See & Do

White Night Melbourne 2014

Today’s prompt in the Expat Blog Challenge is a photo prompt: a hidden gem. I’m going with White Night Melbourne.

Considering it draws about 300,000 people and it takes place in the heart of Melbourne, White Night is not exactly hidden, but, surprisingly, a lot of people don’t know about it. I discovered it by accident last year and only a few days prior to the event. And although the event is massive, it’s full of hidden hidden gems if you take the twists and turns into Melbourne laneways.

White Night Melbourne was Saturday night, from 7pm to 7am. White Night is an urban adventure of art in public space. It features exhibitions, street performers, lighting installations, film screenings, multimedia projects, and dance. Last year, most of the White Night Melbourne events were confined to the area around Fed Square and Flinders St. Station. The City, and certainly the area’s restaurants, may have underestimated how many people the event would attract. Many cafe and restaurants kept to their normal business hours, which means they were closed during White Night. The 24-hour eateries such as McDonald’s struggled to cope with the huge demand. They closed for a few hours to clean and restock. Theo and I took a couple of water bottles with us last year, but when we emptied those, we struggled to find a place to buy drinks. Everything was either closed or had run out.

This year, White Night Melbourne promised to be bigger and better, and it was.

This year, White Night Melbourne was literally bigger, not just confined to the Fed Square/Flinders St. Station area, but stretching all the way from the Queen Victoria Gardens to the Melbourne City Baths. Local businesses seemed more prepared this year too. Many cafes and restaurants were open and well-stocked. It was actually really easy to get a drink and a snack and even find a table to sit at.

Theo, his best friend Graeme, and I arrived into the CBD just after 7pm. Disco dancing was well underway in Fed Square and we made our way into the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) for the Vladmaster Viewmaster Experience, a 20-minute work featuring two still-life pieces, narration, music, and sound effects all experienced through a Viewmaster. It was pretty fun.

Beyond that, we didn’t get to see much. The problem with White Night is that if you expect to just show up and see the exhibits, you may not be able to unless you’re willing to wait hours in line. We made our way up Swanston St. to the State Library of Victoria where we wanted to see Molecular Kaleidoscope, light projections of human viruses and how the immune system attacks them, but the queue to get inside reached down the block and it would have taken about an hour to see an exhibit that lasts only minutes. So, we decided to skip it.

Along the way to here and there, you do see some public art and street performers, but mostly you see people. Lots and lots of people. In the end, that’s what we saw the most, people. We still had a good time. People are well-behaved and pleasant. The energy of the space is chaotic, but also light and fun, as well as safe. We’ll definitely do it again next year.

White Night Melbourne
Vladmaster Viewmaster Experience.
White Night Melbourne
Light projections on various buildings along Flinders St.
White Night Melbourne
Flinders Street Station lit up for White Night Melbourne.
White Night Melbourne
The State Library of Victoria.
White Night Melbourne
An old tram conductor. Not old as in age, but from the days when you paid with pennies and they punched your tickets. People love seeing these guys.
White Night Melbourne
A view of the Yarra River and Crepuscular Beam by lighting designer Paul Collison over in Alexandra Gardens.
White Night Melbourne
White Night on Princes Bridge.

 Have you been to White Night?



  • We stumbled upon White Night this year, quite by accident. I’m glad we did, even though it meant we weren’t able to eat where we intended. It took us about thirty minutes to cross Flinders St in front of the railway station. I thought the displays in the train station were fantastic, though, particularly the one that mimicked Luna Park.

    • Cosette

      I didn’t see the Luna Park one and everyone is talking about it! It’s funny that despite 500k showing up, most people I talked to didn’t know about it. I’m glad you liked it.

  • That looks like a lot of fun! Hopefully, they’ll eventually get it organized just right that you don’t have to stand in line for hours for a minute long show.

    • Cosette

      They learned a lot from last year and I think that next year will be better too. We’re also going to try a different approach next year. Instead of arriving for the beginning, we’re going to go for the end.

  • Awesome! I might have to make my way out to Melbourne next year to have some fun.

    I heard about a similar thing in Toronto about 7 years ago: and really really really wanted to go, but didn’t…this seems like it would be a good substitute.

    • Cosette

      It’s the same idea! Nuit blanche means white night. It’s a global event. I hope you get to attend one sometime.

  • Sounds very fun, if a bit unruly. I love that picture of the Viewmaster show, that must have been an interesting experience.

    • Cosette

      Surprisingly, it’s very smooth. The final reports said there were 500k people and there were only 10 arrests for drunk and disorderly behavior.

  • The Guy

    I came across White Night this year by chance and had an opportunity to see all the hype beforehand. The hype certainly got me excited but the experience was a big let down for me. Spent hours fighting through the >500k people there were this year and struggled to find many things. I walked the CBD for hours and agree that Fed Square and Flinders Street is where most of the appeal was. You can see my take on the night here

    • Cosette

      I’m sorry you didn’t have a very good time. I really like White Night, but I know it can be challenging getting into the events.