Welcome to Melbourne: How To Plan Meaningful Melbourne Holidays
Plan your holiday with a purpose
When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited Melbourne in 2018—for a day—they created quite a stir among the adoring public.
On their itinerary were two significant locations: the Government House and the South Melbourne Beach. But did you know that the real reason behind Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s beach visit was to chat with the volunteers and schoolchildren who pick up rubbish to keep Melbourne’s beaches clean?
And here’s what made the royal couple’s tour even more meaningful: they dropped in at a social enterprise restaurant, Charcoal Lane, mingled with staff, and sampled native Australian foods such as the bright red quandong (Aboriginal fruit). In doing so, they helped raise awareness of Charcoal Lane’s efforts to guide and train young Aboriginal people, and give them a fresh start in life.
Feeling inspired? Here’s the good news: you don’t have to be royalty to plan a road trip for the soul. Simply follow our Melbourne city sightseeing guide to explore the city with love and consideration and making the connections that count.
Tour with Socially Responsible Companies
Put this socially responsible tour agency on your radar: Wayward Wanders. It’s a fairly new outfit set up by a tour guide who yearned to “escape the horrors of mass tourism.” With Wayward Wanders, small groups of curious travellers will have the chance to experience Melbourne as locals would.
Looking for a walking tour around Melbourne’s hipster hotspots such as Fitzroy, Collingwood, and Carlton? Take the “Alternative Tour” to experience the true depth of these neighbourhoods. Beneath the hip veneer, these rich community spaces teem with projects that bring hope for the future. Discover urban garden projects, symbolic indigenous locations, and passionate social enterprises—all while taking in the eclectic street art along the way.
Environmental warriors can join the aptly named “Greenie Tour,” which begins at Federation Square, one of the iconic places in Melbourne. Learn about sustainable architecture and urban design while acquainting yourself with the city’s indigenous landcare and agriculture practices. The best thing about this tour? It doesn’t just give you the rosy view of the city, but lets you know where work is needed to make Melbourne liveable in the long run.
If you’re eager to make a difference by leaving something of value behind, take heart that Wayward Wanders donates 10% of its profits to its favourite charities, community groups, and social enterprises.
Need more options? Pick from other responsible tour operators such as Hidden Secrets Tours and Echidna Walkabout. In particular, Echidna Walkabout focuses on interesting places to visit near Melbourne.
Buy tickets (The Alternative Tour) | Buy tickets (The Greenie Tour)
Build Community Through Food
Is food a big part of how you experience a new city? Consider joining a cooking class at Free to Feed. Founded by husband-and-wife team Loretta and Daniel Bolotin, this social enterprise helps those seeking asylum in Melbourne to build a home in the city. It does so through finding work for these individuals while helping them to gain new friendships.
So, how does attending a cooking class help those in need? Here’s what the Free to Feed team has to say:
“Refugees and asylum seekers often have compelling stories to tell but, for a range of reasons, don’t have the opportunity to share these experiences, nor to even connect with many people in their new communities... We believe that teaching plays an important role in providing a voice for this often-marginalised group, and that the intimate space of the kitchen is the best venue for it.”
Currently, Free To Feed hosts cooking classes dedicated to the culinary traditions of Iraq, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and other countries. Classes are open to everyone, from foodies to first-time cooks. The company promises that it will be a travel experience sans passport, but remember to pack an appetite.
Be warned: classes sell out fast, so book early! Alternatively, enquire about a private class for two, or consider attending one of their pop-up cafe dinners.
To visit other social enterprise cafes and restaurants in Melbourne, bookmark this Broadsheet list.
Buy tickets (Free To Feed)
Looking for Melbourne-made products to bring home as gifts to yourself or others? Queen Victoria Market—home to over 600 small businesses—is where you need to be.
Mind you, it’s no ordinary market, but one with a century-old history. Named after the UK’s famed female ruler, Queen Victoria Market stands on a site that used to be a cemetery back in the early 1800s. Thanks to the flourishing of different trading activities over the years, the area is now buzzing with life.
Officially opened in 1878, Queen Victoria Market is currently the largest market in Australia. If you’re a history buff, you can use the official self-guided history tour to reimagine its past glories when you visit.
You can easily spend half a day browsing the specialty stalls, looking out for handcrafted products, and chatting with stall owners. (And don’t miss the chance to sample fresh produce and street food from all over the world!) But before you put your market haggling skills to work, here’s a tip from TimeOut: don’t do it. Instead, show respect to the artisans for their creative labour, by paying them what they’re worth.
If you’re looking for things to do in Melbourne after dark, the Queen Victoria Night Market might just be the thing for you. Featuring over 60 global street food stalls, more than 100 specialty shopping stalls, festival bars, and a rotating line-up of live music and entertainment, it runs on Wednesdays in the summer from 5:00pm to 10:00pm.
For more places where you can find locally made products, refer to the City of Melbourne’s shopping guide.
Get directions to Queen Victoria Market
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