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