Docking in Melbourne during a cruise is a great way to experience the “cultural capital of Australia.” There is plenty you can see in a day, with a convenient public transport system to get you to where you want to go, whether it's a stroll along the inner city riverbanks, a tour of the art galleries, a wander in the Botanic Gardens or a bit of retail therapy and fun dining in the charming laneways and arcades.
Ships tie up at Station Pier, which is just 5 kilometers from the central city (that's 3 miles to you Yanks), and from there you can walk, take taxis or get on tram line 109, which has a stop very close by. There are a huge number of cruise lines visiting Melbourne, including ships from Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, luxury lines Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises and Crystal Cruises and Australia’s own P&O Cruises.
If you're planning a cruise or visit to Melbourne, here are six good ways to pass the time. One thing’s for sure: You won’t be bored in this stately southern city!
Trek to St Kilda
Melbourne’s fun beachside suburb, St Kilda, is 3 miles from the pier. You could take a taxi, but why not stretch your land legs and walk along the beachfront Beaconsfield Parade? It’s a great way to get a feel for the city, and once you arrive you’ll find all kinds of fun family entertainment: Luna Park amusement park, Catani Gardens, the St Kilda Sea Baths, bike rentals and cycle trails, and of course the beach!
Stroll in Southbank
The quickest way to get into Southbank is to walk the mile or two along the beachfront to the Beaconsfield Parade/Victoria Ave tram stop on line 1, and that will take you right to the Arts Centre. From there you can walk the Southbank Promenade and enjoy the cafes, shops, public art, street performers and other aspects of Melbourne life by the river.
The wider Southbank area is also a cultural hub. It's home to the Melbourne Arts Centre, the Concert Hall, the National Gallery of Victoria, the Malthouse Theatre and the Melbourne Exhibition Centre — plenty for visitors to do!
Shop the South Melbourne Market
If you want to keep your visit to Melbourne low-key, this is the perfect way to spend a few hours. It is handily located close by Station Pier, within walking distance and not far from a few tram stations, including some on line 109.
The market operates on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm. You’ll find fresh produce and other delicious artisan products, street food, boutique clothing and homewares, gifts, crafts and plenty more. If you don’t mind traveling a little farther, you can also visit the Queen Victoria Market, the largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere.
Fresh air in the Royal Botanic Gardens
After a few days at sea, it’s nice to swap the blue for green and get among some vegetation. Melbourne is home to the impressive and extensive Royal Botanic Gardens. The varied plant collections include an Arid Garden, and Australian Forest Walk, a Bamboo Collection, a Herb Garden and much more. You can even try a traditional high tea at The Terrace restaurant while you’re there!
To get there, walk along from Station Pier to the Beaconsfield Parade/Victoria Ave. tram stop on line 1 and take that to the Arts Centre stop, which is adjacent to one of the gardens’ main entrances.
There are several ways you can get acquainted with the unique Australian wildlife during a visit to Melbourne. The city’s trams and taxis will get you to Melbourne Zoo in the northern suburbs, a great family destination with a huge variety of animals and opportunities for close-up encounters.
Another option is to sign on for a cruise line-operated wildlife tour. Most lines offer different excursions, which might include wildlife parks and sanctuaries, regional parks and bush walking for a memorable Australian experience.
Cruise on a smaller scale
A cruise on the Melbourne River gives a unique perspective on the city, and is a fun way to see the sights of the Melbourne City Centre and beyond. There are a number of companies that run river tours, though it’s often easiest to arrange one through your cruise line.
Most lines offer river cruises, sometimes combined with land-based sightseeing. With transfers and other details all part of the package, it’s the most convenient way to do it — and you’re guaranteed to be back before the ship leaves!
Updated from an earlier version.