It’s hard to visit Melbourne without a trip to the Melbourne Zoo, home to over 350 wildlife species living in naturalistic, botanical settings. Located near the central business district, visitors can admire Australian animals including koalas, kangaroos and wombats. Visitors with a few hours can see the beautiful gardens at Royal Botanical Gardens. Phillip Island is just over 80 miles from south-southest Melbourne where you can see the penguins. Closer to the city and on an easy tram ride, you can see a much smaller penguin colony in St. Kilda.
Don't expect to get close to the penguins at Phillip Island; head to St. Kilda for that type of experience.
Allow at least four hours to see the Melbourne Zoo in its entirety.
There are lots of things to do and experience throughout Melbourne, but booking a hotel as close as possible to City Centre (CBD) will make it convenient to get around the city. As in more large cities, Melbourne has its range of budget-friendly to luxury accommodations. The University is nearby and there are several venues for nightlife. To get to some of the farther out tourist destinations, you may want a car depending on how fast you need to get around. But, the public transport system is good.
Depending on budget, St. Kilda area is another option and not far from City Centre.
It won’t be hard to find good food in Melbourne. It’s for good reason that the city is often called the culinary capital of Australia:it has a host of options lining its streets from fine to casual dining establishments. It also has been known to pour some good coffee. Locals flock to Brunetti for traditional Italian favorites but also for its desserts (and fresh Vittoria coffee and large wine selection). Arintji on Federation Square is a modern bistro that allows diners to enjoy great tapas while taking in the outstanding views of the Yarrow River.
Scones are what Americans would call biscuits (which is the local name for what Americans would call cookies).
Be Sure to Sample:
Fish and chips (the Australians have their own version of the popular British dish), coffee.
Melbourne’s nightlife begins after sun sets on Fridays and Saturday nights when locals head out to enjoy the city. Friday entertainment guide, The Age, gives a great overview of the activities for the week ahead. King Street used to be where the nightlife action centered and while visitors will still find large disco venues here, sometimes the best places are in the hidden bars and clubs so ask your local indie shop owners or restaurant waiters where they’d recommend going while you’re in town. It just may be down a dark alleyway.
Pubs usually open around mid-day and close around midnight on most nights. Many stay open until 2 or 3a m on Friday and Saturday nights.
Swanston Street may not make it into the tour guides, but it has shopping options galore from basement bargain shops (literally in the basement) to more upscale department stores like David Jones in the Bourke Street Mall. Historic Royal Arcade runs from Little Collins Street to the Bourke Street Mall and is one of Melbourne's most charming arcades, offering small boutiques, antique stores, jewelry shops, gifts and souvenirs. For those who like the swap market experience, head to Queen Victoria Market where shoppers will find inexpensive souvenirs to high-end alpaca sweaters.
The Bourke Street Mall area is car-free, but watch out for the trams that run through the centre.
Best Local Souvenir:
Anything kangaroo, Aboriginal art or an Australian opal.