The city drops away suddenly just east of Spring St, giving way to Melbourne’s beautiful backyard, Fitzroy Gardens. The park's stately avenues are lined with English elms, flowerbeds, expansive lawns, fountains and a creek. There's a playground with a dragon slide, but history buffs will love Cooks' Cottage, which belonged to the parents of Captain Cook. Nearby is a visitor centre with a cafe attached and the delightful 1930s Conservatory.

In the centre of the gardens is a cutesy miniature Tudor Village. This well-meaning gift was a London pensioner's way of saying thanks to Melburnians for sending food to Britain during WWII. Right next to it is writer Ola Cohn’s kooky carved Fairies' Tree, a 300-year old stump embellished in the 1930s with fairies, pixies, kangaroos, emus and possums. Between Cooks’ Cottage and the Fairies Tree is what is known as a scarred tree: now a large stump, it was once stripped of a piece of its bark by the local Aboriginal people to make a canoe. There's another fenced off near the MCG.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Melbourne attractions

1. Cooks' Cottage


Built in 1755, this humble family cottage lays claim to being the oldest building in Australia, but that's sidestepping the fact that it was shipped from…

2. Conservatory

0.12 MILES

This 1930s Spanish-mission-style greenhouse showcases vibrant floral displays that change five times a year.

3. St Patrick’s Cathedral

0.33 MILES

Designed by William Wardell, Melbourne's Catholic cathedral is among the world's finest examples of Gothic Revival architecture and the largest church…

4. Old Treasury Building

0.34 MILES

The fine neoclassical architecture of the Old Treasury Building (1862), designed by 19-year old JJ Clarke, is a telling mix of hubris and functionality…

5. Parliament House

0.41 MILES

The grand steps of Victoria’s parliament (1856) are often dotted with tulle-wearing brides smiling for the camera as well as placard-holding protesters…

6. Australian Sports Museum

0.45 MILES

Hidden away in the bowels of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, this sports museum features exhibits focusing on Australia’s favourite sports and historic…

7. Alcaston Gallery

0.47 MILES

Set in an imposing boom-style terrace, the Alcaston showcases international and Australian art, with a focus on the work of living Indigenous Australian…

8. Melbourne Cricket Ground

0.48 MILES

With a capacity of 100,000 people, the "G" is one of the world’s great sporting venues, hosting cricket in summer and AFL (Australian Football League,…