About 35km south-west of Melbourne’s CBD along the Princes Freeway, Werribee is today considered a suburb of that great southern city. It dropped its quaint rural ways many moons ago, and now there’s even a nude bathing beach at nearby Campbell’s Cove on Port Phillip Bay. However, it is well worth spending a few days in the area to experience all that Werribee has to offer.
Chirnside Mansion, an extraordinary Italianate structure presiding over Werribee Park, was built in the 1870s for the Chirnside brothers, who had made their money as pastoralists. The 60-room mansion remains the largest private residence ever built in Victoria. The founder family sold the property to the Catholic Church in the 1920s and the homestead was used as a Jesuit seminary for 50 years until the Victorian Government bought the estate and began the task of painstaking restoration. Now parts of the mansion and the formal gardens are open daily and are definitely worth a look.
Also included in Werribee Park is the Victorian State Rose Garden, the National Equestrian Centre, a golf course and a hotel. Scattered throughout the extensive grounds, you will find picnic spots, BBQs and walking trails.
Werribee Park is also home to the Werribee Open Range Zoo. Originally developed as an agistment property for Melbourne Zoo, it is now a prime tourist attraction in its own right. Set on 200ha, it hosts a wide range of grazing animals from the grasslands of Africa, Asia, North America and Australia. Other charmers such as meerkats, cheetah, vervet monkeys and serval cats are displayed in well-designed exhibits linked by a series of waterways on the African Walking Trail.
At Point Cook, just a short drive from town, is the RAAF Museum, which preserves Australian military aviation history. There are photos, artefacts and, of course, a wide selection of RAAF planes.
Things to do:
Chirnside Mansion - house and formal gardens
Werribee Park - picnics, BBQs and walks
Werribee Open Range Zoo
RAAF Museum at Point Cook