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Melbourne has many fabulous things to do and places to see, and plenty of options for how to get around from one to the other. Whether you’re looking to dive into the city’s cultural scene and cafe culture or escape to the Great Ocean Road, read on for everything you need to know about getting around within and outside Melbourne.

Melbourne Street Art

Getting around Melbourne: An Overview

Melbourne’s suburbs cover a huge, sprawling area. However, the city centre is relatively compact, and it’s fairly easy to get around on foot or by public transport in many places.

Here’s an outline of what we’ll be looking at more closely in terms of the best ways to get around Melbourne:

  • Driving – tips for hailing a ride or getting a car and driving in and around Melbourne

  • Public Transport – keys to unlock Melbourne’s iconic tram and public transport network

  • Exploring Victoria – how to get the Great Ocean Road and enjoy other Victorian attractions from Melbourne

  • Getting to and from Melbourne – advice about travelling between Melbourne and other Australian destinations

 

Driving in and around Melbourne

With a well-maintained network of public roads, tollways, bridges and tunnels, Melbourne is an extremely car-friendly city. 
 

Finding a parking space in Melbourne

Although the Central Business District's ( or CBD’s) legendary laneways are mostly pedestrianised, there is plenty of parking throughout the inner city, so you’ll never really be at a loss for finding a park. There are multi-storey parking buildings across the CBD and inner suburbs, and the Victorian government’s up-to-the-minute Parking Availability Map lets you see where on-street parkings spaces are available around the city.

 

Car hire in Melbourne 

It could hardly be easier to rent a vehicle in Melbourne, with countless car-hire companies operating across the city (including at Melbourne Tullamarine and Avalon airports).

Good to know with kids in tow 

Thanks to Australian laws making car seats compulsory for young children, the responsibility for providing appropriate car seats is passed onto car rental companies. That means it’s almost a sure bet that the rental company will have a range of different sized car seats available when you rent a vehicle, meaning you won’t have to stress about sourcing one elsewhere.

Who can rent a car?

In terms of the paperwork, it’s fairly straightforward for anybody to hire a car in Melbourne (whether you’re an Australian resident or not). All you need is to be over 21 years old, and to have a valid driver’s license, issued from any country.

 

Taxis and rideshares in Melbourne

Taxis and rideshares offer an easy way to get everywhere in Melbourne. Official licensed, metered taxis can be picked up straight from the airport, hailed in town, or ordered in advance through services like 13 Cabs. Also, international ridesharing apps like Uber and Ola are totally legal and extremely popular in Melbourne.

 

Self-drive, car-sharing apps in Melbourne

Instead of going through the conventional car-rental companies, a couple of car-sharing, self-drive services like Flexicar let you pick up and drop off cars from designated parking spots all around Melbourne. 

You can sign up online (as long as you’re over 18 and have a valid driver’s license), order a car either in advance or at the last minute, find the closest one to you, then simply enter the 6-digit code you’re given once you book it, and off you go! 

There are hundreds of designated Flexicar parking spaces all around Melbourne, so this can be much less hassle than heading to a rental car office. With Flexicar, you can book a car for as little as one hour or as long as five days, so it’s also a good option for taking trips outside of Melbourne.

self drive

Public transport in Melbourne

Melbourne’s public transport network is made up of trains, buses, and the iconic tram network. Between them, these can get you just about anywhere you need to go across central and suburban Melbourne.

 

Myki: the key to Melbourne’s public transport network

All of Melbourne’s public transport options are connected in a common, contactless ticketing system called myki. Although figuring out how it works can be confusing at first (and a lot longer after that, even for Melbourne residents!), it does make things easier in the long run. 

Step one: get a card

Myki cards can be purchased from all 7-Eleven shops and hundreds of convenience stores around Melbourne. Just look for the green myki flag outside. Alternatively, you can buy myki cards at some train stations with ticket offices.

Step two: top up

Once you have your myki card, you can top it up (as you need it) at:

  • myki machines, which can be found at many tram stops and all train stations

  • Many convenience stores and supermarkets (again, just look for the green myki flag). 

  • Online: use the card number on the back of your myki to top it up online

Step three: swipe on

All of Melbourne’s trams and buses have multiple myki card readers on board. Simply tap on as you get on, and you’ll automatically be charged the lowest fare for your total journeys within a day.

