Melbourne has plenty of free activities for kids. While it is Australia’s hipster city renown for cool cafes, hidden laneway bars and graffiti art, it is also a city where you can definitely have family vacations on a budget. If you want to keep your little ones (or not so little ones) occupied on the cheap, or even for free, then you’re more than catered for in Melbourne; in fact there are a number of free things to do in Melbourne for kids. Here are some family travel ideas for free kids activities in Melbourne.

Werribee Park

Explore the grounds of the stunning Werribee Mansion where the kids can run around to their heart’s content, whilst you take in the stunning scenery. The gardens are beautiful and are home to the Victoria State Rose Garden with more than 5,000 roses that which will capture the interest of your little one with their spectacular colours and fragrances. Right next door to Werribee Park is the National Equestrian Centre (where Prince Charles once played polo) as well as the Werribee Open Range Zoo and Shadowfax winery where you can stop for lunch at this family-friendly dining location. This makes for a full day out for very little cost and, no doubt, plenty of photos of the stunning surroundings too.

[For more family travel tips on how to take the best travel photos, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a professional photographer.] 

National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) 

We all know that showing children a little culture is a great way to enhance learning, and if you can do it in a way in which they don’t even realise they’re learning, then all the better! Culture and arts are at the top of the list here at Melbourne’s NGV with a huge range of art collections from many different countries including Asia, America, Europe and Oceania. Even better news? It’s free to enter.

[For more family travel tips on visiting art galleries and museums with kids, see the suitcases&strollers interview with a Bonham’s art expert here.] 

Royal Park Playground

Corner Flemington Rd. and Gatehouse St., Parkville, Victoria, Australia

There are few free activities for kids that they will enjoy more than an outdoor playground. Big, spacious with plenty of room to just run, Royal Park playground is the ideal location for a family day out. This huge playground has just had a big redevelopment so it’s all new and shiny, ready for your kids to explore its various little zones. It is the perfect spot for the kids to burn off that excess energy and you can make a bit of a day of it with picnic facilities and barbeques available.

There are toddler sand and water play areas (bring your swimmers if the weather is warm) as well as some fantastic climbing frames for older kids. Totally based around nature, this is the perfect day out in the sun for no cost.

Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden 

Right in the centre of Melbourne, hiding in the Botanical Gardens is the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden. It is hard to believe that when you are in these gardens that you are actually in the middle of a city. The surroundings are so serene that it feels like you are in the middle of the countryside. Children can immerse themselves here in the natural world in this very interactive and hands-on space. It is perfect for kids who like to get their hands dirty and explore to their heart’s content. To find out more about the garden’s philosophy about children’s play, see the video below:

A few fun features are scattered around the garden, such as a water feature which sprays up at random intervals in The Meeting Place, the Ruin Garden, Plant and Kitchen Garden. Top tip: pack the waterproof gear if there has been some rain!

City Circle Tram 

Trams are iconic to Melbourne and a fun way to get around Melbourne’s CBD with the added bonus of being an attraction in their own right! Historically visitors on family vacations on a budget could use the City Circle Tram to explore the city without having to spend a cent. Its route was designed with tourists in mind to take in all the major Melbourne city attractions. The charming old world trams allow you to hop on and off for free so you can make a day of it by heading down to the waterfront at Docklands, get off to explore the many parks and gardens along the way and stop for a bite to eat in town or along the picturesque Yarra River. The tram itself is full of character and rickety charm which is a fun experience for kids and adults alike.

If you don’t want to be limited to the City Circle route, now all trams within the Melbourne CBD are actually free provided you get on and off within the designated zone. This is a really convenient way to move around the city especially if you have kids who don’t like to walk far. To find out where the zone begins and ends, go to the official Public Transport Victoria website.

[Did you know that there are many miniature railways in Melbourne and it’s surrounds that are open for kids and only cost a few dollars a ride? To find out more, check out the suitcases&strollers story Kids Attractions: Miniature Railways In Victoria.] 

Spot Penguins in St Kilda 

Which kid doesn’t love penguins? And you don’t have to head all the way to Phillip Island to see them. The kids will love watching these tiny animals seeming to chatter to each other from the water’s edge. St Kilda’s penguins are actually the world’s smallest (at only 30 centimetres tall) and they sit on the rocks having a sociable good time. You can take photos but do remember to turn the flash off. If your kids are lucky, they may even spot a dolphin or two as well.  

[For more travel tips on things to do with kids in Melbourne, see the suitcases&strollers insider’s city guide here.]

Feed the Ducks at Cherry Lake 

If you’re look for free activities for kids, Cherry Lake is a beautiful area to visit with walking trails and places to sit and have a picnic together. Feeding the ducks is a popular activity there (don’t forget your bikes and scooters for the 3.5 kilometre walking trail) but do remember that bread, although traditionally given to ducks, is actually bad for them. In fact it’s their version of junk food! Instead, grapes and peas are thought to be a good alternative, so throw those in your bag instead of a loaf.

The park also has a playground and barbeque facilities.

For more family travel tips on free activities for kids available in most cities, see the suitcases&strollers story here

By Lauren Owens of; Images: suitcases&strollers, Mamma Knows West, St Kilda Penguins