Australia, in general, is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Hence Melbourne is no exception and costs can pile up pretty quickly when doing things in Melbourne.
Melbourne is one of the best cities in the world to visit for its art, culture, parks and sporting events and it has been named the worlds most livable city many times over for its quality of life. With a bit of creative thinking and looking, things can be done in Melbourne Australia on the cheap. So, what free things to do in Melbourne can we find?
Free things to do in Melbourne: Visit the Parks and Gardens
Melbourne has many green spaces and some right on the doorstep of the Melbourne CBD. Here we talk about 2 of the best parks in Melbourne. The Royal Botanical Gardens has something for everyone. There is an amazing Children’s Garden that contains water features, sculptures and a bamboo forest. To experience the flora of Australia there is a Forest Walk which showcases the trees, shrubs and flowers from all over Australia.
At the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne, you will find the fairy tree. The tree was one of the original trees planted over 300 years ago. From 1931-1942 Ola Cohen carved Fairies into the trunk.
When asked why she stated “I have carved in a tree in the Fitzroy Gardens for you, and the fairies, but mostly for the fairies and those who believe in them, for they will understand how necessary it is to have a fairy sanctuary – a place that is sacred and safe as a home should be to all living creatures.”
Paid Option – cheap things to do in Melbourne: Ride the Garden Explorer at the Royal Botanical Gardens. What better way to discover this 38-hectare Royal Botanical Garden than a fun little bus. The small hop on and off bus with live commentary takes you at a leisurely pace so you can enjoy this amazing green space with views of the gardens and the city skyline around for you
The conservatory Melbourne has an amazing floral display is open daily. Built 80 years ago it is one of Melbournes most popular free activities. Fitzroy Gardens with all its attractions is certainly one of the best parks in Melbourne.
Paid Option – cheap things to do in Melbourne: Cooks Cottage shipped all the way from England in the 1930s as a memorial to the man who discovered Australia. It’s not really known if Cook actually stayed in the cottage but it was certainly owned by his parents in the village of Great Ayton, Yorkshire, England.
The Free City Circle Tram
The City Circle tram service operates within Melbourne’s central business district. The service runs in a circular route passing major tourist attractions, such as The Parliment, Fitzroy Gardens, The Melbourne Star and more. The trams that ply this route run in both directions approximately every twelve minutes between 10 am and 6 pm Sunday to Wednesday.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday the hours are 10 am – 9 pm. The trams stop at Flinders Street > Harbour Esplanade > Docklands Drive > La Trobe Street > Victoria Street > Nicholson Street > Spring Street > Flinders Street. This is certainly a great way to see the heart of Melbourne.
Sit back, relax and see the sights of the city. Get off when you would like to explore or visit Melbourne attractions and get back on. It’s a mini Melbourne city tour. Melbourne free tram services run in the CBD area. Jump on jump off any tram in the Melbourne CBD for free. I would rate this one of the top free things to do in Melbourne See the Melbourne Tram map here
Join a free walking tour
Like many cities around the world, Melbourne has a free walking tour. The free tour Melbourne runs every day at 10.30am and 2.30 pm lasting around 3 hours. We have found the free walking tours worldwide are amazing as the guides work off tips.
While the tip is appreciated it is not mandatory. You will find the guides really put in and go the extra mile to entertain, they work hard for the tips on this Melbourne city tour. The Melbourne free walking tour leaves from the statue of Sir Redmond Barry in front of the State Library of Victoria.
Free things to do in Melbourne: Have a BBQ!
Free bbq Melbourne? Yes, please. Free bbq’s are located all around the city a for you to throw a snag, chop or even a dim sim on the BBQ. Grab some bread and coleslaw, chuck a snag in some bread, add sauce and away you go! Two of the best sports in Melbourne for a bbq are Birrarung Marr and Docklands Park. Birrarung Marr is an amazing spot to get your bbq Melbourne on with the city skyline view rising straight up above you.
The free BBQ’s on the north bank of the Yarra offers great views of the city and the Botanical Gardens. The Docklands Park at Victoria Harbour features public art and the play journey interactive playground to keep the kids busy. We suggest catching the city tram to Docklands/Harbour Town go to ice skating, shopping or view the city from the Melbourne Star. Afterwards, have a bbq…what is more Australian than that?
Shopping in Melbourne at the Queen Victoria Market
The Queen Vic Market is a place you can spend hours wandering around. It’s a full variety of market selling meat, vegetables and all matter of various goods from home wares to luggage and souvenirs. The market covers 17 hectares which make it the largest open-air market in the southern hemisphere. A doughnut van has been selling jam doughnuts from the same spot for the last 50 years. You must try one, they are amazing!
