Close to rich food sources in Port Phillip and the surrounding grasslands, the area now known as Melbourne had been long occupied by Indigenous Victorian clans of the Kulin Nation at the time of early white settlement. New arrivals grew the area's population to 700,000 by 1869, bringing devastating impact to Victoria's First People.

Aboriginal heritage

Bunjil, the spiritual creator, taking the form of a wedge-tail eagle, gave life to Victoria's 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 Aboriginal Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum. Journey into the ancestral lands of the Kulin Nation and learn about a rich and thriving culture on a heritage walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Settlers by sea

The first white settlers sailed into Port Phillip Bay in 1835 and set up a trading post. The timber two-masted Enterprize tall ship is a replica of the first vessel to bring British settlers to Melbourne in 1835. Visitors can set sail from Docklands on a bay cruise, charter, or overnight voyage to Geelong.

Moored at South Wharf, Polly Woodside is an historic museum ship and another tangible reminder of Australia's rich maritime heritage. Built in Belfast in 1885, the three-masted cargo vessel plied routes between England and South America, and later carried coal, grain and timber on the New Zealand–Australia run. Visitors can go aboard for a taste of life on a tall ship.

See the restoration of the Alma Doepel in Victoria Harbour. Built in 1903, the three-masted topsail schooner was built in Bellingen, NSW, for coastal trading. It is the last remaining vessel known as a ‘trading ketch’, still capable of sailing.

And on land

Back on dry land, see the striking interiors of the 1880 World Heritage–listed Royal Exhibition Building and explore harrowing tales of prison life in the Old Melbourne Gaol, first established in 1842.

Stop by beautiful Fitzroy Gardens to see the reconstructed Cook's Cottage – childhood home of Captain James Cook, one of the first European navigators to chart the east coast of Australia.

Gold rush boom

Discovery of gold and the ensuing gold rush of the 1850s saw Melbourne's settler population explode, and set the trajectory for Melbourne as an international city. Gold rush money and immigration fuelled a boom in local land prices, which left Victoria a legacy of fine Gothic architecture, examples of which can be found around the city today. Visitors in the late 19th century called 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 Renaissance-inspired Como house, a colonial mansion set in 5 acres of garden in Toorak, and Rippon Lea Estate, the last of Australia's great privately owned 19th-century suburban estates.


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