Perfect 5 Day Itinerary for Melbourne, Australia including the Great Ocean Road
Visiting Melbourne had been high on my travel list. I had heard such wonderful things about the city and there are countless day trips waiting to be explored. One thing I really wanted to include on our trip was the Great Ocean Road and while many recommend two days or more, we did not have that kind of time on this trip. In five days, we were able to see and do so much in and around Melbourne. We also had the advantage of traveling off season so the crowds were definitely lower than we expected – though it was certainly chilly in May! We went with a little bit of everything so that is what you are going to find in this itinerary. Feel free to adjust based on your perfect Melbourne vacation.
Know before you go
- Known locally as “upside-down America”, Australia in general is very easy to navigate and tourist friendly. The city of Melbourne was curated perfectly when it comes to city design.
- Not only is the city exceptionally clean, but I felt completely safe. It is difficult to describe, but it is something that you do not often find while traveling to a new place and Melbourne definitely has it. This is a city where you are encouraged and rewarded for exploring down alleys to find beautiful street art or the best café in the city.
- Credit cards are accepted everywhere as well and tours can be booked in advance online so your need for cash is limited but always have some for tipping.
- If you plan on keeping your trip to downtown, most destinations are very walkable. The public transit is great as it reaches almost everywhere you need to get to in the city and is affordable. There is even a section of it that is free for everyone to ride!
- I would highly recommend renting a car for some or all of your trip as there is so much to see outside the city itself. We found having a car invaluable during our trip and unlike other cities, it was not a hassle for us to have. Big note that speeding is taken very seriously – we got two speeding tickets for going 5 miles over the speeding limit all done through camera – those cameras are there to get you.
- Speaking of driving, remember they drive on the LEFT here – so please pay close attention and go slow, especially if this is your first time driving on the opposite side of the road. The mantra is “driver in the middle” especially when going to make turns to ensure you end up on the correct side of the road.
Where to stay?
There are so many fun neighborhoods to choose from and since the public transit is so great in Melbourne, you are always connected. We have found that staying in a neighborhood outside the central business district (CBD) comes with lots of character as well as better dining spots so we were happy to exchange some proximity convenience. The Airbnb was super comfortable and most importantly, included a secure parking space for the car rental and an in unit washer and dryer. We really loved the area and how easy it was to access everything. While exploring, the Fitzroy area also looked like a fun place to be situated.
What is there to do?
There is so much to do in and around Melbourne – Let’s break it down to build the perfect itinerary!
- Queen Victoria Market – A giant market (actually moving to a larger space so it will only get larger) full of produce, crafts, clothes, toys, tons of food and so much more. The vendors here are plentiful that when we visited, it was more analysis by paralysis than anything! We chose food by where the long lines where to help make our decisions and it did not disappoint. There are so many popular spots here so make sure to allocate snack time or even a full meal here.
- State Library of Victoria – I was shocked when I saw these photos online to find out this was a library! This library is more like a museum. The interior is magnificent and looks like it should be in a Harry Potter film – Kevin and I both agreed the chance to read or study here would have been super cool.
- Waterfront – Now this is what a waterfront should look like – absolutely gorgeous and well designed to accommodate not just high rises but also restaurants, bars and walking paths. Take some time to enjoy this beautiful area.
- Street art and the alleys – Alleys are where the heart of Melbourne is located and exploring them is so much fun. Not only is there incredible street art that is constantly changing, but also the best cafes as well.
- Botanical Gardens – Melbourne is home to one of the best Botanical Gardens in the world! Make sure to spend a few hours here – the morning time is definitely best with no crowds and beautiful views.
- St Kilda Beach – escape the city life by hopping onto the tram to the beach where there is plenty of sand, surf, food, and fun. There is a boardwalk area to walk on as well as an amusement park. St Kilda is also home to a penguin colony and there is a viewing platform to see them at dusk. This viewing platform is unfortunately under refreshment for a while so make sure to check on the status for your trip.
- Yarra Valley Wine Region – Australia is home to some wonderful wine regions and the closest one to Melbourne is a hour away in the Yarra Valley. This wine region is full of vineyards both small and large as well as many farms that have tons of product available.
- Mornington Peninsula – There is so much to do on Mornington Peninsula – we spent a full day there and still missed so much. There are many hiking opportunities, a military fort to explore, numerous beachside towns, and a wine region all in this small area.
- Philips Island – A bit further beyond Mornington Peninsula is Philips Island which we unfortunately had to cut from the itinerary. Here is there are many outdoor activities including a cliff walk and the opportunities to see a colony of penguins along the shore line. This is also a great spot to find fresh seafood.
- Great Ocean Road – It is hard to travel all the way to Melbourne and miss the Great Ocean Road. While it was a bit of a challenge to organize, I was determined to fit it into the five days we had in Melbourne and I have to say, it worked out and it worked out well. We ended up making this a full day trip, overnighting at the end of the Great Ocean Road, and finishing up the itinerary on the second day before heading back to Melbourne.
Where to eat?
The food scene is pretty hyped in Melbourne and it did not disappoint. The coffee, pastry and overall café scene is unmatched and the creativity coming out of the kitchens is exciting.
- You must explore the cafe scene as I do not think we have found another city who has their coffee and pastry game on such a high level. Our favorites included Bakemono Bakers, Little Rebel, Queenie’s, Proud Mary, and Patricia’s Coffee Roasters.
- Messina Gelato had the best ice cream of the trip! So much so, we even found it in Sydney.
- It would be impossible for me to thoroughly cover all the food options. Since Melbourne is such a melting pot of cultures, the cuisines around the world are well represented. So whatever you are in the mood for, you are going to find something. This city has an overwhelming amount of restaurants and I had to make some strict rules when searching for spots. We decided to focus on places that expressed local and regional cuisine – Farmer’s Daughters, Dexter BBQ, Hope St Radio, The Alps Wine Bar.
Note that this five day itinerary is the express way to experience Melbourne. If you have more time to dedicate to this trip, I would recommend it but for those of us with limited American PTO, you will still be able to see and do a lot in five days. This trip was certainly minimalistic on PTO but I would recommend if you have the time to explore there is tons to do or extending to explore other parts of Australia.
Here is how to experience the best of Melbourne in five days!
|Day 1||Morning||Arrive in Melbourne|
|Afternoon||Explore downtown Melbourne|
– Queen Victoria Market
– State Library of Victoria
– St Patrick’s Cathedral
– Federation Square
– Hoiser Lane
– St Paul’s Cathedral
|Day 2||Morning||Shrine of Remembrance |
Royal Botanical Gardens Victoria
|Afternoon||Yarra Valley Wine Region|
|Evening||Explore downtown Melbourne|
– St Kilda
|Day 3||Morning||Mornington Peninsula or Philips Island|
|Afternoon||Mornington Peninsula or Philips Island|
|Evening||Mornington Peninsula or Philips Island|
|Day 4||Morning||Great Ocean Road|
|Afternoon||Great Ocean Road|
|Evening||Great Ocean Road|
|Day 5||Morning||Great Ocean Road|
|Afternoon||Great Ocean Road|