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A Family Weekend in Melbourne

14 Nov 2018

Your next family holiday is a lot closer than you think. Melbourne for kids of all ages is ever-changing, so load the gang up and head to the big city for your next family adventure.

Day One

Why wrestle with the traffic when a V/Line train or coach will glide you smoothly into Southern Cross Station? Arriving into the heart of the city, your accommodation options are endless. Considering the day planned for tomorrow though, hail a cab on Spencer Street and direct the driver to ibis Melbourne Swanston Street [609 Swanston Street, Carlton] at the top end of town.

Day Two

Kick start the day with a 15-minute stroll through Carlton to Sally’s Kitchen [Shop 1, 295 Exhibition Street, Melbourne], which is open from 9am for breakfast on Saturdays. Try a New York-style bagel with cured salmon and cream cheese or scrumptious grilled asparagus with poached eggs, hollandaise and prosciutto. With an ever-changing menu – and plenty of no-frills, build-your-own-breakfast options for the kids – you’re sure to leave ready for the activities ahead.

Work off some of that brekkie with a wander through Carlton Gardens and around the Royal Exhibition Building, before checking into IMAX Melbourne [Rathdowne Street, Carlton]. With a multi-million dollar upgrade to the cinemas recently completed (September 2015), the IMAX experience is better than ever. Be amazed as you get up close – like, really up close – with the creatures and landscapes of the natural world.

Next door to IMAX, get a bite to eat at the Melbourne Museum [Nicholson Street, Carlton] cafe (high chairs are available) and take advantage of the significant discount on your museum entry with your IMAX ticket. From the tiniest of insects to ancient, monstrous dinosaurs, there are exhibitions to delight all ages. Older kids will get a kick out of seeing Phar Lap, Australia’s greatest racehorse (and the most popular attraction in the museum), and youngsters from birth to 5 years can explore, chase, dance, discover, touch, find and learn in the Pauline Gandel Children's Gallery.

Depending on the time, duck back to the hotel for a quick refresh, before heading out for dinner in Lygon Street in Carlton, or Little Italy as it is affectionately known by locals. Listen to the hawkers spruiking their menus, smell the pizzas and pastas as their scent wafts through the air and see all the different faces of Melbourne as you stroll along the street.

La Spaghettata [238 Lygon Street, Carlton] is a great family option, with children happily catered for and a menu to fit all ages and tastes. The strip hums with activity well into the evening, so duck across the street and cap the night off with dessert from Gelatissimo [197 Lygon Street, Carlton], open ‘til seriously late every night of the week.

Day Three

No family visit to Melbourne is complete without visiting the Queen Victoria Market [Corner of Victoria and Elizabeth Streets, Melbourne] for coffee and a breakfast on the go. From there, slip into a taxi or commit to a half-hour walk to the Docklands precinct and start your day of family-friendly activities.

From 10am, Glow Golf [Shop NW F05, First Floor, Harbour Town, Docklands] opens to kids of all ages keen to test their mettle on an illuminated miniature golf course. Also home to Laser Tag3000 (suitable for ages 7+), it’s a great way to spend a few hours.

Docklands Drive, running through the heart of the precinct, is where you’ll be able to jump on board the iconic City Circle Tram. Listen to the commentary and learn about Melbourne’s diverse range of attractions while you enjoy the city’s trademark mode of transport. Oh, and it’s free!

It will take you 20 or 40 minutes (clockwise or anticlockwise respectively) to reach Stop #10, Albert Street & Nicholson Street, just near Parliament House, Parliament Train Station and the top end of Melbourne’s Chinatown district.

Walk down Little Bourke Street and be wowed by the smells, the colours and the exuberant atmosphere of the restaurants that line the street. Make a pit stop at Shark Fin Inn [50 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne], a Melbourne institution. On weekends the place comes alive with yum cha, a sure-fire way to let everyone choose their favourite dishes and eat to their heart’s content. Bookings are recommended, especially if there are a few of you.

After lunch, weave your way through Chinatown between locals and visitors alike and then turn up Swanston Street towards Melbourne Central shopping centre [Corner LaTrobe and Swanston Streets, Melbourne]. Show the kids who’s boss at Strike Bowling [Level 3, Melbourne Central, 211 LaTrobe Street, Melbourne], taking advantage of their Family Package (10am-5pm). It’s a fun couple of hours for the whole family and with a sweet treat picked up from The Original Lolly Store [Ground Floor, Melbourne Central], you’ll make the most of those heightened energy levels!

If you’re after a calmer way to spend the afternoon, SEA LIFE Melbourne [Corner King and Flinders Streets, Melbourne] is a great option on the south side of the city centre. Nestled between Flinders Street and the Yarra River, hop back on the City Circle Tram travelling clockwise from stop 10, and a 10-15 minute tram ride will set you down out the front.

Come face to face with one of Australia’s largest crocodiles, explore the Penguin Playground and take the time to soak up the breathtaking sights of the 2.2 million litre Oceanarium. Open until 6pm daily (last entry at 5pm), you’ll save money if you book your tickets online in advance, making it an even more affordable attraction.

After all that action, you might want to head back to your hotel to change before dinner, or you could go straight to the Greek Precinct along Lonsdale Street, and find the famous Stalactites [177-183 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne] restaurant. Mountains of Greek dips, sumptuous souvlaki (don’t forget the garlic sauce!), and delicious desserts all go to show why this restaurant has been a Melbourne institution for decades.

Day Four

Everybody knows that a weekend is better as a three-day weekend, so if you’ve got an extra day up your sleeve there’s fun for everyone at the Melbourne Zoo [Elliott Avenue, Parkville]. Make your way towards Elizabeth Street, stopping in on the way for a coffee and breakfast at Seven Seeds Coffee [114 Berkeley Street, Carlton]. Continue on foot to Stop #12 on tram Route 55 located at the Haymarket roundabout, or, as it’s known to practically everyone, ‘the giant roundabout at the top of Elizabeth Street’.

From there it’s only ten minutes on the tram, or if you don’t have a myki you’ll be able to get a cab without any dramas. When you arrive at the Zoo, you can pay a small fee to leave your luggage in a locker, then look to see what time the animals are being fed.

Among the elephants, meerkats, seals and giraffes, no visit to the Zoo is complete without a walk through the Butterfly Enclosure. Even teenagers will display childlike excitement watching the colourful insects take flight around them. If you want a butterfly to land on you, here are a couple of tips: Wear brightly coloured clothing, sweet-smelling perfume or skin lotion, and (surprise, surprise) stay as still as you can.

If it’s time to say goodbye to Melbourne after your trip to the Zoo, the Royal Park Train Station on the north side of the zoo will take you direct to Southern Cross Station where your V/Line train or coach will be waiting to take you home.

getting around

Need some help getting from A to B so you can discover Melbourne?

Just pop your starting point and where you want to go into the PTV Journey Planner, as well as your ideal departure or arrival time.

The Planner will find the easiest way for you to get where you want to go, plus give you easy-to-follow instructions on how to get there.

For more information, visit