Melbourne, as the second-largest city in Australia, has plenty of activities and attractions for kids and families with children who are looking for entertainment options when preparing for a day out, regardless either if they are locals or from elsewhere. With different things to do being more suitable for kids depending on their age, Melbourne's attractions cater to most demographics of children, from the younger ones to teens and even young adults.
Here are some of our recommendations on the top Melbourne attractions for kids:
Melbourne's great aquarium consistently receives strong reviews on holiday reference sites, and with good reason; situated in an easily-accessible location, the aquarium, has a dazzling array of aquatic animals from all corners of the globe and provides plenty of opportunities to get up close and interact with many of them - all at a reasonable price, and with family passes available that offer further savings.
One of the true "musts" in terms of attractions in Melbourne that the kids will enjoy, Melbourne Aquarium is a great place for both the kids and the kids-at-heart. Melbourne Aquarium offers several hours' worth of entertainment (depending on the attention span of your kids!) with thousands of different species of tropical, cold, fresh and saltwater marine creatures that range from everywhere from the Atlantic to the Antarctic - and one of the major highlights of which is the Aquarium's collection of charismatically cute colony of sub-antarctic penguins.
Kids typically love their funny antics and the well-maintained exhibits provide unobstructed views of their habitats, although as the Aquarium typically gets busier as the day goes on, it is often a good idea to get there early to avoid the crowds. Another popular exhibit for the kids is the glowing jellyfish room as the special illumination makes not only the jellyfish glow with vibrant colours but also clothes as well, which children typically find as almost as amusing as the jellyfish themselves!
With multiple levels and underwater themed tanks and enclosures, you and the kids will come across coral reefs, freshwater rivers, sharks, rays, turtles and much more. Lastly, don't forget to check out the touch pool, where kids will be able to - quite literally - get their hands on some of these weird and wonderful aquatic creatures. A day out at Melbourne Aquarium will not just be fun for the kids - they may even learn something while they're there!
If your kids appreciate wildlife, then there are few better places to get a more "natural" experience in the greater Melbourne area than the attraction of the nature parks set on Victoria's Phillip Island. While it requires a fair amount of driving to access from the city centre (roughly 90 minutes from the CBD, although there are various Phillip Island tours available that can help take the pain out of the journey), it is well worth the trek as the island plays the role of a sort of "wildlife wonderland" and acts as a fitting escape from the hustle and bustle of the city's more urban attractions.
The island has become particularly famous for one specifically unique reason - the nightly "penguin parade" conducted by its colony of tiny, cute Little Penguins. Your kids will no doubt enjoy watching these cuddly creatures making their journey along the beach to their roosts as you take it in from the great vantage point of the general viewing stands and boardwalks that are set up specifically to provide the best possible spot to watch it all take place.
The penguins aren't the only wildlife attraction on the island however; there are also chances to cuddle a koala, hand-feed kangaroos and get up close and friendly with a wombat at the Koala Conservation Centre, and the southern hemisphere's largest colony of fur seals can also be found basking on the rocks of the area known as the "Nobbies". Add to this range of sights with plenty of opportunities for birdwatching, swimming and scenic walks, and it's easy to see why the wildlife haven of Victoria's Phillip Island serves as a great location for a day trip when in Melbourne - not just for animal lovers, but for everyone.
An outstanding venue with displays dedicated to all aspects of natural history, the Melbourne Museum is annually ranked among the top 10 attractions of all sorts in the entirety of Melbourne - and while the first word that comes to mind when imagining a museum may not be "fun", Melbourne Museum breaks that stereotype and gives kids plenty of chances to get hands-on and play with, with an emphasis on involvement and engagement rather than simply bombarding them with information.
With an amazing cavalcade of exhibits that is ever-changing, no two visits to the Melbourne Museum are ever quite alike; and this spectrum offers something to see and do for every member of the family from one-year-old to grandparent - and if that wasn't enough, both seniors and kids can go for free!
Be sure to leave enough time when planning a visit to the museum, as the wide array of exhibits are typically enough to cover half a day - during your time there you'll encounter a range of sections divided up into individual "galleries", including the Science & Life gallery, the Forest gallery, the Children's gallery (with a series of exhibits aimed at kids between the ages of 3 to 8 years old), a Melbourne gallery dedicated to exploring the city's history in entertaining detail, and many more.
If you're looking for an attraction to spend time in Melbourne with kids that provides a nice combination of entertainment, education and reasonable pricing, the Melbourne Museum is a more-than-solid choice.
Give the kids a taste of riding a "real life Thomas the Tank Engine" with a ride aboard the authentic Puffing Billy steam train that runs through the beautiful Blue Dandenong Ranges of Victoria. This famous narrow-gauge railway winds its way through the mountainside and offers some great views of not only the surrounding forests but also the many different types of wildlife that can be found in the trees.
The Dandenongs can be reached by a roughly one-hour drive outside Melbourne itself and offer a great bonding experience for the family, with the engine drivers being very accommodating towards children - they may even get the chance to blow the train's whistle! With both open and closed carriages to choose from, you can sit in whichever you feel most comfortable with as many kids enjoy dangling their legs outside the carriage as they soak in the pleasant atmosphere of times from the past.
Both the engines and carriages have been lovingly maintained over the years and the dedication to the trains themselves is obvious from the enthusiasm shown by all the staff members involved in the Puffing Billy experience who will provide passengers with informative and entertaining commentary throughout the journey. If you're planning to invest a full day, you may want to bring along a picnic and stop off at one of the great, green hillside locations along the way before catching the train again for the ride back.
Lastly, a couple of tips for the ride: arrive around 30 minutes prior to the train departing (or earlier on public and/or school holidays) if you wish to get a decent seat as it can fill up quickly, and also try to avoid either you or your kids wearing white clothing as it can become easily stained from stray ash and soot emitted from the engine up front!