Melbourne, Australia is an easy, safe and pleasant city to visit and live. Beyond the standard but noteworthy family tourist destinations such as Phillip Island Nature Parks and the Melbourne Zoo, sometimes as a tourist (or even as a local) parents just need family day trips that get the kids out of the house but don’t require too much effort. Here are some suggestions for cheap and fun things to do on family holiday in Melbourne with kids.

City Circle Tram

Children can be amused by the simplest pleasures, so don’t overthink it. If your kids love transport, the number 35 tram that runs in a loop around Melbourne’s CBD can be a (surprisingly) memorable event. This is a simple way to view all the major city sights and hop on and off for some shopping or lunch in-between. Best of all, it’s free.

Sovereign Hill

Melburnites have fond memories of school excursions panning for gold and sucking boiled candies at this historical village. The outdoor museum is like a little pocket of nineteenth century Australia where the women still wear corsets and blacksmithing is a revered trade. It may sound kitsch, but Sovereign Hill is actually a charming and educational look back at Ballarat’s heritage.

39 Magpie St., Ballarat, Victoria, Australia, Tel: +61 3 5337 1100

Werribee Open Range Zoo

A safari seems unlikely in Australia, but Werribee is a worthy alternative if you aren’t taking the children to Africa any time soon. The animals live in the open ranges, not cages, and there is even a safari-style bus ride across the savannah to see zebra and giraffe. Even the café – called the Meerkat Bistro – offers a delightful view overlooking these cheeky The Lion King favourites.

Main Drive, Werribee South, Victoria, Australia, Tel: +61 1300 966 784

Coburg Drive In Cinema

Despite the latest technology, there is still some magical old school wonder in eating diner food while watching the big screen from the car. There are a few drive-in movie cinema options in Melbourne, but this is the most central and convenient. Pick a family friendly film and put your seatbelts on. Kids under 12 are free.

155 Newlands Rd., Coburg, Victoria, Australia, Tel: +61 3 9354 8633

Puffing Billy Railway

The red steam train that chugs its way on its original tracks through the Dandenong Ranges has been a local favourite for years. It makes for a fun journey for kids and a picturesque trip for parents. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it as the return trip is not cheap. Since it is an authentic century old train, there is no room onboard for bulky strollers that don’t collapse.

[Do your kids love trains? To find out more about the miniature railways in Melbourne for kids and greater Victoria, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]

1 Old Monbulk Rd., Belgrave,
Victoria, Australia, Tel: +61 3 9757 0700

Gas Brigades at Crown Casino

If you're in town during the evening, try to time it so you are standing on the banks of the Yarra River opposite Crown Casino. Every evening on the hour there is a spectacular free show where eight towers shoot out huge fire flames along the city skyline. If you choose to stand under across the river right under the towers the perspective may not be as good, but it can be quite thrilling for kids to feel the heat and hear the loud swoosh as the gas jets turn on and off. Check the official website for start and finishing times which vary with the seasons. 

For more on things to do in Melbourne, read our story here. For more travel tips on things to do in Melbourne with kids from a suitcases&strollers mum, see the suitcases&strollers interview here.

For more on Melbourne's retail scene (for kids) read our story Shop Melbourne