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As soon as Melbourne lockdown ended, I was off! Straight to the city to explore and have some new adventures.
Personally, I’d never stayed in South Melbourne before, so I felt this would be the perfect place to base myself, just a short walk from many of the popular attractions and sites nearby.
In this article, I’ll be sharing my experience staying in and exploring South Melbourne. I’ll also list some of the top things to do in South Melbourne and its surrounding areas.
First I’ll start with things to do within the suburb of South Melbourne, then I’ll highlight some other activities that you can do in the city that are just a walking distance away.
Welcome to South Melbourne
South Melbourne is such a beautiful suburb to stay in if you want to explore the city, but away from all the hustle and bustle.
Known as one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs, South Melbourne radiates charm, lush green leafy streets and pathways, old Victorian buildings, terrace houses and chic cafes, boutiques and restaurants.
South Melbourne is full of cultural diversity too which is really nice.
No matter your interests, I’m sure you’ll find tons of great things to do in South Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs.
Let’s now take a look at some of the most known attractions and activities you can do in this delightful suburb.
The Best Way to Get Around
Depending on where you stay in South Melbourne, the best way to get around is to walk, drive or catch the tram.
A very cheap, easy and scenic way of getting around. This is one of my favourite ways to explore South Melbourne and its surrounding areas as so much of it is within walking distance.
- South Melbourne Market is around a 0.5km / 10 minute walk within South Melbourne
- Southbank is only a 1km /15 minute walk away
- The Botanic Gardens is only a 1-2km /30 min walk away
- Melbourne CBD is a 3km /30-40 minute walk away
Obviously, it does depend on where in South Melbourne you stay, but in general, everything is pretty close by.
If you have a car, you will find plenty of 2-4 hour parking spots available. Most of it is paid (between $1-3 dollars per hour), however if you’re lucky, you may find some free spots.
If you don’t want to move your car every 2 hours and are located near St Kilda Road, I’d suggest taking advantage of the 4 hour parking at the Royal Botanic Gardens (along Birdwood Avenue).
It costs around $1.20 per hour, which is cheaper than many the other parking locations the area.
Ensure to download the convenient PayStay parking app beforehand so you can organise payment of your parking and top ups, without having to go to your car or put coins into a meter.
Catching the tram from South Melbourne is pretty easy with various tram routes that pass through the suburb and along St Kilda Road.
Depending on where you want to go, you can jump onto:
- Route 1 – Which is the South Melbourne Beach Route
- Route 12 – Which goes to and from Victoria Gardens and St Kilda
- Route 58 – Which goes to and from West Coburg and Toorak
You can view and download a copy of the Melbourne tram network and relevant maps here.
Keep in mind that you will need to purchase a Myki public transport card so that you can tap off and tap off.
7 Top Things to Do in South Melbourne
South Melbourne is such an incredible region of Melbourne to explore.
Over the next sections I will outline the top things to do in South Melbourne and its surrounds, particularly for adventurous travellers and locals!
You can also check out their relative locations on the map below.
1) Escape Room Melbourne
Keen to test your puzzle solving skills or simply have some fun with a group of friends?
Why not head over to Escape Room Melbourne, the first escape room in Australia.
If you’re an adventurous soul looking for adventurous things to do in South Melbourne, this should be at the top of your list.
Created by Ali Cheetham and Owen Spear, two designers with PhDs in psychology, you will get up to 70 minutes to escape from one of their three themed rooms:
- Mine Escape – In this room, you will need to help bring your friends to safety after being stuck in a mine. The question is, can you get them out in time? This room is recommended for groups of 2-6 people.
- Fractured – In this room, you will enter the mind of Robert, a World War 2 war veteran, who has fallen into a coma. To get out you must spark his consciousness by reconnecting his most important memories.
- Kellar’s Magic Emporium – In this room, you’ve been shortlisted for the role of Magician’s Assistant. You will therefore need to solve a series of puzzles to prove your magical skill.
The owners of Escape Room Melbourne are extremely passionate about puzzles, narrative, and immersion. Supposedly, they spend between 6-12 months designing and building each experience.
You will have 70 minutes to find the clues and unravel the hidden mystery of your room by solving a variety of quirky and inventive puzzles in order to escape!
All I can say is, good luck!
2) South Melbourne Market
If you’re into all things food, crafts and shopping then you’ll want to add this market to your list of cool things to do in South Melbourne.
The South Melbourne market is renowned for having some of the country’s freshest produce, which makes is the perfect place to stock up on groceries for the duration of your stay.
If you prefer to eat out, you will find an abundance of international cuisine and unique foods at the various food stalls and stores.
You can also shop for boutique items such as homewares, clothes, jewellery, wine, plants and more at the market.
Only a short walk from most places in South Melbourne, you will be able to visit the market on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 8am-4pm.
