Hip, edgy and vibrantly multicultural, Melbourne is about culture, shopping and eating – with some top action sport thrown in. Although many of the city’s attractions are easily accessible by public transport, you’ll need to hire a car in Melbourne to experience the wineries and beaches of nearby Mornington Peninsula and the wild coastline of the Great Ocean Road.
At Melbourne Airport, car rental is easy to organise and it’s just over 20 km to the bustling city centre. Attractions include the National Gallery of Victoria, one of Australia’s foremost art museums. The NGV also runs the stunning Ian Potter Centre – a museum exclusively dedicated to Australian art located at Federation Square. With its outdoor cafés, artworks, performances and buskers, ‘Fed Square’, as it’s known to locals, is a great place to watch the world go by. Take a Hidden Secrets walking tour to discover hard-to-find boutiques, bars and cafés tucked down Melbourne’s lanes and alleyways. And when the walking becomes too much, get a chocolate fix at Koko Black, a stunning artisan chocolate shop in the Royal Arcade with to-die-for hot chocolate. Up on Exhibition Street, 65 Degrees Café, which roasts its own beans, makes some of the best coffee in town as well as scrumptious breakfasts and lunches.
Brunswick Street is the hipster mecca of Melbourne. Leave your rental car behind and jump on a tram for some of the city’s best shopping and nightlife. With its secluded garden, the excellent Black Cat café has been around for decades. More upmarket bars include Naked in the Sky and classy Black Pearl. If you’re looking for a great burger and beer in casual surroundings, try the Napier Hotel just a few minutes’ walk away on Napier Street. Alternatively, head to Richmond for its outlet stores and authentic Vietnamese food.
Richmond is also home to the famous Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is open for tours most days of the year. St Kilda also beckons, with its seaside promenade and beautiful botanic gardens.
For those needing a break from the bustle of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula makes for the perfect day trip. Try horseback riding on the beach with Gunnamatta Trail Rides or sea kayaking in the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay. Stop at one of the peninsula’s 50 wineries for a tasting or meal and finish with a soak in the natural outdoor waters at the Peninsula Hot Springs.
Make the most of your Melbourne hire car to take a trip along the remarkable stretch of coastline that is the Great Ocean Road. Taking a surf lesson at Torquay, the home of Bell’s Beach and the Rip Curl Pro, one of the world’s most prestigious pro surfing competitions. Walk down Gibson Steps to peer up at the 70m-high cliffs above you, marvel at the 12 apostles and visit the Bay of Islands for its stunning views and serenity.