Top Things to Do in Docklands, Melbourne in One Crazy Day

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After spending 48 hours in the heart of the Melbourne CBD exploring all of the historic and iconic attractions that we all associate with this beautiful city, we decided to spend a day in the recently regenerated Docklands neighborhood which is just a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne. Whether you are looking to entertain a little retail therapy or perhaps enjoy a romantic ride on a giant observation wheel, there are plenty of things to do in Docklands, Melbourne.

The Docklands suburb can easily be explored on foot but it is also conveniently accessed via Melbourne’s efficient public transportation network. We want to share a few of the best places worth experiencing along with a couple of recommended places to eat based on our experiences here.

docklands melbourne

Where is Docklands, Melbourne?

Located just over a mile west of Melbourne’s Central Business District, the Docklands can be easily reached by hopping on the free circular tram ride that will conveniently take you to a number of stops in this part of the city. There are a number of iconic attractions here that are worth exploring, all of which you can see in less than 24 hours.

docklands melbourne

Melbourne’s spectacular harbor can be accessed from the Docklands area while a stroll along the Yarra River from the downtown area will take you to the edge of this neighborhood.

The History of Docklands

If you have an appreciation of contemporary architecture, the Docklands area is certainly the epitome of urban renewal through the development of a number of trendy looking buildings and apartment complexes. However, the Docklands suburb hasn’t always been like this and it’s interesting to note the history behind this part of Melbourne.

docklands melbourne history

Prior to the 20th century, much of the Docklands was swamp land and only in the 1880s were plans made to redevelop this area. A major engineering project began in the 1880s by a British engineer to reroute the course of the Yarra River and with this, the construction of a new Victoria dock was ultimately the start of the Docklands suburb. A number of wharfs and other interconnected industries started to prosper here in the early 20th century.

things to do in docklands melbourne

By the middle of the 20th century, however, the Docklands area was becoming less prevalent. Modern container ships were opting for alternative docks in Melbourne, particularly those that were close to the mouth of the Yarra River, leaving the Docklands relatively unused. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that a task force was developed to create a new infrastructure strategy to regenerate the struggling suburb.

things to do in docklands

Today, the Docklands area is a much sought after location in Melbourne for businesses looking to establish their headquarters here. Corporate Australian names such as ANZ, National Australia Bank, and Medibank Private are all headquartered in the Docklands neighborhood while global brands such as Ericsson can also be found here.

Things to do in Docklands, Melbourne

The Docklands suburb of Melbourne is a fun-filled destination if you are looking to explore outside of the downtown area. Let’s take a look at some of the best attractions worth experiencing during your 24 hours in this part of the city. Our highlight was undoubtedly the Melbourne Star but don’t worry, if gliding around a Ferris wheel isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other things to do in Docklands.

things to do in docklands melbourne

From arts to culture to sporting events, the Docklands is an area of Melbourne that should be on your radar.

Melbourne Star Observation Wheel

Before heading to the Docklands area, I heard about the Melbourne Star and honestly just thought it was going to be another Ferris wheel like anywhere else in the world.

melbourne star observation wheel

What I didn’t realize was just how awesome the experience was going to be once we boarded our private cabin and started the 30-minute journey around the wheel.

melbourne star observation wheel

21 spacious air-conditioned cabins are strategically positioned around the wheel and if you are fortunate to visit during a quiet time, the friendly Melbourne Star staff will give you a private cabin to enhance your experience.

melbourne star observation wheel

Day or night, you’ll feel on top of the world as the Melbourne Star glides on its gentle arc through the sky.

