We found so many things to do in Melbourne with kids in our week there. We knew there were a host of things to see in Melbourne for us adults, but often kids can take a while to adjust to a bustling new city. As it turned out, we found so many fun things to do in Melbourne for kids that we’re contemplating a return visit soon.
Melbourne has been voted the most liveable city in the world several times, and it soon becomes apparent why. It has also become known as the culture capital of Australia, with a wealth of things to do in Melbourne CBD and close by. There are also so many things on in Melbourne, such as concerts, events, street art and busy street life.
We weren’t sure if our Little Man would be a bit overwhelmed by it all, but he also loved it. He’s a bundle of seemingly endless energy, but we always have to manage it carefully, taking him to one attraction per day so he wasn’t overloaded. We also allowed him plenty of down time at our Melbourne hotel.
There are some things to do in Melbourne kids are going to just love, including obvious Melbourne attractions like Luna Park, but we also came across a few unexpected surprises along the way. Here’s our guide to the best things to do for kids in Melbourne.
- 1 Our Best Things To Do In Melbourne With Kids Nomination – Collingwood Children’s Farm
- 2 Melbourne Museum – Children’s Gallery
- 3 Luna Park Melbourne
- 4 Brighton Beach Huts
- 5 Melbourne Trams
- 6 Melbourne Laneways and Arcades
- 7 Melbourne City Library
- 8 Fitzroy Gardens
- 9 St. Kilda Adventure Playground
- 10 Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
- 11 State Library of Victoria
- 12 Family Restaurants in Melbourne
- 13 Family Accommodation in Melbourne
Our Best Things To Do In Melbourne With Kids Nomination – Collingwood Children’s Farm
Our little fellow adores animals, and wherever we go we take him to see some up close. He loves interacting with them, whether that’s feeding them or giving them a gentle pat. We thought that it would be a pleasant quiet break from the city for him.
We’ve written a more detailed article about the Farm here. It turned out to be ideal for him.
He was feeling a little hot and tired when we arrived, but when we left four hours later we almost had to drag him away.
The farm is 5 km from Melbourne CBD in the suburb of Abbotsford – it’s situated next door to the Abbotsford Convent arts centre. If you’re wondering what to do in Melbourne with kids that’s away from the city, look no further. It’s a lovely rural idyll, far removed from the busyness of the city. The farmyard could be way out in the bush, with its typical Aussie windmill creaking in the gentle breeze.
Sam got most enlivened as soon as the twice-daily feed walk started. Straight away, he was at the head of the queue collecting handfuls of feed, which he gave to the chickens, goats and sheep. After patting the goats and Olive the sheep we went for a walk to the Convent where the cattle were resting in the afternoon shade. He became so excited to see a calf sitting close to a fence, and managed to pat her through it for a while.
Melbourne Museum – Children’s Gallery
This section of Melbourne Museum is one of the best things to do for kids Melbourne has on offer.
The Museum is just outside the CBD in Carlton, next to Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building. The Pauline Gandel Gallery is devoted to kids’ activities, with a variety of installations for them to explore as well as net climbing.
We visited during the school holidays, and this being one of the most popular things to do in Melbourne with children, it was very crowded. Sam tended to gravitate towards the quieter exhibits, particularly loving contemplating one of the light installations. He also enjoyed spending time outside building a giant cubby house and coming up with ideas for adventures in it. All in all, the Museum is a good bet if you’re looking for things to do in Melbourne when it’s raining.
We’ve written about Melbourne Museum Children’s Gallery in more depth here.
Luna Park Melbourne
The Luna Park entrance is one of the most iconic images of Melbourne. You walk in beneath the manically grinning face of Mr Moon, and you’re within a century-old amusement park. It’s surprisingly small, but there are twenty different rides packed inside. Our Little Man couldn’t wait to explore.
There’s no doubt about it, a visit to Luna Park is one of the top things to do in Melbourne. For us it was a joy to see the little fellow trying out different rides, enjoying them with such exuberance.
Fortunately for us, the historic Carousel had recently re-opened following lengthy repairs, and this turned out to be one of his favourite rides at Luna Park Melbourne. He’s at an age (having just turned four years old) and size where he still enjoys the sedate toddlers rides like the Choo Choo Train, but starting to get the taste for a bit more speed and excitement.
He also loved the Arabian Merry, a great ride on board a flying elephant.
