rental company on site, so we just had to go to the parking lot to pick up our car for our great ocean road trip.
Just across the Yarra River from the Central Business District is the urban neighborhood of Southbank. Southbank is made up of many high-rise apartment buildings and office complexes, but also great restaurants and lots going on. It is a bit more tourist-focused than the CBD which can be very quiet at night. There seems to always be something going on in the Southbank and too many restaurants or bars to choose between. You are also just a short walk across the bridge away from the CBD. Hotel prices are similar to those in the CBD.
Travelodge Hotel Melbourne Southbank – Located right on the Southbank, this Travelodge is a more affordable option for a comfy centrally-located hotel.
The Langham, Melbourne – For a more luxurious Southbank experience, the Langham offers a higher level of service, food, and design.
Luxury Southbank Apartment on Airbnb – If you want a bit more of a local feel to your accommodation, stay in an apartment. You might start to see just why it is the most liveable city in the world.
If you will be staying in Melbourne a bit longer or this is your second or third trip to Melbourne, consider St. Kilda. This seaside suburb is close to the beach and has a bit more of a relaxed atmosphere. It is 6 km south of the CBD, but accessible by tram. The popular attractions in the area include Luna Park, Fitzroy Street, and St. Kilda Beach. It is also important to note that parts of this area have a long history as a red-light district if that is something that concerns you. There are fewer hotel options in this area, but you might be able to get a good deal.
Charming Chalet Airbnb – This adorable home on a quiet street of St. Kilda provides its own relaxation. It is within walking distance of the beach and restaurants.
Melbourne Hostel – There are very few hostels in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD, but they are aplenty in the trendy St. Kilda neighborhood.
How to use Melbourne’s Public Transit
Melbourne might be one of the easiest cities to navigate thanks to the neat grid system and cable cars. If you are sticking to the CBD, you will likely be within the free tram zone for your entire trip! That means there is no need to get a new metro card or worry about fares or contemplate walking instead.
Once you are at a tram station, first ensure that you are standing on the right side of the tracks. Each tram stop has two waiting platforms – one for the direction that you want to go and another that you don’t want to be on. You can look at the platform screens to see which trams are coming (note which direction they are going) or just look at the trams in the distance to determine. You’ll know that you are in the free-tram zone if you see the green free tram zone signs covering the railings. When the tram comes, hop on and take it to the stop you want to get off at. An overhead speaker will announce each stop and when you are leaving the free-tram zone.
To figure out which tram you should get on and how many stops you need to go, we used Google or Apple maps. The Victoria Public Transit authority also has an app (Tram Tracker). We found that either Google or Apple Maps is more helpful since it adds in the walking directions to get you exactly where you want to go. While Google or Apple Maps does not have real-time info on if a certain tram is running late or not, other apps and even the screens at the platforms are not the most reliable. However, on a whole, the public transit system in Melbourne runs very smoothly and who doesn’t love trams?
Understanding Melbourne’s Weather
Step one: realize that you will never understand Melbourne’s weather. We were in Melbourne for 24 hours in January. In that time, it went from 110ºF (43ºC) to 50ºF (10ºC). It also went from extremely sunny to incredibly windy to pouring rain. In the weeks before we arrived, Melbourne experienced both multi-day heat waves and severe flooding. A few weeks after we left, they got snow (during the Australian summer!).
Melbourne is yet another one of those places that can experience all four seasons in one day.
Here is what we do know about Melbourne’s climate: compared to Sydney, it has less rainfall and is less humid. Melbourne’s winter (May–September) is mild. The temperatures are typically in the 40s-50sºF (5-15ºC) and very infrequently snows. Melbourne’s summers are typically in the 70s F (20ºC) but can vary widely.
What to see in Melbourne
Melbourne is known for some amazing modern architecture, one of the best places to see that firsthand is Federation Square. The architecture is a deconstructionist style with angular and geometric features. Federation Square is Melbourne’s event hub. More than 2000 are held here each year, from food festivals to music performances to sports on the big screen. Even without an event, you will likely see groups of friends hanging around the square.
Federation square is across the street from Flinders Street Station, the busiest station in Melbourne and one of its most iconic buildings.
In between all of Melbourne’s impressive buildings are small colorful alleys, covered in ever-changing graffiti or tall murals. If you are looking for some street art hotspots, check out: Hosier Lane, Centre Place, AC/DC Lane, Caledonian Lane, Croft Alley, or Duckboard Place. There is so much free art you can explore just by walking around the city.
City Circle Tram line
While all of the CBD trams are great for tourists, there is one that is specially designed for visitors to Melbourne. The City Circle Tram Line is made up of iconic old-fashioned W-class maroon trams. The trams stop at all of the major sights and include commentary. The entire route is free, whether you want to use to hop on and hop off or ride the whole loop. The City Circle Tram Line is denoted Route 35. It runs in both directions approximately every 30 minutes (depending on the season and day of the week).
Some of the best stops on the line include the Queen Victoria Market (Queen St & La Trobe St), Carlton Gardens (La Trobe St & Victoria St), and the Docklands (The District, Docklands).
The Docklands, or Waterfront City, is an important harbor, business district, and shopping centre in Melbourne. Along with the unique architecture, you’ll see contemporary art sculptures everywhere. There are also many places to shop for souvenirs, clothes or electronics. The Docklands also includes some of Melbourne’s finest restaurants with views of the water. You can also ride Melbourne’s take on the London Eye – the Melbourne Star, a giant Ferris wheel that is illuminated at night.
Southbank is a neighborhood just south of the Yarra River from Melbourne’s CBD. Check out this area by walking or running along the Yarra River on Southbank Promenade (after crossing Princes Bridge). There are plenty of restaurants facing the water if you are in need of a good meal. Instead of looking at the water while eating, you can float down the river on a dinner cruise.
Old Melbourne Gaol
Australia has a long history with convicts and jails. The Old Melbourne Goal is a museum at the site of an infamous jail. The museum takes you through the old cells and displays old memorabilia from the most notorious criminals. The prison was in operation from 1849 to 1924 and during that time, 135 people were hanged. Admission is a bit steep at $28 per adult, but you’ll likely have memories or haunting images from this place for a while.