Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Yarra River - The Casino to the City

One of the best parts of the city of Melbourne is actually the Yarra river that runs along the south-eastern edge of the city. I was staying at the Crown Promenade (part of the Crown Casino complex on the South-Bank Precinct) and whilst it's a nice hotel, it is a little bit of a walk into the city. But that was good for exercise. It also had some added bonuses of being a great place to take some photos. I'm not sure if everyone in Melbourne knows - but if you're from elsewhere, I'd definitely suggest you head down to the Crown, along the Yarra, of an evening for some great fire displays.

There's something completely fun - and yet deeply stirring - about hearing, seeing and most importantly feeling the synchronised fireballs. Great fun! Though it doesn't seem to last as long as I remember it from a few years ago (or at least in my memory). It's on every hour on the hour from 9pm to Midnight Monday to Friday, and from 8pm on Saturday and Sunday.

Crown do a few things right - and another one is the light and water displays inside. Mesmerising... but alas, not something that was easy to capture with the camera. Definitely worth seeing in the flesh. Having said that however, I'd quite happily recommend turning around at that point and not going any further. I'm not a big fan of gambling, and having to walk through the Casino every day, I'm even more convinced it's actually a really crap way to have fun. I'd suggest you take your partner out for a dinner instead... or even read a good book. But hey, that's just me.

The other star of the Yarra is the night-scape. Now I have to admit that Melbourne's night-view isn't the most exhilarating in the world - but it ain't all that bad either. Even in B&W, it has some appeal. wasn't always called the Yarra, but started out being called the Birrarung (it's aboriginal name). The name Yarra actually comes from the Yarra Ranges (I did not know this, thanks Wikipedia)...although this too is an aboriginal name, but apparently was mis-translated.

And the one thing you get used to is the many bridges across the Yarra - both for cars and for people-powered locomotion. 

Ok - and here's some more gratuitous night-lights on water shots.

I showed an example of the art on Sandridge Bridge - well, here's another look.

One of the things I think Melbourne's architects get right is their attention to the small things. For example, along Flinders Street Station, there's a walkway that travels along the river. Not the most scenic of places (what with all the trains), but the flow of the footpath invites pleasant strolls, it's undulating lines reminding us of waves, or sand dunes - anything but train tracks. And then there's the piped music echoing from everywhere. Overall, a clever idea and shows that even a train-yard can have it's ambiance changed with a bit of creativity.

There's a healthy tourism sector built around the Yarra - though I'm not the sort of person to jump onto tour boats (normally). As you might imagine, it's also a great place to jump into a canoe, or kayak - or of course go rowing. It's a shame however that the river, by the time it's arrived to Melbourne, is no longer safe enough to swim in due to pollution.

And whilst Melbourne might be the Little-Europe of Australia, it's not quite Paris....and I'm not sure it had got it's romantic serenading image quite right. Still, it's an arts city and music always makes a huge difference in breathing life into a cityscape.

And I thought I'd just throw in a couple of shots of Melbourne's Yarra during the day, this one also of the Flinders Street Station.

And for those that remember Melbourne a decade ago (before the recent drought), it's reassuring to know that Melbourne's weather (known for being 4 seasons in one day) has returned. Yes, there's definitely some rain about these days, which is always good to see (unless you're out and about in it).

Ok... that's the Yarra. It's not quite a MIGHTY RIVER in the epic sense, but at least it's a good flowing river, unlike Adelaide's River Torrens (which is more like a lake when it gets to the city). I'm not sure I'd say it was the lifeblood of the city, but it is an important part of it (and also the theme behind Melbourne's Moomba Festival in mid March each year). But perhaps most importantly for me during the trip, it made for a very pleasant walk, from the Casino to the City.

I'll take a break now from my Melbourne Series.... and get back to some more Adelaide-based stuff. Hope you enjoyed so far.


  1. Great series Ben Adelaide and really enjoyed it being a Melbourne boy myself. The Crown Complex is an impressive part of Melbourne and is very popular as an entertainment spot. There are some maginificent restaurants and I beleive the man of the moment S K Warne has just opened his own sports bar there.

    Japan Australia

  2. Thanks J_A, there's no doubt that the south bank area is a great place for a nosh-up, a drink, or (if you really want to lose money) a gamble. And yes, you can even check out Warnie's new digs in the Crown Casino.

    It is a sort of strange environment however - like a self contain bio-sphere... and perhaps suffers a little from the mostly psychological separation from the CBD.