Located at the mouth of Melbourne’s famous Yarra River, with amazing views of the city skyline and surrounded by cultural heritage, Williamstown Victoria is a destination in its own right.
Jumping off the freeway, just a short 13 kms from the heart of Melbourne’s vibrant CBD, you’ll notice the change of pace from the hustle and bustle the city is known for. It’s the air that changes; The wind is fresh and you can smell just the right amount of sea salt in the air from the bay.
You pull up to your cosy room at Punthill Williamstown (of course), place your luggage in your room and plan to spend the day exploring all that the local community has to offer. Well I’d suggest saving yourself the time of trying to plan the perfect list of things to do and instead, take my advice. The advice of a local Melburnian who is Williamstown obsessed and sharing her tips on the best day out in Williamtown.
There is no shortage of delicious cafes and eateries in Williamstown, each with an authentic and local vibe that we typically only expect from country towns. For breakfast, Ferguson Street, one of Williamstown’s main streets, has a choice of food outlets to satisfy everyone. My personal favourite? Well that’s easy: Provisions Café. A totally laid-back and friendly environment with inside and outside seating options. Each time you come, you’ll be served by the same team and there isn’t a request too difficult that will remove the friendly smile off the staff’s faces. At Provisions, there is an amazing variety of sweet and savoury items sure to fill you up. Their banana butterscotch pancakes are to die for and their fritters are delectable! Best of all, they’re as good at coffee & juices as they are with their delicious food menu, and everything comes at a bargain price!
Lunch options in town are just as great as the breakfast ones with an abundance of burgers and fish & chips available along Ferguson Street, Douglas Parade and Nelson Parade. My advice is to grab a take-away bite from any of the outlets and head for a lunchtime picnic along the waterfront. John Morley Reserve, the Commonwealth Reserve or even Point Gellibrand Coast Heritage Park if you feel like a short 15-minute walk. Either way, enjoy the sunshine watch the ships sale in and ponder how good life truly is.
By the time dinner rolls around you’ll want to enjoy a delicious bite to eat and maybe even a refreshing beverage. The place to be is Sebastian where the food & booze culture of San Sebastian is welcomed by Williamstown’s bayside. With a sleek dining wing, a casual bistro and expansive outdoor deck and bar overlooking the water, the Mediterranean will feel much closer than it is. If the location and view don’t win you over, the menu sure will with its Spanish flare and freshness.
Williamstown is located perfectly between Hobsons Bay and Port Phillip Bay, surrounded on three sides by the water. There are walking paths around the entire waterfront from the Williamstown foreshore on the east side of town, to the west side where the local beach is. If the 8km return trip isn’t quite enough, take a dip in the safety of Williamstown Beach or if you’re up for a bigger adventure, take one of the free-to-hire bikes at Punthill Williamstown for a ride along the waterfront to Altona Beach. The bike path is safe for those riding alone or in families, and won’t see you hit the main roads. The 20km return trip is a great way to satisfy your Apple Watch or Fitbit, all while being soothed by the relaxing sound of the ocean and the animals that call the seaside parks home.
The heritage culture at Williamstown is rich and there truly is something for everyone to do. A fun 35-minute ride across the bay on the Ferry can have taking in the spectacular city sites from the water; cruising under the Westgate Bridge, through the Port of Melbourne, across Docklands and into Southbank, where amenities and activities plentiful. The Ferry departs Gem Pier in Williamstown 8 times a day and offers one-way or return tickets.
A short 2km walk to neighbouring suburb Spotswood is a must for those with a love of science and space. Technological marvel Scienceworks is a museum that pays tribute to all thing’s science. It even has a planetarium! Trust me – you’d don’t have to be a kid to enjoy your time at Scienceworks. Its educational, interactive and is sure to blow your mind, no matter your age.
If your interests are better aligned to the maritime theme that Williamstown brings to life at every turn, then the Seaworks Maritime Precinct next to the Williamstown Newport Foreshore is for you. The Maritime Museum has a collection of artefacts, models, bells and exhibitions that showcase the impressive maritime history of Melbourne. Just a short stroll down the street you can also visit the restored HMAS Castlemaine vessel built in 1941 and which served during World War II in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean and China Sea.
When you’re wrapping up your day and just looking for a place to relax in the afternoon with a good book or some friends, Williamstown Botanic Gardens is where to be. The beautiful gardens are the perfect place to relax or enjoy a casual picnic. The Gardens first opened in 1860 and is primely located opposite Williamstown Beach, boasting a formal avenue of palms, an Edwardian ornamental pond, and a collection of rare and significant trees.
There’s no doubt Williamstown is one of Melbourne’s hidden gems, but don’t let its underrated reputation trick you into missing all that this suburb has to offer.