Melbourne is the second biggest city in Australia, and high on most people’s Aussie bucket lists, usually after Sydney. However, there is a very big difference between the two ports, and if you have been to Sydney first, you’re in for a bit of a shock when you get to Melbourne cruise port…
Read on so you can be prepared for your first cruise into Melbourne and not waste any of your precious port time.
Please note, that most tourist spots discussed below are currently closed due to Covid-19, so please check websites for re-opening dates.
The Cruise Ships
Melbourne has been in a big political debate for a long time with cruise lines regarding letting more ships dock, not just Carnival Corporation owned ships. Its been frustrating for the other lines, being told that Melbourne doesn’t need the extra tourism and that they’re quite happy with the status quo – completely ignoring the lack of competition being offered to consumers. Anyways…several years down the track, and with a heavy hammer from Royal Caribbean, they have finally let other ships in – only permitting a certain number of days per year, a huge minority to CCL, but still…it’s progress.
The other issue they have is that the bay is actually pretty shallow and the pier isn’t very big, plus the terminal is small…none of this works well for the larger ships we have in Australia today. So, if you want to sail in/out of Melbourne, it’s going to be on a ‘smaller’ ship, of less than about 3,000 guests.
The Sail-in to Melbourne Cruise Port
Cruising into a port is always exciting. It’s your first glimpse of the new city you’re about to explore, and if you’re watching from the top deck, you are likely to get a great overview.
As I’ve mentioned many times before, for me, Sydney Harbour is truly one of the greatest sail-ins in the world. It’s a hard gig to match that, and Melbourne doesn’t even come close. You won’t actually see much at all until you are really near to the pier, as Melbourne is located in a large bay, so once you’re in the Bay, you can’t really see land until you’re almost hitting it!
Melbourne cruise port is called Station Pier and is located in Port Melbourne. It provides all the facilities you need, including accessible toilets, lifts and an escalator, a gift shop, tourist information and plenty of seating.
The pier has some history to it, it was opened in 1854, named ‘Railway-Pier’ and saw the arrival of the first visitors wanting to make their fortune in the Goldfields. It was later where troops were farewelled as they left for the Boer War, then WWI and again for WWII. After 1945, the pier, renamed ‘Station Pier’, welcomed new arrivals, wanting to make Melbourne their home and livelihood.
Check out the Heritage Listed Gate House and Pier whilst you’re there. Oh, and if you’re making plans to meet anyone at the pier, allow yourself about 10 minutes to walk to the entrance from the ship, it’s a long pier to walk down before you reach the main road.
Port Melbourne is 4km from the city of Melbourne. Bay Street is the heart of Port Melbourne. Take a stroll along here to explore this lively neighbourhood filled with cafes, pubs and fish and chip shops.
You can also walk along the beach, and depending how active you are, you can walk the whole way to St Kilda which is a fabulous little area with markets and shopping boutiques. It will take you about an hour to walk there (5.6km).
For a shorter but still beautiful walk, head to Albert Park, a prestigious suburb of Melbourne with high-end boutiques and coffee shops, as well as a gorgeous lake to stroll around.
There is plenty of transport available in Melbourne, but you will need a Myki card to get around. There is a ticket booth in the cruise terminal where you can purchase a visitor pass, but be warned, with a ship full of guests all trying to get one, the queue can be long and tedious. If you can pre-purchase one through your ship excursions team, I definitely recommend you do this.
There is a bus stop and a tram right by the port, and getting to the city will take you around 20 minutes. You can also get an Uber or taxi from the entrance of the port.
Recommended reading: 64 Fun Facts About Australia
Most people will head straight to the CBD from the port, and with very good reason. Melbourne is a fabulous city, absolutely chock full of art and culture and some of the most incredible food. They are also very proud of their coffee, so please avoid the Starbucks and check out a local coffee roaster instead.
Queen Vic Market is awesome for the foodies out there too, you must try the hot donuts cooked from an American style van at the entrance of the market – they’re to die for!
The Laneways are famous throughout the country and are a must for any tourist. These eclectic alleys are exactly what your parents told you to avoid, especially at night time…but here it’s a different story! They are filled with street art, hatted restaurants, trendy cafes and little wine bars. Be sure to find the iconic ACDC Lane and the foodie haven DeGraves Street.
If you want shopping, head to Bourke Street Mall. This is a pedestrianised area with the big department stores and high street staples. For a more original shopping experience, try Collins Street for designer gear or Chapel street for more unique styles.
For a hit of culture, visit the Arts Centre Melbourne, which comprises of the State Theatre, Playhouse, Fairfax Studio, Hamer Hall and the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, open daily. Federation Square on the edge of the CBD is also an iconic arts venue and for a true landmark don’t miss Flinders Street Station.
If you’re on a limited time frame but you want to see a koala or kangaroo, go to Melbourne Zoo, located in the heart of the city.
If you have a full day off the ship to go exploring, here are some suggestions to go further afield.
Mornington Peninsula This is a really beautiful part of Victoria, with some great pubs, golf courses, and a plethora of wineries. Arrange a tour to visit iconic bathing huts before heading on to some cellar doors, before enjoying a gastronomic meal overlooking the vines or ocean.
Werribee Zoo Go visit all of the native animals of Australia at Werribee Open Range Zoo. Take a tour through the savannah! This huge enclosure is home to big cats, giraffes, nyalas and onyx’s, to name a few. It will take about 50 minutes to drive there from Melbourne cruise port.
Philip Island If you have a penchant for penguins, you need to head to Phillip Island to see the Little Penguins. You may be limited as to how much you see, as they generally come out at sunset, and the island is 2 hours from Melbourne, but this is definitely worth the trip if you have a late departure or overnight stay on your cruise.
Yarra Valley Wine Tour I absolutely love the Yarra Valley – which is why we got married there! Seriously though, there are so many stunning wineries in this region, home made produce and local markets to go visit. I highly recommend The Farm Yarra Valley for their beautiful venue and produce, you can grab some cheese (its the best I’ve ever tasted!), a bottle of Rob Dolan Cab Sav wine and have a picnic in the grounds – just perfect!
Great Ocean Road This has got to be one of the most beautiful roads in Australia. The whole route is 243km/151miles so I’m not suggesting anyone does the whole thing on a day trip, but many cruise lines will offer helicopter trips to fly over the region, and if you have the budget, I’d highly recommend it. Alternatively, if your cruise starts or finishes in Melbourne, maybe take a few days to hire and car and do the drive yourself.
Looking for day trips from Sydney? Check out 11 Day Trips in Sydney, as recommended by a local.
So, whilst the sail in to Melbourne cruise port isn’t the most scenic, the port itself certainly makes up for it. Melbourne CBD is easily accessible and there are several other beautiful regions to explore.
Have you ever been into Melbourne cruise port? How did you find it? Do you have any other tips you could offer my readers? Please feel free to comment below – and share if you found it useful!
Thanks for reading – see you next time!
Pin for later