The road to Melbourne is spectacular no matter the direction from which the city is approached. There is a route through the rugged Australian Alps; as well as a Princes Highway seaside route from Sydney that passes beautiful sandy beaches. The Hume Highway is lined with vineyards and fine wineries; and the drive from Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road provides a showcase for some of Australia’s most dramatic scenery.
Melbourne (pronounced Mel bun) is located on the banks of the Yarra River and overlooks the huge expanse of Port Phillip Bay, a sailing and boating paradise. Its beautiful beaches provide recreation for local residents and visitors throughout the year. The many parks along the banks of the Yarra and the Maribyrnong Rivers are popular spots for picnics, parties and barbecues by the water.
Magnificent landscaped gardens and parklands make Melbourne one of the greenest cities in the world.
The streets of the city center are alive with thousands of residents bustling in and out of buildings that are a blend of grand Victorian and modern architecture and house everything from outstanding galleries to opulent theatres. Hundreds of designer fashion boutiques, many shops and countless rows of sophisticated little cafés line the main thoroughfares.
Over 3000 restaurants present fine cuisine accompanied by superb local wines. This friendly multicultural city is home to people from over 140 nations, a fact that is reflected in the excellence and diversity of the food choices that are available. There is something to please everyone.
Green and gold trams circle the city providing efficient transportation in the gracious style of days gone by. Children will love the riverboat cruises, water taxis and gondola rides that provide the best in aquatic travel on the Yarra River. They will also enjoy a visit to a shark at Melbourne Aquarium and an afternoon at the Melbourne zoo.
It’s only a short ferry boat ride across Port Phillip Bay to Williamstown and St Kilda, the beach suburbs that function as the playgrounds of Melbourne.
This cosmopolitan and sophisticated city hosts major cultural festivals, world famous horse races, smash hit musicals and international sporting events throughout the year. Melbourne Festival, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Qantas Australian Grand Prix, Australian Football League finals series, Spring Racing Carnival, Australian Open, Melbourne Comedy Festival and Melbourne Food and Wine Festival are just a few of the key events.
Melbourne is the gateway to the State of Victoria. Victoria’s walking and riding trails provide the perfect getaway for anyone who enjoys the beauty of the out of doors. They cover diverse landscapes ranging from National Park wilderness to immaculate gardens, from serene lakes to endless beaches, from rolling mountain ranges to deserts. Many hiking trails can be found close to Melbourne within easy driving distance of the city.
Scientists believe that Australia is a piece of continental crust that broke away from Antarctica about 50 million years ago. The result is that many reminders of Australia’s Antarctic heritage remain, and have over the centuries provided challenges to those who immigrated and sought to remake Australia in the image of their native lands.
In the 1800’s attempts were made to make the country look more like Europe. Salmon, sparrows, and trout were among the species introduced. All of them competed with native animals and forced their counterparts into extinction. Too much of the land was cleared; erosion took place, and sources of drinking water became contaminated by salt run off. Since the 1980’s there has been a massive team effort by environmentalists and farmers to reverse the extensive damage and to restore the land to its original beauty.
Their efforts have paid off. Instead of trying to mould Australia to fit modern European farming methods, agriculturists have learned to work in concert with the naturally occurring dust storms and floods. The earliest known settlers, the Aboriginal people known as the Kooris, adapted to the ebb and flow of Australia’s seasons over 60,000 years ago, and continue to do so today.
In the early 17th century European expeditions mapped parts of the coast, but passed on by to settle in other areas of the world. In 1770 the British sailed up the eastern coast, named it New South Wales, and claimed ownership of Australia in the name of King George III. In 1778 about 800 British convicts were set ashore in what is now Sydney. This penal colony became the first European settlement on Australian soil.
In 1803 Captain David Collins settled for a time in the Melbourne area, but had to relocate due to his inability to find anything but salt water, which was unsuitable for drinking. Shortly thereafter another British settler, Sir Charles Grimes, found the Yarra River and declared it to be the ideal place for a settlement. In 1836 and 1837 many staked claims for land in the region. In 1837 the Surveyor General mapped out the grid for the city streets, and the settlement was named Melbourne. By 1840 the population had reached 10,000.
Growth began in earnest during the early 1850’s when gold was discovered and British pioneers flocked to the area in search of it. Within a few months, the State of Victoria was producing more gold than anywhere else in the world. The population leapt to 77,000 and then to 95,000. By 1860 there were 500,000!
