Tag Archives: Australia

The City on Top in the Land Down Under by Maribel Steel

The Guest Room
Musings, Memories & Epiphanies Inspired by Place


Maribel Steel

View from the Shrine © Harry Williamson

Melbourne may be the second most populated city in Australia after Sydney, but we come out on top as a world class destination. A city that knows how to put on a great festival almost every weekend and a city that embraces a rich multicultural inheritance.

With over 15.9 million domestic and 1.4 million international tourists visiting our delightful city each year – surely we are doing something right? Interestingly however, it took a recent vacation abroad for me to truly appreciate what is here each and every day in my home city of Melbourne.

As a lover of travel and seeking out exciting new experiences to share with my travel buddies, Harry and Mike, I realised in the plane as we were flying home, exhausted yet content with our many treasured experiences in France, how much time I had invested before our trip so we could fill up every spare moment with ‘doing’ the tourist circuit. I didn’t want to miss a thing and had four pages of researched web addresses – just in case we ran out of ideas on our six week adventure through France and the little peek over the Pyrenees into northern Spain.

Boy, I thought, I now knew France better than my own country of Australia. Why were we not touring our own home city on weekends as we had done in Paris? So with that thought, I made an executive decision – to become a proactive tourist in our home town – and promptly appointed myself as the family tour guide. Now it is your turn to join me on a tour and discover some of the treats Melbourne has in store for you, on the south eastern coast of Australia.

1835 – Melbourne is born

On the Yarra © Harry Williamson

On the Yarra © Harry Williamson

On the 30th August, 1835, the topsail schooner Enterprize sailed into new territory. The ship had set off from Launceston in Van Diemens Land (Tasmania) with a builder, two carpenters, a blacksmith and his wife, and a ploughman – in search of new grazing pastures for their sheep.

So it was this small group of landowners who were the first white people to settle on the banks of a river that today is called the Yarra River. Even though the government at the time in New South Wales objected to the actions of those aboard the Enterprize, the pioneers unloaded their deck cargo and horses, thus undertaking the first settlement of white Europeans on the site where Melbourne began its humble beginnings (as well as the unfortunate clash of cultures between later settlers and the original custodians of the land, the Kulin Nation).

Captain Hunter of the Enterprize, was present to oversee the first settlers divide the land between them into lots along the precious flow of cascading waterfalls in the river. Within a few months, others would follow: Fawkner, Batman, Hoddle and Swanston, names that have become synonymous with the early shaping of Melbourne before the height of the Gold Rush.

The River that Shaped our City

The Yarra River, derived from the Aboriginal word ‘Yarro Yarro’ meaning it flows, was also known as ‘birrarung’ (river of mists and shadows) by the local Wurundjeri people. The muddy river meanders and glides like a native brown snake among southern soil and today Melbourne thrives upon its banks with quiet parks and lush botanic gardens, with a unique blend of gold-rush heritage buildings and modern architectural icons like the impressive Eureka Tower, the State Library of Victoria, Flinders Street station, the Forum Theatre and the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Golden State of Victoria

The Forum Theatre © Harry Williamson

The Forum Theatre © Harry Williamson

The founding moment of Victoria occurred on1st July, 1851, when the colony separated from New South Wales and became an independent state. 1851 was also a milestone in history as news travelled far and wide to spread the word – gold had been discovered in the regional township of Clunes. This sparked one of the largest gold rushes the world has ever seen, a gold-fever sweeping across Victoria faster than a bushfire that brought a flurry of treasure hunters to the richest alluvial goldfields in the world.

Within ten years the population of Victoria soared from 76,000 to 540,000, many of them successfully fossicking for an amazing amount of gold, twenty million ounces in fact, making Victoria the richest colony in Australia.



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