Cheap and Free Things To Do in Melbourne

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As one of the most bustling, colourful and trendy cities in Australia, Melbourne (Naarm) is renowned for its multitude of events, excellent coffee scene, street art and sprawling tram line! It's an awesome city to visit as a backpacker, with a truly extensive music and nightlife scene, as well as a variety of great budget-friendly day activities.

So hold tight, and discover the best free and cheap things to do in Melbourne, as well as the best ways to spend your evenings in this charm-filled city!

A Backpacker's Guide to Melbourne

Best Free Things to do in Melbourne

The Overnight Great Ocean Road Trip

Gather some mates, rent a car and drive along one of the most scenic stretches of road Australia has to offer! Your east coast tour won’t be complete until you’ve seen The Great Ocean Road. It is a 240km stretch that starts in Torquay and ends in Allansford. The main landmarks to visit are the Twelve Apostles, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge. However, we recommend spending 2 days to complete this trip to give yourself ample time in-between each stop off!

Day 1: Melbourne to Apollo Bay

Your first stop is Torquay, a small surfer town that has a great surfer vibe! Visit over Easter and experience the world's longest-running surf competition: Rip Curl Surf Pro at Bells Beach! Enjoy the scenic ocean-side vistas and drive along to Apollo Bay for the night.

Day 2: Apollo Bay to Twelve Apostles to Melbourne

Start your day early and head over to Marriner's Lookout and Teddy’s Lookout in Apollo Bay! Drive through the windy roads that twist between ocean views and the forest of Otway National Park, as you finish the trip at The Twelve Apostles for your grand finale. Here, you’ll find the totally Instagram-worthy Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge, all just a short distance between each other, before heading back to Melbourne.

Great Ocean Road sea and twelve apostals on an overcast day

Brighton Beach

One of the most popular beaches in Melbourne, Brighton Beach is just 11km away from Melbourne CBD! Located in one of Melbourne’s most affluent suburbs, this is a great beach to visit to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Brighton beach is best known for the beach bathing boxes dotted along the sand which are a great spot for that an essential mini photoshoot. Each of the little shacks is uniquely painted and worth over a whopping $300k each!

Four colourful Brighton bathing boxes shacks on the beach, surrounded by palm trees and blue sky

Street Art 

Renowned for its trendy, funky and vibrant street art scene, Melbourne totally lives up to its arty reputation scene! With a wide array of hidden alleyways, adorned laneways and massive murals across the city and suburbs, discovering the street art has to be on your bucket list! From famous artists to political commentary, you’re bound to find thought-provoking art and great photo opportunities amongst these best street art laneways in Melbourne.

Street art alleyway in Melbourne

Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)

Visit one of the world's most famous sporting venues and experience one of Australia’s most beloved sports! The MCG is  Australia’s largest stadium with a capacity of over 100000, it is world-famous for hosting the first Olympics in the southern hemisphere and has since become a base for numerous live sporting and musical events. The MCG is also home to AFL which hosts Australia’s unique sport of Aussie Rules Footy!

The MCG cricket ground from the outside, with a blue sky

Hardware Lane

With cafes and restaurants specialising in international cuisines, Hardware Lane is a less “grungy” laneway. Enjoy the summer sun and eat al-fresco or sit inside during the colder winter months. This is a popular spot in the evenings and illuminates the European vibes Melbourne often has to offer!

Hardware Lane with restaurants, Melbourne

Flinders St Station

This famous landmark is without a doubt one of the top things to see in Melbourne CBD. Flinders St is one of the busiest and most iconic streets in Melbourne. Flinders St station opened in 1854 and is a piece of history sitting in the middle of the city. Grab a coffee and watch the trams cross the intersection to get the real feel for Melbourne… hustle, bustle and all!

Flinder St Station brick train station at twilight with plenty of people crossing the road at traffic lights

Collins St 333

If you’re into architecture this one is for you! Visit 333 Collins St and check out the combination of 1890s architecture and 1930s designs. The huge Italian baroque dome is the main attraction!

Collins St Grand ceiling and windows

The Block Arcade, The Tea Rooms

Step back in time and visit “Hopetoun Tea Rooms 1892” and treat yourself to an afternoon tea fit for royals! The Block Arcade is rich in history and is a boutique-style shopping arcade located in the CBD originally built in the Victorian era.

