Photo: Bernard Spragg, Coop’s Shot Tower
Melbourne is located on the large natural bay of Port Phillip, with its City Centre situated at the northernmost point of the bay – near the estuary of the Yarra River. Population: 4.35 million.
The downtown is a mix of Victorian architecture and modern skyscrapers. Boulevards are lined with trees.
When Europeans first settled the Port Philip region it was occupied by five Aboriginal language groups, which formed the Kulin Nation. These people include the Boonwurrung, Woiwurrung, Taungurung and Djadjawurrung.
For an introduction, take the Aboriginal Heritage walk at the Royal Botanical Gardens which is located at a traditional camping and meeting place for the local custodians of the area – the Boonwurrung and Woiworung people. See the land through the eyes of your Aboriginal guide.
Another recommended place to visit is the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Centre at the Melbourne Museum.
The 11,000-hectare Western Treatment Plant processes more than half of Melbourne’s waste and is considered a twitcher’s paradise. More than 200 species of birds have been spotted in the area. Among the birds: pelicans, shelducks, terns, avocets, stints and sandpipers. Details about are online Melbourne Water Education.
A leader for sustainability education in Melbourne’s nothern suburbs, CERES Community Environment Park has developed an Urban Water Conservation Demonstration and Research Facility. Follow the Water Trail!
Melbourne has some of the best architecture, gardens and museums in the country. Check out the National Gallery of Victoria.
Things to do
Head to the top of the Melbourne Observation Deck, located on level 55 of the Rialto Towers, the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest office building (232 meters).
The city’s network of parks and gardens range from classical gardens and grand avenues of trees, to the 188-hectare Royal Park which is being recreated as a representation of an Australian landscape. The Carlton Gardens and the Royal Exhibition Building have received international acclaim and were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2004.
Melbourne’s newest park is Birrarung Marr, alongside the Yarra River. This park hosts a number of festivals.
The Royal Botanic Gardens is recognised as one of the world’s finest botanic gardens. There are over 10,000 species and 50,000 individual plants in the 38 hectare gardens, including trees and plants of great cultural value. Many of these plants are irreplaceable, endangered or even extinct in the wild.
Melbourne hosts A Taste of Slow.
Tjanabi has built an international reputation for the quality of its Australian game foods and native produce, featuring Kangaroo, emu, crocodile, wild boar and seafood. The menu reflects the traditional six seasons. The Aboriginal owners of the Melbourne area, the Boon wurrung and Woi wurrung divided the year into six seasons. Each season brought with it a new bounty of seasonal produce.
Queen Victoria Market
Melbourne is where Aussie Rules Football originated and continues to be the most popular sport in Victoria. The Australian Football League is to Australia what bullfighting used to be to Spain.
Telestra Dome hosts rugby matches.
This year marks 173 years since European settlers landed on the north banks of the Yarra River aboard the schooner Enterprize
The city grid was commissioned in 1837, the same year the city was named after then British prime minister William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne.
Goldrushes fueled population explosions in the 1850s. The bubble burst during the 1893 recession. The second wave of growth occured in 1956 when the city hosted the Olympic games.
Transportation — Melbourne International Airport (code: MEL) is 20 kilometers northwest of downtown.
Melbourne has an integrated public transport system known as Metlink.
There is a FREE tram that circumnavigates the entire city called the City Circle. Look out for the maroon colored cars.
Information Please – The Visitor Information Centre is located on Federation Square.
Bookstores — Readings
Weather – Melbourne has some of the best weather in the world between February and May.
Nearby – Less than a two-hour drive is Phillip Island, home to more than 4,000 ‘fairy’ penguins. Standing just 33 centimeters in height, they are considered to be the smallest of the species.
Ballarat, an hour west of Melbourne, is a gold rush town of the 19th century and boasts outstanding wineries.
Last Half Hour: Ancient Places, Melbourne – Look around at any Australian city, places built since white settlement, places built on other ancient places. In this series we travel around Australia, walking the hard landscapes of modern Australia and trying to imagine the place that was. This week we travel along the Yarra River and visit the site of first contact.
About the photo: Bernard Spragg writes:
Once the tallest building in all of early Melbourne, Coop’s Shot Tower was soon eclipsed by gargantuan skyscrapers and other modern urban behemoths, but rather than being torn down in the name of progress, a giant cone was built over the historic bullet factory to keep it safe. Originally built in 1888 the tall brick tower was used to create shot pellets. Such structures were not uncommon during the era as the process of creating the little lead balls involved letting droplets of molten metal fall the length of the tower into pools of water that would flash form them into their spherical shape. During its heyday, Coop’s tower could produce around six tons of shot a week. Luckily, the need for so much fire power dwindled over the years and the site diversified into other metal works. While the tower was never abandoned, the metal working at the site eventually ceased and the 164-foot tower became just a landmark.