Melbourne is such a hip and happening city, but does that make it a suitable family holiday destination? Absolutely, says blogger and self-confessed travel obsessive Sharon Gourlay. She regularly packs up her two kids (aged 4 and 2) and her suitcases to explore the rest of the world (which she documents on her website Where’s Sharon?) but when she’s in her Australian hometown there is plenty to do with her kids in Melbourne. Sharon tells suitcases&strollers all her insider tips to Melbourne with kids and why the changeable weather isn’t that bad.
Why should parents plan a family holiday in Melbourne?
Melbourne is a fabulous city for families. There are countless awesome attractions for families and great food. It is often called the cultural capital of Australia and I would agree.
Where is your favourite place to take kids in Melbourne?
There is a lot of competition but my favourite place is the Werribee Open Range Zoo. This zoo is a great size for young kids and has lots of interactive activities for children to stop them getting bored. They also have a bus tour round the open range section every morning specifically for preschoolers with songs and preschooler-friendly information. It is fabulous.
Where are your kids’ favourite place in Melbourne to hang out?
Scienceworks museum is the one that my oldest asks for the most. She absolutely loves museums aimed at children and this one is fabulous. There are so many things to play with and as she gets older we are able to incorporate more learning into the activities. It is also great for adults as there are a lot of interesting things to do.
What is the best free activity to do with kids in Melbourne?
Scienceworks is free for kids and free for adults with concession so that is our best free activity.
The ACMI Screen Worlds: The Story of Film, Television & Digital Culture is fantastic for all ages and is free as well.
The kids also love the “story time” activities which are on every week during school term in local libraries.
The Children’s Garden at the Botanical Gardens is a big hit in summer.
[For more travel tips on free or cheap things to do in Melbourne with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here. For more on free things to do with kids in most cities, see the suitcase&strollers story here.]
Where is the best place to take kids in Melbourne when the weather is bad?
What are some of the city secrets that tourists might not know about but shouldn’t miss on a family holiday in Melbourne?
I only recently came across CERES Environment Park thanks to a year 8 science excursion. It is an excellent educational facility for learning about sustainability and energy efficiency. There is also a great park, café and nursery. With younger kids like mine, it is a great place to run around. For older kids, there are many interesting educational activities.
What’s the best way for children to have an authentic Melburnian experience?
I think a great Melbourne experience is catching a tram to St Kilda and eating some great food, topping it off with cake at one of St Kilda’s famous cafes before playing at Luna Park or at the beach.
Which is the best place to stay if you are on family vacation in Melbourne?
I think sticking to the CBD is a good idea so you are central to everything. This way you don’t need a car as most places can be reached on tram or train from here. For younger kids, I’d definitely try to stay at the Spring Street end of the city as this way you are also close to lots of parks so the kids can easily get out and have a good run around. The Park Hyatt is just awesome and surrounded by parks while still being close by a city train station.
What are your tips for kids' shops in Melbourne?
Melbourne is meant to be the shopping capital of Australia, but since I hate shopping – I wouldn’t know! Anywhere you go will have some good kids’ shops. [For more travel tips on shopping for kids in Melbourne, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
Where are your top 3 places for family-friendly restaurants in Melbourne?
We love all the different cuisines on offer in Melbourne especially the budget Asian variety. We take the kids wherever we would normally go and never have any problems. Our top choices are:
· Laksa King in Flemington. This place is famous for its laksas but we love all the Malaysian and Chinese food on offer and so do the kids. The staff are very friendly and accommodating.
· Thy Thy Vietnamese restaurant in Richmond. They serve fabulous, good value Vietnamese food. The restaurant has a very basic interior but kids are always welcome. It is situated on a great Vietnamese precinct on Victoria Street.
· The Corner [170 Bellair St., Kensington, Victoria, Australia, +61 3 9372 2844] in Kensington. They serve the best breakfast dish I have ever had – Bungedinapan [breakfast favourites “bunged in a pan”]. Excellent food, pretty location and also kid friendly.
What is the ideal time frame for a holiday to Melbourne with kids?
I would say a week, although there are so many things to do that you could easily spend a lot longer. This is a good time frame to get a good taste of the city and visit the main family attractions such as one of the zoos, the Aquarium, Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks, a children’s farm and getting out to a couple of Melbourne’s great neighbourhoods. Choose from places such as St Kilda, Richmond, Fitzroy or Carlton.
A two week trip would be even better and then you could think about visiting some of the great neighbouring areas such as Phillip Island for the Penguin Parade and the Great Ocean Road.
When is the best time of year to visit Melbourne with kids?
The summer and the neighbouring months are fabulous – there are so many great events happening. Winter can be a bit chilly and with less things going on but there are also less tourists around so this can have its advantages. There are countless indoor attractions so it’s not necessary to avoid any time of year.
Isn’t Melbourne weather notoriously changeable?
As much as people complain, I don’t think it is that bad. I used to always carry around an umbrella when I first moved to Melbourne in 2000, but now I don’t bother thanks to the fact it doesn’t rain much anymore. In the colder months, you definitely want some warm jackets, but otherwise I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
What is the best way to move around Melbourne with kids?
Public transport is readily available and my kids love it. Trains and trams are awesome with kids. They are easy and enjoyable. Most main tourist attractions are in the CBD or not far away so public transport is an easy choice.
What are your top 3 tips for families travelling to Melbourne with kids?
1. Head to one of the great eating precincts in Melbourne, such as Victoria Street for Vietnamese, Lygon Street for Italian or Footscray for Ethiopian. It is a great experience for the whole family and we have never had any problems taking our kids to these places.
2. Take at least some public transport even if you hire a car or bring your own. I don’t think there are any kids that don’t like trams and trains.
3. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the options and don’t just visit the top attractions such as Melbourne Zoo and the Aquarium. Often the lesser known attractions can be more fun and less stressful with kids.
For more travel tips on things to do in Melbourne with kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.