Melbourne is the capital city of the state of Victoria in Australia. It has the largest population in Victoria and the second largest in all of Australia. In late 2009, there were approximately four million people living there. Although most people imagine Sydney to be the tourist attraction, nearly 8 million Australians visit Melbourne every year and in 2008, they spent more money there than in Sydney. Over two million international visitors visit annually. Let’s take at look at the most popular tourist attractions in Melbourne to see why it’s so popular.
Epicurean Food and Wine Tours
Epicurean Tours were founded in 1999. They offer the ideal way to sample the world renowned Yarra Valley wines, cheeses and fruits. The emphasis is on luxury with the groups kept deliberately small. You are picked up from your hotel and taken in air-conditioned luxury to sample wines at De Bortoli Winery (a third generation Italian vineyard), Yering Station Winery (which also has a store selling their produce and an Art Gallery), Coldstream Hills Winery and the 100 year old Yarra Valley Dairy and Yarra Valley Wine Hub. Enjoy lunch at Domaine Chandon which has beautiful views of the lake and vineyards.
All of the professional guides are experts in the area and its’ produce to ensure that you have the best experience. Visitors have rated the Epicurean Food and Wine Tours as number one out of a choice of 188 visitor attractions so be sure not to miss it.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade Tour
Start with a guided tour of the amazing Australian Garden, followed by a visit to the Chocolate Factory at Phillip Island – tasting included! Travel on to the Koala Conservation Centre and then enjoy the stunning coastline of Phillips Island on the way to watching the amazing ‘Penguin Parade’. Every night at sunset, hundreds of fairy penguins come out of the sea and head for their burrows on the sand.
Take a tour of some of Pentridge Prions where some of Melbourne’s most notorious criminals were detained at h]Her Majesty’s pleasure. You can sign up for a two hour ghost tour of the prison where Chopper Reed was incarcerated, and experience the last moments of Ronald Ryan – the last man to be executed in Australia.
National Gallery of Victoria
Although there are many galleries in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria was voted the third best attraction out of 188 choices by visitors. It is Australia’s oldest Art Gallery and has been welcoming art lovers since 1861 and was re-developed in the 1990’s to meet growing demand. The gallery now has two buildings – The Ian Potter Centre (housing Australian Art) at Federation Square and the NGV International (Worldwide Art) at St Kilda Road.
There are permanent exhibits and constant special exhibitions so check their website to see what’s currently on offer.
Queen Victoria Market
Queen Victoria Market is situated on the corner of Queen and Elizabeth Streets in the Melbourne CBD and is easily accessed by foot, car, train, tram or bus.
Open since 1878, this is Victoria’s best open-air market. Nearly half of the market sells fresh produce, including vegetables, fruit, meat, poultry, seafood and delicatessen items. The rest of the maket offers a variety of specialized goods and is a haven for shoppers. Sunday is the best day for hunting out special items.
Free Tram Service – City Circle
Getting around in Melbourne doesn’t have to be expensive…in fact, some of it is free! The free City Circle Tram runs every twelve minutes from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays to Wednesday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Christmas Day and Good Friday).
As the name suggests, it runs in a circle and is a hop-on, hop-off service. It passes Melbourne Aquarium, Old Melbourne Gaol, Parliament House, the Immigration Museum, Etihad Stadium and Federation Square City, so you could just sit tight and enjoy the free tour.
The trams run Clockwise and Anti-Clockwise. The Clockwise service starts at Flinders Street and stops at Harbour Esplande, Docklands Drive, La Trobe Street, Victoria Street, Nicholson Street, Spring Street and back to Flinders Street.
The Anti-Clockwise service starts at Flinders Street and goes the other way, starting with Spring Street.
No wonder it was voted the fifth best attraction in Melbourne!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Located on the corner of Gisborne Street and Cathedral Place in East Melbourne, St Patrick’s Cathedral was consecrated in 1897. It was designed by William Wardell and is the finest ecclesiastical building in Australia. It is an amazing example of Gothic Revival architecture and although the outside reflects this austerity, the inside is bathed in wonderful golden light. The Cathedral has perfect acoustics which makes it a popular setting for recitals on its’ renowned organ as well as concerts by musicians and choral societies. A wonderful place to get some calm and inner peace in the bustle of an international city.
Old Melbourne Gaol
Old Melbourne Gaol is at 377 Russell Street (between La Trobe and Victoria Sts) and is on the Free Circle Tram route.
It was built in 1842 and by the time it closed in 1929, it had seen 135 people hung, including Australia’s most infamous citizen, the bushranger Ned Kelly. Kelly’s revolver is on display at the Gaol.
There are many events at the Gaol and one of the most highly rated by visitors is the Hangman’s Tour. The Old Gaol is said to be Australia’s most haunted building and Michael Gateley was the Gaol’s busiest and most brutal hangman. If you’d like to spend a ninety minute candlelit vigil in the Gaol, booking is essential.
Melbourne Zoo is located only minutes north from the city centre, within Royal Park. It is Australia’s oldest zoo and showcases over 350 species of animals. The zoo offers a variety of unique experiences where keepers will take you to restricted areas so that you can get a close up view of big cats, gorillas, reptiles, tree kangaroos and koalas. The elephant experience is temporarily off limits due to the birth of the zoos first baby elephant, Mali – who is well worth a visit!
Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)
Melbourne Cricket Ground is at Brunton Avenue in Richmond and is visited by more than 3 million people each year.
MCG Tours take around an hour and include a tour guide. Tours depart from Gate 3 on all non-event days from 10am-3pm (except Christmas Day and Good Friday).
The MCG is also home to the National Sports Museum which is open from 10am-5pm every day, unless a sporting event is happening at the MCG, when access times to the museum will vary. The museum houses exhibitions on Australian football, cricket, the MCG, the Olympics and more.
St Kilda Beach
Not many cities have a beach a mere 6km from their centre but Melbourne does. In Edwardian and Victorian days, St Kilda was the home of the rich and there were many palatial homes on the waterfront. Like New York’s Coney Island, St Kilda then slumped into a recession and was a home of prostitutes and drug addicts. Happily, it is now enjoying resurgence, due in part to property prices soaring. The beach is now one of the top tourist attractions with popular restaurants and cafes. Luna Park is the beachs’ historic fun fair and is well worth a visit. There are also good shops and markets as well as parks and nightclubs. Don’t forget to find Acland Street for its’ famous cake shops and look for Robe Street (off Acland Street) which still has some amazing Edwardian houses.
Melbourne really does have something for everyone. These attractions are just a fraction of what Melbourne has to offer, so if you’re headed for Australia, make sure you stop by!