Melbourne, Australia has a population of over 5 million people. It can get crowded and busy, particularly during the summer months and public holidays.
After spending nearly 3 days in and out of airports among travelers and locals alike, Brian and I were starting to feel overstimulated. Still, we hit the ground running on our first full day in Melbourne. We explored the city from sun up to sun down. Expansive sidewalks became overrun as the day wore on. At times, we felt as if we were cattle, shuffling from one area to the next. While the busy energy around us mirrored any other big city, our own energies were beginning to wane.
It wasn’t long before we sought out quiet moments to recharge.
As introverts in an extroverted world, we’ve learned to gauge our interests and preferred style of travel. Rather than push through crowded tourist hot-spots, we seek refuge in quiet intention. Travel becomes less about ticking off to-dos for the sake of doing so and more about deliberate choices.
So, what do we recommend for the introvert exploring Melbourne, Australia? From good eats and interesting places to history lessons and more, we hope you find your kind of adventure in the ideas below.
- Try solo dining at Welive for Hotpot, Australia’s premier “me-time” Japanese hotpot restaurant. This unique experience offers non-intrusive interaction and secluded compartments for private service.
- Indulge in grab-and-go convenience with a toastie from Hector’s Deli or a handheld meat pie from Pie Thief.
- Take a seat at the city’s largest hotpot destination. Panda Hot Pot resides in Melbourne’s former Dracula Cabaret Restaurant. This expansive 2-story restaurant features a great layout that creates a cozy dining experience despite the restaurant’s size.
- Interested in being a spectator? Dine in a restaurant with an open kitchen to see the chef at work. Select venues with a Chef’s Table, cozy pub-style tables, or intimate seating at the bar and throughout the restaurant. Visit Embla, Navi, Cumulus Inc., or The Moat.
- Kick off your morning or pep up your day with some coffee. Renowned for its coffee culture, Melbourne’s many cafes provide a variety of caffeine-fueled spots. Find a cozy corner and refuel. Check out Krimper Cafe, Calēre Coffee, or Brother Baba Budan.
- Grab a pint or two at some of Melbourne’s boutique-style breweries and tasting rooms. With so many independent brewers on the scene, there are a number of spots to choose from. We especially loved our time at Stomping Ground Brewery. Situated in a large, open industrial space, this beer garden and tavern features exposed brick, stunning timber framework, a retractable roof, and gorgeous greenery and planters throughout.
- If cocktails are your thing, head on over to Gimlet at Cavendish House. This Art Deco 1920s building is a historical beauty characterized by old-world decadence. Elegant detailing combined with elevated moulded ceilings, and a rich blend of velvet, leather, and marble welcomes you in for a brief recess from city streets.
- Visit Blackcat Fitzroy if you prefer a more low-key, cozy cocktail nook. This coffee shop and cocktail bar serves up reasonably priced drinks in a warm, rustic space. Outfitted with bright, wraparound windows and exposed brick walls adorned with local art, Blackcat is a dreamy, homelike retreat complete with well-worn couches and lush houseplants.
- For a more private cocktail experience, head to one of Melbourne’s speakeasy-inspired bars. These hidden bars are located throughout the city and can be accessed from ordinary laneways and storefronts through secret entrances. These hidden bars typically offer limited seating and exclusive cocktail specials. Venture out to Berlin Bar, 1806/The Understudy, or Beneath Driver Lane.
- Explore Melbourne’s green spaces. Brian and I roamed through the Royal Botanic Gardens one morning. It was beautifully relaxing. With over 8,500 plant species from all over the world, we could have easily spent most of our day exploring the 94-acre garden. Other noteworthy gardens include Fitzroy Gardens, Edinburgh Gardens, and the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens.
- Brian and I were surprised by the number of Melbourne’s parks and gardens. It truly felt like a city within a forest. For more green space, grab a book or some take-away and head to Royal Park, Fawkner Park, or Yarra Bend Park.
- For those seeking nature a bit beyond the city centre, we recommend the Yarra Ranges National Park. This natural wonderland is comprised of temperate rainforests, lush ferns, and even a redwood forest.
- The Dandenong Ranges National Park is a picturesque treasure trove of rainforest, gullies, and waterfalls. Located just under an hour from the city, this national park provides a serene outdoor escape that’s perfect for morning ventures, daytime hikes, or low-key picnics. Challenge yourself to the 1000 Steps Walk if you’re itchin’ to break a sweat!
- Soak in the sunshine at the local beaches. With a range of options near the city and beyond, you’ll have several to choose from. Visit Sorrento Back Beach for a quiet retreat or find a secluded area along the Great Ocean Road. Brian and I lucked out and managed to find a private area along the Torquay coastline.
- Pop into ACMI (Australian Centre for Moving Image) while you’re visiting Fed Square. This national museum of screen culture celebrates film, television, and gaming. It features interactive installations and informative displays that follow the evolution of the film industry, as well as gaming and the internet. While ACMI can get crowded, there’s plenty of space to roam around artfully lit exhibits.
- The State Library Victoria isn’t just for the avid reader. This architectural masterpiece has been beautifully restored and preserved as a stunning heritage building with a modernized design. Schedule a free guided History of the Library Tour, take in the view from the Dome, or settle down with a book for a bit of reading. The quiet ambience is simply alluring.
- Learn about the Victorian Aboriginal community through the First Peoples exhibition at the Melbourne Museum. An excellent overview of history, culture, and science, the Melbourne Museum is educational and thought-provoking. We enjoyed our visit, though I should note that it is best to visit off-hours (to avoid swarms of children…).
- Discover Chinese history and heritage at the Museum of Chinese Australian History. Brian and I had a great time exploring this multi-level display of comprehensive artifacts, accounts, and more. It is profoundly informative. We were fascinated by how much the Chinese Australian history paralleled Chinese American history. This museum is well-worth a visit! We toured the museum the day after Lunar New Year and thoroughly enjoyed the Year of the Rabbit exhibition.
- To satiate more off-the-beaten-path interests, look into the Melbourne General Cemetery, Wunderkammer, or the Old Melbourne Gaol.
Going for a long drive is one of my favorite things to do when I’m traveling. This is especially true when I need some alone time to recharge. Scenic drives can be really grounding. Not only do they provide direct access to the local landscape, they also encourage intentional presence and spontaneity.
- The Great Ocean Road winds through shifting terrain along the southwest coast of Victoria. From seaside cliffs and rural landscapes to lush, green forests, this gorgeous drive offers magnificent views and points of interest.
- Trade in oceanside views for rich, vibrant greenery. Black Spur Drive and Lady Talbot Drive are scenic drives within the Yarra Ranges. They wind through towering mountain ash trees and leafy tree ferns.
- Cruise through steep valleys, mountain ranges, and vineyards on the Great Alpine Road. Noted as the highest year-round accessible road in Australia, this scenic drive is an incredible journey through diverse landscape.
Something for Everyone
In a city of 5 million people, there exists a plethora of interests and hobbies. As a visitor, you’re bound to discover the many things Melbourne has to offer. Take your time to explore. There’s something for everyone in this bustling metropolis…even if you need a moment for yourself away from the noise of city streets.