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A Short Cruise on the Yarra, Melbourne

Updated on January 22, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen has lived in, taught in and visited a number of countries and loves to share these travel experiences with others.

A Famous Meeting-Place: "Under the Clocks"
A Famous Meeting-Place: "Under the Clocks" | Source

Flinders Street Railway Station, Melbourne

A famous meeting place for friends in Melbourne is 'under the clocks' at Flinders Street Railway Station. It is situated in the centre of the Melbourne Central Business District and almost beside the Yarra River where a number of different short cruises may be found.

From the Station it is a short walk across the tram-lines at the lights to Federation Square. Turn right and you are soon at the bluestone wall and steps that lead down to Princes Walk and the Federation Square shipping berth. There is also a lift (US: elevator) that takes passengers down to the Booking Offices.

The Federation Square Ticket Office
The Federation Square Ticket Office | Source

Cruising on the Yarra

Cruises on the River Yarra can be booked on-line or at the Ticket Office quite close to one of the places where cruise boats and ferries pick up passengers. The Yarra is not particularly long; it is 242 km long and stretches up into the countryside. It is not particularly wide either, but it hosts a number of events during the year. It is often muddy and the locals joke that it is the only river in the world that flows upside down!

Short cruises are available:

  1. Up the River: The River Gardens Cruise provides a different view of the city, but it is not long before the cruise is passing Melbourne' picturesque gardens, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and other parklands, giving glimpses of the Governor of Victoria's residence, and famous sporting arenas such as Melbourne Park the home of the Australian Open (tennis), the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) and Melbourne Olympic Park. The cruise takes about an hour or a little longer, depending on the tides.
  2. Down the River: The Port and Docklands Cruise gives some different views of the Melbourne CBD. The cruise takes passengers past Southbank and many popular eating places beside the River, some of the spots where the early settlers first landed, the nineteenth century barque, Polly Woodside in the old Duke and Orr dry-dock, the World Congress and Trade Centre and the historical Victoria Docks. This cruise takes an hour to an hour and a quarter, too.
  3. Both Up and Down the River: Melbourne Highlights Cruise takes passengers both up and down the River and, of course, takes two to two and a half hours. In the busy season (January to April) there are about nine sailings a day. If you have the time, this is a good one as you can experience much more of the sights of Melbourne, which claims to be one of the "Most Livable Cities in the World."
  4. The Spirit of Melbourne: A romantic evening cruise that, in the summer, includes sunset dining and all year round a delightful evening aboard the Cruising Restaurant. International, six-course meals are prepared freshly on board and accompanied by fine Australian wines. With a background of the twinkling lights of Melbourne, this is a great experience.
  5. Cruises to Williamstown: Williamstown is an old maritime seaport and early colonial settlement. There is much to see and delight, including bluestone buildings, interesting restaurants and galleries and picturesque gardens. There are one-way trips that take about an hour.
  • City to Williamstown
  • Williamstown to City
  • City and Williamstown: A round trip that takes one and a half to two hours, depending on the tide. There is also the option of going City to Williamstown, staying there for a couple of hours and then returning to the Federation Square berth in the City.

A markerBolte Bridge -
Bolte Bridge, Docklands VIC 3008, Australia
get directions

The Ferry Turning to Come in at the Berth
The Ferry Turning to Come in at the Berth | Source

The Yarra River

The Yarra is not particularly long; it is 242 km long and stretches up into the countryside. It is not particularly wide either, but it hosts a number of events during the year. It is often muddy and the locals joke that it is the only river in the world that flows upside down!

Aeons ago, so I have been told, there was no Port Phillip Bay. The Yarra flowed right down to what is now known as The Heads and into Bass Strait. Then the land subsided, Port Phillip Bay was formed and the old bed of the Yarra forms one of the deep channels that large ships use on their way into port in Melbourne. The lower reaches of what is left of the Yarra is affected by the tides; above the Falls the water is fresh.

The Harbour Master's Eyrie
The Harbour Master's Eyrie | Source

The Cruise to Williamstown

This cruise is my favourite. After leaving the Federation Square berth and Princes Walk, the ferry stops at Southbank for more passengers from the popular shopping and restaurant precinct. It then continues down river, passing the Docklands.

The Port of Melbourne is Australia's busiest port for transporting cars, containerised and general cargo. The Port covers a wide area including Station Pier, where large cruise liners and the Spirit of Tasmania berth. As we passed, the huge cruise ship, Voyager of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International line ship was in port.

Other areas for ships include Victoria Dock, Appleton Dock, South Wharf, Swanson Dock, which include wharves for large container ships and has train-lines for carrying containers there, Maribyrnong Berth, Yarraville Wharves, Holden Oil Dock and Webb Dock. Over forty shipping lines make 3100 ship calls to Melbourne each year.

What I term the 'Harbour Master's Eyrie' is part of the Melbourne Vessel Traffic Services; an important overseer for safe and efficient movement of shipping in the port waters.

The Centre of the Westgate Bridge
The Centre of the Westgate Bridge | Source

Bridges On the Way to Williamstown

Shortly after leaving Southgate there are a couple of low bridges. On our trip out to Williamstown the tide was high and there was very little clearance. The top of the ferry scraped the bottom of the bridge; the Captain backed the boat and requested that a number of the passengers moved to the front of the ferry. Then we were just able to pass under these bridges.