3) Portable Iron Houses
I must admit, I was a bit bummed that I didn’t manage to get across to these when I was exploring South Melbourne. These three portable iron houses provide a cool insight into life during the Gold Rush era.
They are among the last nineteenth-century prefabricated iron buildings, with South Melbourne being one of the few remaining places in the world to see them.
In Victoria, gold was discovered around 1851 attracting a flock of migrants to the area – all needing some form of accommodation. This is what initiated the portable house to be built. By 1855, there were up to 100 portable buildings located in South Melbourne.
Of these, Patterson House is the only one left on its original site today. The other two portable houses; Abercrombie House and Bell House; were relocated to the current sites from North Melbourne and Fitzroy.
If interested in witnessing this awesome piece of Melbourne history, you will find them behind South Melbourne Market on Coventry Street, just before Montague Street.
Unfortunately, they are only open for public viewings at certain times of the year, however you can still admire the exterior at the following address:
- 399 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, VIC, 3025
The houses are often open for inspection as part of the Australian Heritage Festival which takes place between Sunday 25th of April to Sunday 2nd of May, between 1-4pm.
Entry usually costs around $6 AUD per person, but best to check on their site for the most up to date information.
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4) Coventry Street
If you love boutique stores, good food and browsing, Coventry Street is the place to go. A popular thing to do in South Melbourne, you will not be short of activities here.
Given it is located close to South Melbourne Market, you may as well kill two birds with one stone by visiting them both in the same day.
5) South Melbourne Town Hall
One of the most significant landmarks in South Melbourne, this treasure is located right in the middle of the suburb’s streets and is walking distance from most locations.
Built in 1879, South Melbourne Town Hall is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.
If you love admiring the detail of Victorian architecture, there’s a convenient park bench located just outside the building on a small patch of grass (actually where the below photo was taken).
Depending on the season, you’ll also get to sit amongst the colourful rose garden. This is a great way to view the building whilst enjoying a snack or having a picnic.
These days, the building is home to the Australian National Academy of Music, however you can usually get a look inside between the hours of 9am-4pm Monday – Sunday.
6) See Yup Temple
The See Yup Temple was built back in 1856, as a place to worship for the See Yup community who were settling in Melbourne during this time.
The temple reflects a combination of Chinese and European architecture and contains oriental décor and various hand-crafted artefacts from China.
There seems to be mixed information online as to whether non-Chinese people can enter inside the temple.
Even if you can’t go inside, you’ll definitely be able to admire and appreciate the unique exterior of this temple from the street.
So why not add it to your walking route through South Melbourne.
7) Smart Artz Gallery
I didn’t get to visit this gallery during my stay, however this gallery appears to be a pretty cool place to check out.
Formerly an industrial warehouse, it has been transformed into the chic modern gallery that it is today. It also hosts art exhibitions throughout the year.
If you love art, or just feel like being adventurous and trying something new, you can read more about the gallery here.
7 Top Things to Do in the Surrounding Suburbs
1) Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
If you love nature and adventure, exploring the lush green biodiversity of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is definitely one of the top things to do near South Melbourne.
Only a short walk across the road, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria is one of Melbourne’s greatest treasures and has been around for over 170 years.
The garden spans an impressive 38 hectares and houses a collection of more than 8,500 species of plants from all over the world.
Some examples include camellias, rainforest flora, cacti and succulents, roses, perennials and many more.
Inside the gardens and along its perimeter, you can enjoy:
- 10km of walking tracks
- 6km of cycling tracks
- Self-guided walks
- Picturesque picnic spots
- Public BBQs along the Yarra River Reserve
- Exhibitions and events during the year including the Moonlight Cinema.
In my opinion, some of the most beautiful picnic spots are located beside:
- Central Lake (The Taxodium Lawn)
- The Yarra River Linear Reserve (Next to Alexandra Avenue).
It’s true that you can spend hours, if not days, wandering through the gardens.
There are also various historical attractions in the area including:
- The Shrine of Remembrance – A shrine dedicated to commemorating those who fought in World War I with memorials, exhibitions and gardens.
- Government House – Opened in 1876, and currently the official residence of the Governor of Victoria.
- Melbourne Observatory – Located on the hill adjacent to the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. It was constructed between 1861-63 and continued to expand until 1902. In 1965 it was eventually decommissioned from Government. Up until then, the buildings were used for weather forecasting, time setting, setting weights and measures standards and for the surveying of Victoria.
If this is your first time exploring Melbourne, this should be one of the top things you do.
2) Run Around The Tan
If you enjoy fitness, running along the Tan Track is one of the best things to do.
Bordering the Royal Botanic Gardens, this is Melbourne’s most popular running track and will give you the chance to enjoy stunning scenery including:
- Tree-lined roads
- Views of the Yarra River
- Skyline views of the city
It is predominately flat except for one uphill section (on Anderson St) and contains various drinking fountains along the trail. It is therefore suited for people of all fitness levels.
