What better time to upgrade on some culture and history and explore what makes Victoria unique. Such interesting niches exist within this state, and how we got to where we are today. In an ode to all things Victoria, we’ve cultivated a list of the best museums Melbourne and Victoria have to offer.
From one of the largest surf museums in the world to the largest collection of cameras owned by a private collector, this museum trail is the perfect excuse for an all-Victorian road trip.
The Best Museums in Melbourne
Melbourne Museum | CARLTON
Housed on the crest of the CBD in Carlton the Melbourne Museum is an epicentre for history and culture. Taking out the mantle of the largest museum in the Southern hemisphere, the Melbourne Museum has a range of rotating exhibitions from prehistoric dinosaurs, to a journey through the mind, and right down to the origin story of Melbourne.
Australian National Aviation Museum | MOORABBIN
Whether you’re a fan of planes, or just on your way to the airport, the Australian National Aviation Museum is worth a visit. This museum is stocked with some of the most historically significant aircraft and flying machines in Australia, making it one of the best museums in Melbourne. The museum also offers hands-on exhibits that allow you to experience what it would have been like to get behind some of Australia's earliest aircraft—a testament to how far we’ve come.
ACMI | CBD
Dedicated to the craft of the moving image ACMI, which is nestled into Federation Square is one of the best spots in the country for any true-blue cinephile. With frequently changing exhibitions, this space hosts some world-class experiences including full director retrospectives and immersive journeys through film and television.
Scienceworks | SPOTSWOOD
Though typically a favourite for the younger demographics, Scienceworks in Spotswood is filled to the brim with scientific and technological gadgets for all ages. Look into the future with the ‘Think Ahead’ exhibition or discover the planetary wonders of the solar system, and yes, you can still try your hand at racing Cathy Freeman, good luck to you though.
The Polly Woodside | CBD
The Polly Woodside started off as a cargo ship in the 1880s, shipping coal to and from Australia. Long since retired, this ship stands as a testament to a bygone era and recreates the world and life of a once perilous voyage. Put on your sailor’s cap and jump aboard this immersive nautical experience.
The Immigration Museum | CBD
Melbourne has developed its rich and diverse culture through the decades of migration that have taken place. The Immigration museum in the CBD is a celebration of all the unique stories of the journey that people from all over the world have made. Discover the cultures of all the different nationalities that make the city great through a range of different exhibitions including artwork, contemporary film and more.
HMAS Castlemaine | CASTLEMAINE
The HMAS Castlemaine is also a retired ship, but unlike Polly has a far darker, more sorted history. Teleport to the seas of World War Two, aboard a vessel forged in one of the most tumultuous eras of our past. And what better way to explore that history than on a ship that was there, perfectly capturing the ironclad spaces and rocky seas.
Shot Tower Museum | CBD
You may be familiar with the Shot Tower—a Melbourne landmark so iconic that Melbourne Central had to be literally built around it—but did you know a museum was hidden within it? Venture up to the second level of the tower to learn about the history of bullet making, the tower dates back to 1889, and you've probably never known its true purpose as you've strolled past on your commute.
Australian Sports Museum | EAST MELBOURNE
Located at the sacred ground of the MCG, the Australian Sports Museum has it all— from giant replica footballs to the history of cricket, to an Olympic gallery where you can discover the history of the greatest athletes to compete on the world stage. The best part about this museum is its interactivity—the space has been transformed into a digital sports ground, allowing you to learn about your body and sport with a hands-on approach, making it one of the best museums in Melbourne.
Old Melbourne Gaol | CBD
Old Melbourne Gaol combines the two greatest things: history and entertainment. Not only will you receive a comprehensive understanding of the Gaol’s past. You’ll also be enthralled by the stories held within this old jail, as your journey through it on the guided ghost tour. If history’s not your thing, plan a live-action game of Cluedo set within the walls of this gruesome jail to add an extra element of terror to your night.
Michael's Camera Museum | CBD
Michael likes cameras, so much so that he amassed the largest privately owned camera collection in the world. Luckily for us, Michael has opened his doors to the public, so you can walk through this amazing collection and map the history of camera technology. This unique collection makes Michaels Camera Museum one of the best museums in Victoria, or the world if you’re really into cameras.
Grainger Museum | PARKVILLE
Percy Grainger was a bizarre character who, in 1922, decided that his life was interesting enough to warrant an entire museum. Since then he spent much of his life intricately designing a museum to house his life's work and art, plus over 50,000 personal items including letters, clothes, and furniture. The Grainger Museum is a testament to the personality who created it, and offers a fascinating look into the mind of one of Australia's great composers.
