Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, with Victorian-era architecture, extensive shopping, museums, galleries, theatres, and large parks and gardens. Many of its 4 million residents are both multicultural and sports-mad.
Reasons to visit Melbourne include to attend major sporting events, to use it as a base for exploring surrounding regions such as Grampians National Park, The Great Ocean Road, and to visit Phillip Island to view the penguin parade. Many UK visitors come to Melbourne for tours of filming locations of soap opera Neighbours.
The settlement of Melbourne commenced in 1835 when settlers from Tasmania "purchased" land on Port Phillip Bay and the Yarra River from the local Aboriginal tribes. The streets of central Melbourne were carefully laid out in 1837, with some streets 30 metres wide. The settlement was named "Melbourne" after William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, the British Prime Minister at that time. The first British lieutenant-governor, Charles La Trobe, arrived in 1839 – his Cottage still stands and can be visited in the Kings Domain. The year 1851 was a landmark for Melbourne — the colony of Victoria was separated from New South Wales and very soon after, gold was discovered in Victoria, sparking a huge goldrush. Aspects of the gold rush history can be seen at the Gold Treasury Museum, housed in the Treasury Building built in 1858. Gold was the catalyst for several decades of prosperity lasting through to the late 1880s and examples of the ornate Victorian-era structures built during this time still stand. In 1888, the property boom collapsed and Victoria suffered the depression of the 1890s. Throughout the gold and building booms, Melbourne managed to retain its many spacious parks and gardens and these remain to this day.
In 1901, the British colonies of Australia became an independent federation and Melbourne the temporary capital of Australia, with the Federal Parliament meeting in the Parliament House of Victoria until 1927 when the new Federal capital of Canberra was founded. After World War II, Melbourne grew rapidly, with its mainly Anglo-Celtic population boosted by immigration from Europe, particularly from Greece and Italy. Today Melbourne has the biggest Greek city population (over 800,000) outside Greece and the biggest Italian city population (over 230,000) outside Italy. The significant pre-war Jewish population was also boosted after the war. From the mid-70s, many immigrants came from South-east Asia, particularly Vietnam and Cambodia. Melbourne has had a Chinese population since the gold rush of the 1850s and Chinatown has existed from that time but the population of Chinese and other East Asians has also been boosted by immigration in recent years.
New highrise buildings replaced many of Melbourne’s interesting old structures in the construction boom of the 1970s and 80s. Melbournians belatedly recognised the loss of their architectural heritage and steps were taken to protect what was left. Construction of the huge Crown Casino (briefly the largest casino in the world) in the 1990s upset some Melbournians with its introduction of a gambling culture. Melbourne’s development continues in the 2000s with the opening of the Melbourne Museum, Federation Square and the Docklands precinct.
It is said that Melbourne has "four seasons in one day", with specific reference to late Autumn and early Spring, when the weather varies considerably. Melbourne gets only half as much rain as Sydney, and generally receives about 600mm (24 inches) of rainfall annually. October is typically the wettest month. An average Melbourne summer day (in Dec-Feb) is sunny with temperatures around 26–30 °C (79–86 °F) with the warmest temperatures tending to be in the inland suburban locations and the coast tempered by a refreshing southerly sea breeze. Heatwaves are common during the summer and daytime temperatures can exceed 40 °C (104 °F) with hot northerly winds. The highest maximum temperature recorded in Melbourne was 46.4 °C (116 °F) in 2009 (The 'Black Saturday' bush fires occurred on this day). Despite the warm days Melbourne experiences in summer, humidity is rarely a problem and temperatures at night remain mildly comfortable with an average summer low usually about 16 °C (61 °F). Thunderstorms are more common in summer than winter but usually bring refreshing relief from the occasional stifling daytime temperatures. Winter (June–August) is usually cool with a mix of clear, sunny weather and cold & damp conditions. Temperatures in winter can range from chilly overnight lows as low 2 °C (36 °F) to daytime highs as high as 19 °C (66 °F) at times. The coldest temperature recorded in Melbourne was −2.8 °C (27 °F) all the way back in 1869. Light snow has been recorded in and around Melbourne during the winter months only a couple of times over the last century, the hills east of the city however usually see a snow shower or two every winter. It is best advised to visit Melbourne in the autumn and spring — temperatures during these periods are usually very pleasant, without being unbearably warm and daytime highs are usually in the 20s °C (70s °F).
