Melbourne, Australia

Three Marvelous Days in Melbourne

I’ve always had a thing for second cities—or, as I prefer to call them, “underdog” cities. This is as much because people don’t give them a fair shake as it is because of how cool they tend to become while most of the world’s sights are set elsewhere.

Melbourne, perhaps more than any other second city in the world, embodies why I feel this way, whether we’re talking about super-cool neighborhoods like Fitzroy and Chinatown, quirky coastal settlements from Brighton Beach to St. Kilda or the Great Ocean Road, which is one of the world’s best day trips, to say nothing of how iconic an Australian experience it is.

Below, I’ll outline my best three days in Melbourne ideas, which work either as a standalone itinerary or a starting point for a trip that’s unique to your tastes.

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Day One: Stories from the City

Australians have a curious system of nomenclature when it comes to their cities—specifically, referring to neighborhoods within a particular city center, but outside of downtown, as “suburbs.” I felt like I was very much in the city, for example, staying in charming Fitzroy, with its mid-century bungalows and colorful laneways. Just as much as I did, in fact, as I emerged from Flinders Street Station into Melbourne’s Central Business District and walked southward toward the Yarra River.


Indeed, my forays into “suburban” café culture were just as essential to my three days in Melbourne as the morning I spent relaxing in the Royal Botanic Gardens, the afternoon I ate my way through Chinatown and the evenings performances I enjoyed in Federation Square. To say nothing of the convenient street car lines that string Melbourne together and, beyond that, how wholly walkable the city is.

Day Two: Stories from the Sea

Melbourne isn’t perceived to be a “beach” city like its more beloved sister (and Australia’s “first” city) Sydney, but it’s actually not very far from the ocean. Neither from dramatic coastal scenery, which I’ll discuss in just a few paragraphs, nor from some legitimately gorgeous seaside neighborhoods and urban beaches.


As waterfront Melbourne neighb…er, suburbs are concerned, the one you’ll most want to focus your attention on is St. Kilda, an upmarket and slightly more-classic-than-cool district whose sophistication pairs well with the timeless beauty of the lapping waves and swaying palm trees on its southwestern periphery. Brighton Beach, meanwhile, is famous for its colorful bathing boxes as much as its pretty, if not pristine beaches.

Day Three: The Great Ocean Road

Did someone say “dramatic coastal scenery”? Oh that’s right—I did! The best way to spend your third of three days in Melbourne is with a day trip to the Great Ocean Road, either via an organized tour (you can find many options in Federation Square) or by renting a car, which is more expensive but also gives you more freedom to explore.


To be sure, while most organized day tours will simply take you down to Geelong, then westward to the 12 Apostles and back, going on your own will give you the option to stop more often along the way. Independent day trippers can even add a visit to Phillip Island (on the other side of Port Phillip Bay), whose adorable “penguin parade” perfectly embodies the larger truth of your three days in Melbourne: That Australia’s second city is excellent in ways its first never could be.

The Bottom Line

This post is the best three days in Melbourne itinerary you’re going to find online, whether you’re looking for a starting point or for a plug-and-play plan you can insert into your larger Australia trip. From city-center treasures such as Chinatown, Federation Square and the Royal Botanic Garden, to coastal highlights like St. Kilda and Brighton Beach, to a life-changing day drive along the Great Ocean Road, Melbourne should be first on your list of things to do Down Under, even though it’s Australia’s second city.

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is the author of 969 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!


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{ 1 comment }

Chadwick September 13, 2017 at 4:04 am

I love Melbourne. Would gladly live there. It’s got a more European feel than Sydney, which is brasher, glossier and more ‘American’. Here’s some of my tips:

The Botanic Gardens are definitely worth a wander, including a visit to the Shrine of Remembrance. I’ve not been to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (known as the MCG), but apparently it’s a fascinating tour, even for non-sport types.
On Wednesday evenings, there’s a night market at the Queen Vic market. Lots of street food, crafts and entertainment.
Melbourne is one of the ‘coffee capitals’ of the world. They take it really seriously. There are a ton of hipster coffee joints in the laneways in the city centre and elsewhere.
We got caught in the rain and hid in the Immigration Museum on Flinders Street; it was really good! informative, but enjoyable too.
It seems a shame to leave Melbourne when there’s so much going on in the city. However, also good for a day trip are the Dandenong Mountains to the northeast. Perhaps combine with a visit to a winery, the Puffing Billy steam railway, or the Healesville Sanctuary (get up close to the kangaroos and wallabies).
Phillip Island is pretty much a day out in itself; you can’t combine it with the GOR. There’s a koala sanctuary there, as well as the penguins.
If on the GOR, get up early. It’s a couple of hours drive just to get from Melbourne city centre to Geelong (worth a brief stop at Geelong to see the bollard people on the seafront). If you can keep going past the 12 Apostles, because there’s a load more rock stuff and incredible views all the way up to Peterborough and now collapsed London Bridge. There’s a quick route back inland at the end of the day.
Finally, I recommend a trip to Sovereign Hill at Ballarat. This living museum documents the life of a gold rush town and the ill-fated but politically explosive Eureka Stockade. You can walk into the shops and houses, chat to actors ‘living’ there, and – of course – pan for gold.

I’m back in February. So looking forward to it!

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