Victoria Police Museum | CBD
If you’re a fan of true crime podcasts, the Victorian Police Museum is not one to miss. This is the best place to get an all-inclusive look into Victoria’s gritty crime history. Whether it’s the largest collection of Kelly Gang armour in the world, Squizzy memorabilia or the actual remains of the car from the Russell Street bombing, this museum is home to a vast collection of the gruesome relics left by some of Victoria’s most notorious criminals.
Melbourne Hellenic Museum | CBD
Filled with Greek mythology Melbourne’s Hellenic Museum is filled with ancient artefacts and intricate depictions of ancient greek gods and battles, all located in the gorgeous Former Mint Building. A true highlight of this museum though is a piece of contemporary art by Sam Jinks called The Messenger Goddess, depicting a hyper-realistic life-sized woman with giant golden wings. This breathtaking piece of art is worth the visit alone.
Centre for Contemporary Photography | FITZROY
The Centre for Contemporary Photography is a must-see for any budding photographers and art fans alike. Established in 1986 as a way to support Melbourne’s photography community, this is the best museum in Melbourne to go to if you want to learn about Australia’s storied history with the art form, it features a range of rotating photography-based exhibitions so there’s always something new to experience.
Fire Services Museum | EAST MELBOURNE
Operating out of the former headquarters of the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade, this award-winning museum is considered to be one of the best museums in Victoria. It houses over 100,000 items of firefighting memorabilia including an original 18th-century fire fighting suit. Most volunteers working at the Fire Services Museum are former firefighters, who can offer stories of their own personal anecdotes and insights on the job.
Fox Classic Cars Museum | CBD
Located in Docklands precinct the Fox Classic Cars Museum, celebrating the most important and influential classic cars in history. This museum’s collection includes a Ferrari F40, a premium 1950s Mercedes Benz, and the world's fastest production car, the Jaguar XJ220. These are the cars that made history and were at the forefront of technological innovation and design in their time. Perfectly maintained, these automobiles are a spectacle in and of themselves.
Melbourne Tram Museum | HAWTHORN
Melbourne and trams— name a more iconic duo. Celebrating the love affair between our city and this unexpected mode of transportation is the Melbourne Tram Museum, which is nestled at the end of the tram depot in Hawthorn. This museum houses some seriously iconic trams, from the earliest tram models and sketchings to the vibrantly decorated Z1 81 models used in Melbourne’s 2006 Commonwealth Games.
The Koorie Heritage Trust | CBD
Located in the heart of Federation Square, the Koorie Heritage Trust is a cultural and community centre aimed at celebrating the history, stories and culture of the Koorie peoples. This is the perfect place to learn about the indigenous culture of Victoria and extend your knowledge of the land.
The Best Museums In Victoria
Charlie’s Auto Museum | ARTHUR’S SEAT
Set against the stunning bushlands of Arthur’s Seat on the Mornington Peninsula, Charlie’s Auto Museum celebrates all things automobile. From quirky vintage buggies to model cars and paraphernalia. With over 80 unique vintage cars to explore, this is the best museum in Victoria for rev-heads and automotive enthusiasts.
Great Aussie Beer Shed | ECHUCA
The first thing you’ll see when you get to the Great Aussie Beer Shed is the Big Beer Glass. That should tell you all you need to know about this iconic Victorian institution. Chock full of Australian memorabilia from across the nation’s entire history, some highlights include a restored WW1 cannon, a blacksmith’s workshop and 20,000 beer cans from across history which line the walls of the 5000 square foot shed from floor to ceiling. A true celebration of a cold one.
National Wool Museum | GEELONG
Australia is no stranger to sheep. The National Wool Museum, right in the heart of ‘the wool capital of the world’, Geelong, takes you on that 200-year ride, showing you how the wool industry has helped shape this country’s history. Take a squizz at one of the world’s largest collections of quilts, or get a pair of socks made on a machine over 100 years old. It’s safe to say this is the world’s best museum to learn about one of the most important materials out there.
Golden Dragon Museum | BENDIGO
The Golden Dragon Museum, located in the heart of Bendigo, provides visitors with an amazing opportunity to learn about the Chinese perspective of the gold rush, one of Australia’s most foundational moments. As Australia’s Chinese cultural centre it also maps the ways in which our two cultures have intertwined over the past 150 years.
Australian National Surfing Museum | TORQUAY
Come hang ten at the world’s largest surfing museum in Torquay, Australia’s surfing capital. The Australian National Surfing Museum is home to all kinds of surfing artefacts and memorabilia, including over 150 surfboards located in the Board Room, highlighting the history of the surfboard from its slab-like origins to the sleek designs of today. This is the best museum in Victoria to learn about Australia’s favourite pastime and is one of the biggest surf museums in the world.
Looking to get out on the road? Check out the best free spots to camp.
Image credit: Eugene Hyeland