Long weekend activities that aren’t watching the AFL Grand Final

family riding on horse-drawn carriage at Sovereign Hill


Posted September 12, 2023

Footy fever has taken over Melbourne. But if football doesn't get your heart pumping or you can't bear to watch your team's biggest rival play, here are the best ways to enjoy the long weekend.

The atmosphere is brewing, the streets are decked out in team colours, and footy fans are getting ready for the biggest game of the year.

But if you can’t bear to watch other teams play in the big game, or if football just isn’t your thing, don’t fear. The long weekend doesn’t need to be all things football, with several activities happening in Melbourne and regional Victoria to keep the whole family entertained.

From heading off on a coastal road trip to exploring historical sites, here are the best ways to avoid the big game over the long weekend.

Best things to do over the AFL Grand Final long weekend

Go on a road trip

What better way to spend the long weekend than by hitting the open road and exploring our great state? With so many options for road trips both near and far, there’s one to suit any thrill seeker or leisurely cruiser. 

The Great Ocean Road takes you through the towns of Torquay, Lorne, Apollo Bay and Warrnambool over 243 kilometres, with great foodie experiences and some of the most spectacular coastal views Victoria has to offer.

Only have a day? Melbourne is lucky to have several must-see destinations within an easy day's drive, like Heathcote, Nagambie and the Goldfields.

Or, if you have a little more time up your sleeve and fancy more of a drive, road trips to either Adelaide or Sydney offer a lot in terms of coastal views, foodie havens, and country town warmth. Just be sure to tick off these essentials for road trip success before you go.

Visit a theme park

There's plenty of brilliant theme parks around Victoria, from the ecotourism Phillip Island Nature Parks, to the native animal hotspot Ballarat Wildlife Park, to Victoria's biggest theme park Gumbuya World.

Melbourne's Luna Park is fun for the whole family, with rides and games for all ages. A day out at Luna Park will treat you to that classic carnival atmosphere, complete with Dodgems, Laughing Clowns, The Mirror Maze, and the world's oldest continually-operating rollercoaster: The Great Scenic Railway. If you go on a Sunday, make sure to walk along the iconic St Kilda Esplanade Market from 10am to browse unique arts, crafts and creations from Melbourne makers.

Also in Melbourne is the SEA Life Melbourne Aquarium, full of weird and wonderful sea creatures, and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre for LEGO fanatics.


car driving along country road

Get out of town and head on one of Victoria's great road trips. Image: Getty. 

Enjoy some High Tea by the ocean

If you’re heading to the Bellarine Peninsula, stop in for afternoon tea at Hardings Lounge at the RACV Torquay Resort. Open both Saturday and Sunday, spend a couple of hours gazing out at ocean views as you sip on champagne and taste some delicious petit fours.

Spend the day in the Yarra Valley and Dandenong Ranges

With so much to eat, see and do in the Yarra Valley, head an hour out of the city and explore some world-class wineries and boutique distilleries. In a region where creativity and nature go hand in hand, there are also numerous art galleries and antique shops to explore, as well as spectacular stargazing in the Dandenong Ranges when the sun goes down.

Jump on board Puffing Billy with the kids and take the 24km journey from Belgrave to Gembrook and back again, enjoying open heritage-style carriages.

See a theatre show in Melbourne’s famed East End

One of the best things about Melbourne is the cultural arts scene, and we’re lucky to be spoilt for choice when it comes to theatre shows in our famed East End. The long weekend provides ample opportunity to see award-winning musicals and plays like Moulin Rouge! The Musical, Mamma Mia! The Musical, and Elvis: A Musical Revolution.


Moulin Rouge the Musical

Moulin Rouge! The Musical is a fun night out at the theatre. Image: Michelle Grace-Hunder.

Enjoy an afternoon at a Melbourne picnic spot

Melbourne’s famously fickle weather permitting, the long weekend is a great time to enjoy a leisurely afternoon picnic at some of the state's best picnic spots

Check out Mount Dandenong Observatory where you can gaze out at the Dandenong Ranges and city skyline right from your picnic rug. Closer to the city is the Royal Botanic Gardens, Albert Park Lake, or Fitzroy Gardens in East Melbourne – all perfect for lounging in the grass with a delicious spread while the kids play.

Take note of the best food and snack ideas for the perfect picnic.

Indulge in some fine dining on the Mornington Peninsula

Melbourne and Victoria are lucky to have some of the best restaurants and bars nationwide, which means foodies can fill their long weekend exploring some of the best gelato joints, cocktail bars, pizzeriasrestaurants and cultural food hubs.

Take a drive down to the Mornington Peninsula to RACV Cape Schanck Resort, home of the incredible CAPE restaurant that's shaking up the meaning of fine dining. You’ll enjoy sunset views as you dine on inventive new dishes encapsulating European cooking techniques, while sipping on some of the region’s finest wines. Bookings are available Friday to Monday, so get in quick, because this critically-acclaimed restaurant is in hot demand. If you've got some extra time, check out the Peninsula's best boutique wineries and cellar doors.

Explore Victoria’s best bakeries and patisseries

When it comes to good bakeries, there are a few requirements - like flaky pastry, for one. Luckily, both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria are brimming with options for a long weekend pie or sweet treat. Hit the road in search of regional Victoria’s best pies, where bakeries have nailed the pastry-to-filling ratio and the country town hospitality could not be friendlier. Some of the bakeries even have frozen pies to take home and enjoy later.

If sweets are more your thing, Melbourne has many top bakeries and patisseries to explore, where you’ll find golden croissants, feather light macarons and immaculate glazed tarts – because all good things start out as flour, butter, sugar and eggs.


Enjoy a signature pie from The Store Deans Marsh | RACV

Check out an art gallery

Studies show that viewing art can make you happier. There's certainly no shortage of cutting-edge art installations and galleries in the nation's cultural capital, from the lauded National Gallery of Victoria to smaller contemporary art galleries across Melbourne. If you're up for a road trip, explore some of Victoria's incredible Silo Art Trail.

Explore historical sites

The Greater Melbourne Area and Victoria at large has a rich history ripe for exploration. Visit Melbourne's best historical experiences like Pentridge Prison and Labassa Mansion, or regional Victoria's best historical experiences like the Ararat J Ward or the High Country's Cattlemen's Huts.

Sovereign Hill is a favourite for Victorians young and old. The stunning replica 1850s goldrush mining town features horse carriage rides, mine adventures, candle-dipping activities, musket-firing demonstrations, and everything else you would find in a real goldrush town.


The ultimate guide to Pentridge Prison | RACV

Hit the fairway for a round of golf

Enjoy some fresh air and practice your swing while enjoying a less crowded course on Grand Final day at one of Victoria’s great golf courses. With so many options both near and far to Melbourne – and a lot of them free to play – there's a golf course to suit everyone from the novice to the professional. 

Keen to tee off outside the city? Try the 18-hole course at Healesville Country Club & Resort, where you’ll see natural wildlife like kangaroos, wombats, and about 50 species of birds along the 5000m course. 

Entertain the kids in the kitchen

Bunker down at home, get out the oven mitts, and do some fun (and budget-friendly) baking with the kids. Try this delicious Anzac biscuit recipe, make these buttermilk pancakes for breakfast, or try this indulgent chocolate cake recipe. Or, if you’re looking for something the kids can take the reins on, this easy rocky road recipe is perfect for budding Masterchefs. Just be sure to supervise whenever the stove or oven are in use.


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