When most of us think about Melbourne, images of sporting legends, sophisticated theatre goers and internationally-famed restaurateurs usually spring to mind. Yes, Melbourne is the home of many greatly beloved Australian sporting pursuits (the AFL, the Australian Tennis Open and the Melbourne Grand Prix just to name a few) as well as the world-class East End Theatre District and an exceptional array of dining options. However, what many people don’t realise is that the city also plays host to a wide array of family-focused activities, making the CBD a charming location for a family getaway. From world-class museums and zoos to beaches and fun parks, be sure to keep the Victorian capital on your list of places to visit with the kids, with plenty to see and do within walking distance or a short tram ride from the city centre.
Located within Royal Park in Parkville and an easy tram ride or drive from the city, Melbourne Zoo is Australia’s oldest zoo and still maintains some of the buildings erected at the time of its opening in 1862. This historic landmark is home to over 300 species of animals, with highlight features including the Orang-utan Sanctuary, Lion Gorge, Trail of the Elephants, Lemur Island, Baboon Lookout and the Butterfly House. Daily talks by animal keepers offer opportunities to gain a deeper understanding of the animals who call the Zoo home and to learn about the important conservation work the Zoo does to protect species from extinction. Little adventurers will also love the interactive Growing Wild exhibit and the Keeper Kids play space, with the Zoo running daily programs of activities including craft, story-telling, music, movement, research and animal encounters, all designed to stimulate children’s interest in the natural world around them.
Conveniently located in Carlton just a short tram ride from the heart of the city and boasting a huge array of permanent and visiting exhibitions, Melbourne Museum is a must-do for families visiting the city. The Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery, aimed at children 5 years and under is the perfect place for getting littlest family members interested in learning, with a range of hands-on activities designed to engage the senses in a fun and interactive way. The Science and Life Gallery is home to an impressive collection of exhibits guaranteed to wow any fans of dinosaurs and creepy critters while the Body and Mind gallery provides an educational experience guaranteed to dazzle the senses. Walk through the Forest Gallery and experience a temperate Victorian rainforest filled with flora and fauna before stopping off at the Museum Café for a well-earned coffee. The Museum is also home to IMAX Melbourne, a custom-built 3D theatre with the world’s largest cinematic screen which offers a mix of educational and commercial movie content.
St Kilda and Luna Park
Jump on a tram and head a little south of the CBD to St Kilda for some family fun. Grab a coffee from one of the many cafes dotted along or closes to the foreshore and take a stroll to enjoy views of St Kilda beach. Relax in the sand while kids build sandcastles or have a swim in the gently-lapping water before heading to the end of the pier at sunset to wait for the return of the St Kilda beach penguins. Kids will also love the St Kilda Adventure Playground with flying foxes, trampolines, cubby houses and lots of climbing structures to keep them busy. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, be sure to stop in at the Esplanade Markets and be regaled by the beautiful hand-made artisan and craft of local marketeers, delicious eats and of course, coffee. Finally, a trip to St Kilda wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Luna Park. Entry to this compact theme park is located close to St Kilda Beach is free with visitors paying for ride passes, which means you can come and go throughout the day as you please. Be sure to check the opening times, as the park is only open on weekends, school holidays and public holidays.
Collingwood Children’s Farm
Located a mere 5km from the Melbourne CBD, Collingwood Children’s Farm allows visitors to experience a little bit of country life right in the thick of city. Watch the farmers at work shearing sheep or milking cows, get up close and personal with the farm residents and enjoy a picnic on the grounds. Children will love cuddling the resident guinea pigs and giving the cows a brush after they’ve been milked (check the Farm’s website for times). The Melbourne Farmer’s Markets are also held at the Farm on the second Saturday of every month and provide a great opportunity to nab some high quality fresh produce