Indoors, outdoors, or with the kids, there is always something to do in Melbourne. Leisure activities in Australia can quickly become expensive; fortunately, there is also a wealth of no cost attractions. When visiting Melbourne as a budget traveler or as a resident strapped for cash on your day off, these five free things will give you lots to do without spending a cent.
1. National Gallery of Victoria
Housing artifacts from every significant time period in history, the National Gallery of Victoria is one of Australia's finest art collections. There's two locations - The Ian Potter Centre in Federation Square, and National Gallery of Victoria International, just outside the central business district on St. Kilda Road. The museum offers exhibits, talks, live events, and activities - most of which are free of charge. There's even free stuff to do for kids.
2. Cranbourne Gardens @ Royal Botanical Gardens
Stringybark eucalypts,marshlands, bushlands, sculptures made from plants, and more awaits you at one of the world's best botanical gardens. Free tours include audio-guided walking tours and seasonal discovery tours with a live guide. The Royal Botanical Gardens is also home to a variety of wildlife and some threatened plant species, and the Gardens plays a pivotal role in nature preservation and research. This is an ideal place to spend an afternoon with your children or to get away from the city without having to travel at all! Admission to the Cranbourne Gardens is free; there may be an admission charge to enter the Australia Gardens. There's too much going on at this fab destination on to list in just one post, but rest assured, it is possible to spend an entire afternoon here.
3. Carlton Gardens
For an afternoon in the park, visit Carlton Gardens, located on the northern boundary of Melbourne's central business district. Carlton Gardens is a great example of Britain's influence on Australia's early culture; large trees, annual flower beds, and sweeping lawns were typical of the Victorian-era gardening style that dominates many of central Melbourne's parks and gardens. The park is also home to several species of Elm trees that were wiped out by Dutch Elm Disease on other parts of the world. The north end of the park opens up to the Royal Exhibition Building, which housed Australia's first Commonwealth Parliament in 1901. In 2004, The Royal Exhibition Building was the first building in Australia to reach World Heritage status. Pack a lunch and spend an afternoon exploring the park and surrounds.
4. St. Kilda Beach
In the summer months, Melbournians flock to the beaches to escape the heat. St. Kilda Beach is popular with locals and tourists alike. If you're in the mood for a stroll instead of a swim, follow the boardwalk to St. Kilda Pier. Views of Melbourne city and Port Philip Bay provide plenty of opportunity for scenic photos and people watching. If you're a traveler in need of digs, several hostels are located within blocks of the beach.
5. Design your own siteseeing tour
Melbourne is a menagerie of world culture, architecture, and local color. The past, present, and future of the world's most livable city coexist gracefully in the many alley ways and boulevards. There's no shortage of things to see and do in Melbourne. Take in Victorian architecture on Swanston Street, or explore lanes and alleys filled with ethnic shops and graffiti art. Go window shopping on Collins Street, or spend a few of those dollars you saved by visiting the attractions on this list to buy yourself a cuppa from one of Melbourne's famous coffee houses. Whether your taste is cosmopolitan or historic, interactive or introvertive, there is no shortage of attractions to fit your personality. Pull out your Melbourne guidebook, pick a few things you want to see, and plan a walking route. This is also an ideal opportunity to ride Melbourne's iconic (and free!) City Circle tram. It takes about an hour to make the full loop, and you can hop on and off at designated stops as often as you like.