The gold rush ended, but prosperity continued. Roads, railways, telephone and electric lines, and beautiful churches were constructed to serve the rapidly growing area. Melbourne had emerged as the financial capital of Australia. Agriculture, mining, and later brewing and flour milling were its main industries.
The lavish Royal Exhibition Building was built for the Great Exhibition of 1888. Other buildings in the style of the grand architecture of England followed. Large expanses of land were set aside for parks and gardens. A series of strikes and an extensive drought diminished the fortunes of many in the 1890’s, but prosperity soon returned. In 1901 Melbourne became the political capital of a federation of the six Australian colonies, a position held until 1927. During this period the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was formed.
The worldwide depression of 1929-1930 brought massive unemployment to Melbourne, but once again things quickly improved. Government funds were made available to put people to work building monuments and making other public improvements. By 1933 the population was over one million.
World War II had little effect on Melbourne. However, in 1945 a postwar immigration tidal wave brought to the area whole villages from Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. The blending of cultures has enriched Melbourne and added a cosmopolitan dimension.
Melbourne entered the world spotlight in 1952 with the visit of Queen Elizabeth, and again in 1956 when the city hosted the Olympic games, held in the southern hemisphere for the first time. In the 1960’s and 1970’s Melbourne welcomed many immigrants from Vietnam and China. Melbourne’s rich cultural mix includes over 60 nationalities.
In 1992 the ten year reign of the Labor party ended when a conservative Liberal/National party coalition under the leadership of Jeff Kennett was voted in. Sweeping efforts at modernization in Melbourne have occurred since that time. Highlights include Southgate, a world class casino; the new museum of Victoria, and the Tennis Center. Major national events such as the Australian Grand Prix have been attracted to Melbourne, and major renovation and restoration of the city’s buildings is continuing.
Things to do
Surf World, Surfing Museum
Beach Road, Torquay
(03) 5261 4606
Adults – $5.50; Child – $3.50;Family (2 Adults + 3 children) – $16
10am to 4pm
This is a museum that most families will enjoy, where parents don’t have to worry about their children breaking something. The museum features a large number of interactive activities for children and adults alike. There are displays that will interest those that are not surfers, as well as surf fanatics. For surfing enthusiasts, the museum offers tips on some of the best surf locations in Victoria.
Australian Toy Museum
174-180 Smith Street
Daily 10-5 Children under 18 months free.
Historic building houses toys from the 1880’s to the present. A special feature is a permanent display of dolls and doll houses. There is also a garden with a miniature steam train and the Magic Pudding Café which caters to the tastes of children.
Classic Cinema 9 Gordon Street
Sandringham Line from Flinders Station to Eksternwick Station
Sat. and Sun. and daily during school holidays.
Weekend “kids pics” present new releases and old favorites.
257 Toorak Road
No admission charge.
One of the largest indoor amusement centers in Melbourne, Fun Factory is equipped with Daytona racing machines, pinball, shooting and skill test games, pool tables, a rollerblade rink and “dodge-em” cars.
Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre
Aughtie Drive, Albert Park
Tram # 96
This combination sporting facility and playground has a wave and toddlers’ pool, a water slide, pool garden, and a diving complex. Childcare is available Mon.-Fri. 9-Noon. A school holiday program and one on Saturday mornings for children ages 5-12 are low in cost, and high in educational and entertainment value.
Red Bear’s Playhouse
134 York Street
Tram #1 or #12
Mon.- Thurs. 9:30-6:30; Friday: 9:30-8 Sat. & Sun.: 8:30-8.
Australia’s largest indoor play center has piles of plastic tubing formed into tunnels, ladders, and just piles of tubing which appeal to all ages of children. Cappuccino, television and free newspapers and magazines are provided for the entertainment of the adults.
Booker Street Spotswood
Williamstown and Werribee Lines from Flinders Street station to Spotswood Station
A series of interactive exhibits teach participants about science and technology. The subjects range from sports, to insects, to the human mind and body. There is also a digital planetarium.
8 kilometres East of Ballarat on the Western Highway
(03) 5334 7388
Fax: (03) 5334 7422
Adults $12.50 /$14.00
Children $7.00 /$8.00
Family *$37.00 /$42.00; Children under 5 are free
10am – 5pm 7 days a week
Visit a medieval castle just a short trip from Melbourne. Hidden on the hills of Warrenheip, just out of Ballarat Kryal Castle lurks, waiting to amuse the whole family with medieval re-enactments, fun games and shows. A truly magnificent day for the whole family
Collingwood Children’s Farm
St. Heliers Street
Epping Line from Flinders St. station to Victoria Park station.
