Offering a unique wildlife experience that most other zoological facilities in Australia can not, Werribee Open Range Zoo is easily one of the best in the country. The zoo is based around the concept of emulating an authentic African savannah situated in a location just 30 minutes from the heart of Melbourne's city centre.
Set within a huge 225 hectares worth of open savannah, the zoo takes special care to create realistic displays and endeavours to contain a huge amount of variety of safari animals.
The option for visitors to walk around the zoo is available, however, the highlight that many rave about is the special safari tour (included within the admission price) which takes you on a safari-style bus ride through the habitats of the rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, antelopes and more. If that's not enough, you can purchase an additional Off-Road Safari to take you closer to the animals and for longer.
The option also exists to book yourself in to stay overnight in the zoo with the Slumber Safari. As the zoo closes and the visitors leave, you'll be left with a small group to explore the zoo and get a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the zoo and the animals.
Werribee is a great place to visit not only due to the quality of the facility itself but also because they often offer free entry to children under the age of 16 during the school holidays. It is a good idea to check scheduled dates of free entry to confirm before planning your trip.
Come face to face with a pride of lions, see playful monkeys and cheetahs having fun in their homes, and discover the zoo's family of hippos at the Kubu River Hippos experience. All of the enclosures are reflective of the principle of keeping the animals roaming free rather than caged in specific exhibits and this is what gives the zoo a more comfortable advantage when compared to other zoos around the country.
If you're in Melbourne and have even a passing interest in animals and wildlife, then Werribee Open Range Zoo is a definite must-do while in the area.
7. The Dandenong Ranges
Location: Mount Dandenong
One of the Melbourne/Victoria region’s true hidden gems, the under-appreciated Dandenong Ranges should be a staple on every visitor to Victoria’s itinerary. The ranges are spectacular and feature a blend of lush Australian rainforest, lovely walking tracks, and plenty of nearby small towns full of quaint shops make a visit there a charming, must-do experience.
A mere 30 to 45-minute drive from Melbourne itself is all it takes to get to the ranges, and the Dandenongs are a great way to get out of the city and spend a day out immersed in nature with friends or family.
There are multiple things to do while in the Dandenongs including a huge range of walks that will give you a close-up view of giant Mountain Ash forests, waterfalls, picnic grounds and secret historical areas that remain hidden out in the bush with lookouts that provide panoramic views back out to Melbourne and all the countryside in between.
One of the most acclaimed experiences within the Dandenong Ranges is the iconic Puffing Billy steam train ride, Australia’s most famous narrow-gauge railway. The train winds leisurely and scenically through the mountainside while providing an enchanting, spectacular viewing experience of both the pristine wilderness and the native wildlife that populate the area including kookaburras, bellbirds and more.
Other essential highlights that are must-sees in the region to be experienced along the way include the beauty of Sherbrooke Forest and the quaint mountain village of Sassafras, along with the traditional gardens within the Dandenong Ranges National Park.
6. City Circle Tram
Location: Melbourne CBD
Operating within the Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne, this FREE City Circle Tram service is one of the most convenient ways to see the city’s highlights and travel from one point to the next.
With such essential Melbourne-area attractions accessible along its route as the Melbourne Aquarium, Old Melbourne Gaol, Federation Square, the Immigration Museum and more, easy access is provided for visitors to the city who may not have their own transport available.
The tram itself retains an old, vintage-style look that adds to the charm of the experience and the authenticity of the ride, while running in both directions at intervals of around ever 12 minutes between the hours of 10am and 6pm every Sunday to Wednesday with extended hours available from 10am to 9pm from Thursday to Saturday.
The tram serves as a great way for gaining a sense of orientation on your first day in the city, as it not only helps you get your bearings but also comes stocked with information on what there is to see and do in Melbourne on board. The information on board allows you to have a look at various maps, pamphlets and other documents that will help you get a feel for what the city has to offer visitors.
Audio commentary is also provided along the way for tourists that helps to point out key buildings and history while travelling from one destination to the next. The City Circle Tram is a great, efficient way to get around the city, at the best possible price, free!
5. Melbourne Zoo
Location: Elliot Avenue, Parkville, Melbourne
One of the best wildlife facilities in Australia is within easy reach of the majority of accommodation in the Melbourne CBD – Melbourne Zoo.
Standing as a world-class facility, Melbourne Zoo is spread over a large distance so that the animals inside are provided with ample space in which to feel comfortable and move about and is divided up into various regions of animals reflecting their worldwide location
Visiting the Zoo offers an opportunity to get back in touch with the many wonders of nature while being located only 4km from the Melbourne city centre.
