Melbourne is quite well-known for its hidden things; whether that be concealed bars, secret cafes, quirky museums, or undiscovered attractions. Fortunately, we’re here to uncover some of the most underrated things you need to do in the city. From bars that look like science laboratories to the best place for plane viewing, here are Melbourne’s best kept secrets.
Up close and personal to planes
Near Melbourne Airport, there’s a designated Aircraft Viewing Area. Located at the intersection of Oaklands and Sunbury Road, you are directly in the path of planes taking off and landing. Because you are close to the airport boundary, the planes are just metres above your head. Hence this is most definitely a loud – but nonetheless underrated – thing to do in Melbourne for travel and plane lovers.
SisterWorks is a non-profit organisation that evolved from a group founded by Luz Restrepo, when she arrived in Australia as a Colombian political refugee in 2010. It helps women migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers become settled and financially independent in Australia. The SisterWorks store in Richmond stocks handmade wares from 88 different women. By purchasing a product, you are directly helping a migrant family. Some of the items for sale include scarfs, food products, children’s toys, jewellery, and greeting cards.
The Croft Institute is literally located down a dark, graffiti-covered alley in Melbourne’s Chinatown. The ground floor bar is fitted out to resemble a science laboratory, with a large collection of test tubes, beakers, and Bunsen burners. The first floor are the toilets, which are also decorated in an odd fashion. Finally, the second floor was a former gymnasium, but is now a dance floor with a real turf bar. The Croft Institute is the place to visit for custom cocktails.
No, that isn’t a typo. Lyon Housemuseum is a Melbourne innovation, where ‘museum and living are brought together in a single building’. It’s believed to be the world’s first purpose-built residence and museum that’s open to the public for pre-booked tours and selected events. Lyon Housemuseum was designed by Corbett Lyon, an architect and collector who coined the term housemuseum. Artwork and artefacts from some of Australia’s leading contemporary artists are juxtaposed against the house’s domestic furnishings.
Wunderkammer comes from the German word for cabinet of curiosities. People would display collected oddities inside a glass cabinet, and the tradition is still followed today. Wunderkammer in Melbourne has a lot of rare and unusual products for sale, including scientific and medical instruments, taxidermy animals, shells and animal teeth, butterflies, minerals, anatomical models, medical books, and fossils. If you’re looking for an odd gift or souvenir, check out Wunderkammer.
Some people don’t realise that they can join the studio audience of one of the many TV shows that film in Melbourne. It’s a fun and free thing to do in the city, especially if you watch that particular show. Visit the Pope TV Facebook page for up-to-date information on what is filming. Some of the programs you could be a part of include The Project, Have You Been Paying Attention?, The AFL Footy Show, The Weekly with Charlie Pickering, Rockwiz, and Millionaire Hot Seat.
Have a punt
Yarra River cruises are quite popular in Melbourne. But what many people don’t know is that you can also cruise on a wooden punt in Melbourne. Punting on the Lake takes guests on a scenic journey on the Ornamental Lake in Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. The professional punters act as tour guides as well, informing visitors about the garden’s wildlife, plants, and history. You can do evening, sunset, and high tea punt packages, too.
Have you ever wanted to unleash your fury and smash some plates? Well, you can do just that at The Break Room. The concept is not simply about violence, but ‘harnessing those destructive tendencies in a controlled and fun way’. Visitors are dressed in safety gear and led into a break room with crockery and a baseball bat, where they can do what they want in a specified amount of time. It’s a cathartic stress reliever, and perhaps the best kept secret in Melbourne.
Heide Museum of Modern Art was established in 1934, but became a public museum and garden in 1981. Its external architecture, sculpture park, and beautiful gardens outside are just as significant as the contemporary art exhibitions displayed inside. Heide is dedicated to promoting the work of living contemporary artists. Heide Museum of Modern Art also hosts a Makers’ Market the second Saturday of every month, in collaboration with the Rose Street Artists’ Market. Stallholders sell art, design, jewellery, and other handmade goods.
Located on Melbourne’s infamous Lygon Street, there is more than meets the eye at Jimmy Watson’s. Firstly, the restaurant and wine bar is a Melbourne institution, which was established in 1935. But then there’s stairs leading to the Wolf’s Lair, a cosy and comfortable rooftop bar. Between these two concepts is The Courtyard, a leafy oasis with heaters come winter. Finally, there’s the newest member of the Jimmy Watson’s family, Thin Red Line. The new bar is located upstairs as well, and has its own private entrance. So, which will you choose?