A doughnut van, lightning room, landlocked surf spot and safari – this city gets kids (and rewards the grown-ups, too). Discover the best things to do in Melbourne with kids.
The breakfast: The Farm Cafe, Abbotsford
City meets country at this rambling eatery in the city’s inner north. Just five clicks from the CBD, The Farm Cafe sits on a swathe of native bushland and pasture hugging the Yarra River. Part of Collingwood Children’s Farm, the rustic space has an alfresco area for the young’uns to stretch their legs while adults linger over poached eggs and espresso.
The beer garden: Stomping Ground Beer Hall
This converted inner-city warehouse in Collingwood is an all-ages show-stopper complete with a retractable roof over a beer garden where cascading greenery creates a Jurassic Park feel. Sample tasting paddles of some of the 30 beers on tap as the kids cut loose in the Wild West- style play area that boasts a cubbyhouse so big they could (almost) get lost in it. And everyone will love the menu that swings from pizzas and burgers to a slow-roasted lamb shoulder that could feed the whole family.
The dinner: 400 Gradi
Johnny di Francesco’s margherita has been recognised as the world’s best pizza and is certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana – which means it’s the real deal: woodfired with a thin, pliable base and topped with ingredients sourced from Italy. The award-winning pizza is a standout at Melbourne’s three-strong 400 Gradi empire but the crowd-pleasing menu extends to crab spaghetti in lobster bisque and gooey-centred arancini. The recently revamped Brunswick East restaurant is our pick of the trio.
The gelato: Pidapipó
Pidapipó’s three vibrant stores are like a portal to Rome, complete with the classics – bacio, fior di latte, pistachio and hazelnut – plus seasonal fruit flavours magicked into gelato or sorbetto form. Whichever way you jump, the Nutella tap is waiting to pour a thick stream of choc-hazelnut spread over the top.
The gallery: The Lume Melbourne
A multi-sensory overload, The Lume Melbourne is designed to intrigue. Housed in the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, this newcomer to the city’s art scene uses 150 digital projectors to bring artworks to super-sized life. The first spectacle is an immersion into the works of Vincent van Gogh, with a stirring soundtrack and aromas piped into the gallery to help transport the audience to the locations that inspired the great Dutch artist.
The culture hit: Melbourne Street Art Tours
A tour of the city’s world-famous locations led by a street artist is a surefire way to get down with the nitty-gritty. Run by members of art collective Blender Studios, the tour allows you to explore the ever-changing aerosol landscape of hidden laneways and arcades before finishing with an exclusive look at their West Melbourne headquarters and gallery.
The park: Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
A 38-hectare oasis about two kilometres from the city (take the tram along St Kilda Road or a walking path beside the Yarra), Melbourne Gardens (part of the RBGV) is cinematic in scope with a dizzying array of landscapes to explore. Don’t miss the lush Fern Gully or the new Arid Garden with more than 3000 cacti and succulents. And be prepared: the fully fenced Children’s Garden welcomes messy play in its bamboo forest, wetland area and kitchen garden.
The treat: American Doughnut Kitchen
This retro van parked at the Queen Victoria Market, outside the fresh produce shed, has been a fixture of local childhoods since 1950. There’s usually a queue for the American Doughnut Kitchen so jump on for a bag of jam-centred, sugar-dusted, golden-fried hot doughnuts.
The adventure: Safari at Werribee Open Range Zoo
At this sanctuary 35 minutes south-west of Melbourne, antelopes, zebras, giraffes and rhinos stalk the grasslands. Daily safari rides take to the open plains and you’ll also have the chance to view a pride of lions in their enclosure, while friendlier creatures such as monkeys and meerkats can be seen from the walking trails.
The stay: Ovolo Laneways
Close to the restaurants and bars of Spring Street, the boutique Ovolo Laneways has two- bedroom suites, each with a kitchen and private terrace. Breakfast, minibar contents and snacks in the lounge are all included in the rate.
The action: Urbnsurf
The surf is pumping in the city’s landlocked north-west, where the southern hemisphere’s biggest surf park, Urbnsurf, has opened to rave reviews from seasoned seadogs and grommets alike. Beginner lessons are available for all ages, while the pros will thrill to vertical walls and barrelling waves at The Point. Aprés-surf you can watch the action from the comfort of the Three Blue Ducks restaurant terrace as you refuel on woodfired pizza.
Image credit: Image credit: Scienceworks; Dianna Snape
Where to take the kids when the weather turns fickle? At the MCG, the city’s hallowed home of sport, the Australian Sports Museum features interactive exhibits, such as 3D holograms of sports stars and skills-test games. Scienceworks in Spotswood is the place for science and tech – and a lightning room, where kids can see electrifying jolts – while Melbourne Museum in Carlton transports you to the age of dinosaurs and through the Dreaming (check out the eel feeding in the Bunjilaka Indigenous garden at 1.45pm each day).