Melbourne is served by two airports, Melbourne Airport, which has international and domestic flights, and Avalon Airport, which only has domestic flights.
Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport (IATA: MEL) is 22 km north-west of the city centre, adjacent to the industrial suburb of Tullamarine. There are regular flights from all major Australian and New Zealand cities, and there are direct international flights to many Asian hubs, and onwards connections to Europe. There are direct flights to the west coast of the U.S. and Canada, Santiago, Fiji and Hawaii. There is long term car parking available at Melbourne Airport if you're keen on leaving your car here during your holiday however, as parking charges can be relatively high at the airport, it may be wise to thoroughly explore alternative options.
The airport has four terminals. T1, T2 T3 are in the same building, and it is easy to walk to T4, however each terminal has separate security screening, and access between terminals is not available once in the sterile area.
All arrivals are on the lower level of the terminals, with departures from the upper level.
Taxis between the airport and the city centre cost around $45–50 and take about 25 minutes in clear traffic.
Skybus, ☎ +61 3 9670-7992, runs a 24/7 shuttle to and from the Southern Cross Station Coach Terminal on Spencer Street at the west end of the Central Business District, just north of Lonsdale Street. There are two airport pickup locations. One is outside the Virgin Australia/REX terminal (T3), 50 m from the international terminal (T2). The other is outside the Qantas/Jetstar domestic terminal (T1). There are ticket desks at both T1 and T3, and if unattended, tickets can be purchased electronically or from the driver.
The trip takes around 20 minutes (in good traffic) and runs directly using the freeway with no stops. It costs $17/28 adult one-way/return, $6 child one-way (4–14 years of age). There are also several family ticket options available. Frequency ranges from half-hourly 1–4AM, to every 10 minutes 5:30AM–11PM. They also run a connection service between the terminal and central hotels/hostels during the day (M–F 6AM–10:30PM, Sa–Su 7:30AM–5:30PM), and this is included in your fare. Otherwise, you can board any train at Southern Cross Station, or take a tram down Collins St through the city centre. Bookings are not needed for travel from the airport to hotels, but on the way back, book hotel pick-up at least three hours ahead.
Alternatively, if heading to southern Melbourne (St Kilda and points beyond), the Frankston and Peninsula Airport Shuttle (FAPAS) runs roughly-hourly minibus services, advance bookings required either on-line or at +61 3 9783-1199. Full adult fares from $18, but there are group discounts and some hostels even offer free rides if you stay for three or more nights.
If money is more important than time and convenience, you can take public bus 901 to Broadmeadows (every 15 min, travel time 20 min) and switch to a train to the city (every 20 min or less, travel time around 40 min). Both buses and trains run from 5AM to midnight, although Broadmeadows is one of Melbourne's sketchier suburbs and you'll want to be careful after dark. The trip costs $5.92 and you will need a Myki smartcard to pay for it; you can pick one up at the SkyBus ticket counters.
Avalon Airport, (IATA: AVV), is situated in the Geelong outer suburb of Lara. The airport is located 55 km to the south-west of Melbourne, and is considerably further from Melbourne CBD than the Melbourne airport at Tullamarine. However, a shuttle to Southern Cross costs only $4 more than a shuttle from Tullamarine, and fares from Avalon are sometimes considerably cheaper. The terminal itself is about as simple as it gets, with just an ATM, car hire desks and baggage carousels in what looks like an old hanger at arrivals. The departure facilities are a little better, with a cafe and a bar, and a video arcade room.
Avalon Airport is serviced only by low-cost airline Jetstar. It also flies from Tullamarine, so be sure to double-check departure locations.
Options to get to the Melbourne CBD:
All intercity rail services from interstate and intrastate destinations operate to and from Southern Cross Station (formerly Spencer Street Station), located on the western edge of Melbourne's central business district. The station has recently been renovated and has excellent links to the rest of the city's public transport network as it is part of the City Loop. Some services stop at Flinders St Station immediately prior to Southern Cross, which is a nice gateway to the city centre.