Once the doors are closed, you are immediately engulfed in the breathtaking panoramic views of Melbourne. The reality is that the higher you get, the more spectacular the views…at least that was our impression.

melbourne star observation wheel

A guided commentary highlights some of the iconic landmarks around Melbourne’s CBD and surrounding area, while you are also handed a map prior to boarding so you can pinpoint specific spots that you are eager to see from almost 400 feet in the sky.

melbourne star observation wheel

Let’s take a moment to clarify the correct terminology for this attraction The Melbourne Star is technically NOT a Ferris wheel, rather it is a ‘Giant Observation Wheel’ and is one of only four existing around the world. The key differences between the two are related to size and the overall technical engineering of the structure.

melbourne star observation wheel

Whereas a Ferris wheel may be renowned as a “rickety” structure, the Melbourne Star is a stereotypical example of a Giant Observation Wheel soundly constructed with modern design and engineering components.

melbourne star wheel

The Sights and Lights package is definitely the best value ticket you can purchase. This ticket allows not one but two journeys around the Melbourne Star. The beauty of this ticket is that you can experience the amazing Melbourne skyline during the day and then appreciate the “glittering kaleidoscope of color” at night.

things to do in docklands

The Melbourne Star houses a spectacular LED display and transforms the wheel into a hub of color in the heart of the Docklands suburb.

melbourne star observation wheel

Alternatively, if you experience your first ride in overcast or rainy conditions, you always have a second opportunity to return within 12 months of the first ride. This is exactly what we did and certainly appreciated the amazing weather on our second trip which helps capture some amazing shots of Melbourne.

things to do in docklands

Be sure to check out the Melbourne Star website for all the latest admission prices and packages that may be available during your visit.

Harbour Town Shopping Outlets

If you have never visited Australia and are planning an upcoming trip, it’s likely that you will be warned about how expensive this country is. This is true to an extent but for those of you that still cannot resist enjoying some retail therapy, the Harbour Town Shopping Outlets is the perfect place to visit and find some great prices on designer brands.

things to do in docklands melbourne

The open-air design of Harbour Town means that you can enjoy the gorgeous Melbourne weather while taking some time to hop in and out of your favorite stores. Not only can you find some great clothing options, there are plenty of souvenir shops at affordable prices to find that perfect gift for friends and family back home.

harbour town shopping outlets

The beauty of Harbour Town is that it’s more than just a shopping experience. Conveniently accessible via the free circular tram network, visitors can also enjoy a selection of fine dining establishments and also an entertainment hub including mini golf and a variety of activities for the kids.

things to do in docklands

Webb Bridge

I mentioned earlier that the Docklands was a hub for trendy architecture. The ultimate example of architectural brilliance has to be the iconic Webb Bridge that crosses the Yarra River. Quirky, unorthodox, brilliant and eye-catching are all words that I would use to describe the appearance of the Webb Bridge.

webb bridge melbourne

A competition-winning design for a new pedestrian/cycle bridge, Webb Bridge was designed by Denton Corker Marshall in collaboration with artist Robert Owen. The distinctive appearance of this bridge is what makes this stand out from other bridges along the river.

things to do in docklands

As an object, it appears as a delineated structure, a sensuous volume, light and linear.  Space is seen as atmospheric, dynamic and transitional.

However, it’s perhaps the location in the Docklands suburb that helps transform this structure into an integral part of Melbourne’s modernistic approach to regeneration.

webb bridge docklands melbourne

Etihad Stadium

The impressive Etihad Stadium is the focal point of this suburb with the likes of the Melbourne Renegades (20/20 Big Bash League cricket team), Melbourne Victory (Australian soccer team) and five local AFL teams calling this their home stadium. Combine this with a number of concerts that have taken place here with world-famous artists such as George Michael, Bon Jovi, and Coldplay all performing here.

etihad stadium melbourne

If you are not fortunate enough to see a live event inside the Etihad Stadium, perhaps a “behind the scenes” tour of the stadium will be an intriguing prospect. For only $15 (adults), visitors can take a tour of the changing rooms, media center, coaches box and even walk out of the tunnel at this impressive arena.

Where to Eat in Docklands?

