Wind in my hair, the cool breeze on my face, a new perspective of the shoreline – these are just a few reasons why I love hopping aboard a boat. In Melbourne, a boat cruise on the Yarra River is offered by a range of companies taking passengers up river, down river and all the way to Williamstown on Port Phillip Bay. There are dinner cruises, sunset cruises and water taxis for hire. With a Two-for-One offer in the Official Visitor Guide, we opted for a combination ticket with Melbourne River Cruises that included a trip up river passing several gardens and a second boat ride that would take us down river to the ports and Docklands.
A boat cruise on the Yarra River: Up River
To start our boat cruise on the Yarra River, we boarded the boat at Federation Wharf and headed east, but I immediately encountered a quandary. We were permitted to stand at the back of the boat in the open air, but the commentary could only be heard inside. Being the kind of person that likes a little historical background, I found a seat inside by an open window where I could hang my head out in the breeze and still hear the captain’s commentary.
He talked about the history of the bridges, residences, factories and gardens. I was entertained with fun facts, like that Princes Bridge, built to celebrate 100 years of European settlement in Melbourne, is a replica of Blackfriars Bridge in London. He also shared the story behind Stratton Heights, a luxury private residence built on the banks of the Yarra River in the 1940s. The building eventually became a hospital, but now is comprised of several private homes.
As we passed the old factory buildings in Richmond, he spoke of the importance of the river for businesses as a means of shipping goods. We went as far as Herring Island, a recreational green space in the middle of the river only accessible by boat, before we turned around and headed back to the city.
A boat cruise on the Yarra River: Down River
Due to rising tides, the second half of our boat cruise on the Yarra River had to be postponed. A week later, when our schedule allowed us to make the trip down river, we understood why. Before we even left the CBD, we had to clear three extremely low bridges: Queens, Kings and Spencer Street. Even with the lower tides, I could have raised my hand and touched the bottom of each bridge.
Once we left the CBD behind, we floated by the recently built Southbank. Contemporary and sleek, the homes with river views have price tags in the millions. On the north side by the Victoria Harbor and Docklands, the process is ongoing with a few old concrete and wooden docks left collapsing into the water. Cruising under the Bolte Bridge, completed in 1999, we learned the two 300 foot tall towers serve only aesthetic purposes – and, in fact, aren’t connected to the bridge at all.
Beyond the Bolte Bridge is all business – the shipping business. We watched brand new cars being unloaded from the Wallenius Wilhelmsen and got a peek into Swanson Dock, the container ship terminal where cranes quickly unload ships at the cost of $2000 an hour.
As we navigated our way back toward the city, the views of the skyline were astounding. Experiencing a boat cruise on the Yarra River offered insight into Melbourne’s history and of the river’s vital importance to the city.
We want to know: Have you been on a boat cruise on the Yarra River? Did you go Up River or Down River? What were the highlights for you? Tell us in the comments!