From Sydney, the quickest route to Melbourne is the Hume Highway, which takes 10 hours of driving without any stops. This road is almost all dual-carriageway (freeway). The Princes Highway (National Route 1) goes along the coast and is less crowded. It takes longer with lower speed limits, hills and bends, and few opportunities to overtake.
Adelaide is slightly closer than Sydney and can be reached in 9 hours. The coastal route is scenic but slower.
A direct journey from Brisbane takes 21 hours of driving and takes you further inland along the Newell Highway. This makes for an alternative to the standard Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne coastal route.
Bus services to Melbourne from out of state are provided by Firefly Express and Greyhound .
Bus services within Victoria are operated by V/Line, and operate from most major and many minor Victorian towns.
Melbourne can be reached from Devonport, Tasmania by car/passenger ferries run by Spirit of Tasmania . The journey takes 10 hours and runs every night (in both directions), departing at 9PM and arriving at 7AM. During the peak of summer, there are also day sailings (departing 9AM, arriving 7PM) on many days – check in advance.
Ticket prices depend on time of year and your sleeping accommodation. A seat (no bed) is the cheapest, starting (in off-peak season) from $108 for adults and $82 for children. Bear in mind, the seat is most uncomfortable, equivalent to a cinema seat. Cabins with bunk beds start from $187 adults, $97 children. Peak season costs are about 25% higher. Cars cost $59 all year round.
Melbourne is also served by several cruise ships throughout the year (mostly in the summer cruise season). Check operators for further details.
All passenger ships serving Melbourne arrive at and depart from Station Pier in Port Melbourne which is located a short distance from the CBD. For those without private transport, the 109 tram departs from the old railway station across the road from the Pier and goes right into the heart of Melbourne (continuing to Box Hill in the north-east of the city).
Melbourne has a very large metropolitan area, but most sights of interest are within the city centre and the rest can for most part be reached within about 20 min from the centre on the train or tram. Melbourne's city centre is laid out in an orderly grid system, similar to the grid system of Manhattan, meaning that navigating the city centre is easy. Public Transport Victoria's Journey Planner can suggest the best way to get from point A to point B, with schedules, maps and connections. Melbourne has a reputation for a well-planned road system, although traffic can be disastrous in the peak period.
The public transport system consists of trams, trains and buses: trams and trains branch out from the city centre to the suburbs, while buses usually cover where there are no tram or train tracks. There are connections to most of the major attractions of the city, and it is fairly easy to get around Melbourne without a car.
Although there are different operators for each form of transport and area, Public Transport Victoria coordinates public transport and provides timetables, maps and a journey planner. An app is available for iOS, otherwise there is a mobile-optimised website .
The network is constantly being optimised for elderly and disabled passengers. All new trams and buses are low-floor, and raised platforms have been constructed at major stops for trams. Most inner city stations have escalators and lifts, and others in the suburbs will at least have a ramp. On all forms of transport, there are spots for wheelchairs, and seats that must be vacated on request of an elderly, pregnant or disabled person.
Myki is a reloadable smartcard that can be used for travel on trains, trams and buses. Myki cards can be purchased from staffed railway stations, machines at all train stations and large tram stops and various retail stores such as newsagencies and 7-Eleven. Cards can also be purchased online. Myki cards can be topped up at the same places, including some other retail outlets. They cannot be purchased in trams, buses or trains!
Regular adult cards cost $6, and concession/child cards cost $3. The card comes with no preloaded credit and the fee is non-refundable. A Myki Visitor Pack ($14/7 adult child), which comes preloaded with $8/4 of credit and a stack of attraction discount coupons, can be purchased at major stations, tourist information centres and Skybus terminals at Tullamarine airport.
To use Myki, you simply need to touch the card onto one of the lime green readers before travel at the train station, or on board a bus/tram. (The readers are notoriously slow, so be sure to wait until the beep.) Then you need to touch off, as you depart. There is no requirement to touch off on trams. The fare (including the travel time and zone) will be automatically calculated and deducted, so there is no need to plan costs in advance.
