As a day trip destination, the outer Melbourne suburb of Werribee has plenty to offer. Located on the Princes Highway (and railway line) midway between Geelong and Melbourne (the latter is 32 km away via the westgate Bridge), Werribee was established as an agricultural settlement in the 1850s, originally named Wyndham and was renamed Werribee (derived from the aboriginal name meaning “backbone” or “spine”) in 1904. Since the 1990s Werribee has experienced rapid suburban growth into surrounding greenfield land, and becoming a commuter town in the Melbourne-Geelong growth corridor. Werribee Park Shuttle Service operates daily return trips from central Melbourne to Werribee Park, Werribee Open Range Zoo, Point Cook RAAF Museum and Point Cook Homestead.
Of the attractions to which most visitors come to see, the former estate of wealthy pastoralist Thomas Chirnside, known as Werribee Park, and the Werribee Open Range Zoo, are the most well known. Werribee Park Shuttle Service operates daily return trips from central Melbourne to Werribee Park, Werribee Open Range Zoo, Point Cook RAAF Museum and Point Cook Homestead.
Werribee ParkWerribee Park Mansion was built by pastoralists Thomas and Andrew Chirnside between 1874 and 1877 in the Italianate style. Its residential and working buildings supported a large farm workforce. The rooms open to the public include the billiard room, the main bedrooms, the reception rooms and part of the kitchen. From 1923 to 1973, Werribee Park Mansion was a Catholic seminary, Corpus Christi College. The wings which are now the Mansion Hotel were added during that period. Every year the Werribee Mansion Grounds are used to host the Werribee Christmas Carols event, the harvest festival, and the polo championships.
Werribee Park Mansion has appeared in many television series and feature films. Scenes that were set in England in the 1996 television series The Genie From Down Under were shot at the mansion. Most rooms in the house were used for an American-based film called The Pirate Movie (1982), starring Kristy McNichol and Christopher Atkins from The Blue Lagoon. The mansion was also used in the 1976 film The Devil’s Playground.
The mansion’s 10 hectares of majestic formal gardens include the internationally recognised Victoria State Rose Garden, a contemporary sculpture walk, tranquil riverine and original farmyard. Entry fees apply; specialised tours available. Pt Cooke Marine Sanctuary, Cheetham Wetlands, Jawbone Marine Sanctuary and Point Cook Coastal Park are also close by.
Set in the gounds of Werribee Park, the Heritage Orchard is a beautiful antique orchard dating from the 1870s. It was renowned for its peaches, grapes, apples, quinces, pears, a variety of plums and several other fruits, as well as walnuts and olives. Over the past few decades the orchard was forgotten and – through neglect – fell into ruin. Recently this historic treasure was rediscovered. Some of the old heritage fruit varieties survive – mainly quince, pear and apple. In partnership with Parks Victoria a community group was formed in 2010 to look after the orchard.
The Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre is an international standard sporting facility for equestrian events, including Equitana and the World Polo Championships. It was officially opened in 1984 as the designated State Centre for equestrian activity. Before 1992, it was operated by the Werribee Park Corporation and was used by the Victorian Polo Association and the Victorian branch of Equestrian Australia. In 1992, the facility was leased for 21 years to the Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre Inc. This association comprises representatives of these two bodies. Prince Charles once played polo at the Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre.
Located on the grounds of Werribee Park, Shadowfax Vineyard and Winery produces a wide range of wines. Vineyards are located along either side of the Great Dividing Ranges, between 400 and 750m above sea level, seeking the optimum interaction of soil, topography, aspect and climate. In general it is a high winter rainfall area with cool summers. Mount Macedon and the Cobar ranges run through the region and have a significant climatic effect on the region. They bring cooling troughs and often good winter rains. Being inland from the coast, nights are cold and days warm in summer, with high diurnal differences. Closer to home, Longest view vineyard sits atop a hill overlooking Port Phillip Bay, with a northerly aspect. If you listen carefully the lapping waves can be heard from the vineyard. Shadowfax Winery has cellar door sales, a restaurant and function facilities.
Werribee Open Range Zoo is African-style Game Park. A visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo is very much like a visit to an African Game Park, but without the expense of a trip to South Africa. Off Road Safaris run by the park take guests on an adventure aboard specially adapted vehicle that are able to travel close up to where rhinos, giraffes, zebras, antelopes and other animals live. Visitors are immersed in the sights, smells and sounds of the savannah as they travel across the Zoo’s open plains. Bookings can be made by calling 1300 966 784; entry fees and other charges apply.
Point CookAlso classed as a suburb of Melbourne, Point Cook is a coastal community situated on the shores of Port Phillip Bay. Point Cook is the home of RAAF Base Williams, Point Cook, the birthplace of the Royal Australian Air Force, and is the current home of the RAAF Museum. The wetlands of the Point Cook Coastal Park form part of the Cheetham and Altona Important Bird Area. Point Cook was named after John M. Cooke, mate of His Majesty’s vessel Rattlesnake. Commanded by Captain Hobson, the ship charted part of the Port Phillip bay in 1836. Up until the early 1990s, Point Cook was a small community some 500 people, most of whom lived on the RAAF base. Since that time, it has become not only a suburb of Melbourne, and consequently one of the city’s fastest gowing. By 2006, its population had reached 14,162; at the current rate of growth, it is estimated to reach 50,000 by 2020.
This excellent museum is located at the birthplace of the Australian Flying Corps and the Royal Australian Air Force. The museum tells one of Australia’s most important aviation stories, that of the second oldest air force in the world. The Museum holds the largest collection of material relating to Australia’s rich military aviation history. The museum has a Training Hangar, Technology Hangar, a Heritage Gallery, and conducts outdoor and interactive flying displays.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday: 10am 3pm
Weekends and Public Holidays: 10am 5pm
The Museum is closed on Mondays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Admission to the RAAF Museum is FREE, however, donations are gratefully accepted. Note that photo identification is required for all visitors over the age of 16 to gain entry to the Base.
Point Cook Coastal Park, on Port Phillip Bay, is primarily used for recreational purposes, its parklands having a variety of facilities for visitors including shelters, barbecue areas, walking trails as well as an information centre. Activities undertaken in the park include picnicking, bushwalking, bird watching and swimming. The beach picnic area contains free gas BBQs and picnic tables. Water taps, shade shelters (which can be reserved for a fee), two children s playgrounds and regularly maintained toilets ensure that you will have everything you need. Point Cook has long been recognised for its abundant bird life. More than 200 species have been recorded, 34 of which are covered by international migratory agreements. The best places to view the birds are from the Spectacle Lake bird hide, on the beach at low tide and at the beach picnic area. The Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary ensures that representative samples of Victoria s diverse, distinctive and amazing marine environment are conserved for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Snorkelling, swimming and SCUBA diving are wonderful ways to enjoy the sanctuary without damaging its values.
The Park also has numerous cultural heritage sites. The Boon wurrung Aboriginal people have a number of significant sites throughout the park including stone artefact sites and middens. The majority of these important sites are near the coastline or near the Point Cook homestead. Protection of these areas is ongoing and involves the Boon wurrung people.
Point Cook Homestead and gardens were built in 1857. The Homestead Precinct, comprising the bluestone homestead, stables and weatherboard outbuildings, is a rare example of early Victorian rural architecture.
Victoria State Rose Garden
Point Cook Picnic Area