Set within a comfortable and scenic botanic garden setting, the zoo provides a relaxing atmosphere with a variety of landscapes, from the Victorian-era formality of the main drive to the lush jungles of the Asian and African rainforest areas.
With numerous animals of all kinds to see, you will most likely need to dedicate a full day at Melbourne Zoo in order to see everything. Some of the most widely-acclaimed highlights of which include the elephant enclosure, meerkats, and of course many of the typical Aussie favourites such as kangaroos, koalas, echidnas and more.
As the Zoo is extremely popular, the venue can often get quite crowded, especially on weekends and during school holidays (during which children can enter for free), so getting there early or choosing regular weekdays to visit is generally a good idea.
4. Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens
Location: Birdwood Ave, South Yarra, Melbourne
A truly impressive feat of the art of landscaping, Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens offers a picturesque setting that extends over a huge, expansive 36 hectares worth of displays that contain over 50,000 plants.
Regardless of what season you visit, you will be guaranteed to see a diverse range of plant collections, participate in unique tours. You'll also gain an appreciation as to why it has a reputation as one of the world’s finest gardens and is annually listed as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Melbourne.
Beautifully maintained, the gardens also offer plenty of shaded areas under which visitors can simply relax and soak in the peaceful atmosphere while gazing upon the lovely, natural surrounds – all while situated in the heart of the Melbourne CBD.
With plenty of walking tracks spread throughout, the layout of the Botanic Gardens ensures that the wide variety of panoramas can be easily taken in while enjoying either a leisurely stroll or a brisk jog through its myriad pathways.
With so many gorgeous areas in the grounds of the park to both explore and study, it would take multiple days to see it all, which makes multiple visits possible. They even offer outdoor movie screenings in the gardens doing the summertime, which can make for a magical viewing experience under the starry, balmy summer skies.
For more information on the outdoor cinema experience in the Melbourne Royal Botanical Gardens, check out their website at www.moonlightcinema.com.au for listings. Whether you go for the entire day, a couple of hours, or a quick half-hour stroll, no matter how long you spend here, you’re sure to leave in an improved mood!
3. National Gallery of Victoria
Location: 180 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Those in need of a dose of culture can make the easy trip to the National Art Gallery of Victoria, located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD, for exactly what you need.
As Australia’s oldest dedicated art gallery that opened way back in 1861, this pristine and beautiful testament to human creativity is one of the pride and joys of Melbourne that is filled with visually impressive art and fantastic exhibitions all-year-round.
Its series of modern, light-filled galleries ensures every piece of artwork and sculpture is illuminated to their fullest effect, and the displays themselves are many and varied, ensuring there is something here for all fans of not only art but culture in general as well.
The building of the gallery itself is slick and modern, appropriately reflective of the contents inside, with a stunning stained-glass ceiling adorning the top of its main room that adds an extra layer of artistry to what is already a very worthwhile Melbourne attraction.
Regardless of when you visit, there is always something happening at the Gallery, plus most of the exhibitions are FREE so it makes for a great place on those days in Melbourne when the rain happens to be coming down.
Melbourne is truly lucky to be the home of one of the best art galleries in the world; if you have even a passing interest in art in general, you will not want to miss the National Art Gallery of Victoria (NGA.)
2. The Shrine of Remembrance
Location: Birdwood Ave, Melbourne
Victoria’s largest war memorial and perhaps Melbourne’s most recognised landmark, the Shrine of Remembrance stands as a lasting tribute to our country’s fallen soldiers and various other servicemen who sacrificed their lives during the First and Second World Wars to help ensure our freedom.
Holding over 120 ceremonies and commemorative services throughout the year, the Shrine is also one of the most active venues for paying tribute to our heroes and is also situated in a great vantage point that offers beautiful views of Melbourne city itself as well as the bay area, it makes for a must-visit while in the city for both historical and scenic purposes.
An appropriately solemn atmosphere surrounds the shrine (as it should do), and its architectural design mimics that of ancient Greece – a metaphor for a people with which the ANZACs identified themselves during their time deployed in action.
Visiting the Shrine of Remembrance can be a deeply moving experience, and one that which young children especially may not find particularly interesting or be able to fully understand – thus it is advisable to ensure they are on their best behaviour throughout.
One of the nicest touches which visitors may want to aim to be there for is the daily ceremonial taking down of the flags at 5 pm. This is a solemn yet spine-tingling experience, one that can not be had anywhere else in the proximity of the Melbourne CBD, let alone the large majority of the rest of Australia.
1. The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
Location: Brunton Ave, Richmond