Next came Bolte Bridge, a much higher construction, busy with traffic and interesting to see from this angle.

The final bridge is just north of the mouth of the River Yarra where it enters Port Phillip Bay. The Westgate Bridge is a steel box girder cable-stayed bridge of large proportions. Its main section is 336 metres and it is 58 metres above the water, which means that when you drive over it there is a great view in all directions - if there's time to look. At 2,582.6 metres in total length, it is twice the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It is very useful and much used as it connects the Melbourne CBD with the south-western suburbs and Geelong.

Local Black Swans Near the Landing
Local Black Swans Near the Landing | Source

Gem Pier, Williamstown

As the ferry slowed and came into Gem Pier in Williamstown, we saw several of the native black swans and I remembered seeing them near Williamstown on other visits, too. Nearby floated the HMAS Castlemaine. It now remains at Gem Pier and has been made into an interesting and popular Maritime Museum.

We stayed there for some hours and followed the maritime theme by using the discount coupons the Captain handed out as we disembarked. We used our vouchers for the most delicious fish and chips lunch al fresco at a local cafe near the waterfront.

H.M.A.S. Castlemaine: Maritime Museum Ship
H.M.A.S. Castlemaine: Maritime Museum Ship | Source


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    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Michael-Milec: Thank you for your comments. Yes, I enjoy living here in Melbourne, although at the moment there's a lot of haze from the bush-fires hundreds of miles away.

      alancaster149: There were some serials set there in 'The People' Friend', a Scottish magazine I used to get. It's been a little too warm at times, but it's cooler today.

      MsDora: I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for your comments.

      shiningirisheyes: It was a very pleasant day. Don't know why I don't do it more often.

      AliciaC: Thank you for sharing it with me.

      always exploring: It is a delight. I usually only go somewhere in my own state if I have visitors from overseas.

      avainnovice: There is a lot to see, especially if you enjoy nature. Did you see my hub on 'A Weekend in Galilee'? The birds were easy to photograph there.

      teaches12345: The longer ones sometimes take a bit of saving up for, but they're worth it. I hope you do get to go on a cruise; It's a great way of seeing more of God's wonderful world. They're fun, too.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Your photos remind me of the piers and ocean life around here, Blossom. You made this tour so attractive and I am so wanting to take a cruise now. Thanks for the lovely share. Blessings.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Quite a wonderful place with so much to do! I would love to visit Australia, and want to get pictures in the wild, if at all possible.,

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 4 years ago from Southern Illinois

      You are so lucky to get to go and photograph so many beautiful places. Loved it all. Thank you..

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      The cruises on the Yarra sound very enjoyable, Blossom. Thanks for sharing all the information and the lovely photos.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Blossom - I always enjoy taking a journey with you. Beautiful photographic representation of the journey.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      Great pictures! Enjoyable tour. Voted Up and Beautiful!

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      That's more than I know myself (about South Bank being the setting for some good yarns). What do you know that I don't? All I've got is a paperback (n/f) book about South Bank and Grangetown.

      Still, this one has to be a lot sunnier. It's a bit bleak at South Bank on Teesside at the best of times!

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 4 years ago

      Very inspiring read. After a pleasant voyage , feels like returning from the place, where I actually never been ...

      So good to know of existence a city as the one " most, Livable " in the world.

      Thanks for sharing .

      Up , & useful .

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      rebeccamealey: Glad you enjoyed it and hope you make it here soon.

      billybuc: Itchy feet can be a problem; hope they guide you to interesting places.

      L A Elsen: Thank you for your 'visit' and lovely comments.

      Tricia1000: Hope you make it; there's lots to see and do.

      Highland Terrier: There's a lot to see in Dublin, too. My Murray Grandmother was born there.

      Lipnancy: That's great that you enjoyed the pictures. I took lots and had difficulty deciding which ones to use.

      Frank Atanacio: It was indeed a pleasant day the last time I did this trip, which was quite recently as it's the summer holidays.

      alancaster149: Glad you enjoyed it. There's even a Southbank on the Brisbane River. Ours is mostly shopping, but further down towards the mouth of the Yarra it is industrial. Yours on the Tees is well-known. It's even been the setting for some good stories.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Hello Blossom. Like the trip, the short history and geography. It's the sort of travelogue that makes you want to go there, toot-sweet. The map could prove useful to get your bearings. What's that bit on the north shore (near the docks) about Patrick the Australian stevedore?

      On the other bank, eastwards I see South Bank. (All the best rivers have a South Bank, the Yarra, Thames, Tees... Ours, the Tees, had several shipyards where naval vessels were also built, and a steel works).

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      thank you blossoms for sharing this little cruise with us :)

    • Lipnancy profile image

      Nancy Yager 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Love the awesome pictures. They make me want to go there.

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Great hub, makes me sorry I'm in Austrailia.

    • Tricia1000 profile image

      Tricia1000 4 years ago from South Africa

      Some beautiful pictures and a well written article. Australia is on my list of future travel destinations.

    • LA Elsen profile image

      LA Elsen 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

      I've never been to Australia, but I would love to go some day. There are so many great photos and a well guided trip! Voted up and awesome.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lovely pictures my friend; thank you for a great tour! I'm in a travelling mood now.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 5 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Wow! BlossomSB, you make me want to take a trip and blog about it. Lucky you, Thanks for whetting my appetite. Australia is my vacation destination of choice, anyway, so I shall share this!