If you ever plan on visiting Australia you should know that Melbourne can be an expensive city to explore. Even with favorable exchange rates from USD and Euros (CAD is about equal to AUD), food and accommodation prices can be pretty steep compared to nearby destinations. The most popular things to do in Melbourne (going out for brunch, café hopping, visiting the Melbourne Museum, or exploring Scienceworks) all cost 20-30 dollars.
That being said, there are affordable things to do, you’ve just got to look a little deeper to find them. I’ve lived here for almost 5 months and in that time I’ve discovered some of the best free and cheap things to do in Melbourne. It is known as Australia’s most multi-cultural city, so whether you’re looking for something education or fun or delicious, you will find something to enjoy.
Here are my favorite free & cheap things to do in Melbourne:
Catch The Sunrise At Princes Pier
I discovered this spot after getting my first camera ( a Canon DSLR 300D) and becoming slightly obsessed with taking photos. I started to learn more about photography and have found this spot to be one of the best places to take photos in Melbourne. At sunrise, this is an incredible location to snap some pics as the sun comes up over the bay. The combination of dim lighting, the cruise ships in the distance, and the texture of the water and wooden posts makes for a perfect photo. Or just sit on the docks and watch the day begin.
Go For A Swim At The Brighton Beach Boxes
Brighton’s 82 boxes are listed as one of the top cheap things to do in Melbourne. The boxes are simple structures created over a hundred years ago – today, they are beautifully painted storage sheds. The designs range from country flags to simple stripes to images of turtles. It’s a great spot to snap some pictures, go for a swim, or relax on a sunny day.
Go On A Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours are the first thing I look for when arriving in a new city. They are a great way to get to know the streets and figure out the most important places to visit. Walking tours are also an opportunity to meet other travelers and to ask the guide questions about their favorite local restaurants and things to do. A popular company that runs free walking tours of the city is I’m Free Walking Tours.
Visit The State Library
Melbourne’s state library, located just a few minutes walk from Flinders Station, is a great spot to get away from the bustle of the city center. This library is a simple and quiet spot to relax or look through the various collections of novels, biographies, magazines, audio books and non-fiction.
Check Out Local Street Art At Melbourne’s Laneways
There are over 40 laneways and arcades in Melbourne. Luckily they are all free to visit ! The laneways are all unique and combine Melbourne’s history with pop culture and the creativity of local artists. In a nutshell, these are my top 5 laneways to explore:
- AC/DC Lane (named after Aussie AC/DC rockstars)
- Block Arcade (a beautiful row of shops with French Renaissance style architecture)
- Hardware Lane (perfect for happy hour outdoors on a summer afternoon)
- Centre Place (my go-to for 7$ sandwiches & hole-in-the-wall cafés)
- Hosier Lane (the famous street art gallery near Flinders Station)
Visit Westgate Park’s Pink Lake
One of the most photogenic spots in Melbourne, this man-made lake was built to replace the original salt marsh. The water already contains large amounts of minerals but when levels are higher than normal, temperatures are hot, and there hasn’t been rain for awhile, the lakes’ algae produces a red pigment that turns the water pink.
It may be tempting but don’t touch the water – it causes skin irritation and harms the lake’s sensitive plant life.
Take A Walk In Edinburgh Gardens
Located in North Fitzroy, Edi Gardens are a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center. Take a break from sightseeing as you take a walk around the grounds, relax with a picnic, or use one of the many sports facilities.
Visit the Immigration Museum
Melbourne’s Immigration Museum is a great place to explore history through the stories of people who resettled in Victoria for a better life. Being from outside this country, this museum opened my eyes to the positives and negatives of Australian immigration policy. Australia is a young country that provided many settlers with a better life, yet also discriminated against many immigrants and aboriginals in the not-so-distant past.
Grab A 7$ Sandwich At B3 Cafe
This hole-in-the-wall is by far the most affordable and delicious deal for lunch in CBD. Their sandwiches are huge, tasty, and they also have vegetarian options. They’re very reasonably priced at 7$ for a whole and 5$ for half – even cheaper than Subway !
Visit the Shrine of Remembrance
The Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial built to honor the men and women of Victoria who served in World War I. Today it honors all Australian’s who have served in war and is a popular place to watch the sunrise.
If you’re not a morning person, stop by for sunset. It’s an equally beautiful and picturesque time of day to see this historic monument.
Inside the Shrine you can take guided tours, view exhibitions, and visit the gift shop to purchase books, DVDs, and other souvenirs.
Take Sunset Photos at the Docklands
The Docklands are the waterfront suburb of Melbourne that has developed into a technology park and business center. There are a few restaurants and cafés nearby, so sit down and relax – this is a lovely spot to end your day !
Check Out The Sunset At St. Kilda Pier
St. Kilda is an underrated and culturally diverse suburb located just a short tram ride outside CBD. The St. Kilda Pier is one of my favorite spots to relax and watch the sunset. The sky is usually super bright red due to the high amount of particles in the air.
If you’re here after the sun goes down, there’s a spot at the end of the pier where tourists gather to watch baby penguins come out of the water after dark. It’s truly an adorable sight !
Which of these cheap things to do in Melbourne was your favorite? Did I miss any spots you enjoyed?
Thanks for reading !