Although it’s perhaps best known for its grown-up pleasures – including bars and live music – Melbourne is just as welcoming for families.

As a relatively young city (the median age is around 37), kids are very much a welcome part of the social sphere. You’re never far from a family-friendly museum, a well-planned park or playground, or a cafe serving up kid-friendly babyccinos and toasties.

From exciting wildlife encounters to active adventures, there’s something suitable for caregivers and kids of all ages.

What makes Melbourne so great for kids?

Melbourne is an easy place to get around, particularly its inner suburbs, which are well-connected by public transportation. Major institutions such as museums and art galleries are designed with accessibility and families in mind, with many featuring dedicated galleries and activities and discounted entry for little ones.

Melbourne’s city center (also known as the central business district or CBD) is ringed with a number of large, well-tended parks and gardens. Elsewhere, you’ll find family-friendly facilities including playgrounds and swimming pools, clean public toilets and water fountains. Free barbecues are also common in Australian parks, providing a fun way to have an inexpensive family meal.

Cafes are a good way to immerse kids in Melbourne’s culinary scene, though larger venues are probably more suitable than tiny hole-in-the-wall places. Choose one close to a playground or park and let your tiny travelers burn off energy while you relax over a flat white.

A father and daughter sitting on the beach together in Melbourne with colorful beach huts in the background
Spend a fun day at the beach before heading back to the bustling city © Ippei Naoi / Getty Images

Where is best in Melbourne for kids?

The city’s best family-friendly spots are undoubtedly its museums. At the top of the list is Melbourne Museum, a sprawling complex in the attractive Carlton Gardens just north of the city center. It will interest kids of all ages, with specialized sections focusing on science, history and First Nations culture.

Entry to the museum (free for children) includes access to the Pauline Gandel Children’s Gallery, which is designed for kids under six. Here, you’ll find a huge outdoor area where they can play in a sandpit, hunt for fossils or investigate the interactive Gondwana Garden.

Inside, they can dance on a floor of changing patterns in the “camouflage disco” and engage in sensory-based play. As an autism-friendly facility, the museum has also created specific resources for families to help prepare autistic children for their visit.

For the critter-obsessed, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Collingwood Children’s Farm both provide an opportunity to meet native and international animals. And from early 2024 – when the redevelopment of the iconic pier in bayside St Kilda is complete – visitors will once again be able to watch the resident colony of little penguins return to their homes each evening at sunset.

Other family highlights include the calm waters of Melbourne’s bay beaches, especially the stretch containing the colorful Brighton bathing boxes. Of these, St Kilda is a good base for families, with its proximity to the beach, alongside other attractions such as Luna Park, an iconic amusement park.

A young girl on a swing in a playground with the sun shining behind her
Melbourne has lots of fun parks and playgrounds to choose from © d3sign / Getty Images

Best things to do in Melbourne with babies and toddlers

Meet sea creatures

We have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love walking through one of Sea Life aquarium's tunnels as sharks and giant manta rays swim overhead. A 4D cinema, a penguin palace and a crawl-through display – where kids can pop their heads up into underwater worlds to spy tropical fish – round out the experience.

Play with art in a modern park

Birrarung Marr below Federation Square is a park beloved by local families, who head here to rock climb, balance on beams and race on the slides.

It’s also where you’ll find ArtPlay, housed within a former railway building. The city-funded organization runs free creative workshops and programming for babies, toddlers and children, such as 3D portrait painting, storytelling, and dance and music workshops.

Head to a waterside library

Libraries are a great option for a relaxing and affordable rainy afternoons – and Melbourne has plenty of them.

Located in the Docklands neighborhood west of the city center, the Library at the Dock is located between the river and Victoria Harbour. It contains an excellent children’s section, with picture books and toys to entertain your young ones.

When the clouds part, head to the south side of the building, where you’ll find the Buluk Park playground. Meant to mimic a mini city, it features a miniature river, blackboard walls for your budding graffiti artist and a musical floor.

A young girl helping her dad cook on the barbecue in a park in Melbourne
Meet the locals while you have a fun family barbecue in the park © SolStock / Getty Images

Best things to do in Melbourne with kids

Explore screen culture

We know you’re probably trying to decrease screen time, but you should make an exception to the rule for the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), located at Federation Square.

Showcasing the world of movies, TV and video games, its free permanent exhibition – The Story of the Moving Image – has a wealth of hands-on exhibits. Kids can add weird sound effects to animations, play with shadows or create flipbooks.

Take in the hottest ticket in town

Melbourne is famous for its lively theater scene, with the city often being referred to as Australia’s cultural capital. Dozens of theatrical productions are staged every week at its historic and contemporary venues, including blockbusters straight from Broadway and family-friendly musicals. To find out special deals, visit TodayTix for last-minute, rush and digital lottery tickets.