The Block Arcade Tea Room cabinet of cakes and sweets

The Royal Arcade

Sticking with the topic of Victorian-era arcades, The Royal Arcade is Melbourne’s first and the longest-standing in Australia. Rich with history, this is one of the most popular tourist spots. Be sure to look out for “Gog and Magog” by Gaunt’s Clock; two massive statues that hold interesting myths.

Royal arcade with checkerboard floor and grand shopping boutiques

State Library Melbourne

A library visit on your backpacking trip perhaps isn’t the first thing on the list but Melbourne’s State Library is absolutely stunning! Tours of the library run Fridays and Saturdays where you can explore the history of the building and see some of the iconic heritage reading rooms and galleries. This library has that old-school authentic grand library feels to it, a great place to add more photos to the catalogue.

State Library Melbourne, rows of study tables


Visit the Docklands in Melbourne, a modern harbour that has plenty of restaurants, public murals and sculptures. The Docklands is a vibrant hub of activity and provide a great setting to view the surrounding city skyline light up the night sky. Jump on the Star Observation Ferris Wheel to get the best bird’s eye view of both the city and the Docklands! 

Docklands pier and city views

Marvel Stadium

Previously known as the Docklands Stadium, Marvel Stadium is a major events arena hosting numerous sporting and live performance events. Home to Essendon FC and Carlton FC for AFL, Marvel Stadium also hosts other events such as Rugby Union and concerts including Justin Bieber and Harry Style’s world tour. 

Marvel Stadium with a cow in a tree statue outside

Queen Victoria Market

Opened in 1878, this market has been added to the national heritage list. Covering 2 city blocks, this market hosts over 600 businesses where you can find the best bargains from fresh fruit and veg to gourmet food and souvenirs. If you have a sweet tooth, get in line and join the queue for some of the best fresh doughnuts around! “The American Doughnut Kitchen” van is incredibly popular and has been trading since the ’50s. I did warn you, be prepared to queue up for these mouthwatering bad boys!

Night Market in Melbourne with strings of lights

Acland St

Acland St is situated right in the heart of St Kilda’s beach area. Here you’ll find mouth-watering cake shops, restaurants and nightclubs! This is where all the action is. Eat, drink and shop, and feel like you’re really on holiday! The Palais Theatre and Luna Park are just a short walk from here too.

Acland Street cafes and boutiques at sunset with palm trees


Voted one of the best Chinatowns in the world, and the oldest Chinese settlement in the Western world! Located from Bourke Street to Spring Street, sample some of the best and most authentic Chinese food Melbourne has to offer. Try to visit during Lunar New Year, and see the spectacle of the Chinese Dragon, which is operated by 200 people!

Chinatown street with bright lights and red lantern strings

Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria

Extending over 38 hectares, these Botanic Gardens are a peaceful escape from the concrete jungle. Dating back to 1846, it’s one of the oldest Botanical Gardens and has some incredible views of the city skyline. This is the perfect place for a picnic in the sun, surrounded by some good mates and nature!

Royal Botanical Gardens Melbourne grass and sunlight

St Kilda Pier & Penguins

Penguins? In Australia?! You betcha. Melbourne Pier is home to a colony of Little Penguins which can be seen each day after sunset. Head over to the pier to watch the sunset and the adorable penguins come ashore to their nests. And a total bonus; this experience is both free and simply magical! 

St Kilda Pier at sunset with cityscape in the distance

Princes Pier, Port Melbourne

Built between 1912 and 1915, Princes Pier was Melbourne’s longest pier originally 580m long. The pier has since been partially renovated, with 390m of the original pier left untouched. The remnants of the original pier make for a pretty cool view of the timber stumps left in the ground which have become an ecosystem for fish and other sparkling marine creatures!

Princes Pier posts in the ocean at Port Melbourne

Yarra’s Edge Marina

Located between the Bolte Bridge and Crown Casino is Yarra’s Edge Marina. This is a super popular destination for boat lovers to come and view some luxury yachts. Sitting on the edge of the busy city, this is an award-winning riverfront with a spectacular view, as well as a great place to feel like a bougie, affluent boat owner! 

