SEVEN RAD THINGS TO DO AROUND MELBOURNE
Melbourne is one of the few places I’ve visited twice. In a world of new adventures, I often opt to visit new places instead of returning to old destinations. However, thanks to an Aussie best friend who quickly showed me local routes and Australian culture, I fell in love with Australia’s most artistic city.
1. Get a Drink at a Mental Asylum
Melbourne’s drinking scene dwarfs almost every major U.S. hub. Their culture has created some of the coolest bars and after-work hangouts in Australia. There is a rooftop lawn in the middle of the city that hosts weekly movie nights, an open-air bar made entirely of wooden pallets and barrels, and even a mental-asylum lounge hidden in the depths of the city.
To find The Croft Institute, you’ll have to follow an eerie alleyway a few hundred feet until it dead ends. On the right will be a small door and a bar that serves shots in syringes and has gurney’s in every bathroom. Toward the end of the night, you might just believe you’re going crazy.
2. Take a Trip to Bell’s Beach & Torquay
An easy day trip from Melbourne takes you to one of the world’s best surfing beaches. Torquay is a small surfing town along the Southern Ocean which reminds me of Hawaii’s North Shore. Stay in Bell’s Beach Backpackers hostel and spend the day beach hopping and hiking along the Lorne-Queenscliff Coastal Reserve. Just over four miles up the trail is Bell’s Beach, the home to the world’s longest running surf competition.
Want to learn to surf? A handful of tour companies offer lessons and day trips from Melbourne for those seeking to learn on some of the best beginner beaches in the world. In fact, it’s where I first took to the waves on my visit in 2012.
3. See Penguins at St. Kilda
Every evening right around sunset, St. Kilda’s population of fairy penguins starts appearing from the ocean to head to bed among the rocks on the pier. That’s right! You don’t have to travel to Antarctica to get a glimpse of these adorable balls of joy. Arrive early to get the best spot for viewing.
There is a strict no flash photography rule as it damages the eyesight of the penguins, so plan accordingly and respect the rules. Yes, there are workers who monitor and yes you will get called out. Don’t be that person.
These workers will also help spot penguins in the dark with special red-light flashlights.
4. Get Your Climb On at Northside Boulders
Melbourne may not have big rock walls or natural bouldering, but the city is spotted with a handful of gyms (and even a free outdoor bouldering wall). Northside Boulders is about a fifteen-minute train ride north of the city and features a decent-sized wall with fun routes that focus both on technical and endurance bouldering.
Make sure to show up early. In the afternoon the gym rapidly becomes one of Brunswick's hottest hangout locations.
Photo courtesy of Northside Boulders
5. Road Trip the Great Ocean Road
Although a popular tourist attraction, the Twelve Apostles along Australia's southern coast are a vastly changing and unique landscape any traveler will love. Just a few hours drive from Melbourne, you can spend the day winding down the Great Ocean Road arriving at the Twelve Apostles shortly before sunset. While most of the crowd will fight for a picture atop the rocky cliffs, sneak away to a back beach to find where all the magic happens.
6. Eat Your Body Weight in Food
What Melbourne lacks in Mexican food they make up for in nearly everything else. Melbourne’s food scene can get pricey, but the authentic cuisine makes it worth every penny. On my second visit, I think I spent most of my budget eating Thai food at every possible moment and since being home, I’ve silently wept into more than one Thai dish while quietly whispering “it’s just not the same.”
7. Spend the Day Like a Local
When rounding out my list of things to do in Melbourne, I turned to a local expert (and saint who puts up with me every time I show up at her doorstep eager to chase kangaroos) Courtney Clark to give an insider scoop on Australia’s southernmost major city.
“Spend the day relaxing on the beach, followed by a short drive or metro ride into the city for afternoon drinks. In the evening, relax at a local Airbnb or take a walk through one of the city’s many parks or natural wetland areas. Melbourne is incredibly diverse. You can go from the beach to the metropolitan center to the bush (country) all within an hour.”
The city’s culture continues to boom and the list of things to do around Melbourne is growing constantly. Whether looking for a relaxing beach vacay or a grungy artists retreat, Melbourne ticks all the boxes.
Soulful adventurer. Probably lost. Definitely eating ice cream.
In her late-teens, Shalee drove out of her small hometown watching the sunset behind her along the two-lane highway. Her ventures began in Michigan, where she taught herself to travel on a budget. Today, Shalee shares her tips and stories to thousands of readers interested in adventure, budget, and outdoor travel. Learn more about her here.