The countdown is on when PAX Australia begins on Friday. If you are coming over interstate or abroad, welcome to Melbourne! If you’re going to be here a couple of days early or later, then this guide is for you – here are some of the places you should go to. The guide contains a mixture of places – cultural attractions, shopping, some nightlife activities and even a ghost tour.
If you need help with public transportation options, you should read part one of this guide – that deals with how to get around Melbourne.
It’s a broad area given there are so many laneways in Melbourne, but you should take a stroll down some of them as they are part of the culture of the city. Many of them contain boutiques, restaurants, cafes, and bars; others have been used as a place to showcase visual and street art such as Hosier Lane and Cocker Alley – perfect for those who love to bring their cameras with them. If you want to get a cup of coffee or something to eat, take a stroll down Degraves Street, the home of Melbourne’s cafe culture, and Centre Place.
The City of Melbourne (the council) has a self-guided walking tour if you want to explore some of Melbourne’s laneways. It is a 2.5-kilometre walk that takes about 90 minutes. You can download it here. And make sure you bring a map, you can easily get lost.
The Australian Centre for the Moving Image is one of many Melbourne cultural attractions, focusing on the moving image – film, television and digital culture (e.g. video games). One of the major exhibitions is the Screen Worlds exhibit that promises to “change the way you think about the most pervasive and powerful cultural forms of our time.”
Screen Worlds is split between five areas – Emergence, depicting how the moving image has evolved; Voices, focusing on Australian contributions; Sensation, how it stimulates emotion; the Kids Space; and the Games Lab – which lets you play through a curated selection of titles and watch live game play on the giant screen.
Oh, and did we mention that access to Screen Worlds is free?
Where: Federation Square, Melbourne
Hours: 10am to 5pm daily
Nearest Public Transport Stop: Flinders Street Station
National Gallery of Victoria
The National Gallery of Victoria is the oldest in Australia, and is spread between two locations – one on St Kilda Rd that houses international art, and another at Federation Square to house its Australian collection.
Every year, NGV International (the one on St Kilda Rd) has a large exhibition as part of the Melbourne Winter Masterpieces season, and this year’s exhibition is “Monet’s Garden“. While most of the gallery is free to access, you will need to buy a ticket to see the collection (it is $26 for an adult ticket)
Where: 180 St Kilda Rd, Melbourne (NGV International) / Federation Square (NGV Australia)
Hours: 10am – 5pm daily (NGV International closes on Tuesday, except for Monet’s Garden; NGV Australia closes on Monday)
How to get there? From Flinders Street Station – simply walk across to Federation Square for NGV Australia; and walk along Swanston Street/St Kilda Rd for NGV International.
The Eureka Skydeck is the observation deck on top of Melbourne’s tallest building, and is the highest observation deck in the Southern Hemisphere. It occupies the entire floor, so you can walk around to see all of Melbourne and its outlying suburbs. It also has some facts about the history of Melbourne.
The Skydeck also has something called “The Edge”, which is a glass cube that is suspended almost 300 above the ground. And it lets you see Melbourne from almost every angle – but if you have a fear of heights or enclosed spaces, don’t go on it.
Prices are a bit steep – it is $18.50 for an adult ticket, and that does not include a ticket to go on The Edge experience (which is another $12 for an adult).
Where: Eureka Tower, Riverside Quay, Southbank, Melbourne VIC 3006
Hours: 10am – 10pm every day (last entry is at 9:30pm)
How to get there? From Flinders Street Station, take the underpass (at Elizabeth Street) and go south to the Southbank Footbridge. Continue walking in that direction until you are that the Eureka Tower.
Queen Victoria Market
If you’re looking to score a souvenir from Melbourne, the Queen Victoria Market probably the best place to get it for cheap (as opposed to those souvenir shops you see alongside the streets of the city). It’s also a great place to find lunch – with a large variety of food available (and a donut truck).
Of course, it’s not the only market around Melbourne – you should look here to find more information about the other markets. Just make sure you pay attention to the dates they are open.
Where: 513 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Hours: 6am – 2pm (Tues and Thur), 6am – 5pm (Fri), 6am – 3pm (Sat), 9am – 4pm (Sun), closed Monday and Wednesday
How to get there? You can take a Route 19, 57 or 59 tram and stop at Franklin Street/Elizabeth Street; or the Route 55 tram and stop at Queen Victoria Market/Peel Street. Alternatively, you can take the train to Flagstaff and walk to it.
Minotaur is probably the ultimate geek store located in Melbourne. Inside, you can find a lot of memorabilia of your favourite game such as t-shirts, posters and toys; in addition to the large selection of comic books, manga, anime and sci-fi related gear.
