By Mario Ng
Melbourne is a wonderful city to visit all year around. Visitors from all over the world head to Melbourne year after year, and many are in fact repeat visitors, who simply cannot resist this beautiful city.
The cool thing about this city is how it offers a little bit of something for everyone. Sports fans will surely love Melbourne, as it hosts the first Grand Slam of each year with the Australian Open, in January. A couple of months later see the city host the first Formula 1™ race of the year, with the Australian Grand Prix. All year round, there are also cricket and football matches in the renowned Melbourne Cricket Ground and Etihad Stadium respectively. Quite obviously, sports fans will simply love Melbourne!
Attractions-wise, there are plenty in and out of the city area. The world-famous Flinders Street is right in the middle of the city, while Chinatown is a short walk or tram ride away. The best thing about Melbourne CBD is how the tram rides are free! Get on, get off, and you do not even need to pay a single cent. This is how amazing Melbourne is. Culture lovers should check out the museums in Melbourne, including the National Gallery of Victoria, Immigration Museum, and Melbourne Museum, just to name a few.
Queen Victoria Market is the market in Melbourne, and you see throngs of visitors each time it is open. Locals and tourists alike simply adore this market. In fact, it is so good you might find yourself needing to make a second trip down, just to cover the entire market. It is that big!
Head down south and you will find beautiful stretches of beaches along the west coast, and that is also where you get to see the best sunsets in the city. St. Kilda comes highly recommended, and just a little further down South is where the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes are located.
Check out our reviews below on the places you should head to when in Melbourne!
For your convenience, refer to this list of attractions you should head to while in Melbourne!
1. Brighton Bathing Boxes
2. Healesville Sanctuary
3. Philip Island Chocolate Factory
4. Philip Island Penguin Parade
5. Queen Victoria Market
6. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
1. Brighton Bathing Boxes
One of Melbourne’s most iconic tourist attractions, many who head to Melbourne will surely have heard of the famous Brighton Bathing Boxes. Consisting of 82 unique bathing boxes, these have been in the area since the 1800s, indeed a place with some history. Of course, these boxes have also since undergone many rounds of rebuilding and refurbishment.
Whenever you head down to these boxes, there are bound to be many visitors, taking all sorts of photographs for their Instagram. While some are content with a selfie, others go all out to be glamourous. Yet others choose to set up tripods to take the perfect photo to bring home. Whichever method you decide on, you can be assured you won’t be the only one doing so, with many others doing the same thing as well.
Brighton Bathing Boxes
While it may sound like there are many visitors around, you can take your time to find a spot to snap away. With 82 different bathing boxes to choose from, you can spend the whole day taking pictures with each of them. Seen a really nice one that happens to be popular as well? Simply wait for a while as the others finish taking their photos. Whichever place you choose, you are likely to find a good spot to take some pictures, as there are numerous vantage points to decide from.
Along the beach, the sea looks really nice as well, especially if it is nearing towards sunset. Remember to put on your sunglasses as you stroll along the beach with your partner. Seagulls fly around, while some may choose to take a break along the rocks lying just off the shore.
Along the beach by the bathing boxes
However, for the more adventurous ones, do not limit your day to just taking pictures. Rather, change into your swimwear and head for the seas! There are people doing kitesurfing along the beaches, and it sure looks fun! For those who have not reached that level of adventure yet, fret not! The sea is perfect for a relaxing swim, and it will provide for even a more beautiful picture 100 metres from the shore!
Having some serious fun in the sea
Along the right side of the boxes, there is also an empty patch of land which is simply sand. That would be a good area to set up a picnic and simply relax. Get some sandwiches, cheese and wine, maybe, and you are all set! Worried that the children might want something tastier? There should also be a hotdog stand that also serves all types of ice cream. All that sets up for a perfect afternoon under the sun!
Whether you are young or old, this beach is a nice place for all to relax. What’s better, is that you also get the opportunity to take pictures together with such an iconic place in Melbourne!
2. Healesville Sanctuary
Healesville Sanctuary is a zoo that is located in Yarra Valley. Depending on where you are residing in Yarra Valley, it should take no more than a 30-minute comfortable drive to get here. It is also one of three zoos run by Zoos Victoria in Melbourne, the others being Werribee Open Range Zoo and Melbourne Zoo.
What is the difference between all these zoos? The special thing about Healesville Sanctuary is that it is really a bushland haven for its inhabitants. Focusing on Australian wildlife, you will see many animals that can be commonly found in Australia. The types of animals you will see? Try dingos, wallabies, kangaroos, tasmanian devil, and of course, the koala. There are also a lot of open spaces around the animals, and most of the time, you can see them up close, while they laze in the afternoon sun. This also helps to reduce the physical barrier between humans and animals, and you can see how they are quite comfortable with seeing humans around.
