Thinking of heading to Australia on a working holiday visa, but don’t know where to start? While everyone has heard of Sydney and its incredible natural beauty, you can’t sleep on Melbourne! The capital of Victoria is one of the most exciting places in Australia, and is known as the backpacker’s paradise for a reason! Friendly locals, vibrant night life and rich culture are just some of the reasons why this city is the perfect place to start off your Aussie adventure. We’ve created a backpacker’s guide to Melbourne to get you started on your journey – let’s get you Over 2 Aus!
A riverside city with a European vibe, Melbourne is a must-see destination for travellers to Australia. Situated on the Yarra River, Melbourne is Australia’s second-most populous city, and its 5 million residents know how to work hard and play hard. The city is known for its welcoming hospitality culture, and weekends are heaving with revellers looking to shake off the week with a few drinks. There are venues for every taste, so whether you love to dance or would prefer to nurse a whiskey in a quiet bar, Melbourne has something for you.
For anyone looking to check out some Australian history, Melbourne is home to some of the oldest buildings in the country. From the beautiful Victorian parliament building to the Princess Theatre, the cityscape is a combination of the old and new as heritage-listed structures mix effortlessly with modern skyscrapers and developments.
If this is your first time visiting Australia, you’ll notice that English sounds a little different here. While the Queen’s language is the default, Australians love using slang, and you’ll hear words like ‘arvo’, ‘avo’ and ‘servo’ thrown around daily. Much of Australian English is a slight variance on US or UK counterparts – if you’re not sure what a ‘lift’ is, or think that ‘thongs’ mean something different, don’t be alarmed! Australians are incredibly friendly, so feel free to ask if you don’t understand what’s being said.
It wouldn’t be a backpacker’s guide to Melbourne without mentioning sport! Australians take their entertainment very seriously, and the crown jewel of competition is located in the heart of Melbourne city. From exciting Big Bash cricket to the annual Australian-rules Football League, there is something happening to satisfy even the most avid sports fans!
One of the most important things to know about Melbourne is its temperamental climate. While Australia might have a reputation for being hot and dry, the Victorian capital often experiences ‘four seasons in a day’, and can go from bright and sunny to pouring rain within half an hour. No matter what time of year you arrive, make sure to bring a warm coat and jeans – you’ll thank us later!
One thing to know about Australia – it’s huge! The quickest way to get to the Lucky Country is by flying, but once you’re in country there are a few options to get around this massive island nation.
The easiest way to travel to Melbourne is by plane. Located 90 minutes from Sydney, two hours from Brisbane and 4 hours from Perth, Tullamarine Airport is the second-busiest in Australia, and sees an influx of 14 million tourists each year. Domestic flights in Australia are quite expensive, but if you’re after a fuss-free way to move, jump on a flight and you’ll be there in no time.
If you’re coming from Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide, you can also get to Melbourne by train. XPT runs daily services between Sydney’s central station and Melbourne, taking around 11 hours to reach the city centre. To save on accommodation, book an overnight sleeper berth, and wake up in a different city.
For those who have a bit more time and want to see the beautiful Australian coastline, hire a car or van and make a road trip out of it! The Great Ocean Road is one of the most iconic Australian road trips, and visitors are treated to sights of the Twelve Sisters and crashing waves against high cliffs and stunning beaches during their drive.
A backpacker’s guide to Melbourne wouldn’t be complete without some accommodation recommendations! If you’re planning on staying in Melbourne for the length of your working holiday visa, it’s worth looking into a rental or share house to establish yourself. However, for those who only plan on sticking around for a few months before moving on, there are plenty of fantastic hostels and short-term accommodation options in and around the CBD. Here are some of Over2Aus’s favourites for those looking for fun, affordable accommodation during their stay.
For those looking for a homestay feel, Landing Pad is the perfect place for you. Designed for working travellers, this Brunswick hostel has been remodelled to include gardens, full kitchen facilities and fast WiFi to suit those who work from a laptop.
The hostel has no bar facilities, so bring your own drinks and chill out in the communal areas with your fellow travellers. People tend to stay at Landing Pad for weeks instead of days, and creating lifelong friendships has never been easier for those new to Australia.
If you’re looking for more of a party vibe, Space Hotel is for you. Filling the space between budget backpacker accommodation and boutique hotel vibes, this inner-city hostel is perfect for those looking to immerse themselves in Melbourne’s busy city life. Featuring accommodation options for budgets large and small, travellers can choose long-term or short-term stays, and will sleep in comfort in modern rooms with state-of-the-art facilities. Space Hotel is a short walk from many of Melbourne’s key attractions, so where better to start your Victorian adventure?
For digital nomads, you can’t go past Base Backpackers Hostel in St Kilda. Located in Melbourne hip inner-west, this hostel is one of the more laidback options for those looking for a long term stay. Base is just a 5-minute walk from the beach, and has incredibly modern facilities perfect for those running a business from a laptop. Visitors can choose from shared accommodation, or can relax in the privacy of a solo room for a quieter experience.
Not sure what to do when you arrive? Many of the staff are backpackers themselves, and are more than happy to offer recommendations to those looking for an adventure. There are also tours and experiences that can be booked through the front desk – all you have to do is ask!
Melbourne is relatively flat, and is easy to travel by foot. Many of the major attractions are within walking distance, and you’ll have to opportunity to stop at one of the city’s fantastic cafés during your wander! If you don’t feel like making your feet sore, Melbourne is also home to the best public transport system in Australia, and the grid-like layout of the city makes it very easy to navigate.