After exploring the Docklands, it’s likely you will want to find a place to grab a bite to eat. Don’t worry, there are plenty of awesome choices just like everywhere else in Melbourne.

where to eat in docklands melbourne

We enjoyed a delicious late lunch at The Fish Dept in the Harbour Town Shopping Outlets and we can both attest to this being one of our favorite meals throughout our time in Melbourne.

the fish dept melbourne

Burger Monster offers a specialized array of home-made burgers and given that these are freshly made to your order, you can be sure you are getting one of the finest burgers in Melbourne. If you are looking for a little more international cuisine, why not sample Gold Leaf Chinese Restaurant for a more upscale experience or perhaps Old Man Pho for a plethora of delicious Asian & Vietnamese dishes.

Looking for something with a waterfront view? Why not take a short walk from Harbour Town and experience Renzo’s Bar Cafe Italiano and enjoy amazing views across the water from the terrace.

Regardless of your preference, you can be sure that the Docklands will have something to entice your taste buds. In our opinion, you can’t beat a good old traditional Aussie Fish and Chips so be sure to sample this before you leave Melbourne!

the fish department docklands melbourne

Summary

If you are looking for a plethora of things to do in Docklands, Melbourne, you certainly won’t be disappointed. We are sharing our 24-hour guide to this Melbourne suburb but the reality is that you could visit here multiple times during your stay in the city, given that it is only a short tram ride over from the central business district.

We were understandably impressed by the Melbourne Star and I think it’s fair to say that Heather was impressed by the Harbour Town Shopping Outlets (ok, I was too!). The history of the Docklands suburb is intriguing and it’s amazing to see how an area has been regenerated so quickly and successfully. Our final tip…do not forget the Fish and Chips, you won’t be disappointed!

things to do in docklands melbourne

Disclaimer – We received two complimentary tickets to experience the Melbourne Star in exchange for consideration of a blog post. The views contained within this post are entirely our personal opinion/experience and we received no final compensation for this.

31 COMMENTS

    • Cheers guys, yeah we love stumbling across these types of guides and love to share them from our experiences also! You could easily spend more than 24 hours exploring the Docklands area and perhaps you would pick one or two of our suggestions if you wanted to spend more time at each spot, but overall it’s a great experience and definitely something you should explore if you visit Melbourne.

  1. I can still remember the old Docklands from when I was a kid. Back then it was just some dilapidated warehouses and I feel like Etihad Stadium really was the start of that transformation. Looking at it all now through your photos, it certainly has come a long way. The Melbourne Star has to be one of the most maligned additions to the city in quite some time, so I’m glad it’s starting to get some love. So glad you both enjoyed your time in Melbourne and can share it with us all.
    David recently posted…Elsewhere in the Czech Republic: Beyond PragueMy Profile

    • Thanks so much David for a little bit of extra history on the Docklands area! It’s such a great story when areas like this are transformed and regenerated into a thriving community and obviously attractions such as the Etihad Stadium and Melbourne Star play a huge part in that. It’s interesting that the Melbourne Star has been ‘cringed upon’ or looked at critically by locals but it’s definitely a great way to get tourists to head over to that part of the city and admire the amazing views of the skyline. We had an AMAZING time in Melbourne and can’t wait to return! It’s such a privilege to be able to share this with our readers and hopefully inspire one or two to head down and explore it for themselves…they won’t regret it 🙂

    • Definitely one of the best wheels we have experienced around the world, Erin! The journey takes 30 minutes and it’s certainly a relaxing experience to admire the amazing views of the city. Hopefully you get a private pod like we did because that just adds to the experience 🙂

    • Hi Scarlett, trust me when I say that Fish and Chips was delicious and that’s coming from someone that is from England and used to the BEST fish and chips dishes!! Hopefully, you will have the opportunity to visit Melbourne soon because it’s a remarkable city and you will LOVE it 🙂 If you head there, let us know and we will be happy to share more ideas of things to do and places to see in and around the city based on our experiences!

    • Thanks for your comments Lisa! There definitely is a lot of history surrounding the Docklands though it seems much of it is negative and today we can start to appreciate the beauty of how this has been renovated and its becoming a thriving community thanks to initiatives like Harbour Town Outlets, the Melbourne Star and of coruse, Etihad Stadium! Fish and Chips was delicious so can highly recommend that…it’s making me hungry just thinking about this again 🙂

    • You are very welcome Annalise! Thanks for visiting our blog and hopefully you will have the opportunity to visit Melbourne and the rest of Australia in the near future! It’s a really spectacular country though of course there is so much more to see than we have covered 🙂 We have barely touched the surface but that’s the beauty of traveling right!

