There is so much to do in Melbourne for the whole family, it’s hard to know where to start. Whether you’re looking to meet the elephants at the zoo, get arrested at the Old Melbourne Gaol, check out the MCG, cycle along the Yarra River, or ride a tram to St. Kilda to discover a street lined with cake shops, we’ve uncovered the best there is in Melbourne for visiting families.
Now it’s time to see how many cool experiences you can pack into your trip.
For small kids, there’s the SEA LIFE Aquarium, featuring 12 themed zones with 10,000 sea creatures, including penguins, seahorses, sharks, turtles, stingrays, and many other different kinds of fish. Open daily 9:30am-6:00pm. Located in the CBD on the corner of Flinders and King Streets.
No kid small or tall would want to miss a trip to the Melbourne Zoo. Come and see elephants, gorillas, lions, and tigers. You’ll also meet Australia’s unique native animals like the koala, platypus, wombat, and Tasmanian devil. Don’t miss the Meet the Keepers sessions to learn about the animals from the people who know them best. Open daily 9:00am-5:00pm. Located at Elliott Avenue, Parkville, inside Royal Park. Entry is free for kids three and under. Tram no.58 ‘West Coburg to Toorak’ and the ‘Upfield’ train line both run from the CBD, taking about 20 minutes, and stop right outside the Zoo.
If the weather is great, take a ride along the Yarra River. Well-maintained bike paths run from the CBD, with some paths following the river and others meandering through eucalypt forests. The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) operates a bike share scheme in the CBD however you need to be 15 years and older to ride and you can only hire two bikes at a time. A better option for most families will be to hire your bikes from Rentabike at Federation Square. They offer family rates, plus have tandem bikes, tagalongs and buggies for non-riders. Clean helmets are supplied as part of your rental and must be worn while riding.
Before you set out, grab a coffee and cross the street to check out the historic Flinders Street railway station, built in 1854, with its distinctive mustard yellow paint, and clocks under the main dome showing departure times of the next trains. A true icon of the city. Cross back over and pop into the Melbourne Visitor Centre for a free city map, brochures of attractions, public transport information, and guides to events taking place around the city.
A firm favourite of locals is Collingwood Children’s Farm where you can get up close with donkeys, pigs, goats and sheep, you help milk cows and cuddle guinea pigs too. If you’re lucky enough to visit on the second or fourth Sunday of the month, you can visit the apiary and watch the beekeepers collect the honey from the beehives, all from a protected viewing caravan. The farm also host a farmer’s market on the second Saturday of every month, from 8:00am-1:00pm. Located at 18 St Heliers St, Abbotsford. Open 9:15am to 4.45pm every day of the year. You can reach the farm by public transport or by bike following the Capital City trail from Federation Square. The trail passes right by the farm.
Next for the family is the newly opened Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery (for kids aged 0-5) at the Melbourne Museum. Get set for some serious exploration, hands-on discovery, and play-based learning, using unique objects from the museum collection. While bubs are having fun, the big kids can be inside exploring the skeletons of prehistoric animals: ten dinosaurs, three pterosaurs, and one mammal-like reptile. Animated reconstructions show how these animals lived, fought, and died millions of years ago. They can even touch dinosaur teeth! Located at 11 Nicholson St. Carlton (tram ride from CBD on City Circle and other routes). Open daily 10:00am-5:00pm.
For kids over five years old, you can’t beat a visit to ScienceWorks. Push it, pull it, spin it, bang it – a hands-on fun and interactive adventure. While you’re there, stop in at Sportsworks (included in your Scienceworks ticket) to discover the science behind moving your body. You can race against an Olympic runner, try out as a soccer goalkeeper, or zoom down the slopes in a snowboarding simulator. Located at 2 Booker St, Spotswood. Open daily 10:00-4:30pm. Free entry for kids under 16.
Sports mad kids can go behind-the-scenes of Australia’s most iconic sporting grounds, the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Take a tour of the MCG, which lets you explore the players dressing rooms, and then visit the National Sports Museum which includes the Australian Olympic Museum, the Sports Hall of Fame, and the Australian Cricket and Football Halls of Fame. Tours depart regularly between 10.00am and 3.00pm daily, and run for 75 minutes. Open daily 10:00-5:00pm. Tour and museum hours are modified when events are on at the ground – check here for details.