Yarra's Edge Marina with city and blue sky background

Webb Bridge

One of many bridges that Melbourne has to offer. Webb bridge looks, you guessed it, like a web! It is actually inspired by an Aboriginal fish trap and has won numerous awards for its unique structure and practical use today. When crossing from one side to another over the Yarra River, look out for this one.

Webb Bridge metal sculpture bridge entrance, Yarra's Edge Marina,

Rod Laver Arena, Australian Open

The Australian Open is held each year in Melbourne. For a relatively affordable price, get yourself a day ticket and head over whilst the Australian Open is on. Rod Laver Arena is the main venue and is also a multi-purpose arena also hosting music concerts and live performances.  

Federation Square

Home to Australia’s largest broadcasting screen, Fed Square is an open plaza that hosts public events and world-class exhibitions for the arts and culture! Open throughout the year, here you can catch the biggest sporting events live amongst the crowds, often hosting the AFL finals and Australian Open. Located at the intersection of Flinders and Swanston Streets, you can’t miss it.

Federation Square asymmetric building with trees and a person walking down a path outside

Fitzroy Gardens & Miniature Tudor Village

The Fitzroy Gardens date back over 150 years and is a place full of rich history. Not many cities around the world can boast such gardens so close to the city centre. Key features to visit are Cooks Cottage, the Conservatory floral display, the Miniature Tudor Village, the Fairies Tree and the Scarred Tree. Fitzroy Gardens are also a great place for a picnic surrounded by nature, escaping the city landscape!

Tudor Village, miniature houses surrounded by garden trees and bushes

Princes Bridge

One of the oldest Yarra River crossings, the view from this bridge is unbeatable! It’s certainly one of the best vantage points to showcase Melbourne on those Instagram stories and to gaze out at the sprawling city landscape! 

Princes bridge fringed by grass on an overcast with the cityscape in the background

Best Cheap Things to do in Melbourne

Luna Park, St Kilda

Get your adrenaline pumping at St Kilda, and visit the historic amusement park that has been operating since 1912! Luna Park, St Kilda is located right on the beachfront… you can’t miss the iconic entrance! So grab a fairy floss and a ticket to the new rides for a day of good ol’ fashioned fun! 

Luna Park entrance, big face with mouth as walkway and colourful rollercoaster on a sunsetting afternoon

Melbourne Walking Coffee Tours

There’s no better way to experience Melbourne’s coffee culture by booking a guided walking tour to sample the best coffee Melbourne has to offer. There are countless cafes and boutique coffee houses in Melbourne, and having some guidance will certainly help you narrow it down. Go see the city and indulge in some gourmet affiliation with this quirky, coffee-lover experience! 

Check with your hostel reception if there are any complimentary walking tours as most hostels offer these! A great way to meet other backpackers whilst you learn the best places to visit in Melbourne.

Coffee beans, grounds and group handle

Sea Life Aquarium Melbourne

Sea Life Aquarium Melbourne is a the Southern Ocean and Antarctic Aquarium. If you’re unable to spot the penguins at St Kilda pier, this is your next best bet. The penguin playground exhibit is one of our favourites, alongside the “Dive into the Deep” exhibition, where you can familiarise yourself with some of the most mysterious marine life!

People standing in front of an aquarium wall tank with sharks and fish

Harry Potter and The Cursed Child

Come and experience the real magic that The Princess Theatre has to offer. Enjoy the latest instalment of the Harry Potter book series! Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Play is only available in Melbourne. Make sure you pre-book this as it attracts fans known as “Potterheads” from all over the world.

Cursed Child Harry Potter Theatre Sign with a sculpture on an old brick building

Neuron Scooter

If getting a tram is a bit too old-school and you want something more exhilarating, rent a Neuron Scooter! These electric scooters are gaining popularity by the second as they’re a super fun and affordable way to explore the city. Simply download the app and scan the QR code on the scooter, and off you go!! It’s $1 to unlock the scooter and 38c per minute for the rest of your trip.

nuerons electric scootersclines up outside an old brick building in Melbourne CBD

Palais Theatre

Australia's largest seated theatre, The Palais Theatre is located in St. Kilda, just outside Melbourne’s CBD. Book tickets to a live show ranging from comedy to music concerts, The Palais Theatre is a beautiful picturesque theatre and great to visit on a rainy day!