The city is divided into two zones; Zone 1 covers the central city and inner suburbs which is as far as many tourists would venture, while Zone 2 covers the middle and outer suburbs. All tram routes are now counted as being in Zone 1. You can purchase tickets for travel in Zone 1, Zone 2 or both. A Zone 1/2 overlap exists as a buffer zone, where tickets from any Zone may be used.
The Myki discover centre is located at Southern Cross Station, and provides information and sales related to myki.
Regulations and laws surrounding public transport are strict. Ticket inspectors are common, especially in the inner city, and fines start at $180 on the spot. Having your feet against the seat opposite you may result in a fine of $180, with similar fines applicable for swearing or drinking alcohol whilst on public transport. These fines are enforced strictly and discretion is rarely shown.
Services generally operate between 5AM and midnight Monday–Saturday and after 8AM Sunday. After midnight on Saturday and Sunday mornings only, there are NightRider buses which run defined routes to the suburbs (generally following closest road to the railway line).
The older Metcard system has been retired. Unused Metcards can be converted into Myki credit at any staffed station.
The train network is operated by Metro Trains Melbourne with blue signage used for stations. A partly-underground "City Loop" forms the basis of the network, with all the other lines branching off to the suburbs like spokes of a wheel. The lines are named after the station at the end of the line.
Trains are more frequent during peak times in the morning and evening, but also extremely overcrowded. If possible, avoid travel during this time. Unfortunately, signalling is still not up to scratch, so delays of 10–15 minutes happen near-daily and cancellations are all too common. If time is critical, catch an earlier train than what you would need. The Public Transport Victoria website lists cancellations. Be aware that some trains may run express to and from the city.
Most trains are modern and clean, if occasionally "decorated" with graffiti. Almost all are airconditioned, except a few old trains which had to be reintroduced after extreme overcrowding on the network. The 'premium' stations have staff, bathrooms and other facilities.
Trams are one of the trademarks of Melbourne. The city has the largest network in the world. The network is operated by Yarra Trams, and stops are represented by green signage. Most tramlines also branch out from the city centre like spokes. In the city, they can often become crowded, especially on weekdays. Most trams are now long, wide and low-floor. But some of the older models have steep steps at the entrances. When entering and exiting a tram, always look for cars, as distracted drivers may illegally speed past.
Buses serve as connections to places without rail transport. They often connect to major shopping centres and train stations. There are dozens of operators across the city, but the processes and organisation is standardised with orange signs used for bus stops. Most buses are low-floor, air-conditioned and very spacey. Some working class areas have old buses from the 1970s, which lack air-conditioning and have a number of steps at the entrance.
The free City Circle (Number 35) trams run around the CBD perimeter, covering Flinders St, Spring St, Nicholson St, Victoria St, La Trobe St and Harbour Esplanade along with the new Docklands Precinct. It is a vintage style tram, easily recognisable by its maroon colour. The tram stops along the route are sign posted with City Circle. They run in both directions every 12 minutes every day except Good Friday and Christmas Day from 10–6PM, and until 9PM Thursday–Saturday during daylight savings. Several of the trams on this service are equipped with recorded commentary about attractions passed. Tourist information is often available on board either from brochures or from a city guide person. These trams are geared to visitors and provide access to sites of interest to the tourist. They are a fun introduction to central Melbourne and a free way to have a tram experience, but they tend to be painfully slow and packed full of local commuters. View the number 35 tram route .
The free Melbourne City Tourist Shuttle bus service stops at key tourist destinations in and around the city centre. The buses run at 15 minute intervals between 9:30AM and 4:30PM daily. A complete circuit takes 45 minutes, and there is on-board commentary."
The inner suburbs of Melbourne have a good network of bike paths by the standards of English-speaking countries, plus a generally flat terrain, making pedal-power a great way to take in the city. Most paths are "shared footways" under the law, although the majority of users in most places are cyclists. This means cyclists should expect to share the path with pedestrians, dog-walkers, rollerbladers, joggers, prams and tricycles. Some trails contain on-road sections (in marked bike lanes). It is legal to cycle on footpaths only when supervising cycling children or when the path is marked or signposted as allowing bikes. Helmets are required by law, and care should be taken when cycling near slippery tram tracks, where many have been injured in the past. Reflective clothing and lights are essential for safe night rides.
