A magical city with twists and turns at every corner, Melbourne is a city packed full of hidden gems and discovery. Here, stepping into tiny laneways and behind unmarked doors will take you on a unique voyage through secret bars, intimate eateries, transportive art spaces and intrepid wilderness adventures.
Whether you’re a lifelong Melbournian or a new resident on the block, there’s always something new to fuel curious minds. Indulge your imagination here with some of Melbourne's hidden gems. Secret spots that are weird and wonderful in equal measure.
*With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, make sure you are checking the Victorian Government website for the latest information. Although you can't get out and about right now, be sure to write down your fave hidden gems in Melbourne and book in a visit once it's safe to do so!
Melbourne's Hidden Gems: Bars
Only 10 people can fit inside this snug standing-room-only cocktail bar at any time, so it’s probably a good thing that it’s tucked away in Presgrave Place, away from public gaze. A vintage blue tabacchi (Italian for “tobacco shop”) sign marks out the 1930s-inspired venue, where you’ll be served a selection of exactingly prepared classic cocktails that change each week according to the bar’s whim.
20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne
A hidden gem worth knowing about, step under Lonsdale Street and be transported to the classic French brasseries of New York via Bar Margaux, where the gun team is serving classic cocktails and bistro fare all the way until 5am. Vintage-inspired red-leather banquettes, black-and-white subway tiles and dim lighting snatch away all sense of time as you keep the orders rolling, from oysters and champagne to lobster Croque Monsieur and Manhattans.
111 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Gin Palace is Melbourne’s OG underground den of luxurious imbibing. Buried in a basement down a dark alleyway, your curiosity is rewarded with a velvet-dressed wonderland where you can delve through hundreds of top-shelf, rare gins, either neat or in imaginative cocktails, while lounging in luxurious chaises.
10 Russell Place, Melbourne
If you’ve ever crossed the pedestrian bridge over the Yarra River and wondered where the sound of chatter was coming from, look below. Slotted neatly underneath is Ponyfish Island, a floating bar that’s loved by tourists and locals alike. Here, you can have arvo drinks with an uninterrupted view of the river and the city skyline.
Kiosk Southbank, Pedestrian Bridge, Southbank
This secret tiki bar is hidden behind a sandwich shop and entered via the cool-room door – how very Melbourne. Inside you'll be greeted with a dim, buzzy bar where animated bartenders shake up tropical cocktails with a side of A+ banter. Pot plants and knick-knacks add to the off-kilter vibe, and if you get peckish, well, you know a sandwich is never far away.
96 Chapel Street, Windsor
Off Little Collins Street you’ll find Chuckle Park, down an adorably tiny laneway bar where a caravan serves fun-loving cocktails, beers and wine. There’s mezcal hot chocolates in winter, a full spritz menu in summer, and mimosas and Bloody Marys for day drinking. The seating area is covered by a canopy of flowers and fairy lights, giving a fun, magical mood to your drinking sesh.
322 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Melbourne's Hidden Gems: Restaurants
Five storeys up on the rooftop of a Collingwood building is probably the last place you’d expect to find a decommissioned train carriage, much less one that has a burger joint operating inside it. Whether you’re chowing down on cheeseburgers at a booth inside or knocking back jugs of Melbourne Bitter under the stars, Easey’s is a place that guarantees a good time.
3/48 Easey Street, Collingwood
Where else but the top end of the town would you find a plush, leather Chesterfield-filled European wine bar that’s open until 4am (6am on Friday and Saturdays) serving fancy bistro food and even fancier wine? This intimate venue is an ‘if you know, you know’ kind of place, hidden behind an unassuming door and up the stairs – and aimed towards a very select set of patrons.
First floor, 161 Spring Street, Melbourne
No, you’re not imagining things – that really is the sound of sizzling pans and the smell of fish sauce coming from deep inside a CBD carpark. Soi 38 is now the stuff of local legend, a pocket-sized Thai eatery that’s made a destination of the McIlwraith Place carpark. Here the team sling some of Melbourne’s best boat noodles by day, before turning into a Chang-fuelled Thai barbecue and hot-pot joint by night.