Step four: swipe off (if you need to...)

On trains, you’ll need to tap on at a myki reader on the platform (or station entrance) before getting on board. Be sure to tap off in the same manner when you get off, to ensure you don’t get charged for the most expensive suburban train zone fare. You can also tap off of buses and trams if you like, to be sure you don’t overpay.

 

The Melbourne Free Tram Zone

Getting around Melbourne CBD is quick, easy and free thanks to the inner-city Free Tram Zone. As the name suggests, this means you can hop on and off, without touching on your myki, all trams within the Free Tram Zone (which covers the entire CBD, Docklands, Southern Cross and Flinders Street stations, and as far north as the Melbourne Museum).

 

Cycling and bike hire in Melbourne

Melbourne is a very bike-friendly city. It’s easy to rent a bike, cycle lanes are common, and road-avoiding bike paths criss-cross the city.

 

Cycle hire

Unfortunately, the iconic blue-bike Melbourne Bike Share public pick-up and drop-off scheme is no longer operating. 

However, whether you want to do it as a city tour or simply as a means of getting around, renting a bike in Melbourne is still very easy. Here are some of the best bike rental and tour operators in the city:

  • Rentabike – ideal for sight-seeing trips, located right by the Yarra river at Federation Square

  • Freddy’s Bike Tours – they offer a good range of guided tours or do-it-yourself itineraries, handily located between the CBD and Southbank

  • St. Kilda Cycles – situated right on the beach and just a 30-minute ride from the CBD, this is the ideal rental option for exploring Melbourne’s beautiful Bayside suburbs
Biking around Melbourne

Exploring attractions outside of Melbourne

As much as Melbourne itself has going for it, there’s a lot more to discover by venturing out of the city. 

Get Inspired: Self Drive Itineraries Featuring Melbourne and Victoria

 

Hitting the Great Ocean Road from Melbourne

The Great Ocean Road is a world-famous stretch of stunning coastal scenery running from Torquay (just a short drive south of Melbourne) all the way to Adelaide. It features iconic rock formations, world-class surf beaches, and quaint or quirky towns all along the way. 

Driving is the best way to explore the Great Ocean Road. It gives travellers the freedom to stop and explore whichever towns, beaches, and picnic areas take your fancy. It’s also very easy, as a lot of fantastic towns along the Great Ocean Road are an easy drive away from Melbourne CBD, so you can take your time and stop off wherever you like.
 

Potential towns to target:

  • Torquay (1 hour 20 minutes from Melbourne) – the home of major global surf brands Rip Curl and Quicksilver, Torquay is the undisputed surf capital of Victoria. It is home to the Surf World museum and not far from Bells Beach, one of Australia’s best known surf beaches.

  • Lorne (2 hours from Melbourne) – the quintessential Great Ocean Road beach town, with cool cafes, boutique shops, a historic pavilion, and beautiful sunset views.

  • Apollo Bay (2 hours and 35 minutes from Melbourne) – a fishing town wedged between lush rainforest and the sea, Apollo Bay has incredible panoramic views, great seafood, and some great bush walks just down the road at Cape Otway.

  • Port Campbell (4 hours from Melbourne following the Great Ocean Road; 3 hours by the inland route) – the gateway to Port Campbell National Park and the iconic Twelve Apostles limestone sea stacks.


Further Reading: Slow Down and Experience Australia’s Great Ocean Road

 

Visiting Phillip Island from Melbourne

See the famous Penguin Parade at Summerland Beach or watch Australian fur seals from Nobbies outcrop at fabulous Phillip Island, just a two-hour drive from Melbourne.

Driving directions to Phillip Island from Melbourne CBD

Take the M1 through the southeastern suburbs, passing turn-offs to Mornington towards Lang Lang, then drive through San Remo over the bridge onto Phillip Island.

Getting to Phillip Island by boat

There are regular passenger ferry services to Phillip Island from Stony Point, just over an hour’s drive south of Melbourne on the Mornington Peninsula. The ferry service runs to Cowes on Phillip Island, also stopping at picturesque French Island (which is well worth a trip in itself).

Public transport to Phillip Island

You can take the V/Line train from Southern Cross station as far as Dandenong, or the V/Line coach all the way to Cowes, Phillip Island (you can get as far as Dandenong with myki, but you’ll need a paper ticket for the final coach leg). 