Detailed maps of the bike path network can be found online .
Bicycles may be taken on Metro trains at no extra charge. Due to crowding, it is often impractical to take a bicycle on a peak hour train, and it won't win you any friends with your fellow passengers trying to squeeze into the same carriage. Bicycles are not permitted on buses, even when replacing a train service. Folding bicycles may be taken on trams when folded. Bicycles may be carried in taxis at the drivers discretion.
A folding bike with 20" wheels or smaller is very convenient when travelling in the city. In addition when in folded condition it can be carried on bus, train and CountryLink without any additional charges. Just tell the driver that it will be folded and hand carried as baggage. As for inter-city train, avoid rush hour (7AM-9AM and 5PM-6PM). If the wheelchair area is not occupied then the bike can be parked in this area safely without folding.
The major car rental chains are well-represented and include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz & Thrifty. Independent car rental companies are also plentiful and can offer good value for money. If you are looking to cover a long distance by car, ensure your rental policy includes unlimited mileage – most economy to standard sized car rental include this already.
Melbourne's rules of the road have one notable quirk: there are a handful of intersections in the city centre where you must do a hook turn to turn right due to tram tracks running down the centre of the road. Follow the signs, pull to the left of the intersection if you are turning right, as far forward as possible, wait, and when the light for the street you are turning into turns green (the traffic on the street you are on stops) make the turn.
Check out CityLink's site for details of Melbourne's T-shaped tollway which links the Westgate, Tullamarine and Monash (formerly South-Eastern) freeways. It is a fully electronic road with no manual tollgates. You can buy a day pass in advance, or within 3 days of having driven down it, giving your registration and car details. You can do this by phone, Internet, or at some Shell petrol stations. The registered owner of the car will get a fine in the mail if you do not buy a pass within 3 days. The tolled sections are indicated with blue and yellow signs, rather than the standard green and white. CityLink can cut a worthwhile amount of time from your journey, especially if you are driving from, say, the south-eastern suburbs to Melbourne Airport. Motorcycles are free, cars are around $11/day. Larger vehicles are more.
The EastLink tollway has recently been completed. Formerly called the Scoresby, then the Mitcham-Frankston freeway, it links the Eastern, Monash, Frankston and Mornington Peninsula freeways. Like the CityLink, it is a fully electronic road with no toll gates. If you have a tag or account, tolls range from 28c for short trips on some segments, to a toll cap of $5.15. Weekends are 20% off, and motorcycles are half price. If you don't have a tag or account, passes are available for the cost of the trip cap (e.g. travelling one way will cost you $5.15 in a car). Passes are available online at and can be purchased before or up to 3 days after the trip.
Tags from other Australian cities work on CityLink and the EastLink tollway, but passes do not.
One option for travel on both CityLink and EastLink is the Melbourne Pass. It costs $5.50 to start up an account, and tolls are debited from your credit card automatically once the accumulated tolls and fees reach $10, or when the pass expires (after 30 days, but can be extended once for another 30 days). No tag is required. The pass can be purchased online at
In the centre, parking at meters and ticket machines can be as much as $3.50 per hour.
Motorcycles and scooters are well catered for as footpath parking is both free and legal (providing the footpath is not obstructed). Scooters are becoming very common, however for all size scooters a motorcycle license must be held.
Melbourne is an excellent city for walking and you should have no problems navigating the CBD grid. A brisk walk may even see you keeping up with the trams, as they crawl through the city centre.
Yellow Melbourne taxis are ubiquitous in the centre but less often spotted in the suburbs. The largest companies are 13CABS (☎ 13-CABS/132227) and Silver Top (☎ 131008), both of which — despite the names — are also yellow in colour. Fares are standardised so that the meter starts ticking at $3.20 and clocks up $1.617/km, meaning that short hops within the centre can go for under $10, but longer hauls get pretty expensive pretty fast. Midnight-5AM is 20% more, booking by phone or taking a taxi from the airport costs $2 extra and sitting in traffic is $0.56/min. Between 10PM and 5AM, taxi fares are prepaid: you pay an estimated sum to the driver in advance and the fare is corrected on arrival.
