Melbourne is known as Australia’s hipster city – but along with the cool hidden bars and laneway cafes is a safe and very family-friendly urban centre. The inner city is currently going through a baby boom so there are kid-friendly activities and yummy mummies pushing strollers everywhere and every child is a babycino addict. All good reasons why you should be traveling with kids to Melbourne.
Melbourne is a very accessible and pretty city to explore with young kids – there are plenty of fantastic parklands right in the centre of town so you can break up adult activities (latte sipping, boutique shopping, gallery browsing) with some time running on the grass. It is also flat as a pancake, so easy to push a stroller around.
This is a cultural, gourmet and artistic hub so there are always events, concerts and things to see. If you want to get in touch with Australia’s boho heartland, Melbourne is the place to be.
Melbourne is all about its uber cool inner city suburbs. Particularly interesting is Brunswick Street and its surrounds in Fitzroy – more commonly known for grungy, artsy types. This means the area also makes for an interesting walk for children in the daytime. There is plenty of street art and architecture to look at as well as quirky an interesting shops for parents and kids to explore.
The city has also been astute about preserving its colonial past. There are some historical sites that are more interesting for children than others, such as the tall ship Polly Woodside, ideal for wannabe pirates to explore. Old Melbourne Gaol might seem an unlikely family excursion, but it can be a fascinating place to visit for older children (local school groups go regularly) and has enough space to run around if you want to drag a toddler on a tour with you.
Despite being an urban centre, there are lots of options for viewing wildlife in and around Melbourne. One of the most famous is Healesville Sanctuary where you can get up close to koalas, wallabies and kangaroos.
Also high on the tourist trail is the long beloved Philip Island Nature Park. Here, the little penguins do a famed ritual sunset beach walk. If you haven’t seen wild penguins up close before, this is a worthwhile day trip, although some locals argue it has been over-developed at the expense of some of its natural charm.
Melbourne takes its sport very seriously and you haven’t really been to Australia until you have been to an Aussie Rules (AFL) football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Given it is a sport traditionally played outdoors in the winter and watched while consuming a large quantity of beer, AFL is a surprisingly family-friendly contact sport. There are very strict crowd controls which means you and the kids can enjoy the thrill of the roars of the stadium and feel quite safe. To ensure your tickets are under cover, check out the MCG’s seating plan.
Because AFL is a winter sport, dress the kids (and yourself) warmly in several layers, scarves and hats as it can be windy. Hot pies and drinks are readily available at the grounds but pack snacks if you want to avoid queues. While the flow of traffic in and out of the stadium is well managed, it still pays to leave the match early for similar reasons.
[For more travel tips on things to do in Melbourne with kids from a suitcases&strollers mum, see the suitcases&strollers interview here.]
There are several hotel and rental options in Melbourne and it’s surrounds to choose from. For instance, the Mantra group has suites with kitchenettes or full kitchen facilities in several different CBD locations making for easy access to stop in back home for snacks, meals and rest time.
The worst thing about Melbourne is the weather – don’t underestimate how quickly and drastically it can change. A boiling hot day can turn into a very chilly afternoon or evening extremely quickly. This means you should carry spare clothing with you everywhere – never leave the house without a sweater no matter how hot it seems. Similarly, a cool morning may turn into a blistering day, so also have hats, sunglasses and sunscreen on you.
If you plan never to leave the inner city, then the trams make for a fun and cheap mode of transport that will delight children – or you can do as the locals do and cycle. But if you want to explore the outer suburbs, Melbourne’s sprawl is vast, so you will need a car (and some serious patience at peak hour).
Have some patience too with Tullamarine Airport. Expect long queues when you get off the plane for customs, luggage and quarantine and even longer ones trying to exit the city again. We suggest you arrive super early – sometimes you even need to queue to get your vehicle off the freeway exit and check-in queues seem to be commonly over one hour long, even for domestic flights.
For more on things to do in Melbourne with kids when you are travelling on a budget read the suitcases&strollers story Family Days Out In Melbourne
For more on Melbourne's retail scene (for kids) read the suitcases&strollers story Shop Melbourne