I'm a Melbournian through and through, and I've been wanting to share with you all some things I love about my city! All you need to become a Melbournian is a love of coffee, and laneways. Whenever I visit a new place, the first thing I look up is "what's free?". So with the assumption that others do the same, here's a short guide to some cool things to do in Melbourne.
1. Visiting the Fairy Penguins
"Penguins, did someone say penguins? "
The penguin parade in Philip Island is one of the most popular things to do as a visitor to Melbourne, but you have to travel 3 hours out of the city! However, I think one of the best kept secrets in Melbourne is the colony of Fairy Penguins who live right in the city at St Kilda. And the best part about it is it's free! Completely, and utterly free (unlike Philip Island!), plus you can get close up and personal with these little cuties when they come to nest.
What time do the penguins come?
The penguins come to shore just after dark, and nest in the rocks until sunrise. You may also be lucky enough to see baby penguins who stay in the rock nests all day waiting for the penguin pack to return. It's best to see the penguins in the summer months, which means they'll arrive around 9pm. If you're visiting in winter, they will appear much earlier, perhaps 5.30 or so, and you may not see as many.
How do I find them?
The penguins nest at the end of St Kilda Pier everyday. Be sure to respect the penguins, and not touch or frighten them. They're very peaceful and will appreciate you approaching them with caution!
You can find more information on the St Kilda penguins here.
2. Laneways and Graffiti
Melbourne is the city of laneways, and with laneways comes graffiti, great coffee, hidden bars, cute boutiques, and questionable cleanliness. In that order!
Why does Melbourne have so many laneways?
Apparently there were two city planners, one who was forward thinking in building a growing city, and one who was keen on only building for what they needed at the time. So the two city planners compromised, and they designed one wide street suitable for 4 lanes of traffic, and one laneway suitable for a horse and carriage. If you look at the map of the city, you'll notice it follows a pattern of one wide, and one narrow street. I'm not sure how true it is, but I do love the story!
Where can I find said graffiti?
The most well known and popular lane in all of Melbourne for graffiti has to be Hosier's Lane. Twice a year the city of Melbourne creates a clean slate for Melbourne graffiti artists to add their designs to Hoiser lane, so it's an ever changing canvas. You'll never see the same thing twice. If you come on a sunny day, you may have to fight for a spot to view the artwork, but it really is one of the best things to see in Melbourne!
Graffiti is found throughout the entire city, so if you have a day or a few hours, make sure you explore and walk down the Melbourne laneways. You never know what cool things you'll find!
Another place to check out is Brunswick St, Fitzroy. Fitzroy is a short 10-15 min tram ride north of the city. Not only is it another great place for coffee, and shopping, it's also a people watching mecca!
3. National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) is a huge art museum located next to the Art Centre near Flinders St station. The NGV's gallery is completely free, and if you keep your eyes peeled there is even a Picasso on one of the levels.
You will have to pay for any special exhibitions but otherwise the whole gallery is free. There are permanent exhibitions as well as temporary ones you can see. And the building itself has a lovely feel and energy about it, so even if you only go chill out in the garden behind it, you'll have a wonderful and relaxing time.
The picture above was taken by my friend Sarah - find her on Instagram @sarahldonovan
4. Grab a bike and hit the streets
Ok, so this may not be totally free if you don't have a bike. Melbourne is a mostly flat city, so you’ll have little trouble getting around. If you do have your own or can borrow a bike, then you're set. If you don't have a bike, Melbourne has its own bike share program where you can rent bikes throughout the city for a fee. At only $3 a day, or $8 a week, Melbourne bike share is one of the cheapest I've seen!
Legally, you'll need to wear a helmet, often you'll find a helmet with the bike, but you can also grab a new one at most 7/11s for $5. Ensure you're wearing your helmet the right way, unlike myself in the above picture!
And for that first bike trip, here are some ideas.
St Kilda to Brighton
Head down to St Kilda, have a gander at the giant Luna Park face, and then continue along the coast line towards Brighton. Make sure you're wearing your bathers (swimsuit) so you can take a dip in any of the crystal clear beaches you'll ride past.
Melbourne City to Williamstown
Ride along the bay the other way, and head towards Williamstown. This is a bit longer, but it's fairly easy due to the mostly flat terrain. When you get to Williamstown, there are plenty of cafes, boutiques, and fish and chip shops to keep you busy. It's also a really great view of the city from the other side!
Melbourne City along the Yarra River
The Yarra river runs right through Melbourne, and you can find many bike paths along it. It's a beautiful ride any time of the year, and if you're there early enough in the morning, you'll see plenty of runners, and rowers on the river itself.
Or you can just take your bike, and ride to one of the many parks in Melbourne and explore the gardens. My personal favorite are the Carlton Gardens, but Fitzroy Gardens are also lovely, or even head to the Botanical Gardens.
So get out there and explore! What would you add to this list?