The Melbourne hidden gems to visit [with unusual and weird things to do]

Best Melbourne hidden gems to visit and explore

Last updated on August 1st, 2018 at 09:36 pm

I have been living for over 10 years in this city and, although I am travelling a fair bit, whenever back at home I am always around looking for the best Melbourne hidden gems.

Admittedly, there are many places to explore in the city. The most popular attractions, favoured by kids and family, are the SEA LIFE Melbourne Aquarium, the Melbourne Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Check the latest info on their website, they have so many things going on that only checking the published calendar will give you an idea of the extent of activities.

But, beside the common places, suggested by many guides and websites, what could be the other attractions that stand out and make a difference to your trip? What are the hidden gems in Melbourne that will make your travel to the most liveable city in the world a fully unique experience.

I have spent my last week exploring once again the city, looking for new places, hidden corners, unusual sites, quirky experiences.

For this post I have used 2 super valuable apps (by the way, you may check the full list of my suggest travel apps here)

The first one is It’s my reference app when I go for some photography in new places. It tells me all about sunset, sunrise, moon and when is the best light for my photography.

The second app is the newly rebranded It suggests new places to explore, new food to experience, new hidden corners to discover, all based on my personal preferences with the help of a predictive technology. (Check out the web version here)

But before starting with the list of the hidden gems of the city here is a section on weird things to do in Melbourne, if you are after an unusual experience of course 🙂

Weird and unusual things to do in Melbourne

This list of unusual attractions of Melbourne will be growing on a regular basis. This document will be updated as soon as I find the next quirky thing 😉

  • 1806 Cocktail Bar : this is one of the places I usually take friends from overseas to “impress”, and not because of the luxury but because of the funky style. The bar is set on a theatre stage (but at ground level) with tables on 2 floors facing the bar. Cocktails are to die for and I have still to try the food, which I was said to be very good, especially the degustation menu on Saturdays. You need to ring the bell of the unusual door, easy to miss, on Exhibition st.
  • The Doghouse : it’s always hard to find a cafe where you can take you dog inside. How many times we see sad dogs waiting outside? No more with Doghouse, a lovely dog cafe where interaction is the norm. As soon as you step in you see happy people and happy dogs too. And it’s so easy to meet someone else and speak, well, about dogs of course.
  • Cat Café : we have to please all of our pets 😉 not only the dogs
  • A Punt Tour at the Botanical Garden : a visit to the botanical garden is a must in Melbourne, but here it is something you may add to your usual attraction, the unusual twist, a punt tour in the lake, similar to a gondola tour in Venice, of course very romantic and unexpected.
  • Western Water Treatment Plant : this is the first sewage treatment plan of Melbourne, over 100 years old (and hopefully renewed since LOL). It’s an interesting trip, just outside the city where you can understand how water is processed and provided to the city. It’s also an inexpensive experience, which is good for the wallet 🙂
  • Toilet with majestic view, free of course : head to the Sofitel on Collins street, take the elevator to the 35th floor (bar area) and spare 2 seconds for the toilette, you will not be disappointed. The view to the east side of Melbourne is just amazing.

