Melbourne is the best city in Australia to visit for first-time travelers to the down under. There I said it. Sorry Sydney, but I think Melbourne is better. Melbourne is both stylish, cosmopolitan, and artsy. It is easily Sydney’s cultural capital. If you want a more relaxing vacation in Australia I suggest Melbourne.
The huge city has a ton to offer. If you've come here to start planning your trip to Australia I've got you covered. I'll be covering what to do in Melbourne, how to get there, and what are the best hotels in Melbourne.
| Best Time of Year to Visit Melbourne | Weather in Melbourne | Do You Need a Visa to visit Australia? | Melbourne Airport Tips | Melbourne Airport to Melbourne City Center | Is Uber Available in Melbourne? | How to Get Around Melbourne | Melbourne Neighborhoods | Best Things to do in Melbourne | Hotels in Melbourne | Other Melbourne Tips | What to Pack for Melbourne | Guidebooks for Melbourne |
Best Time of Year to Visit Melbourne
Melbourne is a great city in Australia to visit year-round but each month has its own pro and cons. Melbourne is also one of the driest cities in Australia, another reason you can visit here year-round. Personally, I think the best time to visit most popular destinations is during shoulder season, Melbourne is no different. Shoulder season in Melbourne are the months of March, May, September, November. These months have moderate temperatures and lower crowds. You'll also find that airfare to Australia tends to lower in these months as well.
Weather in Melbourne
Before we arrived in Melbourne we were told by everyone the city is famous for experiencing four seasons in one day. They really weren't wrong. In the mornings it would be bitterly cold, by noon I would be sweating and then at dusk a crisp fall like atmosphere would surround us. Packing for Melbourne is hard because of the unique weather patterns so I suggest layers and a carrying a pretty big day bag.
Summer in Melbourne
Melbourne's summer runs from December through February. Don't forget that the seasons are opposite in Australia. For obvious reasons, great temperatures and holidays, this is the peak season in Melbourne. Hotels fill up quickly so be sure to book in advance. As for the weather, nights tend to be cool and gentle with lows hovering around 55-60. There are plenty of events in Melbourne come summertime including the Australian Open, multiple music festivals, and more.
Winter in Melbourne
Melbourne's winter runs from June through August and you can escape the cold with tons of gallery-hopping, shopping, and live music everywhere. If you want warm weather on your vacation opt for Sydney or Brisbane.
Do You Need a Visa to visit Australia?
Yes, most travelers will need a Visa to enter Australia. This website makes it extremely easy to find and apply for the correct Australian visa before you arrive. The most common Australian holiday tourist visa is the Electronic Travel Authority (subclass 601) and although it is technically free to apply for it online you will have to pay an online application service charge of AUD$20. This visa allows you to stay for up to 3 months. When I applied for its approval time was only 24 hours.
Melbourne Airport Tips
Melbourne has two airports. You need to be very careful when booking travel. Double check which airport you arriving and departing from to avoid problems.
Tullamarine Airport (code: MEL) is mostly referred to as Melbourne airport, even google maps lists it as Melbourne Airport. I know, confusing. This airport is located around 20 kilometers to the northwest of the city. It is the main international and domestic hub for both Quantas and Virgin Australia as well as some smaller airlines meaning it will most likely be the airport you fly in and out of.
The other airport is called Avalon Airport (code: AVV) and is located 50 kilometers to the west of the city. A few low-cost air carriers like Jetstar Airways use this airport. If you are flying domestically in Australia you have a higher chance of visiting Avalon Airport.
Melbourne (Tullamarine) Airport to Melbourne City Center
Taxi: Usually, taxis are the fastest way to get to Melbourne city center, around 30 minutes from the airport. But, traffic can build up causing you delays. Expect to pay $55-$60 for a taxi to Melbourne.
Regular bus: The cheapest way to get to Melbourne city center from the airport is by bus. You will want the 901 bus, it departs from the bus zone which is located outside the budget airline terminal (terminal 4). Take the 901 bus to Broadmeadows station and from there transfer to whichever train gets you closest to your final destination. Usually, this route takes around 75 minutes. I would avoid doing this after dark though, the buses come less frequently after 8 PM.