Melbourne’s trams are one of the most well-known features of the city, and are the best way to get around in the inner city and Central Business District. There are 24 routes covering over 160 miles, and the Free-Tram Zone in the city means that getting from one side to the other is a breeze – perfect for anyone with a heavy backpack!
For those who don’t feel like tackling public transport, get on a bike! Melbourne is littered with e-bikes that can be ridden throughout the CBD and surrounding suburbs, and can be left anywhere once you’re done. You’ll see these brightly-coloured bicycles on every street corner as you walk around, so don’t be afraid to jump on and cycle away. Simply download the Limebike app, scan your bike’s QR code, and you’re on your way!
Melbourne’s Metro system is one of the most comprehensive in Australia, with 17 lines encompassing the CBD and surrounding suburbs. The Metro is the fastest way to get from east to west in Greater Melbourne, and the trains are incredibly reliable for those who don’t like leaving anything to chance.
If you want to head further out than the city, Melbourne’s buses can take you anywhere you need to go. Make sure that your myki card is topped up, and jump on one of the city’s many bus routes to get to some of the less accessible areas. Tullamarine also has a dedicated Skybus service, taking travellers from the airport straight to Southern Cross station in the CBD.
Sometimes, you just don’t want to mess around with public transport or walking – particularly if you’ve got a heavy bag or aren’t sure where your hostel is! Rideshare apps like Uber, Ola and Didi are popular in Melbourne, and make navigating a new city a breeze.
Melbourne is Australia’s cultural capital, and there is plenty to see and do whilst visiting this dynamic and exciting city. With a flourishing nightlife, hundreds of annual events and a unique atmosphere, you can easily lose track of time while exploring. Here are some of Over2Aus’s top recommendations for things to do in Melbourne.
You can’t go to Melbourne without heading to a footy game! Victoria is the home of Australian-rules Football, and the fever surrounding this sport reaches new heights between March and early October. A cross between Gaelic football and soccer, Aussie-rules football is unlike any sport that you’ll find elsewhere, and makes for an exciting day out in the city centre. Millions of fans display flags, scarves and colours as they passionately barrack for their teams, and you’ll find an atmosphere like no other when it comes to finals time.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground is the best sporting venue in Australia, with a capacity of over 100,000 fans for major games, concerts and events. Make sure to take an afternoon and visit a ‘footy’ game, or catch a game of cricket during the summer months. If sport isn’t your thing, you can do a tour of the stadium and learn about the history of this iconic Melbournian venue.
Melbourne is famous as a haven for street artists, and the laneways are adorned with bright and ever-changing murals reflecting the dynamic nature of the city. From larger-than-life portraits of sporting legends to abstract depictions of social issues, every corner holds a new wonder, and you can spend days getting lost in the maze of outdoor artwork that adorns the city walls.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, take a turn down Union Street in the city centre – here, you’ll be immersed in a whirl of psychedelic colours and unique art that seems as though it’s from a different world. You’ll also find some secret bars and cafes tucked away during your exploration, so keep an eye out for these hole-in-the-wall venues as you wander through the vibrant backstreets.
Need some new clothes, or simply after some souvenirs for those back home? Melbourne also holds the title of Australia’s shopping capital, and is the perfect location if you’re looking to splash some cash. Head to Bourke St in the city centre, where you’ll find popular Australian and international retailers to refresh your wardrobe and boost your gift bags.
If vintage is more your style, Melbourne is home to over 2500 thrift stores scattered around the CBD and surrounding suburbs. St Kilda and Chapel Street in Melbourne’s east are havens for bargain hunters, so pay a visit to find some of the hidden gems of this vibrant city.
While South Australia’s Barossa Valley might be the most famous Australian wine region, vino-lovers can get their fix in Melbourne too! Located just 30 minutes from Melbourne, Yarra Valley is one of the biggest wine producers in the country, and is home to some of the best drops on the east coast. There are plenty of tours available from the CBD, and most will set you back around AU$150-225 per person for a full day escape.
For a fancier experience, visit the Chateau Chandon for high tea – grab a glass of the iconic bubbly, then wander around the sprawling gardens that surround the estate for an unforgettable afternoon in the sun.
Melbourne is well known as being the hospitality capital of Australia, so you’d be remiss not to check out some of the fantastic cafes and bars scattered around the city. Many of the older buildings are home to secret bars, opening up to spectacular rooftop views of the cityscape. Check out Loop Roof for an oasis-themed cocktail list, or Transit in Federation Square to be part of the hustle and bustle.
If you need a caffeine hit, you’re in luck! Melbourne is home to thousands of cafés, and has a reputation for being the coffee capital of Australia. Melbournians love to pop into cafes for a snack and a break, so you’ll be right at home as you sit and sip your cup of joe in your new favourite spot. While you will find bigger chains like Starbucks scattered around the city, make sure to try some of the smaller independent vendors as well!
Added bonus: hospitality is one of the biggest employers for those on working holiday visas in Australia, so if you make a great cup of coffee or enjoy mixology, make sure to have a stack of resumes ready!
Built in 1856, the State Library of Victoria is one of the oldest buildings in Melbourne, and sees around 8 million visitors through its doors each year. The library hosts hundreds of cultural events and soirees each year, and you’ll often see a line of people waiting for a chance to sit and study at the iconic wooden oval desks in the central rotunda. Wander through the historical stacks to choose a book, or simply to appreciate a piece of Victorian history during your visit.
Moving to another country is exciting, but navigating complicated visa processes and organising accommodation can take the shine off a once-in-a-lifetime experience. At Over2Aus, we help you with visa, connect you with employers and provide checklists to help make your move as smooth as possible. Whether you’re working, studying, or just heading over for a holiday, Over2Aus has the resources to make your journey absolutely unforgettable!
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