    • Thanks Shona, I appreciate your kind comments! We have only seen the Docklands how it is today but after reading your remarks along with others in addition to the research we did, it seems this suburb is now the epitome of a regenerated neighborhood and a huge success story. It’s great to hear because all too frequently you hear about the reverse, how a location was once a thriving community and has since dwindled to a dilapidated demise!

  2. The Docklands look like a fun place to spend the day. Stunning photos and great history of the area. My favorite is the ferris wheel which I would have to ride day and night for the views and some great photos! Thanks for sharing 🙂 #feetdotravel

    • Thanks so much for your comments Stephanie! The Docklands area really is a cool place to spend both day and night. The beauty of the Melbourne Star is that you can purchase a ticket for two trips around so you can get the best of both experiences during the day and when the lights start to sparkle on the Melbourne skyline – 30 minutes x 2 of an amazing experience!

  3. We have yet to reach Australia, and would love to visit Melbourne. Love the idea of the free jump off tram, unusual for a city not to charge to get around. The Melbourne Star looks just like the London eye which we enjoyed, the views looked amazing! Great post full of useful information. #feetdotravel

    • Hi guys, thanks so much for your kind comments! Melbourne is a beautiful city. When I heard it was voted the “world’s most livable city,” I figured it was just another media hyped survey but after spending a week here, I can well and truly say that it’s one of our favorite cities in the world. The Docklands area was a real surprise to find it and I am with you, having a free tram network within the CBD is so unusual but a nice service to have.

  4. I really enjoyed visiting the Docklands in Melbourne but you guys have definitely explored it more than me! Love that you went on the observation wheel – the views are absolutely stunning! The fish looks amazing too! Thanks for sharing!

    • You are very welcome and thanks so much for taking the time to comment on this post! The Docklands was a really cool find and we would head back there in a heartbeat the next time we head to Melbourne…hopefully sooner rather than later because we fell in love with this city 🙂

    • Thanks so much Alissa, we appreciate your kind comments! Definitely recommend spending at least one day in the Docklands area but it’s so conveniently accessible that you may want to return after exploring the first day! Hope you have the opportunity to explore this along with the rest of Australia sometime soon 🙂

  5. What a great view from the ferris wheel! We loved Melbourne when we visited last year. The fact that most things are within walking distance is magnificent. Taking a stroll alongside the river is a great way to unwind after a large delicious meal!
    ThriftyTrails recently posted…Nara PhotoblogMy Profile

    • Completely agree with you about Melbourne being such a walkable city! Add to that the free circular tram network within the CBD and it’s the perfect city…I think a lot of other cities around the world could take a look at Melbourne as a perfect example to compare themselves with because it’s definitely an attractive aspect that will appeal to visitors.

  6. We would LOVE to ride the Melbourne Star, especially at night. The skyline is really nice and it strikes us that Melbourne is a really pretty city. Definitely on the Bucket List…and maybe moving up a few spots now. 🙂 As always, thanks for sharing!

    • Cheers guys, always appreciate your insightful comments 🙂 Melbourne is a spectacular city and definitely it’s worthwhile admiring it from a distance at the top of the Melbourne Star!

  7. It’s been a while since I first visited Melbourne and boy oh boy, it’s changed a lot! There are so many new things to do here now, when I return, I will definitely be checking this area out but the question will be … where do I start first??? #feetdotravel

  8. We briefly saw this are when we did a river cruise in Melbs! learnt lots of fantastic facts about it but wish we’d had a chance to stop off an explore now! There’s clearly so many awesome things we missed!

  9. Great stuff Chris. I’ve lived in Melbourne on and off for the past year and you hit all the key points around Docklands. The free trams are great although I still haven’t had a go on the on the Melbourne Star yet!

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