If you have a young Australian history buff, a visit to the Old Melbourne Gaol is a must. This prison was used between 1842 and 1929, and saw the hanging of 133 people, including Australia’s most famous bushranger Ned Kelly. The visit to the gaol is a self-guided wander through the old cells, with lots of photographs and information about the unfortunate inmates. Be sure to take the included Watch House tour, where you step back in time and get arrested and processed by police Sergeants who stay in character for the entire 30-minute tour duration. Our upper primary school aged kids love this, but it may not be suitable for young children. For the very brave, there are even Night tours of the Gaol, which must be booked in advance. Located on the route of the free City Circle tram, the goal opens daily 9:30am-5:00pm, with last entry at 3.30pm. Recommended visiting time is 1.5 hours.
If you’re hungry when you escape the gaol, simply wander down Russell St, to the corner of Lonsdale, and you’ll find the Greek Quarter where you can eat some of the best baklava outside Athens.
If visiting the goal has you curious to find out more about historic Australian rogues, there is a tonne of Ned Kelly and Burke and Wills related material held at the nearby State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street. Burke and Wills were the hapless leaders of the expedition to first cross the Australian continent from South to North. Despite near failure they are revered in Australian folklore. Seeing some of Australia’s most notorious bushranger, Ned Kelly’s relics, such as his bullet-riddled armour and death mask, family photographs, and police telegrams will bring school history lessons to life. Open daily 10:00am–5:00pm in the CBD at 328 Swanston St.
For all young sociologists, there’s the fascinating Immigration Museum where the story of migration to Australia is told in a variety of interesting ways. Open daily 10:00am-5:00pm, at 400 Flinders Street, on the route of free City Circle Tram.
Arty kids (over 5 years) will love creating their own masterpieces at ArtVo, an amazing interactive gallery with 100 larger-than-life, hand painted 3D art installations. Kids become part of the art by photographing themselves in fun and silly poses. Each of the interactive zones has a different theme; world tour, fantasia, jungle safari, classic masterpieces, dimensional dreams, imagine. The Moving Wall in the Imagine zone will completely mesmerise them! To avoid the crowds and get better photos, try to go early. Open daily 10:00am-6:00pm, on level one of the Harbour Town Shopping Centre, Docklands.
Harbour Town Shopping Centre is also home to the Dialogue in the Dark Experience, where sighted people are lead through the experience in total darkness by specially trained guides who are blind or partially sighted. Visitors explore the unseen, and learn how to interact and communicate by relying on their other senses. Tours run daily 10:00am-5:00pm, but must be booked in advance. There is also a Glowgolf course with 10 holes under special UV lighting to illuminate your way. Opening times vary.
While you’re at Docklands, don’t miss the chance to fly aboard the only giant observation wheel in the Southern hemisphere, the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel. From 120 metres above the ground, you’ll enjoy 30 minutes of 360-degree views over Melbourne’s CBD, and out over Port Phillip Bay. Open daily 11:00am-7:00pm (May to August) and 11:00am-10:00pm (September to April).
Feeling hungry? Take a 20-minute tram ride to St. Kilda, and get off at Acland Street; an entire street dedicated to cake shops. Heaven for sweet tooths!
Just around the corner, the next stop is for thrill-seeking kids. Luna Park is home to the oldest, continually operating wooden roller coaster in the world. Entry to the park is free, individual ride tickets or unlimited day passes are available. Opens 11:00am-6:00pm weekends and public holidays, and local school holidays. Located at Lower Esplanade, St Kilda.
If the kids still need to burn off excess energy, nearby there’s the St Kilda Adventure Playground, with a flying fox, trampolines, a wooden maze, giant ship and castle. Best suited to 5 to 12-year-olds. Open Mon-Fri 3:30pm-5:30pm, and Sat-Sun 10:00am-5.30pm. Located off Neptune St, St Kilda.
If your kids love to climb, then Clip’n Climb Melbourne would be worth a visit. It’s indoor climbing but nothing like they’ve tried before, with 37 climbing challenges, and if they’re up for it, there’s two extra, amp it up experiences – the Leap of Faith and the Vertical Drop. Open 10:00am-7:00pm Weekdays (9:00am-8:00pm on Weekends, Closed Mondays) at 144 Murphy St, Richmond, a short tram ride out of the city.
Where to stay
We recommend you choose accommodation close to the CBD or in the inner-city suburbs to allow easy access to public transport. Check for the latest prices.
You can reach all the attractions and activities mentioned easily by tram, or local train, which run from early morning to late night. You’ll need to buy a MYKI card before you ride. They are available at MYKI machines at all train stations, some tram stops, and at all 7-Eleven convenience stores.
There is even a FREE tram, the No. 35 City Circle that plies a route around the CBD, passing many popular tourist attractions.
We hope you’ve discovered some wonderful places to explore with your family in Melbourne. Let us know your favourites on our Facebook page.