We get it – between Christmas parties, gift shopping and a little bit of post-lockdown self-care, you’re probably looking for ways to enjoy the rest of the sunny season without emptying your bank account.
Thankfully there’s heaps you can do in Melbourne to make the most of summer, even if you’re on a shoestring budget. For less than a tenner you can take a dip at the Brighton ocean baths, down an Aperol Spritz at a beachside pop-up, or eat two-and-a-half haloumi pies from A1 Bakery in Brunswick – assuming someone will split one with you.
Here are our tips for summer activities under $10.
Melbourne is turning into pop-up central this summer, and what better way to spend a sunny day than lounging on the beach with a boozy drink and a snack? The Exchange Beach Club pop-up is back at Port Melbourne Beach, with $2 oysters on Tuesdays and $6 Passionfruit Caprioskas, Aperol Spritzes, Furphies and prosecco from 3pm to 5pm Monday to Wednesday.
Want more Aperol? Italian restaurant Baby is celebrating the return of spritz season with rosé, Aperol Spritzes and beers for $6.50 a pop, plus $10 cocktails such as the Sgroppino, a classic Italian number with lemon sorbet, limoncello, vodka and Italian sparkling.
At Brunswick’s A1 Bakery, the Lebanese pies and pizzas are reliably less than $10. A za’atar pizza dusted with herbs and sesame is $1.50, haloumi pies are $4, spinach-and-feta triangles are $4.50, and the falafel pizza is $9.50. As is the A1 special of za’atar topped with tomato, onion, black olives, capsicum, Turkish beef sujuk (sausage), spinach, Danish feta and haloumi. It’s always packed for a reason.
At Good Times in Fitzroy North, dishes cost up to $16 but there’s also a rotating pasta for $9. You’ll find the daily specials on the handwritten menu stuck to the wall.
And for dessert, hit up Casa Nata – a dedicated house of Portuguese tarts in Thornbury. The pastéis de nata are four bucks each.
Want more cheap eats? Check out our guide here.
Visit the drive-in
Want to catch a film? Pick your night. Lunar Drive-In in Dandenong has $10 tickets on Tuesdays, and it’s only an extra $5 if you stay for a second show. A carload of people costs $25 Monday to Wednesday, covering up to seven people (if they can be seated legally in the vehicle) – that’s less than $4 each – and only $30 for the rest of the week. Grab your American-style movie snacks from the on-site diner or chuck an esky in the boot.
Have a picnic
It started in spring and shows no sign of slowing – this is shaping up to be the summer of picnics. Parking yourself on a picnic rug or an old blanket is (obviously) free, and we’ve rounded up the best picnic spots in the city.
Or, if you want to get out of Melbourne, Hanging Rock in the Macedon Ranges is an easy one-hour drive from the city. It’s the site made famous by the 1967 novel Picnic at Hanging Rock and the subsequent ’70s film about a group of school girls who supposedly vanished on Valentine’s Day in 1900.
Don’t let the legend put you off, though – there are well-worn tracks catering to all ages and fitness levels up to the summit. The views are spectacular, and there are plenty of shady picnic spots, and a cafe too. Entry to the park starts at $4 for pedestrians, or it’s $10 for a car. Find more information here.
And everything we know about picnics – from fun and fancy goon snacks to stylish gear, plus how to navigate the unexpected social politics of picnicking – can be found in this nifty guide.
Be one with nature
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle without actually leaving the city, there are pockets of nature all around Melbourne to retreat to.
The Royal Botanic Gardens is always gorgeous, and it’s recently unveiled a new arid garden filled with more than 3000 cacti and succulents, many of which were sourced from South America and Arizona in the US.
You could also wander through patches of native forest, take a stroll along clifftops overlooking sandy beaches and rockpools, or discover a sustainable environmental park in the north with these three Melbourne walking trails.
Listen to classical music
By now, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s free concerts at Sidney Myer Music Bowl have become a summer staple. Over three evenings in January and February, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra will again provide the perfect soundtrack for socially distanced summer hangs under the stars.
You can see some of the city’s best art for the cost of a Myki fare. The NGV’s permanent collection is free to explore – with more than 70,000 artworks lining the walls and corridors upstairs, including pieces by Picasso, Dali and Australia’s Sally Gabori. Its second blockbuster triennial, running from December 19 to April 18, 2021, is also free.
Nearby, at Federation Square, the Ian Potter Centre houses the Australian branch of the NGV and is also free to visit. On now: a major retrospective of bold Indigenous artist Destiny Deacon, whose works combine tragedy with a touch of dark comedy.
At West Side Place in the city, a vacant CBD retail arcade has been transformed into an immersive public “artcade” with works by some of Australia’s best contemporary artists, including Rone, Adnate and Reko Rennie. The empty spaces are destined to be shops, cafes and restaurants, but for the next few months it’s an art gallery with free entry.
Further afield is the Monash Gallery of Art, dedicated to Australian photography. Its latest exhibition features the 2020 finalists for the William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize. Entry to the gallery is free, but bookings are recommended and visits limited to one hour.
Do a market tour
The Melbourne Farmers Markets move around the city, with regular spots at primary schools in Carlton North and Coburg, and at Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park.
The Alphington market is on every Sunday morning and is home to the Melbourne Food Hub, a project focused on sustainable food production, with demonstrations and its own commercial kitchen on the way.
The markets have hot-food stalls and coffee carts, so they’re a solid brekkie option. Depending which location you’re at, there’s the added bonus of farm animals, cafes or a gallery. And whichever market you choose, there are free tasters. Check out the calendar here.
The Heide Museum of Modern Art hosts a makers market on the second Saturday of the month in its sculpture park. It’s a collaboration with the Rose Street Artists’ Market, which opens on Saturdays and Sundays in its permanent Fitzroy home and regularly pops up all around the city.
If hunting for bargains and thrifting old treasures is more your thing, the decades-old Camberwell Sunday Market takes place every weekend. It’s open Sundays from 7am until 12.30pm, but we suggest getting in bright and early for first dibs on the best wares.
Take a dip
There are countless gorgeous natural swimming spots near Melbourne. Laughing Waters, along a section of the Yarra River, is less than an hour’s drive from the city. It’s an easy walk into bushland, and there are multiple swimming holes and mini rapids. Spots on the riverbank fill up on hot days – as does parking – so get there early.
For an ocean swim, try Brighton Baths. A casual dip in the outdoor saltwater pool costs $6 for all-day access ($5 for kids). You’ll find umbrellas on the private boardwalk, plus there are change rooms and showers. Swim for leisure or take advantage of the pool’s Olympic size to do some laps. Opening hours are seasonal, so check the website.