One of the fun things to do in Melbourne at night is visiting the Queen Vic night market in the winter months. The Queen Vic night market features food trucks and performers. A free 10-minute tour is available for first-time visitors. The tour runs 4 times a day, Tuesday through Sunday at 10 am,11 am,12 pm and 1 pm.
The Queen Vic market hours are varied but are as follows.
|Fresh Produce||Specialty Shopping|
A & B Sheds
|Tuesday||6am – 2pm||8am – 2pm|
|Thursday||6am – 2pm||8am – 2pm|
|Friday||6am – 5pm||8am – 3pm|
|Saturday||6am – 3pm||8am – 3pm|
|Sunday||9am – 4pm||9am – 4pm|
Fun things to do in Melbourne: visit the Melbourne beaches
Free Melbourne outdoor activities don’t get any better than visiting some of the amazing beaches on Port Phillip Bay. The most famous of Melbourne’s beach is at St Kilda 9 kilometres out of the city centre. You can access St Kilda by tram from the Melbourne CBD.
St Kilda beach features calm water as do all the Melbourne beaches. Sandy bottom shallow water makes this a safe and ideal swimming spot for families. The St Kilda Pier is great for a walk and views of Melbourne and Port Phillip Bay. At the end of St Kilda Pier lies a Penguin Colony.
The penguins are best seen early morning and late night. The waterfront Port Melbourne and South Melbourne beaches are closest to the CBD. The water-front Port Melbourne features playgrounds, beach tennis as well as walking and bicycle paths.
The South Melbourne Beach is popular with families, sunbathers and swimmers. At South Melbourne beach you see people fishing and playing beach volleyball. Why not have some fish n’ chips at one of the South Melbourne Beach cafe’s while you are there?
Paid Option: St Kilda is home to the only fun park Melbourne has, Luna Park. Luna Park St Kilda is a throwback to yester-years with the worlds oldest continually running wooden Roller Coaster. There are many things to do in St Kilda while you are out this way.
Visit the amazing Melbourne Street Art
Once upon a time visiting street art or graffiti would have been an unusual thing to do in Melbourne, not anymore. Melbourne is world-famous for its street art. Places like Hosier Lane are known worldwide for the ever-changing street art.
Hosier Lane is an alive canvas for Melbourne artists. Places like AC/DC lane, laneways off Flinders Lane between Russell Street and Swanston Street are all home to this form of artwork.
With the recent arrival of concrete bollards as a terrorist precaution, the Melbourne City Council has encouraged artists to paint these concrete barriers into artworks. The National Gallery of Victoria at St Kilda Road and the Federation Square have many free exhibits to view.
From modern artworks through to rotating displays throughout the year. The unknown famous artist Banksy has been to Melbourne.
The Banksy Melbourne artworks can be found in AC/DC Lane. A number of the Banksy Melbourne stencils have been destroyed over the years with only 2 remaining.
Free things to do in Melbourne: The Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is located in Kings Domain on St Kilda Road, Melbourne. This amazing memorial is all about remembering the soldiers who have defended Australia throughout all the conflicts this country has been involved in.
The Shrine has some amazing exhibits both physical and multimedia. The Galleries of Remembrance is amazing with its displays of over 800 uniforms, weapons and artifacts from the wars. The amazing Gallipoli landing multimedia show was both emotional and informative.
The view from the top of the Shrine towards Melbourne is amazing. You can see the botanical gardens and the Governor Generals residence.
Free Things to do in Melbourne: Southbank
Southbank runs from the Princes Bridge near Flinders Street Station down to the Melbourne Convention Centre. You will often find street performers working this strip of the city. Southbank events both inside and outside are on all year round.
One of the most popular Southbank Melbourne events are the regular markets that happen on weekends. We all have to eat and Southbank restaurants Melbourne are very popular places to eat day and night. Having a Southbank breakfast and watching the city come alive is very popular among locals and tourists.
Crown Casino Melbourne let off their balls of fire into the air is one of the fun things to do in Melbourne at night. Bourke St Mall is also a hot spot for street musicians and artists in the Melbourne CBD.
Festivals, parades, time sensitive events in Melbourne
There are some brilliant festivals, parades and other events that are held in Melbourne throughout the year and if you are travelling to Melbourne during one of them you should try to attend them!
