Unlike in many countries I have visited where passes, cards, etc giving access to multiple sites and museums are commonplace, well advertised and promoted, in Australia, while a few options exist, you really do have to eke them out. Accordingly, when you have worked out what you want to see in terms of museums and other commercial attractions (in a city and indeed across cities you plan to visit) do dig deep (and I mean deep, in some instances) on websites to see what is available, noting:
• That apart from the major national museums, galleries etc in the capital, Canberra (which are free to enter), museums, in particular, are generally not free to enter in Australia – and individually are not cheap relative to the size/quality of some of the museums
• That many museum passes (which are actually museum memberships and typically last for one year) give you reciprocal entry rights to museums in other states.
Following on from my second point I want to recommend one particular membership, issued by MuseumVictoria, and which I bought on a trip to Melbourne. NOTE – see later on planning ahead.
This membership, cost options detailed below, gives one-year general (not special/touring exhibitions on which you might get some discount) access to the following museums in Melbourne (all three of which I highly recommend, incidentally):
And outside Melbourne ( the top four of which I have visited and recommend):
Australian Museum (Sydney)*
Australian National Maritime Museum (Sydney)**
Powerhouse Museum (Sydney)
Discovery Science and Technology Centre (Bendigo)
Science Alive! (Christchurch, NZ)
Science Centre (Brisbane)
Science Centre (Wollongong)
SciTech Discovery Centre (Perth)
*Free entry to Australian Museum available only to Museum Members residing outside of NSW
** Free entry to museum plus discount to ships/submarine berthed at museum. (at present – June 2016 – entry to permanent galleries here are free anyway – but this is not always the case)
***Free entry available only to Museum Members residing outside of a 100km radius of Questacon.
For full up to date details (which change from time to time) refer to the website listed below.
In simple terms if you (as an individual) visit the three Melbourne Museums plus one other you will be ahead with the pass (without availing of any other discounts offered in Melbourne). If you visit as a couple with a household membership you are marginally ahead just visiting the Melbourne museums and if you have kids you are well ahead.
PLAN AHEAD As you can buy the membership online you don’t need to start your visit in Melbourne but you do need to plan ahead and allow time for your membership card to be mailed to you (about 3-4 weeks). If you buy it on site (only possible in the Melbourne Museums) you will be issued with a temporary pass with the card to follow in 3-4 weeks.
As most of the museums referred to above have their own membership options, which of course they prefer you take, finding out (without asking at the museum entrance – and no guarantee they know there either) exactly what is covered under reciprocal rights, in terms of discounts as opposed to general entry fees (fairly clear) is tricky.
My experience is that proof of identity/residence is requested when using this pass so no passing it around!
MuseumVictoria Membership costs (June 2016)
Household (2 adults and 4 children up to 16 years) $79
Single adult $50
Concession (Student, pensioners/seniors, or health care card holders) $34
Child (Available with adult or concession membership only) $16
Additional child (Available with a household membership only) $6
Further details and membership application here.
Another excellent value pass is the Zoos South Australia (SA) membership issued by Adelaide Zoo and others in SA which covers Taronga Zoo in Sydney and a number of others outside Adelaide. A similar coverage pass can be bought at Taronga Zoo at a significantly higher cost.