  • Build your Wycheproof Boomerang : so you are in Australia and you are after something typical to take back home. Why not building it yourself and, even more important, why not take a lesson on how to use a boomerang 😉
  • The Bazaar @ Chapel street : this must be the quirkiest bazaar of Melbourne. I have visited a few but what you can find here is really unique and in some cases so weird that I just wonder how did they find that stuff
  • The Croft Institute : when I first visited this place I got a bit worried, I just followed few happy guys and suddenly I was in a back smelly alley, 2 meters wide, full of graffiti. There was a red light at the end of the 30m lane but still. Than I entered the place and it was like stepping back in an old 1920 University lab (this is where the cocktails area made). When I went to the loo on the first floor I also realised that there was some great funky music on the top floor, the dancing area. Too good to be true. I have been back many times since.
  • The Escape Room : think to be locked in a room with your team. You need to discover the way out through some hidden clues. It’s quite intensive as you only have 50 minutes 
  • Make coffees the right way : Melbourne is the world capital for coffee. Hard to find a street without a cafe. In some areas you have one every 3 meters. Do you want to know the best way to actually make one. Check out the program at the Sensory Lab
  • Perform in a Circus : every kid loves the circus, who doesn’t? As a child I also thought about working in one, weird isn’t it? Or maybe not that unusual after all. In Melbourne you can actually attend classes to learn skills as flying trapeze, acro and tumbling and so much more, for kids and adults too. Surely you will impress your friends and partner, beside being a good way to be fit.
  • Rap Jumping : it’s not really jumping but a free fall walk along the side of a multistory building. Definitely an experience for adrenaline junkers
  • Tour a cemetery : there are a few in the city however my preference goes to the one in St.Kilda (ok, this is maybe not an independent preference after all, living in St Kilda for over 10 years). 
  • Stunt driving like a pro : let’s get wild on a car, get few spinning lessons and so much more. An interesting afternoon after all, definitely a unusual attraction in Melbourne
  • Naked beaches for the summer : yes, I visited this place too, but no photography, that would have been weird LOL When you arrive at the bottom end of the Sunny Side road, park your car and walk north (on the right side) through a narrow path. You will reach the clothes-optional beach in about five-ten minutes. It is a legal place to go skinny dipping
  • and the next one to come soon 🙂

And now it’s time for more unusual places to visit in Melbourne

The unusual and unexpected rooftop

I like to start this list with one of the most unusual bar I have seen and experienced in my life.

What can man do with few unused railway carriages?

Why not refurbish them as a bar/restaurant?

Ok, that’s easy and maybe not that unique. But what if these railway carriages are parked on top of a building with a spectacular view to Collingwood, Fitzroy and the city CBD.

This is the Easey’s bar/cafe/restaurant.

Sometime it pays off to look up in the sky.

This is for sure an unusual architectural decision and the impact is really amazing.

Easey’s cafe/bar in Collingwood

Easey’s cafe/bar in Collingwood

Surely is one of the best hidden restaurants in Melbourne, mostly american burgers. Beside the food, you walk up there for the trains and the amazing view.

It can be quite busy in the weekend

The smallest cocktail bar in Melbourne

I was in this bar once, around 5 years ago.

I loved it. It was like stepping back in time, in the 30s.

Lately I thought about re-visiting the place, but no way. I could not remember where it was.

No wonder, it’s probably one of the most hidden bars in Melbourne. Around the corner of a small dark alley that cross a tiny lane.

This is where the app helped me. I was walking in the area and here it is, suggested based on my likes (cocktails and bars 🙂 ), not just a top 10 bla bla.

The name?

Bar Americano

The hidden tiny Bar Americano

The hidden tiny Bar Americano

It is super tiny, in fact only around 10 people at time can go in. It has been furbished with wood pannels and furniture from a antique trendy bar in Italy, all imported to Melbourne. Really spectacular.

There is a small selection of cocktails, made as it used to be. For example the ice is not provided in small cubes. It is instead presented as a single ball in the glass to preserve the cocktail flavor as long as possible.

Beside the cocktails, you will find another interesting thing of Bar Americano. The amazing art pieces glued on the wall of the dark alley, called Presgrave Place. Definitely a great subject for some photography.

The arty lane of Bar Americano

The arty lane of Bar Americano

Rutledge Lane and the Melbourne Street Art movement

I can without any doubt define Rutledge Lane as THE open air gallery for street art.

This is most definitely one of the hidden gems to visit in Melbourne in 2017 especially if you love graffiti….who doesn’t 🙂

Rutledge Lane gives its best at night.

Yes, it may seem a bit intimidating. It does not smell great and there are lots of bins around, all with graffiti as well 😮 but the experience itself is unique and it’s safe too. I visited this place multiple time in my photography workshops and I never had a single issue.

Rutledge Lane is nested behind Hosier Lane, probably the most popular graffiti lane in Melbourne. It’s actually quite amazing how many people people visit Hosier and miss Rutledge Lane.


