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Noted for cheaper hotels and swathes of tasty Italian and Greek eateries, South Melbourne certainly makes a good alternative to staying in the busier CBD. It is also a good spot to be based for the Australian Grand Prix and has more space, while also being better placed for daytrips to Phillip Island and the Great Ocean Road. The M1 West Gate Freeway goes right through the suburb.
Who to Book With
Most of the big car rental chains have a presence in various parts of South Melbourne, including Avis, Budget and Thrifty. There are also many independent rental firms which may offer cheaper rates. The best option to fish out value is to use an online car comparator to compare rates. Be sure your vehicle comes with ‘unlimited kilometres’ as distances in Australia are huge.
Best Time to Go
Melbourne’s ‘four seasons in one day’ quip is no myth, particularly in the autumn and spring when the weather can go haywire. Though the city gets less rain than Sydney, October suffers from frequent downpours, while summer (December to March) is hot, humid and busy. About the best time to come is late spring or early autumn when it is milder. Take note of the big sporting events, especially the Melbourne Tennis Open in January, the Australian Grand Prix in March and the Melbourne Cup in November, when rates are higher.
Need to Know Essentials
Documents to show for car hire include the following:
- Your passport and copy of the confirmed reservation
- An International Driving Permit or UK licence (up to three months)
- The credit card used for the reservation
For more info read our FAQs.
Driving within South Melbourne is not as bad as in the CBD, but it gets congested and there are many one-way roads and some ‘hook turns’ needed at intersections with tram tracks. Break-ins can be quite common so avoid leaving cars on city streets at night. The West Gate Freeway enables fast access from the city, with the CityLink Tollway making for easier access to North Melbourne at the Tullamarine Freeway.
Our Guide to Australia contains more detailed driving information.
South Melbourne is smaller than Melbourne proper, but takes a while to cross on foot. While it’s not worth driving to see city centre sights, having a car is an absolute must to take in the coast, country and vineyards. The city also has an effective public transport system, comprising a suburban rail network and metro, a huge tram network, useful buses and metered taxis. Buy a Myki card to travel on trams, trains and buses, and be sure to give the bicycle network a try too.
Trains run in through South Yarra, to the east, on to Melbourne central in the CBD. There is also a City Loop metro system, mostly operating in the downtown, though the mainstay of public transport in South Melbourne is the tram system, Yarra Trams. Services run along main routes in this area to the city, including Clarendon Street and Park Street, though they become busy during rush hour. In the city proper, look for the free brown City Circle trams.
Orange signs mark the bus stops, which can be found on all main roads in South Melbourne. They typically run to main stations and shopping areas and are mostly air-conditioned and spacious. When sightseeing in the city, have a look out for the free Melbourne Tourist Shuttle, which takes in top attractions in the day, passing every 15 minutes.
Taxi fares are standard and on the meter, though it can be expensive to South Melbourne from north of the city after midnight. Look for the yellow cabs (Silver Top or 13CABS), which can be hailed or pre-booked. Rates are levied per kilometre after a flag fall rate, with surcharges late at night, from the airport and when booking by telephone. Note: taxi fares must be prepaid between 22:00 and 05:00.
There are plenty of attractions to check out within a drive of South Melbourne and there’s no better place to have a car in this region. The Great Ocean Road is just as hour away, and you can also check out Victoria’s gold rush town and the stunning Phillip Island by car rental.
The Great Ocean Road – The most stunning coastal drive in Australia is just to the southwest of South Melbourne, beyond Geelong. Think dramatic land and seascapes, lush forests and even charming villages along the way. The Twelve Apostles is a major highlight en-route. The start is an hour or so from South Melbourne.
Geelong – A popular stop-off to the Great Ocean Road, or indeed a daytrip destination in itself, is this cool coastal city. Geelong is large and cosmopolitan and comes with great attractions for the family, such as the fun Adventure Park. It is also used as a launch point for visits to nearby wineries.
Grampians National Park – Easily one of the most stunning regions of Victoria, the Grampians is en-route to Adelaide and sports great hiking, diverse wildlife and some Aboriginal rock art to boot. The marsupials live here—kangaroos, wallabies, koalas—and there are refreshing waterfalls and high points with endless vistas. October is best for colour.
Ballarat – Halfway between South Melbourne and Grampians National Park is this rich gold rush town. Check out the old buildings of Ballarat on the Eureka Trail or take in the botanical gardens and lake. The whole town is thoroughly laidback and has some pleasant eateries and souvenirs shops, too.
Phillip Island – This charming island to the south of Melbourne is one for lovers of wildlife. People come here to see the penguin parade at sunset, and there are also beaches and a racing circuit. There’s a bridge in the east so you can drive to Phillip Island from South Melbourne.