To my surprise, The Tan was originally built as a horse racing track and was named after the tan bark surfacing of the original track.
I must admit, as a local, I didn’t even know this. I thought it was called “The Tan” due to surrounding the BoTANic Gardens.
You learn something new every day!
3) Victoria Barracks
The Victoria Barracks is located on St Kilda Road and is one of the most impressive 19th century government buildings in Victoria.
Some of its earliest buildings date back to the late 1850’s, with the original bluestone buildings constructed between 1856 and 1872.
Before World War II, the Victoria Barracks were used as accommodation for British Imperial Garrison troops.
Since then, it has been used by the Australian War Cabinet, Defence Force and acted as the administrative headquarters for the Australian Army, Royal Australian Navy, the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Federal Police.
4) The National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria, commonly called the NGV, is Australia’s oldest and most visited art museum. Founded in 1861, it contains a spectacular range of artworks from all different eras and geographical locations.
Currently the gallery holds a permanent Collection of more than 75,000 works, showcasing the history and development of Australian, Indigenous and international art, design and architecture.
As it grows and evolves, the Collection embraces and reflects diversity in cultural identities, artistic practices and geographies with the intention to connect art and people.
They also host a variety of exhibitions each year to showcase artists from all over the world.
Entry to the main galleries and displays is FREE so you may as well head on down to the NGV and let it take you on an adventure through art.
4) Southbank & South Wharf
If you love the combination of great food with stunning city skylines, Southbank must be added to your list of top things to do in South Melbourne and surrounds.
Just a short walk from the suburb of South Melbourne, you will be BLOWN away by the views along this riverside promenade and dining area.
Attracting sophisticated crowds, no matter the season, you will be able to enjoy:
- Fine dining at one of the many riverside restaurants
- A cocktail at one of the nearby bars (I definitely recommend Arbory or Riverland Bar)
- Spectacular views of the Melbourne CBD skyline
- Street artists and buskers
- Plays and music theatre performances at the Malthouse Theatre and Melbourne Recital Centre.
Southbank would have to be one of my favourite places in Melbourne. My partner and I recently treated ourselves to Teppanyaki at a place called Miyako. It was delicious!
4) South Melbourne Beaches
If planning a trip to South Melbourne or its surrounding areas in Summer, it would be worth organising a day trip to explore the South Melbourne Beaches.
Located on the south coast of the city, some of the most popular beaches include:
- Port Melbourne Beach
- Middle Park Beach
- St Kilda Beach
There’s a walking path along Beaconsfield Parade which allows you to easily walk between the beaches at your leisure to find the perfect spot to lay your towel.
It also gives off “Florida” vibes with palm trees lining the main road, long piers, dog walkers and roller-bladers. You can also walk down the nearby Princes and Lagoon Pier to take some nice photos.
There are various public toilets around this area, however there always seems to be queues at the lady’s – typical…
I was surprised to find that there’s not many food places near the beach, other than the Sand Bar which just offers takeaway snacks (Eg. fish and chips).
If you get hungry, I suggest walking up Victoria Avenue where you will find various restaurants and cafes options.
If you don’t have a car, the best way to get to the beaches from South Melbourne is to catch the Zone 1 Tram, which has tram stops along Victoria Avenue, or to walk.
5) Albert Park Lake
If you’re looking for adventurous things to do near South Melbourne, Albert Park Lake is a nice place to venture to.
Just 3km from the centre of Melbourne, it is home to a plethora of events including:
- Fun runs
- Cycling events
- Pet-friendly meet-ups, and the iconic
- Australian Grand Prix.
Whilst at Albert Park Lake you can hire a boat, try out the indoor sports facilities or fitness gym at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, and even sign up for some sailing or rowing lessons.
You can also admire impressive views of the city from the lake.
The Best Places to Eat in South Melbourne
If staying in South Melbourne, you’ll have no issue finding great spots to eat.
As mentioned above, we had a great time eating out and treating ourselves to some Teppanyaki in Southbank at Miyako.
No matter where you’re located, you’re sure to find a plethora of different restaurants and cafes to indulge in.
The best way to find places is to simply look on Google Maps, however you can also venture to the South Melbourne Market for some yummy international cuisine.
You can also check out some recommendations on Broadsheet.
So, there you have it!
14 Top things to do in South Melbourne and its Surrounding areas.
- Escape Room Melbourne
- South Melbourne Market
- Portable Iron Houses
- Coventry Street
- South Melbourne Town Hall
- See Yup Temple
- Smart Artz Gallery
- Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
- Run Around The Tan Track
- Victoria Barracks
- The National Gallery of Victoria
- Southbank & South Wharf
- South Melbourne Beaches
- Albert Park Lake
I hope that this article has given you some inspiration into things you can enjoy doing in this glorious suburb within the inner skirts of Melbourne.