Rutledge Lane and the green tree

Another tip I can give is to visit the nearby multilevel garage and have a view from the top

Go back to Flinders street, turn right and enter the Flinders Gate Carpark. Take an elevator to the second last floor and walk to the edge in front of you for the unique view (there is a net, it’s rather safe, no worries).


Photography tips

Visit the area in the night for your best photos.

Many reasons, the colours will pop up, less people around, almost the area for yourself, graffiti photos have a great contrast with low light.

Try also few photos looking up to the sky (see photo below).

Hosier Lane is a must visit place when in Melbourne

Hosier crossing Rutledge Lane

Melbourne Hosier Lane, graffiti upside down

Melbourne Hosier Lane, graffiti upside down

State Library of Victoria

Why visiting the State Library of Victoria?

Because the old dome view from the 6th floor is really unique

The dome at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

The dome at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne

You can wander around this beautiful building, read the newest magazines , access free internet (even the computer is provided), visit the Library cafe, one of the best in Melbourne. Do you want more excuses? Check these photos.

The State Library Victoria in Melbourne

The State Library Victoria in Melbourne


The Stawell Gallery exhibition at the Victoria Library of Melbourne

The Stawell Gallery exhibition at the Victoria Library of Melbourne

There are few free art exhibitions as well. Check the program on the State Library of Victoria website.

Photography tips

The place to be is the Dome. Once you enter through the main door, pass the security check and take the elevator on your right side to the top level. The view of the Dome is magnificent. You can walk down through the levels to enjoy other points of view

Birrarung Marr Park, the best view of the city

It has been a long day, it’s almost sunset and I am close to Federation Square.

Well….it’s the right time to have a short walk to the Birrarung Marr Park where you can experience the best colours and view of the city on sunset time.

The Yarra will be on your left side and the city on your right side.

The Birrarung Bridge

The Birrarung Bridge is one of my top location for a photo of the city skyline in the blue hour



Photography Tips

Wait to take the photos of the Birrarung Bridge till the blue hour, just after sunset. The city lights will be all on and the view will become really magnificent.

Use the bridge as lead-in lines for more impact (see the free tutorial How to use lead-in lines in landscape photography for more info)

The National Gallery of Victoria

Obviously the NGV is a well known gallery, I can surely say that it is the most famous gallery in Melbourne. What probably many people do not realise is that a substantial part of the National Gallery of Victoria is actually free to enter. There are as well areas dedicated to the kids, making a great introduction to the art world

Feeling like in a cathedral at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), Melbourne

Feeling like in a cathedral at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria), Melbourne

The National Gallery of Victoria is located in St.Kilda Road. Beside the main exhibition, which has usually an entrance fee, everything else is free. The website gives enough info and floor plans to organise your tour.

Moreover, if you are visiting Melbourne on a weekend trip in summer, you should not miss the concerts in the backyard, a great place to relax and have a coffee.

The Ian Potter Center has a similar concept of free and pay-for exhibitions. This is the gallery where I had my best art experience in Melbourne. I saw some great exhibitions of new artists.

Photography tips

There are some great corners to take photos in the NGV. The Great Hall with glass ceiling by Leonard French (see photo above) is the place to be.

Use your wide angle lens or your mobile with the stitching feature to have a great panoramic photo including part of the ceiling.

Move to the external backyard for more shots, you will find some interesting and different corners there. Have some abstract shots around the NGV (see photos below)


The Royal Exhibition Building

Finished to built in 1880, the Royal Exhibition Building is today World Heritage Site-listed.

It is often used for small exhibitions in the weekend,

To enjoy the grandeur of this building however I suggest you to visit it when empty. Check the website for more information and guided tours as well.

This is obviously a well known place however almost nobody knows that you can book your own private exploration, and you will not be disappointed with your photos either 🙂

The Royal Exhibition Building of Melbourne in Carlton

The Royal Exhibition Building of Melbourne in Carlton

Accommodation gems I suggest in Melbourne

Yes, I live in Melbourne, and more specifically in St Kilda. Because of my work, photography, and the fact I have travelled a fair bit, I have quite often friends coming to visit me.