We’ve written about our Luna Park in Melbourne experience in greater depth here.
Brighton Beach Huts
We decided to visit Brighton Beach in Melbourne to see the iconic beach huts along the seafront. Brighton Beach in Melbourne is a short train journey from Flinders Street Station, on the Sandringham line to Middle Brighton. It’s a 15-20-minute walk from there. Your best bet if you’re travelling by train is to walk along Dendy Street to the seafront. There’s a crossing at the corner with The Esplanade, a very busy four-lane road – and there isn’t another for some distance in either direction.
Going to the beach is one of the best free things to do in Melbourne, and Brighton is the best one close to the city. The huts are among the most Instagrammable places in Melbourne, and this is what most visitors to the beach came to do. They tended to photograph each other, mainly outside the hut painted with the Australian flag – then have an ice cream and head on their way.
Sam loved his ice cream, but not as much as the beach huts. He spent nearly two hours practicing his long-jumping skills, jumping between the wooden platforms at the front of each hut. He also loved the myriad bright colours which brightened up a cloudy afternoon. Besides, we could take him to just about any beach on the planet and as long as there’s sand and a bucket to build a castle with, he’s happy.
Visiting the Brighton Beach Huts is definitely up there with the best things to do in Melbourne for families. Read more about our family visit to Brighton Beach Melbourne here.
We were hugely excited to have the chance to travel on some of the trams in Melbourne. I hadn’t been on one since visiting Lisbon a few years before, and love this way of getting around a city.
All of the trams and buses within the designated centre of the city are free to use. Our accommodation in Melbourne CBD is a two-minute walk from one of the stops for the beautiful vintage number 35 tram. This route is the free Melbourne circle tram – classic heritage green and cream coloured trams run a regular route around the city centre between 10 am and 6 pm. You’re also treated to a guided commentary on board. It’s one of many great things to do in Melbourne for free. The more Sam travelled on a tram, the more he seemed to enjoy it.
If you’re travelling outside the CBD free transport area, you need to obtain a myki card which you top up as and when required. This is valid for use on Metro trains, trams and buses. The furthest we travelled was Middle Brighton, which is in the Zone 1 and 2 overlap.
If you’re travelling with a stroller as we were, be aware that many trams have stepped entrances, so if you can fold it away, it’s a good idea to do so. The more modern ones have much better level access for strollers and wheelchair users.
Melbourne Laneways and Arcades
We were looking forward to visiting Melbourne’s laneways, but weren’t sure what our Little Man would make of them. We were wary of overdosing him on too much culture and also crowds, so managed this part of our Melbourne visit quite strategically.
Some of the Melbourne lanes are mainly given over to street art – these include Hosier Lane, AC/DC Lane and Duckboard Place. Others are full of cafes and restaurants, such as Centre Place and Degraves Street. Some have a mixture of the two, and there are also some wonderful historic shopping arcades, most notably Royal Arcade and Block Arcade.
We had a wonderful time checking out different Melbourne cafes. I loved the Switchboard Café, a quirky little café with a glassed in seating area with one table in the Manchester Unity Building. Centre Place had a great range of places to eat, but it was too crowded and noisy for the small fellow. He was more than happy to wander with us or be wheeled around for a while. His interest in Melbourne cafe culture was mainly piqued by the sight of cakes in café counter displays, and he did indeed partake of one or two here and there.
At first, he seemed a bit nonplussed about the street art, but the more he saw, the more he seemed to pick things out and show more of an interest. The Melbourne laneway which interested him most was Presgrave Place, with its collection of framed pictures and portraits on one of its walls.
I’d love to look around the laneways of Melbourne again – the art on the walls is constantly changing and evolving. We would also like to eat at more of the cafes and restaurants down the back streets. Visiting the laneways is one of the best things to do in Melbourne at night, and as Sam will be a bit older next time, he’ll also appreciate it more.
Melbourne City Library
We’re always on the lookout for somewhere our Little Man can have a bit of quiet time, as we know when he needs a bit of rest.
We chanced upon Melbourne City Library, which is down Flinders Lane, a step away from Degraves Street and Centre Place. What a find it proved to be. It had a lovely small play area and selection of children’s books. I expected him to hang around for a few minutes, but he was still there an hour and a half later. He also kept asking to go back, and we duly obiged another day.
