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A twilight shot of the Moonlight Cinema with a packed crowd
Photograph: Supplied/City of Melbourne

Fun things to do this summer in Melbourne

Enjoy the sunshine with free events, interactive exhibitions, stunning outdoor activities and more

Adena Maier
Written by
Adena Maier
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Once again, Australia’s cultural capital delivers a stellar city-wide line-up this summer. And after the year we've had, we certainly deserve to enjoy some fun. From ground-breaking exhibitions to music festivals, there’s plenty to explore. Treat this as your guide to everything you need to do before the end of summer.

For more fun in the sun, see our lists of the best rooftop bars in Melbourne and outdoor cinemas – and when it's seriously boiling, go for a swim in one of these beaches, pools or lakes.

Melbourne's best summer events

  • Art
  • Southbank

An exhibition of one of the world's most influential and innovative fashion designers lands in Melbourne this summer. Alexander McQueen: Mind, Mythos, Muse invites visitors to enter the conceptual, encyclopaedic and creative mind of this boundary-pushing fashion designer through more than 100 clothing pieces accompanied by more than 70 historical artworks. 

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  • Things to do
  • Exhibitions
  • Southbank

One of Melbourne’s favourite evening activities, NGV Friday Nights, is back for another season this summer, bringing with it a smoking line-up of musical acts, food, drinks and groundbreaking art. The 18-week season will run every Friday night from December 16, 2022 to April 14, 2023, and feature some of Melbourne’s most boundary-pushing artists across the disco, glam rock, jazz and soul genres. Three-time Grammy Award nominee and neo-soul superstar Nai Palm will headline on opening night, with Electric Fields, Kee’ahn, Banoffee and Billy Davis also on the program. See the full line-up on the NGV's website.

 

  • Things to do
  • Food and drink
  • Melbourne

To celebrate the state’s incredible produce and the warm sunny weather, Victoria is teaming up with local gin gods Four Pillars to bring you an elevated Sunday escapade on the terrace. Think endless Four Pillars cocktails, wine and beer paired with a seven-course seasonal menu curated by executive chef Alejandro Saravia. Sounds like a dream to us. Kicking off on Sunday, January 15, the Sunday Summer Sessions will run weekly for 12 weeks with two sittings: 11.30am and 2.30pm (note, the sessions will not run on January 29 and February 5, 2023 due to private bookings). 

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne

Following its winter hibernation, Melbourne's OG floating bar and restaurant is returning for its seventh season on the Yarra. Last year, Arbory Afloat was decked out in the style of the picturesque Turquoise Coast in Turkey — and this year, it's returning as a sun-drenched take on the Balearic Islands. 

  • Film
  • Outdoor cinema
  • Melbourne

The Moonlight Cinema has once again taken over the Botanic Gardens this summer, with a stellar line-up of blockbuster hits and cult classics for keen filmgoers to watch under the stars with a choc top in hand. The season kicked off on December 1, and will run until March 26, 2023.

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  • Things to do
  • Markets
  • Melbourne

Picture this: a balmy summer night spent filling your belly and quenching your thirst from a selection of global street food stalls, carts, trucks and festival bars. If that sounds right up your alley, then mark November 23 in your calendar, because that's when the Queen Vic Market's much-loved Summer Night Market returns. 

  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • Melbourne

A little south of Melton and just 40 minutes from the Melbourne CBD is the vibrant 3,000-person community of Eynesbury where you’ll soon be able to attend a range of free events to see you right through the silly season and summer. Each month, Eynesbury will put on a handful of free events with one day every month dedicated to the Food Truck Festival where you can try food from Portugal, the Netherlands, India and more. Over the season, you can watch summer sports in the beer garden or grab a seat and relax in the shade. To help you plan, we’ve rounded up some of the standout events from the program.

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  • Museums
  • Melbourne

In a quiet gallery of the State Library of Victoria sits a fascinating new exhibition that investigates the historical importance of crafted and handmade items – from mapping the stars in a way no one has ever seen before, to the undergarment makers who sent their wares to the stars, and First Nations artists who craft their contemporary artworks with a close connection to traditional methods.

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  • Art
  • Carlton

Naadohbii: To Draw Water has arrived at the Melbourne Museum. A trinational exhibition curated in partnership with New Zealand’s Pātaka Art and Museum, and Canada’s Winnipeg Art Gallery, it exhibits over 20 pieces of art from First Peoples artists from Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

  • Film
  • Animation
  • Carlton

To celebrate the release of the new Avatar: The Way of Water 3D, IMAX Melbourne will be projecting scenes from the multi-million-dollar film on its exterior façade from 9pm every night this summer. The projection takeover will run daily from now until January 31, 2023, from 9pm to 2am each night, immersing passers by in the larger-than-life, colourful world of Pandora.

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  • Art
  • Film and video
  • Melbourne

Celebrate Indigenous artists and filmmakers as they invite you to imagine a future unbound by representations that seek to curb and control. Spanning moving images, installations, documentaries, photography and video games, How I See It will amplify new visions from eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander creatives at this latest exhibition from ACMI.

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  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Melbourne

It’s Christmas for Potterheads. Three years after its celebrated opening at the expensively refurbished Princess Theatre, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is taking an apt step back in time with a second premiere, this time of a streamlined one-play version that carves a good three hours off of its original running time. There are various motivations for this. Even for ardent devotees or seasoned theatre veterans, six hours in a seat is a slog, and once killed-for tickets had become readily available. But what could have been a cynical hatchet job has turned out to be the making of this show.

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  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • Melbourne

Following its winter hibernation, Melbourne's OG floating bar and restaurant is returning for its seventh season on the Yarra. Last year, Arbory Afloat was decked out in the style of the picturesque Turquoise Coast in Turkey — and this year, it's returning as a sun-drenched take on the Balearic Islands. 

Instead of dropping thousands on a ticket to Ibiza, Formentera, Menorca or Mallorca, you can enjoy a taste of the archipelago right here in Melbourne. The 69-metre space, which features two bars and an extensive upper deck pool club, is set to have its dreamiest design yet. 

Food-wise, this season's menu will focus on simple, fresh and flavourful ingredients. It's designed to share, with several Spanish-inspired offerings including pintxos, tapas, bocadillos and raciones. The brand-new drinks list will also lean into the Balearic Islands theme, and you can expect the likes of Sangrias, Porn Star Sour Martinis, Pina Coladas and Aperol Spritzes to take centre stage. 

Arbory Afloat will reopen from 4pm on Wednesday, September 21 and will remain open from 11am to 1am from Thursday, September 22 onwards. For more information, visit the Arbory Afloat website. 

Cool off at a rooftop bar

Too hot? Here's what to do

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