Unique things to do in Melbourne
Looking for the most unique things to do in Melbourne is my bread and butter. I love this city so much. I have been living here for 20 years after all.
In this guide I have listed all my findings, the Melbourne hidden gems that are in my heart, with a few weird things to do too.
You will find non-touristy places to visit and a few unique experiences of Melbourne.
but let’s go into it.
Table of Contents
- 1 Unique things to do in Melbourne – Hidden gems in a nutshell
- 2 The unusual and unexpected rooftop
- 3 The smallest cocktail bar in Melbourne
- 4 The Heavenly Queen Temple
- 5 Visit the Graffiti Chamber (storm tunnel)
- 6 Rutledge Lane and the Melbourne Street Art movement
- 7 Birrarung Marr Park, the best view of the city
- 8 The Yarra River, the underrated walk
- 9 Explore Melbourne by kayak
- 10 Boutique accommodation I suggest in Melbourne
- 11 Other well-known attractions you should not miss
- 12 Full Map of the unique things to do in Melbourne
- 13 Tools I love to discover my secret places in Melbourne
Unique things to do in Melbourne – Hidden gems in a nutshell
This list of unique things to do in Melbourne has been growing on a regular basis and fully updated after the Pandemic which unfortunately has decimated a few spots.
This list is part of my personal notes, a reference inventory of my quirky things to do in Melbourne.
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 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. This experience has been closed since the pandemic (2019) but they are planning to re-open it again
- Western Water Treatment Plant: this is the first sewage treatment plan in 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.
- Build your Wycheproof Boomerang: so you are in Australia and you are after something typical to take back home. Why not build 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 in 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 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 coffee the right way: Melbourne is the world’s 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 actually to 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 such 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.
- Tour a cemetery: there are a few in the city however my preference goes for the one in St.Kilda
- Stunt driving like a pro: let’s get wild on a car, get a 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 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 is to come soon 🙂
And now it’s time for more Melbourne hidden gems.
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 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.
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 revisiting 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?
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.
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.
I was recently at Bar Americano and it’ seems that it’s no’s now temporary closed. My hope is that they will re-open again. I will check it in the coming weeks again.
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.
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
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.
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).
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 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.
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?
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.
If you are budget conscious then you should check out the Atlantis Hotel, probably the best value for money in the city.
Clean, spacious, even with a pool and a gym room. It’s also located next to the Southern Cross Train Station where the SkyBus from the airport arrives, so handy.
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
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.
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
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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
The second one is about the best view of the city that you can have from the first level, outstanding.
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.
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.
Full Map of the unique things to do in Melbourne
Tools I love to discover my secret places in Melbourne
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, and 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 🙂