First Time Backpacker’s Guide to Suburban Melbourne

As a backpacker visiting the cultural, artistic and foodie haven that is Melbourne for the very first time, you are in for a treat. Unlike a certain harbour city rival further up north, Melbourne is not so much known for its world-famous sights and big name attractions – though it certainly has its fair share of those, thank you very much – but rather is best attuned for the range of experiences it offers to the discerning visitor.

From food, to art, to walks through nature, Melbourne is ripe for exploration and full of experiences to indulge in and savour. It’s not regarded the world’s most liveable city for nothing! Here’s our guide to the suburbs and little known spots that few backpackers get to see, that’ll have you making the most of your Melbourne trip.


Okay, so we’re kind of cheating here – Williamstown is only a few minutes out of the Melbourne CBD, we confess. But such a pretty, waterfront little gem deserves a place on every first time visitor’s Melbourne itinerary – and, being so easy so close from the city, with stunning views of it a major drawcard, there’s really no excuse not to visit!

Williamstown has just about everything you could want in a Melbourne suburb, from Williamstown Beach to beautiful botanic gardens, to an interesting history as Melbourne’s first port (worth exploring at Williamstown Maritime Museum). You can even jump aboard the Enterprize ship!

As with many Australian cities, the cost of living and accommodation tends to lower outside the CBD itself, meaning it could be a wise, cost-cutting move to base yourself outside of the city itself when visiting. With all its beauty and attractions, you can’t go wrong getting accommodation in Williamstown.


Even the most hard core, frugal backpackers typically make room in their budget and itinerary for Australia’s unique animals, and at Lysterfield – or, more specifically, Lysterfield Park – you should be able to do so on the cheap, with many kangaroo and local bird spotting opportunities. The park is also a haven for adrenalin seekers, offering  mountain biking, at all levels of ability, and water activities like surf skiing, canoeing, sailing and paddle boating. Only half an hour out of Melbourne by car, it’s the perfect stopover on a daytrip out of Melbourne.


Now this previously unassuming suburb, 30km of Melbourne’s CBD, is on the rise for all the right reasons: it’s the city’s recognised Little India, buzzing with rich cultural flavours and highlights for all to enjoy. With about 30 speciality stores featuring items from the Indian subcontinent, and a range of unique fashions, saris and jewellery that you won’t find at such affordable prices (or in such lavish quality!) elsewhere, Dandenong is a must visit, particularly around Foster Street. And then there’s the food… Save money on food – a notoriously huge expense for visitors to Australia – by dining at the cheap yet tasty ethnic eateries on offer here, and get to experience an often little-known side of Melbourne’s rich food scene.


Well known by locals but hardly frequented by tourists, the inner city suburb of Collingwood is replete with so many dining, shopping, arts and music options you won’t even feel as though you’ve left the city. The real charm of this suburb, though, is its rich working class history. Take a stroll through its historic streets, admire its heritage buildings and the red-brick factories and warehouses that speak to its history – you’ll get a better feel of the city overall.

An art walk that wanders through Collingwood and Fitzroy is another sure highlight. If you’re up for it, why not don black and white, the Collingwood club’s colours, to watch a local AFL game?


For a pleasant day out of the city itself, Cranbourne – some 43km to the south east of the Melbourne CBD – is a quiet yet friendly suburb with many unusual attractions. For starters, its 363-hectare Royal Botanical Gardens has something for everyone, boasting scenic woods, wetlands and a range of walking tracks to soak it all in, plus the Australian Garden, which shows off Australia’s diverse flora to full effect.

Then there’s the horse obsession… Cranbourne’s long history in horse racing makes the Cranbourne Cup and other carnivals spread throughout the calendar well worth checking out.

In fact, as a suburb on the rise, the variety of house and land packages in Cranbourne may just have you wanting to call this suburb home!

Author bio: Marie Donaghue is a student and freelance writer in Melbourne. She loves exploring the hidden nooks and crannies of her home city, from Eaglemont to Eucalypt

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