Some taxi companies do not provide a lost property service. Lost items by law must be forwarded to the police if they are not claimed. Melbourne's taxi network is fairly safe, although taxi ranks can sometimes be rowdy places, due to the lack of taxis compared to demand (particularly outside Flinders Street Station, but there is a police box next to the rank which generally operates at night).
While Melbourne has experienced a trend of violent behavior recently, it has unfairly gained a reputation of being a violent city. Some parts of Melbourne are best avoided after hours though, primarily some parts of the western suburbs. Gang and racial violence is an issue although the Government has announced a state wide crack down on un-social and violent behavior with large police presence and train station PSO's. Caution is needed to be exercise after hours around bars and clubs, where fights often occur.
While Melbourne is a very safe city for its size, the usual precautions still apply as for any large city, including keeping valuables hidden and avoiding solo night travel.
Some areas, such as Collingwood and Footscray, are safe during the day but can be dangerous at night. These two areas have a heavy police presence, though, so provided you stick to main streets (e.g., for Collingwood, Smith Street), you should be fine. Outer-suburban areas like Dandenong, Sunshine and Ringwood do not have a heavy police presence, and in the unlikely event a traveler would visit them, are areas of high risk caution would be warranted. If you stay on well lit, well traveled streets, you should be fine, but be alert.
Melbourne's red-light districts include King Street, known for its concentration of strip clubs, and certain parts of St Kilda (in particular Grey Street, Inkerman Street and Greeves Street) where there is some illegal street prostitution. Even so, you are more likely to be harassed by drunken revelers and street walkers than you are to be actually threatened. Melbourne City Council has established all-night "Safe City" taxi ranks with security guards on King Street, outside Flinders Street Station and on Bourke Street.
If you travel by train at night, stay in the front carriage close to the driver's area and note emergency buttons. If a problem occurs, push emergency buttons on the train or railway station to attract attention. Stay in Safety Zones while on stations at night. These are marked with yellow lines and are usually well lit and have emergency buttons as well as about 4 cameras pointed at the area. Robberies on trains are rare, but it occasionally happens (and when it does, at night). Railway police patrol most services. In early 2010, there were attacks on Indian students, sometimes claimed to be racially motivated.
If you are driving your own car or rented automobile, beware of car theft or break-in. Avoid temptation by hiding valuables out of sight, and always lock the car and leave the windows up before you leave. If you are waiting in your car, lock the car as well. A police officer will always show ID before asking you to open your door or window.
Pickpocketing is rare in Melbourne, but be aware of your belongings out the front of Flinders Street Station and the first block of Swanston Street (between Flinders and Collins Streets).
Beggars frequent the southern ends of Elizabeth and Swanston Streets, Bourke Street Mall, and the intersection of Bourke with Exhibition and Russell Streets. You can also expect to be persistently targeted if seated outdoors at a pub or cafe in the city. Verbal abuse and intimidation by beggars is uncommon but by no means unknown.
Although scams are rare in Melbourne, be wary of real estate agents (especially if you have newly arrived and plan to stay only for the short term). There have been many cases of real estate agents preying upon overseas students in particular. Common scams include charging tenants for costs that don't exist (such as charges for 'advertising' when tenants move out) and deducting costs for non-existent reparations and cleaning from the bond. Be sure to consult the Tenants Union of Victoria and know your rights when you are charged for anything and move in and out.
Take extreme care when crossing tram tracks in and around Melbourne. Trams tend run very fast in Melbourne to avoid disruption with the traffic. There have been recent cases of pedestrians being hit by trams, which can cause life-threatening injuries or even instant death. Even if a tram has passed, look on the other side in case there is another tram approaching, as trams often run practically nose-to-tail, especially in Elizabeth Street.
Intensive solicitation of pedestrians by corporations and activist groups ('chuggers') has become common in the city. Many resort to intrusive tactics such as blocking your path or occupying all four corners of a street intersection. They are not after a one-off donation, but to sign you up to a regular contribution plan from your credit card or bank account (from which they receive a substantial percentage).
The infamous Melbourne gangland war that claimed many lives is now over and despite anything you see on the media having to do with it, violent criminal occurrences are very rare and isolated. As long you are not involved with Melbourne's underworld, you do not have anything to worry about.