Southbank, Melbourne, Victoria © Visit Victoria
Eat, stay, shop, play: the family guide to experiencing Melbourne
With a range of child-friendly attractions and experiences for all ages, the city of Melbourne is easy to love and even easier to navigate.
By Dilvin Yasa
With a highly efficient public transport system that includes a network of trams, the city’s attractions are easily accessible to kids young and old, making Melbourne an ideal family holiday destination.
Where to eat
If you’re a family who loves great food, you’re in the right place. Melbourne’s international reputation as a global culinary hotspot is well deserved, with a food and dining scene as diverse as the city’s multicultural population. Explore options to suit all budgets – whether it’s a cheap eat, brunch in one of the city’s famous laneways, or searching for the holy grail of fine dining restaurants.
The city has a strong Australian-Italian community, which has blessed it with a range of iconic Italian restaurants and cafés. Try Cecconi’s on Flinders Lane for some of Melbourne’s finest pasta dishes in the fine-dining restaurant’s relaxed cantina space.
Social media-savvy teens will appreciate the presentation of the eye-catching dishes at The Hatter & The Hare and The Kettle Black. And little ones will love the famous piggy-face pork buns at Secret Kitchen City.
No meal is complete without dessert. Be sure to leave room for the iconic cakes found in shop windows along St Kilda’s Acland Street. At Ice Bar in Federation Square, where the bar is made of real ice, kids are welcome until 7 pm daily and can sip on frosty fruit drinks.
Where to stay
Melbourne has an excellent range of family friendly accommodation, from international hotel brands to quirky neon-lit Airstream trailers and centrally located farm-stays.
Choose between spacious self-serviced apartments and hotels, such as Mantra and Rydges, or opt for five-star hotels like The Como Melbourne and Park Hyatt Melbourne, which offer multi-room suites and babysitting facilities. At The Langham hotel, find ‘glamping’ packages for younger kids, as well as its famous afternoon tea.
Notel’s collection of Airstream trailers (each one sufficiently teen-friendly with WiFi and an iPad Pro loaded with Netflix) are as much works of art as rooms to stay in. Or you can base yourself nine kilometres (six miles) from the city centre at BIG4 Holiday Park and enjoy resort-style accommodation, kids’ activities and several recreation spaces. And at Animal Land (less than 30 minutes by car from the city) kids can have the quintessential farm-stay experience, feeding farm animals and collecting eggs from a chicken coop.
Where to play
Melbourne’s exceptional transport system makes it easy to explore the city’s attractions – even with little ones in tow. Hop on the free City Circle tram ride (an experience in itself) and head to crowd-pleasing highlights such as Melbourne Star Observation Wheel and the Eureka Skydeck, or explore Melbourne’s vibrant arts scene by visiting exhibitions and creative spaces at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Museum, ArtVo and Old Melbourne Gaol.
Kids and adults alike adore Australia’s national museum of film, video games, digital culture and art, the award-winning Australian Centre for the Moving Image. Sports-obsessed families will enjoy the National Sports Museum and a tour of Melbourne Cricket Ground. If you’re after fresh air, the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne is walkable from the city centre; further afield, check out the heritage-listed and brightly coloured bathing boxes of Brighton Beach or explore Werribee Open Range Zoo, a 30-minute drive from the city.
Where to shop
Melbourne’s fantastic shopping deserves special mention: but be warned, both grown-ups and their young style apprentices can lose days in the various shopping districts here.
Chapel Street is Melbourne’s most famous retail strip, but tear yourself away to explore more. Find delicate rose gold jewellery, thick-cut thank you cards and everything in between at artisan treasure trove Rose Street Artists’ Market, or set teens loose at Chadstone, where high-end and high street threads come together at the largest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the city centre, popular Bourke Street Mall is home to one of H&M’s largest stores in the world (keep an eye out for exclusive Australian capsule collections), or wander Flinders Lane for multi-label boutiques, as well as local designers like Alpha60 (popular with teenagers, as well as their parents). Royal Arcade is heritage-listed, highly ornate and filled with independent mid-tier stores for men and women; it’s close to Shifting Worlds, a designer ‘marketplace’ of three stores on one floor.
Still not done?
Emporium is a heritage building reclaimed as a shopping centre, where coveted Australian labels like Zimmerman, Dion Lee and unisex Jac + Jack are found in a pared-back industrial space. After all that shopping, it’s the perfect spot for a lunch break: find all kinds of fun and fashionable treats, from vegan bowls to mini wagyu burgers, at its sleek and chic food court.