Certainly, if you are able to plan your visit in advance, we highly recommend signing up for at least one of their close-up encounters. Take your pick from the fan favourite koala bear to the handsome dingo; the encounter allows you to be up close to these amazing animals. However, be sure to book these in advance, as it is almost certain to be sold out by the time you head to the zoo on that day. You have been warned!
A relaxed dingo chilling at Healesville Sanctuary
The zoo is really quite big, and you get to see and observe the animals from many vantage points. Give yourself at least 3 - 4 hours to really enjoy the animals. If you have children, plan for more time, so the little ones can take small breaks and rest in between, especially if the mid-day sun is blazing down on everyone..
If you are intending to visit all three zoos, we suggest you can take up their membership. It basically costs the same as if you were to purchase tickets for all three zoos. Further, it also gives you unlimited entry to all three zoos, discounts on merchandise, as well as other benefits specially for members. Check it out here!
Kangaroos and wallabies at Healesville Sanctuary
For sure, Healesville Sanctuary is worth visiting, and it feels good to know that this is a proper zoo where the animals’ welfare is continuously the top priority. Make sure you plan your visit to this sanctuary when you are next headed to Yarra Valley!
Opening hours: Currently closed
Entrance fees: A$38 per adult; A$32 per senior (Australian Seniors Card or Seniors Business Discount Card is required); A$19 per child (children between 4 and 15 years of age); free for children before 4 years of age (accompanied by a paying adult)
3. Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory is an unique attraction, located in, you guessed it, Phillip Island. Near to the entrance of the island, you will be likely to see it soon after entering it.
Besides offering different types of chocolate products for sale, as well as having a cafe to hungry and thirsty travellers, the highlight of this place has got to be the self-guided tour.
Phillip Island Chocolate Factory
Designed to be an old-school type of tour that resonates with one's youth, it brings back memories to the older folks who might have enjoyed chocolates the old-fashioned way. Starting at your own pace, it first gives you a short glimpse of how chocolate is actually made, starting the cocoa plant, up to how the final product is created. It also shows you vintage advertisements of how chocolate products were initially done to attract customers. Following which, would be children-friendly artefacts and models, which includes a view of a town, made almost entirely of chocolates! Penguins and humans working together in a chocolate factory? Penguins and humans living together in a cosy home? Have a look at these creative chocolate models!
A real chocolate factory producing delicious products for customers
Next, take a look at the chocolate waterfall, where 400kg of liquid chocolate is dropped from the top every 3 minutes! Have a look as well at the staff working in the factory. With only a glass separating customers from the staff, you get to see them making chocolates and other delicious products! Yum! Fancy making your own chocolate bar? Try it at the Pennys’ Amazing Chocolate Machine, where you can choose your own unique flavours and see how it turns out!
At the end of the tour, you also get to play some classic arcade games, where you can try your luck to win some tokens. Each token you win entitles you to a chocolate ball. So, try to get as many tokens as possible to get those free chocolate balls!
Massive amounts of chocolate poured out every 3 minutes
The cafe offers quite a few options, from full meals to lighter snacks, as well as chocolate truffles. Try their hot chocolate, which is delicious!
After all the walking and eating, it is definitely time for some shopping! Take a look at their retail space, where you can get many types of chocolates, including nougats. Take your time to choose, although this will only mean your basket will get fuller by each minute. Paying tribute to the penguin parade on the island, there are also cute stuffed toys for sale. Grab a penguin, where we guarantee your kids will love it!
Opening hours: 9.30am to 2pm (Mondays to Fridays); 9.30am to 4.30pm (Saturdays and Sundays)
Tour prices: A$17 per adult; A$11 per child (children between 4 and 15 years of age); free for children before 4 years of age (accompanied by a paying adult)
4. Philip Island Penguin Parade
The Penguin Parade is undoubtedly the star of Phillip Island. Many visitors head down to Phillip Island just to watch the penguin parade. Just check out the tour agencies offering coach services to the Penguin Parade! Of course, there’s more to Phillip Island than just these cute little penguins (Check out our Phillip Island Seal Watching Ecoboat Tour experience here!). However, many of us will still feel those simply cannot beat the cuteness of those little penguins.
Tickets to watch the penguins are sold online (Check out their website here), and come in different categories. The basic tier (General Viewing) is of course the most affordable, and offers a large enough space to ensure you will be able to catch some action. For those who can afford it, we highly recommend going for the Penguin Plus tickets, which is the next best tickets. While remaining affordable for most, it also provides better viewing for visitors, who can see those penguins emerge from the oceans in the evening, and watch them as they slowly make their way back home. For the fortunate ones, you will also get to see batch after batch of penguins emerge from the ocean, before waiting at one spot for their compatriots. How cute!