 

Travelling from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula

The stylish coastal towns of Portsea and Sorrento are a 90-minute drive from central Melbourne, along the Mornington Peninsula Freeway. You can also take a train to Frankston, then the 788 bus to all popular destinations along the Mornington Peninsula.

Inspiration: A 6 Day Victorian Self Drive Itinerary featuring Mornington, Yarra Valley and Phillip Island

 

Looking for other unique day trips from Melbourne?

Getting to Mount Buller ski area from Melbourne

Mount Buller, one of Australia’s top ski resorts, is only a three-hour drive (or a slightly longer bus trip) from central Melbourne.

 

Visiting the Yarra Valley from Melbourne

Take a Yarra Valley wine tour from Lilydale, just 45 minutes from central Melbourne along the Maroondah Highway. Or, head to Healesville and visit the fabulous Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary, just over an hour from Melbourne. 

If you’d rather have the freedom to enjoy a few world-class wines while in the Yarra Valley, a train runs every half hour throughout the day between Flinders Street Station and Lilydale.

 

Visiting National Parks from Melbourne

There’s no shortage of gorgeous national parks to explore from Melbourne, either:
 

grampians

Travelling between Melbourne and the rest of Australia

Whether on your way in or on your way out, Melbourne is extremely well connected with other major Australian cities and regions:

Flying to and from Melbourne

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia are the largest domestic airlines in Australia. Between them they offer direct daily services between Melbourne and: 

  • Sydney (1hr 25m) 

  • Canberra (1hr 10m)

  • Hobart (1hr 10m)

  • Adelaide (1hr 20m)

  • Gold Coast (2hr 5m)

  • Brisbane (2hr 10m)

  • Perth (4hr 10m) 

  • Darwin (4hr 25m), although less frequently than the other destinations

 

Trains between Melbourne and other Australian cities

Trains are a fantastic but underrated option for getting between Melbourne and other Australian cities. 

Melbourne to other destinations by train

  • Sydney – An XPT (eXpress Passenger Trains) train between Melbourne and Sydney takes around 11 hours and operates twice a day.

  • Adelaide – The Overland service runs from Melbourne to Adelaide twice per week (on Tuesdays and Saturdays). The journey takes around 10 hours.

  • Canberra, Brisbane, Cairns, and Beyond – via changes in Sydney or by switching onto buses and rural services along the way, you can also get from Melbourne to many other major cities and smaller destinations by train. Check out the Rail Maps Australia website for more detailed information on these services.

 

Getting to Tasmania from Melbourne

Whether for the adventure in itself or as a comfortable means of travel, the Spirit of Tasmania ferry runs up to seven times a week straight from Port Melbourne to Devonport. 

To get to Port Melbourne from around the city, the useful 109 tram runs all the way from Box Hill in the eastern suburbs, through the CBD, straight to Port Melbourne ferry terminal. From Devonport, it’s approximately an hour to Launceston and 3-4 hours to Hobart on the Tassielink Devonport-Launceston-Hobart Express.

Fancy adding Tasmania into your trip? Try a 12-Day Great Ocean Road & Tasmania Fly / Drive Itinerary

Train

And that’s the lowdown on getting around Melbourne!

With all of the options covered here, there’s no shortage of ways to get around Melbourne. 

Just to recap what we’ve covered:

  • Driving – car rental, rideshares, and car-sharing are all viable options for getting around Melbourne and exploring beyond the city

  • Public transport – get yourself a myki and make the most of Melbourne’s fabulous train, tram and bus network

  • Exploring Victoria – rent a car and hit the Great Ocean Road and the Mornington Peninsula, discover Victoria’s beautiful National Parks, or visit some charming rural towns easily from Melbourne

  • Connect with the rest of Australia – fly, train, or drive to and from Melbourne and the rest of Australia

 

For anybody still unsure about the best ways to get around Melbourne, both within the city and exploring the rest of Victoria or Australia, First Light Travel offer a free travel-planning advice service. They can answer any questions you might have, and it’s totally free so it won’t throw off your holiday budget.

 

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Victoria
David Mckenzie
Submitted by
David Mckenzie
: 14 Jan 2020 (Last updated: 15 Oct 2020)

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