A Potted History of Melbourne


The road to Melbourne is spectacular no matter the direction from which the city is approached. There is a route through the rugged Australian Alps; as well as a Princes Highway seaside route from Sydney that passes beautiful sandy beaches. The Hume Highway is lined with vineyards and fine wineries; and the drive from Adelaide along the Great Ocean Road provides a showcase for some of Australia's most dramatic scenery.

Melbourne (pronounced Mel bun) is located on the banks of the Yarra River and overlooks the huge expanse of Port Phillip Bay, a sailing and boating paradise. Its beautiful beaches provide recreation for local residents and visitors throughout the year. The many parks along the banks of the Yarra and the Maribyrnong Rivers are popular spots for picnics, parties and barbecues by the water.

Magnificent landscaped gardens and parklands make Melbourne one of the greenest cities in the world.

The streets of the city centre are alive with thousands of residents bustling in and out of buildings that are a blend of grand Victorian and modern architecture and house everything from outstanding galleries to opulent theatres. Hundreds of designer fashion boutiques, many shops and countless rows of sophisticated little cafés line the main thoroughfares. Over 3000 restaurants present fine cuisine accompanied by superb local wines. This friendly multicultural city is home to people from over 140 nations, a fact that is reflected in the excellence and diversity of the food choices that are available. There is something to please everyone.

Green and gold trams circle the city providing efficient transportation in the gracious style of days gone by. Children will love the riverboat cruises, water taxis and gondola rides that provide the best in aquatic travel on the Yarra River. They will also enjoy a visit to a shark at Melbourne Aquarium and an afternoon at the Melbourne zoo.

It's only a short ferry boat ride across Port Phillip Bay to Williamstown and St Kilda, the beach suburbs that function as the playgrounds of Melbourne.

This cosmopolitan and sophisticated city hosts major cultural festivals, world famous horse races, smash hit musicals and international sporting events throughout the year. Melbourne Festival, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show, Qantas Australian Grand Prix, Australian Football League finals series, Spring Racing Carnival, Australian Open, Melbourne Comedy Festival and Melbourne Food and Wine Festival are just a few of the key events.

Melbourne is the gateway to the State of Victoria. Victoria's walking and riding trails provide the perfect getaway for anyone who enjoys the beauty of the out of doors. They cover diverse landscapes ranging from National Park wilderness to immaculate gardens, from serene lakes to endless beaches, from rolling mountain ranges to deserts. Many hiking trails can be found close to Melbourne within easy driving distance of the city.

Scientists believe that Australia is a piece of continental crust that broke away from Antarctica about 50 million years ago. The result is that many reminders of Australia's Antarctic heritage remain, and have over the centuries provided challenges to those who immigrated and sought to remake Australia in the image of their native lands. In the 1800's attempts were made to make the country look more like Europe. Salmon, sparrows, and trout were among the species introduced. All of them competed with native animals and forced their counterparts into extinction.

Too much of the land was cleared; erosion took place, and sources of drinking water became contaminated by salt run off. Since the 1980's there has been a massive team effort by environmentalists and farmers to reverse the extensive damage and to restore the land to its original beauty. Their efforts have paid off. Instead of trying to mould Australia to fit modern European farming methods, agriculturists have learned to work in concert with the naturally occurring dust storms and floods. The earliest known settlers, the Aboriginal people known as the Kooris, adapted to the ebb and flow of Australia's seasons over 60,000 years ago, and continue to do so today.

In the early 17th century European expeditions mapped parts of the coast, but passed on by to settle in other areas of the world. In 1770 the British sailed up the eastern coast, named it New South Wales, and claimed ownership of Australia in the name of King George III. In 1778 about 800 British convicts were set ashore in what is now Sydney. This penal colony became the first European settlement on Australian soil.

In 1803 Captain David Collins settled for a time in the Melbourne area, but had to relocate due to his inability to find anything but salt water, which was unsuitable for drinking. Shortly thereafter another British settler, Sir Charles Grimes, found the Yarra River and declared it to be the ideal place for a settlement.

In April 1835, Enterprize was purchased by John Pascoe Fawkner to search for a suitable place to found a new settlement in the Port Phillip District. Enterprize sailed from Launceston on 21st July 1835, but only travelled as far as George Town in northern Tasmania, where Fawkner was forced to remain by his creditors. Enterprize then departed George Town on 1st August 1835 under Captain Peter Hunter. On board was Captain John Lancey, Master Mariner (Fawkner’s representative); George Evans, builder; William Jackson and Robert Marr, carpenters; Evan Evans, servant to George Evans and Pascoe Fawkner’s servants, Charles Wise, a ploughman, Thomas Morgan, general servant, James Gilbert, a blacksmith and his pregnant wife Mary.

Searching for a place to settle, the party looked first at Westernport and then at the eastern side of Port Phillip. They eventually found the Yarra River, and after warping (hauling on ropes attached to the river bank) the ship upstream, they moored the Enterprize alongside the river bank at the foot of the present day William Street. On Sunday the 30 August the settlers disembarked and at once began to put up their tents, build their store and clear some land for growing vegetables.

Permanent settlement at Melbourne had begun. today you can sail on board the replica ship Enterprize. Step back in time.

 In 1836 and 1837 many staked claims for land in the region. In 1837 the Surveyor General mapped out the grid for the city streets, and the settlement was named Melbourne. By 1840 the population had reached 10,000.

Growth began in earnest during the early 1850's when gold was discovered and British pioneers flocked to the area in search of it. Within a few months, the State of Victoria was producing more gold than anywhere else in the world. The population leapt to 77,000 and then to 95,000. By 1860 there were 500,000!

The gold rush ended, but prosperity continued. Roads, railways, telephone and electric lines, and beautiful churches were constructed to serve the rapidly growing area. Melbourne had emerged as the financial capital of Australia. Agriculture, mining, and later brewing and flour milling were its main industries. The lavish Royal Exhibition Building was built for the Great Exhibition of 1888. Other buildings in the style of the grand architecture of England followed. Large expanses of land were set aside for parks and gardens. A series of strikes and an extensive drought diminished the fortunes of many in the 1890's, but prosperity soon returned. In 1901 Melbourne became the political capital of a federation of the six Australian colonies, a position held until 1927. During this period the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra was formed.

The worldwide depression of 1929-1930 brought massive unemployment to Melbourne, but once again things quickly improved. Government funds were made available to put people to work building monuments and making other public improvements. By 1933 the population was over one million.

World War II had little effect on Melbourne. However, in 1945 a postwar immigration tidal wave brought to the area whole villages from Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. The blending of cultures has enriched Melbourne and added a cosmopolitan dimension.

Melbourne entered the world spotlight in 1952 with the visit of Queen Elizabeth, and again in 1956 when the city hosted the Olympic games, held in the southern hemisphere for the first time. In the 1960's and 1970's Melbourne welcomed many immigrants from Vietnam and China. Melbourne's rich cultural mix includes over 60 nationalities.

Modern Melbourne's city highlights include Southgate, a world class casino; the new museum of Victoria, and the Tennis Center. Major national events such as the Australian Grand Prix have been attracted to Melbourne, and major renovation and restoration of the city's buildings is continuing.