Unique things to do in Melbourne

I have been living for over 15 years in this city and, although I am travelling a fair bit, whenever back at home I am always around looking for the most unique things to do in Melbourne.

What do I mean by unique?

A non-touristy place to visit, a hidden gem known mostly by locals or an unusual, weird or quirky thing to do.

I try to go besides the common places, suggested by many guides and websites.

Here below I have listed a few of them and I will keep updating this post with the new findings.

In this article you will see

You can read also

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 Suncalc. 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 is Google Earth to discover new locations, rooftops, hidden gems, quirky locations, essentially to get ready and pre-plan.

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 🙂

Unique things to do in Melbourne – quirky in a nutshell

This list of unusual attractions of Melbourne will be growing on a regular basis.

This list is part of my personal notes, a list of places I regularly update with the next quirky thing to do;)

Keep reading for more photos and unusual places

  • 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 Street.
  • The Doghouse : it’s always hard to find a cafe where you can take your dog inside. I am sure you have seen many 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 non-touristy things to do in Melbourne, 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. It’s an interesting trip, very unique, 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.
Toilette with a view in Melbourne, so quirky
Toilette with a view in Melbourne, so quirky
  • 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 a 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. Then I entered the place and it was like stepping back in an old 1920 University lab (this is where the cocktails are 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, besides 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
  • 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 non-touristy thing to do in Melbourne
  • Naked beaches for the summer: yes, I visited most of Melbourne and around. 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

Pin me ;)
Pin me 😉

The unusual and unexpected rooftop

This is the most unusual bar I have seen and experienced in my life.

What can man do with a 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.

Sometimes 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

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 crosses a tiny lane.

The name of the place?

Bar Americano

The hidden tiny Bar Americano
The hidden tiny Bar Americano

It is super tiny, in fact only around 10 people at a time can go in.

It has been furnished with wood panels and furniture from an 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 flavour for as long as possible.

Besides the cocktails, you will find another interesting thing at 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

The Heavenly Queen Temple

Check the photo below I did on sunset time. 

You can easily think that it’s 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 trains to Footscray or grab one of the shared bicycles around the city 

Rap Jumping

The 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.

Check out Rap Jumping in Melbourne

Visit the Graffiti Chamber (storm tunnel)

This is really one of the most unique things to do in Melbourne, more than a non-touristy experience.

There are a few storm tunnels around Melbourne, very hidden and so hard to find the entrance.

A few are a real maze, others have huge chambers inside.

Here is the most impressive one. 

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 a few rainy days, it’s just a dangerous place to be in those 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.

The photos below can give you an idea.

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 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 painted with graffiti 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 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).

View of Rutledge Lane from the top
View of Rutledge Lane from the top
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

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 at 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
Great sunset view from the Birrarung Park
Great sunset view from the Birrarung Park

The Yarra River, the underrated walk

One of the most underrated walks 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.

The best time of the day is after dar with the city and Southgate lights.

The Angel sculpture
The Angel sculpture
Evan Walker Bridge and Ponyfish Island
Evan Walker Bridge and Ponyfish Island
The Sandridge bridge
The Sandridge bridge
The long ride to the city of Melbourne, the Jim Stynes bridge
The long ride to the city of Melbourne, the Jim Stynes bridge

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?

Check out the Kayak experience

Boutique accommodation 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, sometimes 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

Adelphi Hotel
Adelphi Hotel

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 deal at Punthill

Punthill Northbank Hotel
Punthill Northbank Hotel

Other well-known attractions you should not miss

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.

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.

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

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. 

Hidden corners of the NGV
Hidden corners of the NGV

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 on the weekend.

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

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. 

Flinders Street Station, another iconic site to visit in Melbourne
Reflected light on Flinders Street Station
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)
Street photography inside the station
Street photography inside the station

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 the 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 to 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)

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

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

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

In the area, you have plenty of restaurants and pubs.

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

Observation Wheel in Docklands
Observation Wheel in Docklands

Full Map of the unique things to do 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


24 thoughts on “Unique things to do in Melbourne [hidden non-touristy gems to visit]”

  1. 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!

  2. 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


Leave a Comment