During my time in Melbourne, I had a chance to visit a wee place called Werribee, about 30 minutes drive out of the city.
Prior to my trip to Melbourne, I had never heard of the place. The name sounds like it should be out of a fictional wonderland story.
We happened to stumble upon this place when driving back from our trip along The Great Ocean Road. There was one of those typical brown ‘tourist attraction’ signs, which said ‘historic mansion’. As we had the car for another day, we thought that we’d give it a go. Looked it up on return to the hostel and planned it for the next day. We were going to go on a tour around the Yarra Valley wineries, but decided that although it may have been scenic, generally when you’ve seen a few vineyards, you’ve seen them all.
We made our way to Werribee after a morning trip out to South Brighton beach to see the beach huts. The drive took about 30 minutes straight on the motorway. It was well signposted. The town of Werribee, or rather, the village, is quite small with just a handful of shops and main street. We had a quick look in town later on in our day, and posted postcards.
Werribee is a small wee village area, with the main attractions being the Victoria state rose garden, Werribee Mansion, a wildlife park and vineyard. The Mansion is now used as a hotel and spa, and is often used as a wedding venue.
We parked up in the main Mansion parking area, which was free. The path to the Mansion led us through the State rose garden, this was stunning – Roses, everywhere. We probably spent a good hour walking around, or laying in the sun writing postcards. The sun was shining, and kids were rolling around down the hill on the grass, laughing and giggling along the way. Life felt good.
After our time relaxing, we wandered into were the Mansion was. It was quite a majestic building, and nice to see an historic sight again, which I’ve been deprived of living in New Zealand. We paid the $9 entrance fee, and had a walk round. Unfortunately we had just missed the free walking tour by 45 minutes, which included a trip up to the Tower.
We spent about an hour just wandering around. The rooms were set out in a Victorian age style, with various maids outfits, bedrooms, toys etc that would have been used, as well as facts an about the Chirnside family who lived there from 1877 to 1896. It then being a training college for Catholic priests, then sold to the state in 1973. It has been used in various films and period dramas and being an official tourist attraction in 1977. It was quite interesting walking around the same hallways and in the stairs that this rich family and their various maids, butlers and staff walked on. I wonder if they thought it would ever be a tourist attraction – probably not, my guess is there hope would have been to have remained in the family for many years.
This kind of venture around a period building isn’t new to me, my parents used to drag us round historical sites as kids, so you could say I grew up at these sites, so although I wasn’t overly in awe of the Mansion, the place was beautiful and grounds were amazing. Such a relaxing day to wander around, just out of the city.
After our visit to the Mansion, we spent time walking around the grounds, which were huge. There were a number of art sculptures, as well as a few other older buildings and barns, used to house the workers who emigrated from the UK and Ireland mainly – it was an interesting walk. I often think about my ancestors that emigrated to faraway lands like Australia and New Zealand in search of a better life. There journey would have been much more uncomfortable than my 30 hour plane ride, but I often wonder what their thoughts about the World was at that point, whether they explored beyond were they found a job and settled (Sorry, slight digression!)
Overall this was a lovely and relaxing day. Somewhere a bit different and nice to get out of the city for a few hours to just reflect and be at peace in tranquil surroundings. Definitely worth a wee wander to Werribee if you’re around in the Melbourne area.