Moomba is held on the Labour Day long weekend in March. Moomba has a history dating back over 50 years. The Moomba Festival is Australia’s largest free community festival, and a Melbournian tradition. When Moomba is on you will find a Moomba parade, water skiing competitions on the Yarra River, dragon boat races and the ever popular Bird Man competition.
People try and make themselves fly in all manner of inventions off a set launching platform into the river. At night time a carnival with the latest and greatest rides swings into action along with fireworks displays. I have great memories of watching the Moomba parade on TV as a kid. The Moomba Parade was amazing with floats that seemed larger than life.
Myer Christmas Windows
The Bourke St Mall flagship Myer store has been decorating its windows at Christmas for the last 61 years. This a Melbourne tradition and it’s not uncommon to see long lines as people slowly file past the iconic windows to see what on offer each and every year. Each year the windows have a different theme.
Over the previous years, we have witnessed such themes as The Twelve Days of Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Christmas Carol and How Santa Really Works and fairy tales including Peter Pan, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
White Nights Festival
Similar to Vivid festivals you see around the world, Melbourne has its White Nights festival. Buildings and iconic Melbourne attractions are lit up with multi coloured lights and images are projected across the facade of some of the buildings.
It’s held all across the city from the parks and gardens to the arts centre to lanes and train stations. It’s a city-wide event. Held in February every year for one night only. This night is one of the great Melbourne attractions for families every year.
The AFL Footy Festival
Melbourne is a city obsessed with Australian Rules Football. If you happen to be in Melbourne in September that’s finals time for our beloved sport. New to the scene but centrally located is the Footy Festival, located at Yarra Park, outside the MCG. One should not think it’s just all about football. You can experience what sports-mad Melbourne has to offer in food, music and, of course, footy.
This festival is held in the week building up to the Grand Final match. The festival is centred around The Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site. The site features live broadcasts, players from different football teams make appearances, kids activities and so on to get the who family involved. There’s something for everyone to enjoy.
Melbourne’s best paid for attractions
I won’t spend too much time on this as I wanted to concentrate on the free things to do in Melbourne but I would be remiss not to mention the plethora of world class attractions that can be visited in Melbourne. Some are cheap, some are expensive but I will let you make your mind up about that.Visit the Melbourne Star Ferris Wheel
As you can tell there really is a wide range of free activities to do across the city of Melbourne. Did I mention that public transport within the Melbourne CBD is free to all as is the Wifi network? The Melbourne bike share program like many worldwide allows to rent a bike for a small price and return it to one of many docking stations across the city. Melbourne is a little different than most places in the fact by law you need to wear a bike helmet.
Bike helmets come standard with the bikes you are renting. For further information on what is happening in Melbourne, I would be constantly checking the following sites. Whats on Melbourne is a site run by the Government. Time out Melbourne is always a great resource for happening and upcoming events in the City.
You will find Melbourne a city of contrast from modern to classical, from busy streets and roads to quiet parks and gardens, from street art to Monet and Picasso in the museum from Michelin stars to street treats. There really is something for everyone with every budget. We hope this article has given you some ideas for free things to do in Melbourne.
If you are in Melbourne and thinking of seeing more of our beautiful country then here are some ideas with 100+ Things to See, Do & Experience in Australia!
Getting to Melbourne
- Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia. Melbourne International Airport is 23 kilometres from the city centre.
- Melbourne is serviced by many international airlines and budget carriers Jetstar, Tiger. Scoot and AirAsia just to name a few. You can check the prices of international flights to Australia with Expedia. Domestic flights can be booked with webjet
- There is no direct public transport link with Melbourne Airport.
- You can catch the Skybus or you can book an airport transfer with Suntransfers who we have personally used on many occasions.
- You can book a rental car and have it waiting for you at Melbourne Airport.
Getting around Melbourne
Where to stay in Melbourne
- Melbourne has accommodation options for every budget from Hostels, to apartments and hotels rooms
- Hostels in Melbourne can start from as little as $21 a night for a shared dorm room.
- You can search Airbnb for their Melbourne accommodation offerings. If you have never used Airbnb before get yourself $50 credit by signing and booking a stay right HERE
- Hotels in Melbourne generally start from around $100 a night for a double room and increase incrementally as the luxury rating rises towards 5 stars. Google states that 3-star averaging $113, 5-star averaging $314 for a night stay. You can compare and book your stay on Trip Advisor
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About the Author
Mark Wyld is a father, husband and traveller. Having been to over 30 countries worldwide I think I know a thing or 2 about travelling with kids. I have been writing about travel on our website for the last 4 years and have featured on numerous other websites. When I am not talking, dreaming and planning travel I can be found working in disability support .