Whenever possible I apply the “My home is your home” motto, however sometime this is not possible. Here below the hotels/boutique accommodation I usually suggest, based on past experience, feedback, from friends staying there, and uniqueness of the hotel.

If the budget is not your first priority, then I suggest the Adelphi Hotel. It’s like spending time, and sleeping, in a modern art museum where every single detail is well looked after.

Check the latest offer at Adelphi


The Adelphi Hotel is right in the CBD, perfect location for a weekend in the city.

If you are budget conscious then you should check out the Punthill Northbank, probably the best value for money in the city. Great location next to the Yarra River and the price is so economical for Melbourne.

Check the low price at Punthill !!




Well known, however gems

Flinders Street Station and the iconic 9 clocks

Why visiting this place?

Because this is definitely an iconic Melbourne place. Anybody that has visited the city but has not come to Federation Square and Flinders Station has missed something.

The building has been completed in 1909 and it is one of the city’s most recognisable landmark.

Walk around the station through the tunnel between Elizabeth Street and Southgate and experience some of the most beautiful tiles graffiti. Really a remarkable area to visit

Flinders Street Station, another iconic site to visit in Melbourne

Photography tips

Based on my experience there are two ways to have a better photo at Flinders Street Station.

First, check around for a high point of view, this could be a building closeby (see photo below) or even better a multi-storey car park.

Second, if you are in a city, check for the light reflected by any skyscraper around.

In the case above I waited for the light coming from a closeby glass building which worked as a gigantic light reflector, around 2 hours before sunset.

Photo of Flinders Street Station captured from the Blindside Gallery (entrance in 7/37 Swanston Street)

Photo of Flinders Street Station captured from the Blindside Gallery (entrance in 7/37 Swanston Street)

Flinders Street Station is also a great place to capture some Street Photography shots. For this reason I like to go there around 8am and 5pm when the commuters come and go. That gives any photographer many opportunities (see photo below)


From Federation Square grab any tram (except #1) direction St.Kilda and stop at Kings Domain for the next Melbourne attraction

Shrine of Remembrance

There are two good reasons to visit the Shrine of Remembrance.

The first is to have a moment of reflection and read about how cruel can be the war. This is a memorial built for the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I, now dedicated to all Australians who have served in war.

City View from the Shrine of Remembrance

City View from the Shrine of Remembrance

The second one is about the best view of the city that you can have from the first level, outstanding.

View to St.Kilda from the Shrine of Remembrance

Back view to St.Kilda from the Shrine of Remembrance

The Melbourne Cricket Ground

You cannot miss the Melbourne Cricket Ground during your stay. This is the biggest stadium in the southern hemisphere, with over 100 thousand seats. It’s a majestic building that will definitely stand out as one of the top places to visit in Melbourne.

It’s also possible take a guided visit through the stadium and you can also enjoy the National Sports Museum.

This place will be surely liked by adults and children as there are dedicated sections to everybody. It’s for every sport with relations to Australian events.

You will find the motorbike of Stoner that won the MotoGP, the bicycle of Cadel Evans used at the Tour De France, there is a full section about the Olympic games with memorabilia of the Australian Olympians and so much more.

Inside the National Sports Museum with Olympian Trevor Vincent (museum guide twice a week)

Inside the National Sports Museum with Olympian Trevor Vincent (museum guide twice a week)

Photography Tips

How much freedom do you have moving around the MCG? Probably not as much as you would like but you have few opportunities. The place is enough interesting to forget about photography anyway 😀

And remember this place has always a big crowd when AFL is on, most of the Saturdays and Sundays. The Australian Football League is a real event, especially in Victoria, not to be missed.

The Yarra river, the underrated walk

One of the most underrated walk in Melbourne is definitely on the right side (downstream) of the Yarra River. You can start your walk from the Birrarung Bridge and finish in Docklands. Best time is night time with the city and Southgate lights turned on.




The long ride to the city of Melbourne, the Jim Stynes bridge

The long ride to the city of Melbourne, the Jim Stynes bridge

Photography Tips

Except for the Jim Stynes bridge, where the sunset is definitely the best time to be there, all of the other sites come out great in night time. In summer this is the perfect spot to be, fresh and cool.