Fitzroy Gardens is one of the closest parks to Melbourne CBD, and we sought it out after Sam saw and loved a picture of the dragon slide there. He loves a run in the open air, and the park seemed the ideal place for him to burn off some energy.
While I was having a brief look around Captain Cook’s Cottage (transported brick by brick from the UK) he started playing in a nearby stream and stayed there at least half an hour. He loved paddling in the water, splashing us and generally exploring.
Visiting Fitzroy Gardens is one of the best things to do in Melbourne with toddlers, as there are a few things to see there. The Little Man didn’t seem too taken with the Tudor model village, but loved the dinosaur slide at the playground in the corner of the park. It’s a small playground, with the aforementioned slide, a giraffe swing and a sandpit, but he could have stayed for hours. The trees behind give some welcome afternoon shade.
St. Kilda Adventure Playground
St Kilda Adventure Playground is one of the best things for kids to do in Melbourne, and it seemed to be a bit of a local secret. It’s next to a small reserve off Neptune Street, less than ten minutes’ walk from the seafront and Luna Park.
It’s usually open between 12pm and 4pm on weekends and public and school holidays, and was busy with kids enjoying their school holidays. There’s something wonderfully ramshackle about it, from the painted sheds to the treehouse and vintage wooden aeroplane. Sam had already had a very big run at the nearby playground in the lead shot for this feature, so would probably have been better having some down time. But he just keeps on going, and insisted on having a play.
The aeroplane was probably his favourite, though he also explored several other cubby houses. Some of the climbing frames were a little too big for him – I’d say that much of it is best suited to kids aged five, six and older. He felt a bit frustrated that he couldn’t accomplish everything he wanted to. He would also have loved to have a bounce on the trampoline, but as soon I explained the queuing system to him – that one of us would have to sit in a line at least twelve long – he quickly went off the idea!
That said, he’d appreciate it a lot more when he’s a bit older. Aesthetically he seemed to love it. It’s definitely one of the best playgrounds in Melbourne that we visited.
Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne
I explored the Royal Botanic Gardens by myself early one morning while the Little Man had a much-needed lie-in. They’re one of the best family things to do in Melbourne, with some stunning gardens to explore, and over 10,000 species of plants.
The Little Man would have loved what I saw, from the flowering camellias to the many lakes. The area around the Temple of the Winds and the Grey Garden is especially beautiful, a lovely area to walk around in the cool spring morning.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden wasn’t open when I was there – it only opens at 10 am. It’s somewhere else we’ll be taking the little fellow on our return.
State Library of Victoria
I didn’t expect to be writing about the State Library as one of the things to do in Melbourne for kids, but the Little Man loved it. We went to have a brief look at some of the exhibitions and to see the Dome. We expected him to have a bit of quiet time in the stroller after a busy day elsewhere. Not a bit of it. He found it fascinating.
His favourite thing in the Library was the vast Dome area, and the corridors around the side on each floor. Melbourne doesn’t have a castle but this is the next best thing. It’s a fine old historic building that’s enthralling to a curious young mind like his. And there are plenty of hide-and-seek opportunities behind the many pillars. It wasn’t among the most obvious family attractions in Melbourne, but was a wonderful surprise to us and Sam.
Family Restaurants in Melbourne
We stuck to two areas for most of our meals out, with the little fellow’s likes and dislikes uppermost in mind. Our Melbourne accommodation was right on the edge of the CBD, and less than a ten-minute walk away from the many Lygon Street restaurants in Carlton. It’s where many of the Italian restaurants in Melbourne are concentrated. This was ideal for us as the Little Man enjoys pasta, and he also discovered and fell in love with garlic pizza there. His favourites were Papa Gino’s and Café Notturno, both on the west side of Lygon Street.
Family Accommodation in Melbourne
There’s an enormous choice of hotels in Melbourne, and we were looking for somewhere close to the CBD where we could spend a fair amount of downtime with the Little Man.
We chose the Space Hotel Melbourne because of its location, which couldn’t be beaten. It’s just outside the free CBD tram and bus area, and right opposite Old Melbourne Gaol.
We’ve written a more extensive review of our stay, but if you’re looking to save on costs and are happy to use shared facilities, it’s one of the best budget hotels in Melbourne. We can also heartily recommend the eighth floor rooftop terrace, which has an outstanding view of Melbourne’s skyscrapers.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times. His images are frequently used throughout the world by tourism bodies such as Visit Britain and Visit Wales.