Writing for pleasure to showcase the best Australia has on offer.
Published August 28th 2016
Visit majestic Werribee Historic Mansion and Gardens
Werribee, a town approximately thirty kilometres from Melbourne CBD was originally named Wyndham after a Scottish soldier, however was renamed to Werribee in 1909 after the town's river. The name is said to come from an aboriginal word meaning 'backbone or spine' as the Werribee River Valley and landscape resembled the shape of a backbone.
Werribee Mansion was built in the 1860s by the Chirnside family, brothers Thomas and Andrew who's aim was to create a vast pastoral empire. The mansion was of Italian style with sixty rooms and at the time was Victoria's most elaborate and largest private residence. It took three years to build and remained in the Chirnside family until 1922.
It touched my heart as I read the story of Thomas' life in that he returned to Scotland in the hope of marrying the love of his life, his cousin Mary Begbie, yet her parents would not approve of their marriage, so he returned to Australia alone. His brother Andrew was finalising his plans to come to Australia, so Thomas asked Andrew if he would bring Mary back with him any way he could. Andrew arrived in Australia in 1852 with Mary as his wife. Thomas never married.
Gigantic trees surround the mansion (Author's Photo)
In 1973, the Victorian Government acquired Werribee Park with the vision of progressively restoring the mansion to its former glory. The property is now managed by Parks Victoria and offers visitors a magnificent education of history, culture along with numerous displays and photographs of the restoration project which was undertaken.
When you walk up to the front entrance of the mansion, you feel like you are walking into an official government building with regard to the grandeur of the bluestone house which is faced on three sides with sandstone and two floors of opulent furnishings and displays. Many of the original Chirnside furnishings and decorations still remain in the mansion today. Entry to Werribee Mansion is $9.80 for adults, $7.30 for concession and $7.30 for Children.
Furnishings were shipped from Scotland for the Mansion (Author's Photo)
Even if you are not a nature lover, I'm sure you will be impressed by the abundant age and condition of the trees in the gardens around the mansion; some of which are listed on the National Trust Significant Trees Register. The gardens cover ten hectares of land including a glasshouse, grotto and pond.
Next door to the gardens is the Victoria State Rose Garden. There are over 5,000 bushes in the garden with beautiful aromas, which makes walking among the rows of roses quite a delight. Entry to the rose gardens is free.
There are several animal tours you may wish to take, however, we decided on the Off Road Safari where you board a custom-built off-road vehicle and venture into the park for a 90-minute guided safari. The vehicles are open, so it is easy to take photographs as the animals can come up close to the vehicle. This will cost $60.00 adults and $40 for children under 16 years of age.
Another adventure which may be of interest to you is an overnight stay called a Slumber Safari where your guides can assure you of amazing close-up animal encounters while enjoying dinner and breakfast. If you would prefer to get up close to the animals during your day visit, events such as African Cat Encounter, Gorilla Behind the Scenes or Tall Order (meeting a Giraffe eye to eye) may be just what you are looking for. I always knew giraffes were tall, yet they seemed much taller than I expected when I saw them in the wild. Children under five years can have their own fun as an African Trail walk with the Zoo Keeper's allows them to see the meerkats getting fed and get close to the Zebra's, Giraffes and rhinos. Mini Zoo Keeper is $40 per child and must be accompanied by one adult.
Giraffe's roam free at Werribee Open Range Zoo (Author's Photo)
Free guided tours are provided by Zoo volunteers or you can make your way walking around at your own leisurely pace.
The Zoo opens every day from 9.00 am to 5.00pm and free car parking is available. Entry to the Zoo is $32.50 adults, $29.30 seniors, $24.90 concession and on weekends and holidays children under 15 are free. My favourites were definitely watching the daddy gorilla wandering around and seeing the meerkats. Prices for all excursions and other information is located on their website.
If you are venturing to Werribee, you may want to stay overnight to allow enough time to see all there is on offer, as one day just isn't enough.