SkyBus: This is probably the best options for tourists and first-time travelers in Melbourne. Sky bus is a fast and frequent shuttle bus service to Southern Cross Station. The buses leave every 10 minutes during the day, less frequently at night. You will see huge red ticket booths outside Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, can't miss them. Currently, a one-way ticket costs $19.50. There are discounts for groups, children and seniors. A trip on Skybus takes only 20 minutes in light traffic. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online and sometimes they offer reduced pricing this way. Booking ahead of time is not necessary though, the buses are huge and frequent and don't fill up.
Is Uber Available in Melbourne?
Yes! I know you will be happy to hear that Melbourne has Uber. The app makes it easy to get around and I highly recommend it. You can take an Uber from the airport, the cost will be between $40-$60 for the trip. If you arrive in Terminals 1, 2, or 3 you will want to follow signs for Uber pickup zone. They are very easy to see. For Terminal 4, the pickup zone for Uber in on level 2 of the T4 carpark. Pay close attention to the app when it tells you which pickup zone to head towards.
How to Get Around Melbourne
Why you need the Myki Card
You will want to get a Myki card if you plan on taking public transport around Melbourne during your stay. There are no paper tickets for the Melbourne transport system, you must have a Myki card. The card will get you on all Melbourne buses, trams, and trains. The fares are low, $4.30 for a 2-hour pass which includes unlimited transfers/changes or $8.60 for a daily pass. The card does the hard work for you. As you ride it keeps track of when you tap on and off and once you ride twice in one day it simply charges you for the all-day option.
Unsurprisingly, many places sell the Myki card. At the airport, Mykis can be purchased from the Skybus booths outside Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. A Myki visitor value pack can be purchased at the Melbourne Visitor Centre in Federation Square, SkyBus ticket booths, and the PTV Hub. Cards can also be purchased from vending machines at train stations, convenience stores, and major CBD tram stops.
Tips for using a Myki Card
When you get on a train or tram or bus you validate your ride by touching your myki card to a (usually) green pad. Make sure you see the light or hear the tone to know you have successfully tapped on.
The tram runs on the honor system but officers or ticket inspectors will patrol and check that customers have paid their myki fare. While it is possible to go weeks without seeing an officer always tag on. If an officer catches you riding for free you can receive a hefty fine of over $250.
Don't worry about the fare. The myki system automatically applies the best fare for you. Once you ride twice in two hour periods you are only charged the maximum rate equivalent (the daily pass which is $8.60).
If you are traveling with children under 16 years you can get a cheaper concession fare, basically half-price. Be sure to buy a concession card.
Blue myki consoles are only for checking your balance. Green myki consoles are for tapping in and out.
Melbourne tram system
The tram network in Melbourne's is the largest tram network in the world. It covers a large part of the CBD, as well as the inner and middle suburbs. Trams run frequently, but you can expect them to be crowded during peak riding times in the morning (6-9 AM) and evening (4-7 PM). Most of the trams have air conditioning and are wheelchair-friendly. Sunday through Thursday the trams stop running at midnight. On the weekends there are six lines that run all night.
The Free Tram Zone
Melbourne offers a wonderful feature for both tourists and locals alike. They have a huge Free Tram Zone which covers much of the CBD and Docklands. If you are only using trams within this zone during your trip you do not need to get a myki.
The main city hub for trains in Melbourne are at Flinders Street Station (also an iconic place you should visit). There are five stations in the inner city: Flinders St, Southern Cross, Melbourne Central, Parliament, and Flagstaff. Trains begin running at 5 AM and the final service will be around 11:30 PM. Most lines from Flinders Street Station run all night on Fridays and Saturdays. All trains have air conditioning and most of the major stations have staff, bathrooms, and other facilities. The most up-to-date service information is available from the Metro Trains website.