Small admission charge.
Children can pet and feed a variety of farm animals (call for exact feeding times). They are also shown how to do simple farm chores and can milk a cow, etc. Farm tours instruct at a child’s level about plants and animals along the way. The first day of each month is Family Day. Horse rides and a home made farm lunch are part of the fun on these special days.
Adults: $6.00; Children: $4.00
10 – 5 everyday except Christmas Day, Good Friday & during August.
Red Hill – Shoreham Road, Shoreham 3916
This traditional hedge maze offers a great afternoon of fun for the whole family, with the main maze and other activities. My Recommendations: A fun afternoon, It could be on the way to Phillip Island if you took a detour (wink wink). The maze is just out of the lovely little seaside town of Shoreham on Western Port bay.
Cost: Adult: $17.50 Children (14-16 years): $9.00
Family (2 adults + 3 children): $49
Old Monbulk Road, Belgrave 3160
A terrific day trip for a family is Puffing Billy, Victoria’s best known steam train. Puffing Billy travels through the beautiful bush land on the Dandenong ranges. Catch Puffing Billy to Emerald, have a picnic lunch then travel back to Belgrave. A great day for all people from 2 to 102.
Adults (16 years and over) $15.95
Children (4 – 15 years, children under 4 free) $7.95
Adult students $11.90
(2 adults & up to 4 children) $43.25
Over 65 (including health care card holders) $11.90
9am to 5pm Daily (including Christmas day and public holidays)
Badger Creek Road, Healesville. (follow signs)
(03) 1902 240 592
For overseas visitors and Australian visitors alike Healesville sanctuary offers a complete relaxing day out. Explore the Sanctuary, set in the lush bush land of Healesville on the Badger creek, home to one of Australia’s most loved, and most secretive animals, the platypus. See a wide variety of Australian Fauna and flora. See emus, kangaroos, echidna’s, koala’s, possums and many other Australian natives, in natural and peaceful settings. More info
Royal Melbourne Zoo
Elliot Avenue Parkville
Tram 55,56,or 68
Melbourne Zoo is open every day of the year (including Christmas Day and all public holidays) 9.00am – 5.00pm
Adults (16 years and over) – $15.95
Children (4 to 15 years, children under 4 years free) – $7.95
Adult Students -$11.90Family Pass (2 Adults & up to 4 Children) – $43.25
You can not visit Melbourne without visiting the Royal Melbourne Zoo! The Royal Melbourne Zoo offers a large range of exotic animals, beautiful gardens and an educational experience to all its visitors young and old. Popular Meet the Keeper sessions (wombats, seals, pelicans, penguins) teach children aboout the animals in a most engaging manne. There are also twilight tours for better views of nocturnal animals. A whole day is needed to explore and enjoy the Zoo to its full extent. www.zoo.org.au
Victoria’s Open Range Zoo At Werribee
K Road, Werribee 3030
Werribee Line from Flinders Station to Werribee station.
Adults: $15.95;Children (3 – 14) $7.95
Daily: 10- 5
A great day out like the Melbourne zoo except for one thing… the people are in the enclosure. You travel around the zoo which has only African animals in a bus, in order to have a better idea of how animals interact with each other in the wild. In addition there is a 30 minute Volcanic Plains walking Trail. More info
Sovereign Hill, Ballarat
Adults: $22.00 ;Pensioners Students: $16.00;Children: $10.50;Family: $59.00
Daily 10am – 5pm (except Christmas day)
A whole day is needed for sovereign hill, it is like an educational theme park and is suitable for people of all ages and all interests, the air even feels old!
Sovereign Hill is a great place to visit for a day, the gold rush themed theme park is a great day of fun for old and young. The attraction offers many old styled shops selling lollies, hot bread and scones to metal goods will please any shop-a-holic. Children have great fun panning for gold in the creek, many usually finding some real gold dust! Visitors can go through a tour of a gold mine, and see a lot of real gold! More info
Geelong Naval & Maritime Museum
Located near the stables at the rear of Osborn House
Swinburne Street, North Geelong
Adults: $2; Children: 50Ē;Family: $4
Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10am – 4pm
The museum is set in the first Australian Naval College (from 1913-1919). The museum has a wealth of information and a large and interesting range of exhibits. The museum includes model ships and submarines, and the museum is said to be haunted by a ghost! an interesting day for all those interested in history and ships. you will need about 1 – 2 hours to visit the museum.