Meet the locals

If you haven’t spotted a koala or kangaroo yet, here’s your chance. Melbourne Zoo houses Australian and exotic animals in attractive leafy grounds.

It’s situated within Royal Park; a great space for a gentle urban hike past stands of native Australian trees. A good strategy is to walk south from the zoo to north Melbourne, following Errol Street to cafes and restaurants for lunch.

Of course, if you’d prefer to see wildlife in situ, book a day trip out of the city to the ever-popular Phillip Island. This is where you can watch little penguins as they return from the sea en masse to their burrows each evening.

Press buttons at Scienceworks

West of the city center, the science and technology museum Scienceworks (free for children under 16) provides plenty of stimulation for young minds.

First, there’s the train journey to Spotswood Station, from which the institution is an easy walk. Then there’s the impressive structure itself, a historic former pumping station that backs onto the Yarra River. The interior has absorbing interactive exhibitions including a compressed-air playground and a planetarium.

Get out on the water

See the city from another perspective by taking the morning ferry from Melbourne’s Docklands district to Portarlington or Geelong at the southwestern corner of Port Phillip Bay, returning in the late afternoon. Discounted family fares are available.

A woman taking pictures of friends in a graffiti-covered lane in Melbourne
Take a walking tour of Melbourne's incredible street art © Getty Images

Best things to do in Melbourne with tweens and teens

Explore the city’s café scene

Melbourne’s neighborhoods are packed with cool cafes serving affordable and interesting cuisine in an informal atmosphere.

Some of the best for family groups include The Farm Cafe at the Collingwood Children’s Farm in Abbotsford (try the homemade sausage rolls); Cowderoy’s Dairy in St Kilda, a short walk from beaches and parks; The Stables next to historic Como House and its gardens; and The Terrace within the Royal Botanic Gardens.

For an alfresco alternative, go shopping for quality deli items at Queen Victoria Market, then picnic in nearby Flagstaff Gardens.

Ante up the adventure

Melbourne is the perfect place for an energetic walk that will expose teens to stimulating architecture and beautiful nature reserves. The Capital City Trail encircles the city center, taking in a long scenic stretch of the Yarra River, the city’s old docks, and the route of a former railway.

Another good walk starts by catching the train to Fairfield railway station, then following a section of the Main Yarra Trail from the historic Fairfield Boathouse to Dights Falls. From here you can drop into the former Abbotsford Convent for some food before catching a bus back to the city.

Immerse yourselves in music

If your teens like music, they’ll love learning about Aussie sounds at the Australian Music Vault. This free museum within the Arts Centre contains a series of exhibitions about Australian music over the decades, including immersive digital experiences, rare footage and iconic objects including costumes worn by Aussie stars such as Kylie Minogue. Visitors can build their own playlist by picking up a free “mixtape” card and collecting songs as they browse.

Discover laneway graffiti and digital artwork

Melbourne is famous for its colorful street art and you can impress your teens by pointing out the city’s last remaining Banksy (you’ll find it on Duckboard Place, just off Flinders Lane).

First though, head to the city’s urban art epicenter: Hosier Lane. There’s always something new and fascinating to look at there. For more depth, join one of Melbourne Street Art Tours’ walks, led by local artists.

For another perspective on artwork outside traditional gallery walls, try The Lume. This multi-sensory digital experience projects art on its huge walls, with commentary that explains its meaning.

Walk in the footsteps of First Nations people

The Royal Botanic Gardens is a significant cultural site for the local Kulin Nation. On an Aboriginal Heritage Walk, a First Peoples guide demonstrates the use of native plants, talks about traditional customs and living culture, and explains the ongoing connection to the land.

A tram passing Flinders Street Station in Melbourne
Melbourne's public transport is excellent and budget-friendly © James Braund / Lonely Planet

Planning tips

Melbourne’s public transportation is easy to use, and less hassle than driving in its busy traffic. Pick up a Myki card for each member of the family over five years old. They’re available from train stations and convenience stores and cost $6 for adults and $3 for children aged between five and 18.

A single trip anywhere in the metropolitan area is $5 on weekdays ($2.50 for kids), with a daily cap of $10 ($5 for kids). Note that trams are free to use within the Free Tram Zone, which covers the Melbourne CBD.

Nearly all the city’s train stations are accessible and many trams are low-floor, meaning they’re easy to use if you’re pushing a stroller. However, vehicles can get crowded, so using a fold-up stroller or baby carrier for young children can be helpful.

Melbourne is generally accepting of breastfeeding in public, and you can find dedicated baby care rooms on the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s map. Check out the National Public Toilet Map to locate your nearest public restroom in the city.

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