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

The Melbourne Star Observation Wheel is the biggest one in the southern emisphere.

It is probably one of the best viewpoint of the city, really awesome.

In the area you have places where you can eat. Nearby there is also an indoor playground, a wide shopping area and, if you are keen, have a try with some ice skating.

Best-Travel-Camera-2016-Docklands_ Night_ Star Observation_ wheel-Docklands_20150510_076-min

Secret things to do in Melbourne

Explore Melbourne by kayak

This is a very cool way to enjoy the city, and from a totally different corner too.  

You can explore Melbourne by Kayak during the day or, even better, by moonlight. The trips usually start from Docklands and they go through the Yarra river up to the city.

You can also start the morning with some yoga before leaving with the Kayak. Hard to say no, isn’t it?

There are a few operators in the city, you can just Google “kayak Melbourne” and check the best alternative.

Visit the Heavenly Queen Temple

Check this photo on sunset. Now, can you resist to it? 

You can easily be somewhere in Asia. And this says a lot on how multicultural is the city of Melbourne, with hundreds of spoken languages.

How to photograph running water with a DSLR

The Heavenly Queen Temple is inspired to the Chinese sea-goddess Mazu 

You can make a full day visit adding the Footscray market, which is awesome. 

Take one of the frequent train to Footscray or grab one of the shared bicycles around the city 

Rap Jumping

First question is: what is rap jumping?

Well, the ultimate goal is to descend from a building. It could be easily done using a lift or the stairs. It may become challenging if you abseil from the external wall looking up to the top of the building. You will definitely need lots of adrenaline if you forward abseil, which means you will look down to the ground during your abseil!

Forward abseil running, or rappeling, is a technique sometimes used by special forces, you may have seen it on one of the action movies.

Book your Rap Jumping in Melbourne

Visit the Melbourne storm tunnels

This is really a unique experience in the city, if you can find any of this storm tunnels. And surely it is one of the most hidden places in Melbourne

Here is most impressive one. What is the name?

The Graffiti Chamber located….well….under South Yarra.

Hard, if not impossible, to find it on any other guides.  It is basically a subterranean chamber in a huge storm drain network which you can access from the Yarra river.

DO NOT go there after a storm obviously or few rainy days, it’s just a dangerous place to be in that days.

Should you add it in your bucket list?

It’s really your call. It’s underground and definitely you should not visit it alone. Some of the photos below will give you an idea.

Final thoughts

Melbourne is a popular tourist destination, no question about.

Is it possible to still find some hidden gems in Melbourne?

I think so and in this post I hope I gave you some good ideas

Enjoy the city and let me know your comments, your plan, your photos.

It will help me to improve and write a newer and better list of places to visit in Melbourne

Full Map of places to visit in Melbourne

Map of the places to visit in Melbourne

Map of the places to visit in Melbourne

Click here for a Google Interactive Map

Travel Photography Stefano FerroStef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.

Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry. 

Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world. 


Stefano Ferro
Stef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.
Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry. 

Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world.
    • A thank you note, Brandon Chow
    • February 3, 2019

    Hi Stefano,
    Just back with my wife from Melbourne. Went there mainly for watching Australian Open and a BIG thank you for your recommendations you posted here. We visited as many of them as we could with the time available, we love them all and we decided that “we shall return”! Also a BIG thank you for your tips on the *GREAT* Great Ocean Road, we had the most unforgettable trip there all because of your genious tips! Thank you and all the best for 2019!

    • Reply

      Thanks Brandon,
      again, really appreciated.
      Enjoy the week!!

    • Self Drive Sydney to Melbourne 5 days on GOR
    • January 14, 2019

    Hello Stef, Both my husband and I will be travelling to Australia to do the GOR in February. We have been scouring the internet for blogs to get as much information as we can. I am really glad to chance upon your website. It has lots of interesting information. We should be very happy if you would give us some advise and suggestions on how to plan a good itinerary.
    Thanks in advance!
    Best wishes

    • Question please! Brandon Chow
    • October 17, 2018

    PS. One question, Stefano. Is a 4-wheel drive an absolute necessity for driving from Melbourne to Port Campbell on M1/A1 and then back on the Great Ocean Road or a Toyota Corrola would do for two “small-built” persons? Grateful for your advice please. Thanks!

