Getting a bit bored with the usual tourist attractions Melbourne has to offer? Feeling like you’ve ‘been there, done that’? If you feel like doing something different and discovering something quirky, here are our picks of slightly wacky things to visit:
The word ‘wunderkammer’ translates as ‘wonder-chamber’. These collections of curiosity were the first museums and housed both the familiar museum fare such as natural specimens, minerals, and coins, as well as more aberrant and miraculous objects such as religious reliquaries, double apples, ‘mermaids’ and the like.
This Wunderkammer is both a museum and a retail store. The shop specializes in science and natural history. The collection includes antique botanical prints, anatomical models, specimens preserved in vintage glass canisters, fossils, medical instruments, and insects mounted in hand blown specimen domes. The scope of Wunderkammer is as broad as the scope of human scientific inquiry. The owner of Wunderkammer, Ray Meyer, chooses the objects for the collection based on standards of beauty, rarity, historical or educational value and, of course, the ability to inspire wonder.
Melbourne Storm Tunnels
The massive system of twisting tunnels was first broached by the area’s most prominent urban exploration team in 1987 when the collective claimed the ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) drain as their own. Since then, the tunnels and chambers off of this giant drain and others around Melbourne have been being explored by the group despite the constant threat of flash floods, claustrophobia, and whatever giant insectile Australian fauna has made a home in the darkness. While the ANZAC drain and its attendant large chamber act as the unofficial headquarters a number of other drains have been found and explored and given mythic names such as The Maze, The God, and The Tenth Drain.
The Melbourne Storm Tunnels might look like matte paintings from an urban gothic genre piece, but they are in fact quite dangerous. Despite this, parties are thrown in the damp, spacious chambers and graffiti artists regularly delve into the depths to leave their mark.
Flinders Street Station Ballroom
While the station serves nearly 100,000 travelers a day, the old third floor ballroom, closed off from the public since 1985, rarely opens it doors to visitors. Viewing the space has been so coveted in recent years that during Open House Melbourne (an annual celebration of design and urban preservation) special entry was granted by a secret “Golden Ticket,” tucked into a lucky few visitors’ programs.
Designed in 1899 by James Fawcett and H. P. C. Ashworth, Flinders Street Station opened in 1910, and quickly became a Melbourne icon. The space occupied by the Ballroom was originally the lecture hall of the Victorian Railways Institute, an association established to provide “betterment of railway staff.” This included night courses, a lending library, and physical fitness classes. There were also “men only” spaces, such as a billiard room, table tennis, and a private gym with a boxing ring and running track on the roof.
The Honey Bees, South Bank
When you are next wandering across the Yarra River from Flinders Street to Southbank, take Travellers Bridge and look up! On top of one of the ubiquitous Southbank modern buildings, you will find some quirky giant golden honey bees.
If you find yourself caught in a rainy old day, take some time out to catch a movie at the historic Sun Theatre in Yarraville. The Sun originally opened in 1938 and has a really cool old-school interior that’ll transport you to the roaring 40s.
The Car Park at Melbourne University
Tucked away under the grand lawns of Melbourne University, at the end of Professors Walk, is possibly the most over-the-top car park you will see anywhere, anytime. It’s actually listed with the National Trust and its vaulted gothic interior was the setting for a famous Mad Max car chase scene.
The Fairy Tree & Model Tudor Village, Fitzroy Gardens
The beautiful Fairy Tree in Fitzroy Gardens, is an absolute must-see for anyone under the age of 90. It was carved in the 1930’s by Ola Cohn, as a gift for the city’s children. It sits beside a scale model of a Tudor Village, a somewhat bizarre sight for an Australian city, though widely loved by Melbourne’s kids, which was presented to the people of Melbourne from the people of South London as thanks for the food parcels which were sent there during the war.
The Green Brain – Corner Swanston and La Trobe Streets
The Green Brain is what it said in the prospectus, and what it probably still says on a plaque somewhere in the lobby, if mischievous students haven’t looted it already. But a lot of locals know this by another, considerably less prosaic name: The Snot Building. And it only take a glance to understand why.