I should stress that the prices are very expensive, especially when you can search and buy it online for less (well, depends now – given the Australian dollar is, at the time of writing, no longer on parity with the US dollar). That said, it is nice to have a browse around and have a look at how impressive their collection is.
Where: 121 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Hours: 9am – 6pm (Monday – Thursday, Saturday), 9am – 8pm (Friday), 11am – 5pm (Sunday)
How to get there? From Flinders Street Station, you can simply walk there (it’s three blocks up Elizabeth Street if you take the underpass exit). Alternatively, you can just take a tram heading up that direction and stop where it intersects Collins Street – but you still need to walk the rest of the way.
Critical Hit is another local store dealing with all things geeky – however, more focused on anime and video games (it does sell some pop culture items as well like Doctor Who, Adventure Time, My Little Pony and Game of Thrones). Like Minator, it sells a lot of video-game and anime-related merchandise – like a replica Portal gun.
So, if you can’t find something you like at Minotaur – which would be surprising – then give Critical Hit a shot (and especially do a price comparison).
Where: 377 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Hours: 10am – 6pm (Mon – Thurs, Sat), 10am – 8pm (Fri), 12pm – 5pm (Sun)
How to get there? To get there by tram, take either Route 11/19/42/48/57/59/109/112 and stop at Collins St/Elizabeth St. Walk up Elizabeth St then turn to Little Collins St. Alternatively, from Flinders Street Station, walk up Elizabeth St and turn to Little Collins St.
This wouldn’t be a PAX guide if I didn’t mention the Mana Bar in Melbourne. For those who don’t know, Mana Bar is a gamers-orientated bar that was started in Brisbane before opening a second bar in Fitzroy. Other than the gaming-inspired drinks, there are also consoles inside so you can play games such as Mortal Kombat (Komplete Edition).
Where: 336 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, VIC 3065
Hours: 4pm – 11pm (Tues), 3pm – 11pm (Wed – Sun), closed Monday
How to get there from PAX Australia? From the Melbourne Showgrounds, you can take a train from Showgrounds station to Southern Cross, then take an Route 11/112 tram to the nearest stop (Johnson Street).
Strike Bowling Melbourne Central
Want to hang out with friends with a game of laser tag and bowling? Look no further than Strike Bowling in Melbourne Central – I’ve been here before with some friends and had a blast. It is located on level 3, on the same level as Hoyts Cinemas.
The prices can be a bit steep – one game of bowling can cost anywhere from $14 to $18, depending on the day you visit (you can check the prices here). However, do pay attention to the specials and promos – on Wednesdays and Fridays you can have unlimited laser tag for $15; while Mondays, take advantage of the “Loaded” plan with unlimited bowling, laser tag and pool (from 5pm).
Where: Level 3, Melbourne Central Shopping Centre (211 La Trobe Street, Melbourne, 3000)
Hours: 10am – late, everyday
How to get there? Take a train to Melbourne Central; or take a tram via the City Circle.
While it is not part of Melbourne, it is still worth a visit – despite the 90 minute drive away from the CBD. Phillip Island is known for the Penguin Parade, where you can see Little Penguins coming ashore at dusk; but there is also the Koala Conservation Centre and the Nobbies Centre (where you can see seals, dolphins and sharks).
In order to get to the island is an entirely different problem altogether – as public transportation is limited, you will need to hire a car and drive there, or talk to someone in your hotel to organise a bus to take you to Phillip Island and back. Also, make sure you bring warm clothing with you. It does get really chilly out there.
Hours: varies per location and time, please see website for details.
Other Places around Melbourne
Here are some other suggested places that have been thrown up in several forums, including the official PAX forum:
- Melbourne has its own Maid Cafe – a concept from Japan’s Akihabara district where waitresses dress in maid costumes and serve customers – called Doki Doki Station. Located at 422 Bourke Street, Melbourne (near Melbourne GPO); it is open on Fridays between 3pm and 6:30pm, and Sundays at 11:30am – 5:30pm.
- Interested in ghost tours? The Haunted Bookshop – located at 15 McKillop Street, Melbourne – runs one every Saturday from 8:30pm. The two-hour walk costs $20 per person. Also holding ghost tours is the Old Melbourne Gaol – at 377 Russell Street, Melbourne – every Tuesday.
- Want to look at some wildlife? You can visit Melbourne Zoo, which is accessible by tram (Route 55) or train (Royal Park station on the Upfield line). Tickets are $26.80 for adults and $13.20 for children (free entry on weekends, however)
Helpful thanks to the PAX Australia forums, Tom Robinson and Jason Murrary for some help. Feel free to leave any other suggestions.