A Short Cruise on the Yarra, Melbourne
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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.
- 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Places to Visit in Victoria
- Swan Lake, Phillip Island
On a visit to Swan Lake, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia, there were so many water birds to be seen. It is a delight and not so far from Melbourne; it could be done on a day trip, but do stay there, to see the penguins that come ashore at dusk.
- Nyerimilang Heritage Park, Gippsland, Victoria
A train trip to Bairnsdale and then a bus to Swan Reach, leads to a visit to Nyerimilang Heritage Park. This park is beautifully situated beside Lake King, one of the Gippsland Lakes district, in Nungurner and not far from famous Lakes Entrance.
- A Visit to the Grampians, Victoria
The Grampians National Park in the Western Victorian Highlands is a great place for a holiday, especially in spring and autumn. It is noted for the lovely views and great hiking and bush-walking.
- Australian Parrots and "Galilee" in Gippsland
A weekend visit to Galilee Holiday Flats in East Gippsland gave me a great photo opportunity as I was able to be quite close to a number of different birds, including the beautiful King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas.
- Walking in Blackhill Reserve, near Kyneton, Victoria
Kyneton, in the Macedon Ranges in Central Victoria, is a delightful place for a holiday. On our last visit we discovered the bushland Blackhill Reserve and can recommend walking there. It reminded us of Ned Kelly country.