Palais Theatre, sandstone building in Melbourne

Lune Croissanterie

Voted home to the best croissant in the world, Lune Croissanterie describes itself as neither, a shop nor factory, but a celebration of the delicious pastry! Make sure you’re prepared to line up for these pastries, they’re open 7 days a week with a guaranteed queue until they run out.

Pile of croissants on a platter

The Edge at Melbourne Sky Deck

Experience a world-first, The Edge experience is a glass cube suspended over 300m in the air over Melbourne’s streets. Providing you with the best aerial view of Melbourne, grab a pic for the “gram” …if you dare!

Where to go at night in Melbourne

Melbourne Southbank & South Wharf

A must-do both day and night, Southbank has plenty to offer. Enjoy the waterfront stroll along the Yarra River and explore the various restaurants, bars and designer shops. Complete with alfresco dining and bars for creative cocktails this is the social hub of Melbourne. Expect to see street performers and buskers here throughout the day and witness some fantastic acts. This is most definitely the place to be for your nights out in Melbourne! 

Southbank at night, water and city lights in Melbourne

Pony Fish Island & Arbory Afloat Bar

You can’t miss, Pony Fish Island, a cocktail bar right on the Yarra River. It is located quite literally underneath the Evan Walker Bridge on the Southbank in Melbourne. It has some of the best cocktails available, with certainly one of the best views along Yarra River.

 Arbory Afloat is rated as Melbourne’s number one floating cocktail bar with great outdoor dining options! Each season the menu is reimagined, creating a new experience each time! It is located on the Yarra River, just a short walk from Flinders St Station. This is the perfect place for chilled day drinks in the sun that transforms into more of a club vibe in the evening.

Pony Fish floating cocktail bar under the Bridge

Night River Kayak Melbourne

If exploring Southbank along the Yarra River isn’t enough for you, check out the Moonlight Kayak Tour! This is a 3-hour tour, kayaking along the Yarra River taking in the breathtaking views of Melbourne’s city skyline. This is one of the best ways to enjoy the sunset in Melbourne and watch the buildings come to life as they transform the night sky.

Four Kayaks on the Yarra River at Night, with sparkling city light reflections

Crown Casino

Get a taste of Vegas in the largest casino in the southern hemisphere and one of the largest in the world! Crown Casino Melbourne has endless casino gaming opportunities. Win big and treat yourself to one of the numerous exclusive and luxurious restaurants such as Nobu, or swap the backpacker hostel for the hotel and spa on-site!

If gambling isn’t your style, check out the Gas Brigades fire-balls hourly each night as 8 of the Crown’s towers shoot the world's largest fireballs into the sky!

Crown Casino gambling table with chips and numbers

Yarra River Cruise

Book yourself on to a Yarra River Cruise to explore the city views by water! Look through the catalogue of various tours that suit your preference and get a group of mates together Look out for party boat events for a fancier night out in Melbourne! 

Getting Around

Southern Cross Station

Southern Cross Station is Melbourne’s major railway station, located in Docklands on Spencer Street. This will be the best way to get in and out of the city if you wish to explore outer city suburbs such as Brighton and Mornington. Southern Cross is also the pick-up and drop-off location for the Greyhound coaches and the SkyBus airport shuttles. 

Southern Cross Station, busy train platforms

Trams in Melbourne

With 250km of track, Melbourne’s tram network is the largest in the world! Catching a tram around Melbourne city is one of the easiest methods of transport, and whilst you’re in the CBD it is FREE! There is a “Free Tram Zone” set within the CBD which allows you to get to all the major landmarks. If you plan to visit the outer zones, make sure you have a “Myki” that is loaded with funds in order to tap on. You can find a Myki at most convenience stores or look for a 7-Eleven as this will be your best bet.

Two Melbourne trams in the central city, on a cloudy day.

Searching for accommodation or tours during your Melbourne adventures?

Chat to our friendly travel agents for comprehensive advice and booking help across the entire East Coast! 

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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