For those wanting something a little more special, there is also the Underground Viewing option that offers visitors a much more intimate way of spotting the penguins, while the various ranger-guided tours must surely satisfy the most passionate fans of penguins. However, regardless of the ticket you wish to purchase, make sure you book them in advance! Tickets regularly sell out, and are even more popular during holidays, such as the period around Easter and Christmas.
Phillip Island Penguin Parade
While the event generally begins any time between 6pm to 7.30pm, depending on the season, give yourself more than enough time to explore the complex. Once you arrive at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre, you get to explore the different exhibits and learn more about these little ones. There is also a fairly large gift store, so make sure you allocate enough time to get some souvenirs for your small ones. Food is also available here, although you really want to finish up first before heading towards the actual parade!
Once you start walking along the walkways towards the seating area, you might start to feel the crowd. Not to worry though, as there are many marshals who will guide you towards the correct seating area. At this time, feel free to snap as many pictures as you want, as once the parade has started proper, the Parade maintains a strict “No Photography” rule. That means that no pictures can be taken, even if you are using a mobile phone without flash. Bear in mind of that!
Walking towards the beach as the sun sets over Phillip Island
As the highlight of the day are really animals, their behaviour may not be predictable as well. While the estimated time of the penguins arriving may be stated as 7.30pm, you might need to wait until 8pm before they actually arrive. Hence, be patient and wait. We promise the wait is definitely worth it!
As the little ones start appearing, many will feel tempted to whip out their camera phones and start snapping away. Do resist the temptation, as doing this in the long run will result the penguins in no longer returning to Phillip Island. As such, us humans have to do our collective part to make sure Phillip Island remains a good and proper home for its natural inhabitants.
As the first wave of penguins start appearing, some batches of people may start moving back to the Visitor Centre. This could be due to their tour groups leaving, or they may have thought that is it. Take note: do not leave just yet, as there will be more penguins arriving! While you may have seen the first wave of penguins arriving, perhaps numbering some 100 of them, this is not it. In fact, there will be another wave of penguins coming in. The key is to be patient, and just observe those little ones as they move along or wait for their pals. We continued waiting and spotted many penguins coming to shore. We simply sat down and watched them until the marshals informed us that they will be closing the parade, and that we had to head back to the Visitor Centre. This is when the time is right to head back.
All quiet on the beach as everyone waits patiently for the penguins to come home
As you walk back towards the Visitor Centre, you will encounter some penguins who are continuing to make their way back to their homes. They will be walking along their own pathway, alongside the pathway made for humans, albeit separated by a barrier. This is when most become tempted again to snap pictures of them. Resist, unless you want to get caught, and may be "kindly requested" not to take any pictures. You have been warned!
Back at the Visitor Centre, do spend some time visiting the gift shop or grab a bite, as the roads are likely to be packed anyway, with the many tour buses only starting to move off. We shopped until it was announced that the Visitor Centre is closing, before we completed our purchases and made our way back to the car.
The Penguin Parade is definitely a must-go when you head down to Phillip Island. While there are many other worthy attractions to go to, the Penguin Parade surely tops the lot. Hence, ensure you buy your tickets first, as waiting until the day itself to get the tickets may result in a nasty surprise!
Just a reminder! As the penguins roam freely around Phillip Island, there is a small chance that a penguin might seek shelter under your car. Hence, do them a favour and check your undercarriage before you drive off! Thank you!
Opening hours: Recommended to arrive one hour before the estimated penguin arrival time (varies throughout the year); Penguin Parade Visitor Centre is open from 10am onwards daily
Entrance fees: From A$27.25 onwards (adults 16 years and above); from A$13.50 onwards (children between 4 and 15 years of age); free for children below 4 years of age
5. Queen Victoria Market
A mainstay of Melbourne city for more than a hundred years, Queen Victoria Market is one of the must-go attractions in Melbourne. If you have not been to “Vic Market”, you cannot really say you have been to Melbourne! It’s that important to the city!
Open for five days a week (Tuesday, Thursday to Sunday) with differentiated timings, make sure you check the opening hours while planning your itinerary. Take note as well that special occasions may result the market to close, such as Good Friday and Christmas. Bottom line, check their website before heading down!
Queen Victoria Market
“Queen Vic” is really a huge market, consisting of a traditional market that sells all types of fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat and fish stalls, as well as general merchandise that tourists love to flock to, to get their souvenirs. Food lovers should also be satisfied at Queen Victoria Market, with fresh seafood like mussels and oysters on offer!
That is not to say the traditional market is not worth looking at. If you happen to be staying in Melbourne for some time, you should take a look at the fruit stalls, which sell some of the freshest fruits you have ever seen. Healthy nuts such as walnuts and macadamias are also on sale, so you can keep yourself occupied during the long drive along Great Ocean Road.
