While both Melbourne and Williamstown have plenty to offer in terms of an enjoyable day out, it's the journey that connects them that I find really interesting. The trip across the bay on the ferry offers a totally different perspective of both Williamstown and Melbourne profiles.
As the departure point at the Melbourne end is at the bustling Southbank precinct, it's easy to relax with the mandatory cappuccino or latte prior to strolling down to the terminal just a few metres away on the Yarra bank. It also provides a very handy meeting point should you be travelling with friends.
As the ferry heads off downstream with the Princes Bridge at my back, I am amazed at the architectural variety that exists in Melbourne's buildings and bridges along the Yarra 's path out to sea. We pass under the first footbridge and I wave happily to the fellow coffee drinkers lazing on the deck of the cafe/bar that trades from one of the pylons. Several of the Yarra's bridges ahead of us are very low above the water and passengers are reminded to remain seated during the passage under them.
We then glide seemly at one with the world on this beautiful warm, sunny Sunday morning towards the Sandridge footbridge with it's twisted metal "Traveller's Sculptures" glistening in the sunlight. We next pass under the lovely old Queens Bridge and to keep the gender scales balanced, under the Kings Bridge. With the Melbourne Aquarium on one side and the Casino and Eureka Tower on the other; the magnificent MCG and Flinders Street Station behind me and "Jeff's Shed" and the Melbourne Convention Centre ahead, I am surrounded by so many diverse styles of architecture.
We slip under the Spencer St Bridge and on past the Polly Woodside Museum and under the Seafarers Bridge, the latest footbridge to span the Yarra. This graceful, arched structure links the convention complex traffic with the docklands on the North bank of the Yarra. At this point, on both sides of the Yarra there are new apartment blocks and commercial buildings that shed light on the skill and artistry of our Aussie architects, builders and planners who have transformed Melbourne's wharves and docklands into a precinct to be proud of.
Passing next under the Charles Grimes bridge, named after a NSW surveyor who was first to sight the Yarra river. Originally built in 1975 , it was very low over the water and was later reconstructed. It is built of 5 main spans each 33.5m long and 12 minor ones, each 24m in length.
We wend our way passed Yarra's Edge and the marina and pass South Wharf's spectacular Webb Bridge, the pedestrian link between Yarra's Edge and Docklands. It's twisting design, made to reflect Koorie fishing traps, baskets and drums is the work of local artist, Robert Owen. The area to the right is now home to so many novel and exciting edifices that the once prominent Telstra Dome (now Etihad Stadium) is only noticeable by it's distinctive roofline.
As we head out towards the Bolte Bridge, passing North Wharf and Victoria Harbour, the skeleton of the still to be reassembled Southern Star wheel is clearly visible above the rooftops of its neighbours. The Bolte Bridge, spanning the Yarra and the harbour and named for the former Victorian Premier, is a large cantilever bridge with 90m silver twin towers at its mid point. These towers are not joined to the bridge and contain access ladders to a small rooftop hatch. It is quite impressive as you motor under the six lanes of traffic that link the Westgate , Monash and Tullamarine Freeways. It took 3 years to build at a cost of $75million.
Motoring on passed Coode Island and the Aeronautical & Maritime Research Laboratories, we approach the Piece de Resistance, the 2,582.6 metre long West Gate Bridge spanning the Yarra just north of its mouth into Port Phillip Bay. This steel girder, cable-stayed bridge links inner Melbourne and its western suburbs with Geelong to the south west. This mighty structure rises 58 metres from the water and is twice the length of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It's awesome might is evident as you pass under its huge span, giving you a sense of "smallness" as you gaze up at its majesty. It is surrounded by an environmental and recreational reserve - Westgate Park that was established during the bridge construction.
It isn't long before we pass the secure zone of The Port of Melbourne Authority and the Newport Power Station. Along this journey we've motored passed artistic sculptures, drawbridges and dining meccas and noted with awe, some of the very expensive and supremely impressive motor launches and catamarines in their moorings.
We travel on past the impressive yachts anchored in the Williamstown marina, side by side with the black swans and the children snorkelling ( a much wanted gift from Santa according to Dad) and on into dock at Gem Pier near Nelson Place.
It's a fascinating and relaxing journey and not an overly expensive one that links the original site of Melbourne with its current day location. However, one can't possibly return without savouring the delights of Williamstown and at the top of the list, is a visit to The Ice Cream Shoppe: liquorice, honeycomb (both with big chunks), strawberry, banana and double chocolate. There is simply no other word for it, but YUM!
To say that it was a really good day out is a huge understatement. Tired and sun soaked, I still enjoyed the trip back again and managed to marvel at our fair and very liveable city from across the water. A quick meal back at Southbank sustained me through my evening escapade of a movie at the Moonlight Cinema in the Botanical Gardens. A full day's entertainment for a very reasonable cost. I hope it brings you as much enjoyment as it did me.