As a United States study abroad student living in Australia, I was quickly forced to learn the ropes of a different culture. Being overwhelmed by all of the things thrown at you by any big city, I quickly discovered that Melbourne, although a large city, was one of the nicest urban environments I have ever found myself immersed in to this day. Having lived downtown for several months, I quickly learned the ins and outs of what the city had to offer. While there are countless things you can have recommended to you by any tourist spot on in the city, I have listed 5 things here that commonly go unnoticed and unappreciated amongst the average tourist. While following the mainstream tourist locations is still recommended if you are in the area for only a short amount of time, realize that a lot of the top places listed on the tourist destinations are often just the top price payers in order to get their names on those very lists. Here is an un-paid for, non-biased list based off my experience living in the beautiful Melbourne, Australia. Most of which will cost you nothing.
1. Underground Street Art
If you are into the Art scene in any way shape or form, then it is necessary that you make your way around the city in order to appreciate artists in a different form. Usually unaccepted and frowned upon by modern society and in many large cities, graffiti and spray paint art seem to have made a strong comeback in the Melbourne culture.
The city has chosen numerous designated spots in which artist are allowed to express their many talents by creating pieces of their choice. While allowing such a freedom may lead to irresponsible practices, you may be surprised at the level of talent and lack of harmful art expressed. Having visited almost every spot Melbourne had to offer, I didn’t spot one gang sign or painting which is so often associated with this type of scene. Instead I saw nothing but raw and expressive talent taking place in brightly lit areas.
Creativity expressed by true artists in their own controversial manner combined with a frequently changing gallery makes touring the underground art scene something you can do many times over without paying anything.
Information and art locations can be picked up at any information center in the city upon request. Simply ask one of the hosting parties for a map of Melbourne’s street art, and you will be provided with a map of every location in the city.
2. Learning to Sail
If you don’t outwardly express hydrophobic tendencies, there is no reason why honing in on your captain skills isn’t right for you. A friendly, fun, and accepting environment, learning to sail is something that can be fun for all ages.
Showing up for my first time never having sailed before, I admit I was a little nervous approaching the docklands. The smell of the ocean, the massive vessels all around, and immersion into an expressive culture that I had never seen before made me nervous. The thought of independently controlling my own sail boat quickly filled my mind with anxiety.
Stepping into this friendly environment and being catered everything down to the very sunscreen on my skin, my anxiety quickly diminished and I knew immediately that this was an amazing decision.
Given either a single or double boat, you can choose to operate however you feel (making it the perfect and often comical date opportunity). You really cannot manage to mess things up either. Upon arrival, someone will give you the quick know-hows of sailing. While the instructional tutorial given may seem a little short, you will quickly find out that being pushed out into the water is the quickest way to learn (And often the most fun).
There will be a safety boat on constant watch as you make your way around the bay so you should have no worries about getting stuck or stranded anywhere.
All this fun must be costly right? Wrong. For only $20 AUD per person, you have your own boat, life jackets, instructions, and open adventure for >6 hours. They even offer different levels of boats in order to cater to the various skill levels at hand.
Whether you have ambitions of sailing around the world or just want to test your skill one time, sailing the docklands should not be something to look over. Simply show up on a Sunday morning with a little money and an appetite for adventure.
Where to show up and sail
3. The City Circle Tram
Probably not the best choice out there for the adrenaline seeker, the city circle tram will be the quickest way to absorb all the information you can about the city of Melbourne. A free mode of transportation combined with a free tour of the city, this route takes a little over an hour to complete its full cycle. If you are looking to familiarize yourself with the city, or just want to take a relaxing tour, this is perfect for you.
All the while you are on the city circle tram there will be a recording playing over the loudspeaker announcing all of the different hotspots of your immediate surroundings. If something catches your interest or you see something that grabs your attention, you are able to get on and off at any stop you feel suits your needs. Since several different tram cars follow this same route, you are sure to be able to catch one approximately every ten minutes. This makes the city circle a convenient choice for either riding the full loop while observing the scenery, or making frequent desired stops as you choose.
Just look for the number 35 as this will represent your free city circle tram.
4. Queen Victoria Market
You may hear this name being called off while riding on the city circle tram. If this is the case, know that experiencing the Victoria market can be an absolutely amazing experience. Packed with food vendors, souvenir vendors, and basically every other type of vendor you can think of, this market has something to offer for everyone.
Although the name Victoria market may imply only the thrill of shopping and purchasing products, this is only a misconception. These grounds often host various venues and are almost always location for street performers and entertainers for all to enjoy.
Vic market also holds special “night market” events which hosts food selections from each and every culture you can possibly wrap your mind around along with various venue events. These night events vary however and are only held during Melbourne’s summer months.
Whether you are looking to produce shop, souvenir shop, indulge in culture, or just plain party, the Vic market will probably have exactly what you are looking for.
Operation hours are as follows:
Tuesday and Thursday 6am-2pm
Friday 6am-5pm (General Merchandise to 4pm)
Closed Mondays, Wednesdays, and Public holidays
Queen Victoria Market
5. The Gardens
Absolutely amazing! Being surrounded with urban environment, the last thing you would expect to do in the area is experience nature. This is the same misconception I came into the city with, only to have it squashed with time.
Melbourne is surrounded with absolutely beautiful and vast gardens so large that one can easily lose themselves in if not careful. Being able to choose different settings and scenarios, the gardens can cater to flower lovers, nature lovers, or even just plain lovers. These setting often make for an ideal date spot, casual stroll, or simply a scenic hang out spot to enjoy the day.
While all of the Gardens are quite beautiful, remain very well maintained, and are packed with monuments, my favorite and suggested gardens would be any of those located North of Flinders Street. You are able to obtain maps which will include the locations of all of these gardens in any tourist spot in the city.
The most Convenient Place to pick up Tourist Information
Federation square is probably one of the number on venue and tourist hotspots in the city. Surrounded by Train stations, busy streets, restaurants, bars, and conveniently located near the river, it makes for the perfect place to host just about anything. Information centers can be easily spotted once you make your way onto the square which is located on the corner of Flinders street and Russel street directly in Melbourne's CBD.
The rest is up to you.