A quaint seaside village located just a few kilometres from the city centre, there’s a reason Williamstown and Williamstown North are some of the west’s most sought-after suburbs.
In the early years of Melbourne’s European settlement, Williamstown was the city’s first sea port, a legacy that still lives on today through the maritime history on display throughout the suburb. While these days it’s an easy ferry ride from the city centre, back in the 1830s the mode of transportation was in its earliest days, ships travelling down the Yarra River to dock at a primitive stone jetty where Gem Pier now stands. These days, the pier is home to one of Williamstown’s most recognisable attractions, and the last of its kind of World War II naval vessels, the HMAS Castlemaine.
As one of Melbourne’s oldest suburbs, there are more than a few historical monuments scattered throughout Williamstown. Fort Gellibrand, located in the Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park, is one example of the area’s long and storied past. It was the site of ancient meetings with Victoria’s indigenous peoples, a prison home to Ned Kelly (who has been reported to have even played a few matches for Williamstown Football Club), and is a well-used area for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts.
After spending a morning exploring Williamstown’s history, you’ll have probably worked up something of an appetite. Try Crimson Bear for a healthy option, where a menu filled with meals, snacks and drinks like Sweet Potato Rosti Stack, Pulled Beef Burger and Toasted Coconut Quinoa Hazelnut Granola is designed to promote nutritious lifestyles. They also have a mean takeaway menu if you’re on the go.
With the kids in tow, why not have some fun at Tumbles Playhouse in Williamstown North? It has everything your little ones could dream of – think tasty treats and an awesome, three-storey play area – and is chill enough for you to catch your breath or catch up with friends.
If you’d prefer to give your belly a bigger challenge, El Burro is a super-popular Spanish restaurant specialising in steaming, sumptuous paella. Of course, their array of tapas (think Sardina – fried sardine fillet with aioli and lemon – and Cerdo – pork belly, crackling and pear chutney) is tempting, and their cocktail game is very strong, so no matter how hungry or thirsty you are, you’ll be leaving satisfied.
An afternoon in Willy is incomplete without a visit to Williamstown Beach, especially if the sun is shining. As one of the nicest beaches in the western suburbs, families and beachgoers from as far as Victoria’s Central Goldfields region flock here on hot summer days. Even on overcast or cool days, you’ll still see families and teenagers strolling the sand and dipping their toes into the cool Port Philip Bay water.
And when day turns into night, Williamstown has you covered for pubs and bars to let your hair down. Lower West Side Wine Bar has been wowing the in crowd since it opened in 2016, with knowledgeable staff and an excellent collection of wine and beer from around the world. Have a fun night while you get to know the locals.
And, to come full circle, end the night at the Steam Packet Hotel, a historic pub in the heart of this visitor-friendly suburb. It’s been on the same corner since 1863, making it one of the oldest pubs in all of Melbourne. These days, you’ll sip a craft beer, sample a cocktail or three, taste a great pub meal or seasonal dish and enjoy live music on Friday nights.