38 McIlwraith Place, Melbourne
Peppy Ormond café Walafel is more than worth a visit for their delicious waffle-falafel hybrid, but the real secret here is that if you walk through to their back courtyard on Saturdays and Sundays, you’ll find a different café entirely. At The Black Yard, you’ll find boisterous groups of Israelis ploughing into traditional breakfasts of jachnun, a chewy, slightly sweet pastry that’s torn off in strips for dipping into various relishes.
1-3 Ulupna Road, Ormond
Melbourne's Hidden Gems: Secret Nature Spots
Drive out to Warburton and discover a magical place unlike anything you’d expect to see in Australia. The 1500 or so trees that make up this forest are exotic Californian redwoods, planted almost 100 years ago. Nowadays, they’re around 50 metre-high pines that have become a favourite backdrop for in-the-know wedding photographers. A hidden gem that will leave you breathless.
Cement Creek Road, East Warburton
From December to April each year, this 50,000 square-metre water garden in the Yarra Valley blooms with water lilies and lotus flowers. Ponds, lakes, palms, lagoons and even a waterfall create a tropical paradise that feels a universe away from the Melbourne despite only being a 90-minute drive away.
2628 Warburton Highway, Yarra Junction
Only 45 minutes out of the city is an otherworldly secret garden nestled deep in the Dandenongs, where a thick canopy of mountain ash, maple and gingko trees join picturesque waterfalls, rock pools and native flora. It’s one of our favourite spots for a picnic – make sure to keep an eye out for king parrots and colourful rosellas.
Sherbrooke Road, Sherbrooke
Fitzroy Gardens is one of the loveliest spots in the CBD to grab a bit of sun or shade over your lunch break, but it’s also home to a 1930s conservatory where a verdant botanic garden grows. Inside the Spanish Mission-style structure you may find hydrangeas, poinsettias and fuchsias, depending on the time of year. It’s currently closed for works until 2020, so keep this one in your back pocket.
Wellington Parade, East Melbourne
Melbourne's Hidden Gems: Hidden Culture
Tucked away under Flinders Lane is one of the city’s most exciting cultural spaces. Venture down the stairs to discover multiple galleries and a warehouse-style theatre, where independent artists, dancers, and musicians are displaying some of the most cutting-edge work around. One day there could be a classical music recital, the next, a rollicking cabaret, but all underground.
45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Step back in time to 1950s Hollywood at this unassuming suburban cinema, where the stunning Art Deco features inside, including a grand staircase and ornate ceilings, have been carefully maintained. On screen it’s a much more contemporary affair, with both indie flicks and blockbusters showing daily.
89 High Street, Northcote
Concealed at the base of an escarpment on the Maribyrnong River is Jack’s Magazine, a former explosives storage facility that hides a labyrinth of underground tramways, tunnels and rooms that have been locked up since the ’90s. The site is connected to many major events in Victoria’s history, from the Gold Rush to wars, and is well worth seeing if you’re a history fanatic.
Magazine Way, Maribyrnong
The Johnston Collection’s location is kept strictly secret – all visitors are picked up via a shuttle bus to maintain the museum’s security. This lavish English Regency-style house hybrid is filled with priceless items from the Georgian, Regency and Louis XV periods. They were all gifted to the city by prominent antiques dealer and collector William Robert Johnston, and are now on display in his former residence.
Arrive at 192 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne
If you liked our round-up of Melbourne's hidden gems, we've got plenty more things to do in Melbourne that'll keep you entertained. You'll love our cute date night ideas – think fun activities like art and cooking classes. Or upgrade your day out to an entire weekend with a relaxing getaway to one of Victoria's beautiful holiday destinations, from Daylesford to the Mornington Peninsula, or even further afield. Our bucket list Australian road trips have you covered.