If you need to go anywhere a train or tram doesn't run there is still public transport in the form of a bus. Melbourne has over 300 routes and run from 6 AM to 9 PM on the weekdays and 9 AM to 9 PM on the weekends. There are also night buses which operate after midnight on weekends.
Melbourne is a pretty big city and the main attractions are more scattered. Here is a quick rundown of each neighborhood in Melbourne and what it has to offer.
City Centre: In Australia, each city's main center is called the 'Central Business District' also known locally as CBD. Melbourne's CBD is the historical core located north of the Yarra River. You'll find a mixture of laneways and cool bars. The restaurants here are also fantastic. A very large tram network that you can ride for free (!) connects the city centre. Most of the most well-known attractions in Melbourne reside in this neighborhood.
Southbank: Inexpensive cafes and new eateries definitely make this area worth exploring.
St Kilda: This area can be classified as bohemian suburbs perfect for beachside lounging. If you are visiting Melbourne on a budget you'll find many backpacker hostels and cafes here. St Kilda also has Luna Park, Palais Theatre and St Kilda Sea Baths.
Fitzroy & Collingwood: These inner-city suburbs have a unique mix of classic cafes, food vans lining the corners, and packed bars.
Best Things to do in Melbourne
Like many big cities, there is so much to do in Melbourne it is impossible to see it all in one short trip. I have given you a brief list below of some of the best attractions in Melbourne but here is a detailed list of the top things to do in Melbourne.
Hotels in Melbourne
Like most big cities, Melbourne has a range of options and it can help to book ahead of time to save money on your accommodations. Hotel prices are the highest in January, especially during the Australian Open. Prices also rise again in March due to the Grand Prix weekend.
You can find the usual hotel chains in Melbourne but there are also some boutique hotel chains that provide excellent rates and unique rooms. Apartment style rooms in Melbourne are popular, especially in Melbournes CBD. They provide excellent value and allow you to save money even more with their mini kitchenettes.
If you are traveling to Melbourne on a budget you'll find a ton of hotels and backpacker friendly accommodations. Many are character-filled places with some awesome company. The most popular hostel in Melbourne is Melbourne Central YHA, they have great rooms and even private accommodations on the rooftop.
For a high-end experience in Melbourne check out hotels like Ovolo Laneways, a boutique hotel in the city centre. I also recommend QT Melbourne. Even if you don't stay there check out the rooftop bar if you have time.
Using Hotel Tonight in Big Cities
I’m also a big fan of Hotel Tonight, especially in big cities like Melbourne.
If you’ve never used Hotel Tonight I encourage you to check it out. The app is incredible for booking amazing hotel deals tonight (like the name of the app suggests) and beyond. I’ve used it for booking deals up to a week or two before as well as right before I land.
You can use my promo code TETORRENTE to get $25 off your first booking.
Download the app here: https://txt.htltn.com/cHfQa9qp3U
*Bookings must be made on the app with a room charge of at least $135 USD (excluding taxes and fees).
Other Melbourne Tips
Melbourne's taxis are metered. Make sure it is on when you get in.
Free Wi-Fi is available at central squares like Federation Square and Flinders Street Station.
Tipping is optional in Australia. If you are very happy with the service in a restaurant or cafe you can leave an additional 10% but it is not expected
Drivers use the left-side of the road.
Smoking is forbidden in all public areas.
Australia day is January 26th. Anzac day is April 25. Many businesses close down or may have altered hours.
Read on: Best Instagram spots in Melbourne
Planning a trip to Australia in general, can be overwhelming. Everyone has an opinion on this beautiful location and you may be frozen and unable to plan anything. Rest assured that no matter what you choose to do in Australia or where you choose to stay in Australia you're going to have a beautiful time.
One last thing... even though researching ahead of time is great, I definitely recommend bringing an Australian travel guide along with you. Here are some of the travel guides I used during my trip...
And of course, if you have any questions DO NOT hesitate to reach out to me via Instagram, Twitter, or just shoot me an email (tessajuliette at gmail dot com).