Seeking a more relaxing activity to enjoy with the kids in Melbourne? A leisurely ferry cruise on the Yarra River is a good option. Escape the city and take a cruise all the way down river to the historic seaside suburb of Williamstown – you will find parks, cafes and much more awaits…
There are a number of river cruises which depart from Southbank Promenade in Melbourne’s CBD. The leisurely cruise to Williamstown takes around one hour and is suitable for families with kids of all ages. Hop on board, sit back and relax as you cruise past the busy city and familiar landmarks such as Crown Towers, the Sea Life Aquarium and Polly Woodside. There are a number of very low bridges which the ferries have to manoeuvre under as they cruise down the Yarra River (kids love this bit, you can stand outside on the ferry but watch your head!).
Next you sail under the Bolte Bridge and Westgate Bridge and through the Port of Melbourne in Port Phillip Bay, some boats provide commentary including information about the Port Operations, you might even see some of the massive container ships up close!
As you get closer to Williamstown, you sail past Scienceworks and the Pumping Station, then you’ll head into Williamstown to Gem Pier where you disembark.
Once you reach Williamstown you will discover a beautiful seaside suburb steeped in history. Williamstown was the landing place for Victoria’s first settlers in 1835, there are many original buildings that still remain which gives this place its charm. You can see the historic buildings which line Nelson Place (the Main Street and tourist area) as soon as you get off the ferry.
If you want to stay close to the ferry terminal then there’s plenty to see nearby. Once you get off the pier you’re in Commonwealth Reserve, an open grassy area with shady trees and a small playground, perfect for a picnic or fish n’ chips. There’s also a Tourist Information Centre and toilets. Walk along Nelson Place and you’ll find an array of cafes, bars, restaurants and boutique shops. The kids however will no doubt have their eye on the ice cream and gelato shops!
There are a number of great attractions in Williamstown including the HMAS Castlemaine Museum Ship (berthed at Gem Pier) which is open to the public on weekends, as well as Seaworks Maritime Museum and Discovery Centre which has frequent visits from the tall ships and is home to the Sea Shepherd. (There are many other family attractions in Williamstown but that’s for another post!).
Williamstown will make you feel like you’re no where near the city, yet when you look back over the water and see the stunning views of the Melbourne skyline, you’ll realise how close you are to the CBD.
The Melbourne to Williamstown cruise is great for families that live locally as well as those that are visiting on holidays. The cruises can be done as a return journey or one way.
We travelled with Melbourne River Cruises, although the boat sizes can vary, most offer a spacious indoor seating area with enough room for prams (there is normally someone that can assist with carrying a pram/stroller on and off the boat but be aware that there are steps to negotiate), there’s also some outdoor seats, toilets and tea/coffee making facilities.