Melbourne has plenty to keep visitors on the go, including a superb range of world-class attractions.
From meeting the fascinating creatures of the deep at SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, to riding a fully restored heritage steam train through the Dandenong Ranges and watching the little penguins of Phillip Island strut their stuff, here are ten of the best Melbourne tourist attractions to experience during your stay.
Eureka Tower soars 300 metres into the Melbourne sky and its distinctive architecture is instantly recognisable from across the city. Keep an eye out for The Edge poking out from the top of the building. It’s a glass cube where the floor literally dissolves in front of your very eyes! From Eureka Skydeck 88, you’ll enjoy absolutely spectacular views of the CBD and many of Melbourne’s famous landmarks.
Nothing beats experiencing a sporting match at the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), but if you don’t have that option you can still get up close and personal with the ‘G’ on a guided venue tour. Go behind the scenes and see the player change rooms, players’ balcony, Bill Lawry Cricket Centre and the Long Room, and take a walk on the hallowed turf (all subject to availability). The MCG is also home to the Australian Sports Museum, which offers an amazing range of interactive experiences.
A ride on Puffing Billy in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne is a chance to step back in time to the era of Victorian steam train travel. The fully restored heritage locomotive meanders along between Belgrave and Gembrook, and has been enthralling visitors of all ages for decades. The Puffing Billy railway came into service at the turn of the 20th century as part of a drive to develop rural parts of Victoria. Today the service is one of the state’s premier tourist attractions, and one that appeals to all ages.
Around 500,000 people make the 90-minute trip from Melbourne to Phillip Island every year to see the Penguin Parade at sunset. The little penguins’ mad dash up the beach to their rookery follows what can be up to four weeks of fishing in Bass Strait. Watching the penguins arrive home has been popular with tourists for almost a century. Hire a car and head down to the island under your own steam, or book a penguin tour from Melbourne.
Melbourne Zoo is Australia’s oldest zoological park, and is home to a huge array of animals, including species from Africa, Asia and of course — Australia. See the popular orangutans in their dedicated treetop exhibit, venture into the Australian Bush exhibit to meet native Aussie animals, stroll through the beautiful Butterfly House, and walk the Trail of the Elephants. There is no entry charge for children under the age of four and all children can enter the zoo free of charge on weekends, public holidays and Victorian school holidays.
Zoos Victoria also operates the superb Werribee Open Range Zoo, located 40 minutes’ drive southwest of Melbourne. Encounter giraffes, rhino, antelope, zebras, and more on an African-style game drive through the zoo’s extensive open grasslands. There are lots of other furry and feathered inhabitants to meet back at the main precinct. Werribee Open Range Zoo offers a fabulous day out for the whole family.
To get up close and personal with Australia’s native wildlife, Healesville Sanctuary is a must-visit. The sanctuary is operated by Zoos Victoria and has a mission to conserve Australia’s wildlife and wild places for future generations. Explore the specialist precincts, including Animals of the Night, Dingo Country, Koala Forest and the Land of Parrots. The Tasmanian devil enclosure is always popular. Meet wombats, kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, emus and even the highly elusive platypus!
SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium is absolutely awash with amazing things to see and do. Inside this incredible underwater world (which is a bit like the TARDIS — bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside) you’ll encounter thousands of marine animals, housed in 12 separate habitat zones. See rays, jellyfish, sharks, penguins, turtles, a huge saltwater crocodile and myriad colourful tropical fish. Your ticket includes keeper presentations and the chance to see animal feedings throughout the day. For those that want to get even closer to the action, a range of unique encounters are available — including the chance to dive with sharks!
At one time it was the country’s most infamous prison, but Old Melbourne Gaol has long since been reincarnated as a museum. Bushranger Ned Kelly was jailed and executed here, along with 132 others over the life of the prison. Today, the museum is a fascinating and somewhat creepy step back in time.
The best things in life are free as the saying goes, and that’s certainly the case with Melbourne’s fabulous City Circle tram — a beautiful old-style tramcar that trundles a loop around the city, complete with audio commentary on key sights and attractions. See Federation Square, Parliament House, the Princess Theatre, Carlton Gardens, the State Library of Victoria, the Docklands and much more.
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