    • Reply

      Hey Brandon, no need of a 4WD. All roads are sealed, and even the unsealed one inside the Otway NP (in case you want to venture there) can be driven with a 2WD, they are flat and easy.

    • Wonderful stuff and Great Ocean Road! Brandon Chow
    • October 17, 2018

    Wonderful post and wonderful tips! My wife and I are looking forward to exploring this awesome city and the trip along that holy Great Ocean Road after the Australian Open tennis tournament. Thank you so much, Stefano!

    • Reply

      No worries Brandon,
      both amazing destinations. The Australian Open is such a beautiful event. Just check the weather forecast before attending the day. The weather can be as hot as 40 degrees or even below 20. Crazy Melbourne weather!! I ended up myself in flip flops and tshirt on a sub-15 evening ahahah still remember it
      For the Great Ocean Road have a look to this article. It’s a full featured guide to plan your trip
      Enjoy Melbourne !!

  1. Reply

    Thanks for the great post. Lived in St Kilda for the better part of a year in 2006, and making my first return in Jan 2018. Will make sure to see as many of these as possible!

      • Stef
      • August 16, 2018

      Wow Richard, that was a long time ago, a time when it was difficult to find a decent coffee LOL And now you have a great cafe every two shops ahhah
      Enjoy your return and let me know if you need more info

    • Ryan Biddulph
    • June 13, 2018

    Looks like such a cool place. Not been through that way but I plan to see Melbourne eventually.

    • Campbell Kerr
    • December 4, 2017

    Thanks for this. BTW the link to the app is broken.
    2 suggestions:
    – Port Melbourne boat tours
    – Collingwood (roughly): You can hire a row boat and feed the ducks

    • Reply

      Thanks Kerr,
      I have now fixed the link. I think moved the app to a different page, all working now. Really appreciated

      I will definitely check out the other two suggestions. They both look so interesting


    • Tania
    • March 1, 2017

    WOW!!!! I am down in June and can’t wait to see Melbourne shine 🙂 Any suggestions for winter shots? Btw your work is amazing …

      • Stef
      • March 1, 2017

      Great to hear that, I love autumn in Melbourne. Usually good weather, just warm enough for a nice photography walk.

      This is the time of the year where you see some amazing colours on the tree and therefore in the parks.

      In this respect, I would suggest a visit to the Botanical Garden of course. The Fawkner Park is also one of my favourite. Fitzroy Park is a must if you are in to the CBD.

      If the weather turns for the worst with some raining you can have a look to some interesting interiors of famous and hidden buildings. Have a look to this post for more info.

      Probably my favourite is the 333 Collins Street old bank, have a check 😉

      Enjoy your amazing time in Melbourne

    • Jillian North
    • February 17, 2017

    Visiting in March, sooo excited!! Cant wait to take some amazing photographs with your tips!!
    Watch this space!!

      • Stef
      • February 21, 2017

      March is an awesome time to visit Melbourne. Probably the best weather. The hot days are over however temperature is still pleasant.

      You can have a look also to this other post if you are interested in photography. It is a list of the top photography sites in the city, with some surprises too and some rooftops 😉

      Enjoy your trip


    • Dialled In
    • January 4, 2017

    This is great thanks. Heading to Melbourne soon so I’ll add these to my list. Love the photography tips too.

    • Reply

      Great stuff. Enjoy Melbourne, a beautiful city with lots of “hidden” things to do 🙂

  2. Reply

    Beaut pics of Melbourne! Loving this photographer’s guide to Melbourne. Any suggestions for places outside of the city?

    • Reply

      Thanks Tina 😀
      Around Melbourne….have look at my suggestions on the Great Ocean Road.
      I have in the pipeline also another post on the Mornington Peninsula and Region north of Melbourne.

  3. Reply

    Nice post.

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