Seal Rocks Sea Life Centre
Seal Rocks, The Nobbys, Phillip Island. (follow signs)
1300 367 325
Adults: $11.00; Children: Free
10 am – dusk (see Sea Life Centre web site for approximate dusk time during your visit)
One of the most popular attractions at Phillip Island, along with the Penguin Parade and Koala Conservation Center is Seal Rocks, the sea life center offers educational and enjoyable insights into the life of the Australian Fur Seal. The Center displays views of Seal Rocks and the Nobbies, which is home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony. There is also a sea gull rockery a few penguins. www.phillipisland.com
18 Lower Esplanade, St Kilda
03 9625 5033
Admission to Luna Park is free.
(Weather permitting):Friday:7p.m.-11p.m; Saturday: 1-11pm.;
Sunday:1pm until dusk. Closed Christmas Day.
School holidays and public holidays 11 – 5
Ride ticket prices (coupons $1.00 each)
Children under 4 years: 1 coupon per ride
Children 4 to 12 years: 2 coupons per ride
Adults: 3 coupons per ride;16 coupons, $15;40 coupons, $35; 80 coupons, $60
A day of family fun is Luna Park, offering a large selection of rides including a roller coaster, ferris wheel and ghost train.. Luna Park is Melbourne’s own “mini theme park”. More info
Ballarat Wildlife Park
Fussell & York Sts. Ballarat
(03) 5333 5933
Fax: (03) 5333 4025
A public tour runs between 11.00am and 12.00pm daily as required for groups 20 and over.
Adults – $12.00 Over 65 / Students – $10.00 Children – $6.00 ;Family $30.00 (2 adults and 2 children)
9am – 5:30 pm everyday (except Christmas day)
This superb wildlife park, just 4 minutes from Sovereign hill features many native Australian animals including Koalas, Wombats, Saltwater and Freshwater Crocodiles, Tasmanian Devils, Goannas, Giant Tortoises, Wedge-tailed Eagles, venomous and non venomous Snakes, Wallabies, free-range Kangaroos, Emus and many more. There are plenty of opportunities to have your picture taken with an animal.
100 Windermere Road, Lara
(03) 13 19 63
Adults: $5;Child / Concession: $2.50;Family (2 Adults & 6 Children): $12.50
10am – 4pm daily
Take a walk with Australian wildlife and have a close encounter with Brolga, Kangaroos, Emus, and waterfowl. Delightful picnic areas are available with barbeques in this wetland setting. Discover the serenity of Serendip Sanctuary. A delightful visit for the whole family, particularly animal lovers. This is a relaxing day, and a whole day is needed to walk the entire park at a nice steady relaxing pace. It is well worth a visit, spring time (September – November) is the best time to visit, as there is a lot of cute baby birds.
Adults: $19.00; Children: $9.00
Daily 9am – 6pm
Corner of Queenswharf Road & King Street, Melbourne
This is one of Melbourne’s newest attractions, situated at Southbank, opposite the Crown Casino on the tranquil Yarra river. It has a large collection of fish and sharks enjoying life in its aquariums and oceanarium. The aquarium towers 2 stories high and goes one story underground, and is even under the Yarra itself! Some of the aquarium attractions include a coral atoll, oceanarium, and billabong display. More info
Adults: $12.50;Children: (4-16): $6.50;Family: 30.40
Hours change depending on the time of year. the penguins come in just after sun set.
Summerland Beach, Phillip Island
Visitors to Phillip Island look forward to the Penguin Parade. The penguins put on an impromptu show just by performing their ordinary daily routines. You do need to wear something very warm in the evening as the cold sea breeze is part of the fun. More info
Royal Botanic Gardens
Birdwood Avenue, South Yarra, 3141
7:30am – Sunset
The Royal Botanic Gardens are situated on the edge of Melbourne next to the Yarra River . Surrounding them is a beautiful lake with ducks, eels and swans. The gardens contain a variety of plants from all over the world. There are many beautiful spots for a picnic lunch by the lake on the lush green lawns. This is a country garden right in the heart of Melbourne! Remember to take a little extra bread as the children enjoy feeding the swans, ducks and eels. Visitors usually bring their own food as the kiosk is quite expensive.
Anakie Fairy Park
2388 Ballan Road Anakie 3221
Adults: $7;Children: $3.50
Daily – 10am to 4pm
This is a fascinating place for a family day trip, set in the mountains of the Brisbane ranges, southwest of Melbourne. The Fairy park offers playgrounds, walks and attractions to please the whole family. A whole day could easily be spent exploring. The park has a medieval castle theme and is truly magical. There is quite a bit of walking involved as the park is on a hill.