All types of nuts for sale at Queen Victoria Market
For cheese and chocolate lovers, you really need to head down to the diary hall, as different stalls sell different types of cheese and chocolates. Buy some chocolate truffles and eat them on the spot while you shop for cheeses to bring home. If you are indeed thinking of buying some cheese back home to your home country after your holiday in Melbourne, ask the cheese stall owners for a suitable cheese to do so. We did that and are happy to state that we enjoyed the recommended cheese back home in Singapore. Tasty!
Take a walk along Queen Street, where there are different street vendors and food stalls selling even more types of products. A suggestion would be to grab some donuts from American Donut Kitchen, which serves the freshest and yummiest donuts there. At only A$1.20 each, they also sell 5 donuts for A$6 in a nice packet for you to share and bring home. The queue moves really quickly as well so you need not worry you might need to queue up for some time to eat those pipping hot donuts!
The famous American Donut Kitchen at Queen Victoria Market
A unique food stall would be Dutch Pancakes, serving really bouncy and tasty pancakes, Dutch-style. They have a variety of sauces to choose from, so pick wisely. Chances are, it tastes so good you will order a second serving. How do we know? Because we did that!
For souvenir hunters, now is the time to get real. There are rows of stalls selling all types of merchandise, so make sure you get your cash ready. The usual suspects are t-shirts, magnets, and soft toys. Proportionately, there are also numerous stalls selling these items. Hence, a word of advice would be to take your time and check out more stalls before commiting to your purchase. Or, you can just buy them at the first stall you see and check out more stalls to get even more souvenirs. Whichever makes you happy!
Fresh cheese for sale at Queen Victoria Market
Among the more uncommon products for sale include photos taken by really skilled photographers and even live chickens, declared to be ready to lay eggs. It seems quite affordable at only A$22 each. Why not?
For sure, there are many stalls in Queen Vic that require some time to explore completely. Do take note of this before heading down there. Most of the time, the market opens quite early, so you might want to be the early bird to maximise your time at the market. Or, you can split your visit up over two days, to really get to enjoy the full scale of the market. We know we did, and enjoyed every second of Queen Victoria Market!
Opening hours: Tuesdays, Thursdays to Sundays (differentiated timings; check website for more information)
6. Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is not exactly a place of interest per se, but rather a shop that one must simply visit when in Yarra Valley. Much like its cousin in Phillip Island (Check out our review of Phillip Island Chocolate Factory here!), this is a heaven for chocolate lovers!
Essentially, it is a chocolate store that contains a vast variety of chocolate products. Whether you prefer dark chocolate, or milk chocolate, or even some unique variant like a spicy chocolate, they’ve got it. By the side of their store is a glass separating the factory from the shop. Customers can then see through the glass, monitoring how the experts make the tasty chocolates. Don’t worry about making the staff feel awkward. They have already gotten used to it! Just go ahead and marvel as they whip up fresh chocolates and create delicious goodies!
Outside Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
Their pastilles chocolates are a top favourite, with nothing but pure chocolate bits. If you are ever in doubt, try their free samples! They are that confident. Consisting of three types of flavours (milk, white, and dark), most customers simply get all three types to bring home!
Depending on the season, there are also seasonal products for sale. Nearing the Easter holidays? Chocolate bunnies are for sale! Grab one for your children, although be sure to take this into account when packing your luggage.
Free chocolate for Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery customers to try
One specialty of Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is their Single Origin dark chocolates. Ranging from far-flung places like Ghana and Madagascar to local producers in Australia, this range of chocolates offers customers a premium product to bring home.
For those of us who would like something special to try on that day, be sure to purchase their freshly-made, handcrafted truffles. While it may be a little pricey, at about A$2 per truffle, you can choose to get them in a box of 6 or 12, which will give you a discount. Because they are so fresh, the price can be considered to be well worth it! With so many choices, is it difficult to decide which ones to get? You bet! We usually ask the servers what they recommend, and they will provide their opinions, often telling us their personal favourites. Go with them! We did, and enjoyed every single piece of truffle that day!
Delicious chocolate truffles for sale at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
After purchasing all the chocolates, we are certain you will be a little tired. The store knows it too. That’s why they have a cafe, just so customers can take a breather! It is also perfect their food options are good! From snack options to heavier meals, they’ve got it. Try their massive scones, which is really good for two people to indulge in. A hot chocolate is obviously a must, while their caffeine options are good too.
Besides offering customers chocolates and food, you will be delighted to know that there are classes available too. Depending on the season and time of the year, there are periodic classes that are specially catered for children. This means that kids can learn how to make chocolates in a fun way! This makes it perfect for families who might want to let their children enjoy more than just buying and eating chocolates!
Freshly-made ice cream at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery
Open for most of the year, Yarra Valley Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery is closed only on Good Friday and Christmas. Make sure you head down here when you are in Yarra Valley!
Opening hours: 9am to 5pm daily
Google Maps: List of attractions and food places in Melbourne!
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