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Melbourne for Families

See the City by Tram
Melbourne for Families
Melbourne and its surrounds offer a plethora of family-friendly activities, including numerous amusement parks, animal encounters, the chance to conduct a steam train, and opportunities to explore the city via bike, tram, or tower.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    See the City by Tram
    See the City by Tram
    Melbourne is one of those rare places in which getting from point A to point B is a fun activity in its own right. In operation since 1884, the city’s tram system is the largest in the world yet still easily navigable. Buy a Myki card—a reusable ticket that you load with money—at a station or certain stores, like 7-Eleven. Then, pile the family onto the City Circle tram, which loops through the Central Business District. If you see something interesting, simply pull the cord and hop off to explore. There’s really no better way to see the city.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Luna Park
    Luna Park
    You can’t help but feel giddy as you enter Luna Park through Mr. Moon’s gaping mouth. In operation since 1912, the St. Kilda amusement park mixes adrenaline-pumping roller coasters with mellower rides and a full range of carnival games, making it perfect for guests of all ages. Families will love the vintage feel and wide variety of activities, from the 100-year-old carousel to the scenic railway. When you’ve done it all, you’re just a quick hop from long, sandy St. Kilda Beach, or a 10-minute walk from St. Kilda Adventure Playground, which boasts zip lines, slides, and plenty to explore for toddlers through teens. Stick around until evening and you can catch the local little penguins, who return to their nests on the St. Kilda breakwater each night around sunset.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Museums and Zoos
    Museums and Zoos
    Melbourne offers so many outdoor activities for families that museums and zoos often get ignored, but visitors with time to spare will find great learning opportunities at these impressive attractions. The Melbourne Museum, focused on Victoria’s natural environment and history, has an entire wing for kids, while the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium boasts incredible marine life found across Australia, including crocodiles and sharks. Head to the Melbourne Zoo for the chance to hold meerkats and pet kangaroos, or the Collingwood Children’s Farm to milk cows, tend chickens, and bottle-feed baby lambs. If you have time for a day trip, you can even visit Healesville Sanctuary; just over an hour’s drive from Melbourne, it’s home to hundreds of native Australian species.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    To the Edge
    To the Edge
    For sweeping views of the entire city by day or night, visit the Eureka Tower. The elevator will shoot you up 88 stories in under a minute, fast enough to feel the g-force in your stomach. When you step out of the elevator onto the Eureka Skydeck 88, you’ll be greeted with a 360-degree panorama from the CBD to the suburbs, extending as far as Port Phillip Bay. The viewing platform is the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere and features viewfinders, LED displays, and interactive maps to help you better understand the views. If you’re feeling brave, you and your family can try the Edge Experience, during which you step inside a glass viewing cube protruding from the side of the tower.
    Photo by Peter Schickert/age fotostock
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    Hop on a Bike
    Hop on a Bike
    With wide streets, expansive parks, and an easily navigable center, Melbourne is a popular city for family bike rides. Plan a route through town, out into the suburbs, or right along the Yarra, and you’ll get a great sense of the city. While there are numerous bicycle outfitters around town, one of the best is Rentabike in Federation Square. The shop offers a range of bikes specifically geared for kids, plus Melbourne biking maps detailing some of the best rides in the city. It also runs a daily—and very informative—bike tour, and can arrange custom trips tailored to your family’s needs and interests.
    Photo courtesy of Mark Chew/Tourism Victoria
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    Aboriginal Culture
    Aboriginal Culture
    Made up of five Aboriginal peoples, the Kulin nation counts modern-day Melbourne as part of its territory. To learn more about these indigenous inhabitants, start at Birrarung Marr park, beside Federation Square, where public art pieces honor the original owners of the land. Then, take a guided heritage walk through the Royal Botanic Gardens to discover how the Aboriginals use native plants, or visit the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum for a window into the local people. If you’re looking for traditional art, try Art Yarramunua in St. Kilda, which is fully owned and operated by Aboriginals.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Express Yourself Through Art
    Express Yourself Through Art
    After touring all the public artwork in Melbourne, your kids may get the itch to express themselves. ArtPlay, adjacent to Federation Square, is designed for just such a purpose, offering workshops with well-known local artists. Afterward, walk toward the Yarra and let loose at the Birrarung Marr playground before wandering to Federation Bells, an installation of 39 upturned bells that will capture your children’s imagination. You can even compose your own song for the bells on the installation’s website. If the temperamental Melbourne weather is making outdoor activities impossible, opt for ArtVo in Docklands, where you can truly immerse yourself in the art.
    Photo courtesy of Peter Dunphy/Tourism Victoria
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    The Great Ocean Road Trip
    The Great Ocean Road Trip
    Just a short drive from Melbourne is the Great Ocean Road, undoubtedly one of the most scenic drives in the country. The road travels along the ocean, past natural bridges, gorges carved into limestone cliffs, and koalas hanging in the gum trees like fuzzy pieces of fruit. Along the way, you can stop at quaint seaside villages for fish and chips, or head inland to the Great Otway National Park for a zip-line adventure at Otway Fly Treetop Adventures. The highlight of any Great Ocean Road drive, however, is the Twelve Apostles—giant monoliths rising right out of the sea. Wherever you stop, the drive offers a great chance to venture out of the city for the night, see some of Victoria’s most stunning beaches, and marvel at the natural world.
    Photo courtesy of Robert Seba/Tourism Victoria
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    Puffing Billy
    Puffing Billy
    Forty minutes out of town, you arrive at the platform for Victoria’s little engine that could: Puffing Billy. More than 100 years old and crewed by enthusiastic volunteers, this narrow-gauge steam engine cuts through the countryside, passing through a tree-fern forest before crossing a curving trestle bridge. It’s hard not to be charmed by the hissing of steam and the long sigh of the train’s whistle. At the Lakeside stop, hop off and explore Emerald Lake Park, where you can rent paddleboats or have a picnic. For true train enthusiasts, Puffing Billy also offers a museum and the chance—for a fee—to be a guest conductor.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria
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    Phillip Island
    Phillip Island
    Home to chocolate, mazes, and penguins, Phillip Island is the ideal destination for a family day trip from Melbourne. At the Phillip Island Chocolate Factory, kids can witness the inner workings of the Wonka-esque operation and even create their own chocolates. Afterward, head to A Maze ’N Things, an adventure park filled with optical illusions, interactive games, and multiple mazes, followed by Summerland Beach to see the world-famous Penguin Parade. The aptly named little penguins—the world’s smallest penguin species—waddle up the beach to their nests while guests crowd the adjoining boardwalks to ooh and aah at the sight.
    Photo courtesy of Tourism Victoria