History & heritage
Find reminders of Melbourne's rich history in the numerous historical buildings and monuments around the city. Originally the home of the Kulin nation and made up of five Aboriginal language groups, Melbourne began as a tent city of 50 settlers but quickly grew to a population of 700,000 by 1869.
Bunjil, the spiritual creator, taking the form of a wedge-tail eagle, gave life to the first people, the rivers, the mountains, the animals and trees – all living and natural things in the Kulin Nation. Today, the Kulin Nation continues to live, practise and strengthen its customs in urban Melbourne through the Boonwurrung and Woiwurrung people. Visit the Koorie Heritage Trust and the multi-award-winning Bunjilaka at the Melbourne Museum. Journey into the ancestral lands of the Kulin nation and explore their rich and thriving culture on a heritage walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne.
The first settlers
The first white settlers sailed up Port Phillip Bay in 1835 and decided upon a site for a trading post. See the striking interiors of the World heritage listed Royal Exhibition Buildings and explore horrifying tales of prison life in the Old Melbourne Gaol. Discover Melbourne's maritime past then stop by the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens to see the reconstructed Cook's Cottage – the childhood home of Captain James Cook, one of the first European navigators to chart the east coast of Australia.
Gold rush boom
The rapid population growth was down to the gold rush of the 1850s, which saw Melbourne take off as a true international city. Those lucrative years and the ensuing land boom left Victoria with an outstanding legacy of fine architecture, examples of which can be found around the city today. Visitors to the region in the late nineteenth century labelled the city 'the jewel of the southern hemisphere'.
Houses and homesteads
Melbourne is home to a number of outstanding and architecturally significant National Trust homes and museums, as well as historically significant parks and gardens. Among the best are the lavish French Rennaisance-inspired Como house, a colonial mansion set in five acres of garden at Toorak, and Rippon Lea Estate, the last of Australia's great privately owned nineteenth century suburban estates.