Out past Melbourne Airport is a special piece of history that not many people know about, Woodlands Historic Park. Itís a unique place that combines a rare piece of European settlement with a retirement community for ex-racehorses, and is a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
The Woodlands homestead is a grand old house from the 1840ís. It was built for an Irish Royal Navy officer who migrated to Australia with his family in search of a healthier climate. Itís also a rare example of an early prefabricated home, meaning it was partly or entirely pre-assembled, in this case in Britain, before being delivered to the site. Wander through the big rooms of the homestead and read about the past, or listen to the historical accounts by the friendly hosts.
The homestead has many links to champion racehorses particularly during the 1920ís and 30ís, so it seems more than apt that also situated at Woodlands is Living Legends: The International Home of Rest for Champion Horses. Some of Australiaís finest racehorses live here, including Might and Power, Better Loosen Up and Doriemus. This charitable organisation was established in 2006, their purpose to bring retired champions back to the public. The horses are just as majestic now as they were in their heyday and itís delightful to see these much-loved champions enjoying their well-deserved retirement.
Coffee is available at the homestead but I would recommend bringing a picnic lunch which can be enjoyed at one of the tables in the gardens or pre-order a gourmet hamper for a fancy feast. The gardens surrounding the homestead are gorgeous and provide the perfect setting. Also, it is here you can find the oldest magnolias in Victoria!
After lunch perhaps head to the 'Back Paddock' which is an area of fenced land, around 400 hectares in size, created to protect the native wildlife from introduced species such as dogs, cats and foxes. For example there is a colony of endangered Eastern Barred Bandicoots re-establishing themselves here, so hopefully over time their numbers will increase. You probably wonít see them but I can pretty much guarantee that you will see some kangaroos hopping around, which is always a bit of a novelty for city folk and tourists. Finally, end your outing with a walk up the 204 metre Gellibrand Hill for some great views of the area.
A visitor guide and map of the area can be found here.