Once Coined “Marvellous Melbourne” – and a Look Back at the Yarra in Time!

“Marvellous Melbourne”, what Melbourne was known as through an era that lasted roughly forty years during the mid nineteenth century, owing to an extreme accelerated growth of population and great wealth – thanks to the surge of the goldfields!

The Indigenous Australians, who for close to 40,000 years inhabited the Port Phillip and Yarra Valley areas, originally known as the Kulin People. These indigenous people, a population of around 20,000 completely living off the land where Melbourne now stands. These tribes were the Boonwurrung, the Wathaurong and the Wurundjeri.


With just an open whaleboat and a very small crew, George Bass in 1797, was the earliest European to sail into what is now called Bass Strait. This mass of water is the area between Australia’s mainland and the mainland of Tasmania.

New South Wales sent a man by the name of Charles Grimes down to Port Phillip for surveying in 1803 and Frankston was the landing place that Grimes and his men stepped ashore. Later this same year, a man called David Collins and as many as 300 convicts landed in Port Phillip and established settlement.

In 1835 a man named John Batman also entered Port Phillip Bay from Tasmania. John Batman and his crew landed at Indented Head (between St Leonards and Portarlington).

Tents and Huts spanning as far as could be seen right across the banks of the Yarra River were pretty much how Melbourne had its beginnings. With all this concentrated population, drinking water and Bathing on the banks of the Yarra soon inevitably gave way to the deadly typhoid fever, following the dense pollution contaminating the river shore.


In the wake of these deadly breakouts, Melbourne City Council tried to curb this contaminated way of living with building what was called Melbourne City Baths in 1860. These Baths were sadly at the time in vein as the people of the time continued to drink the filthy river water and swim in the filth of the Yarra.

Melbourne’s Yarra River in 1844, a bridge needed to be built to span this river and to replace the (up till then) river punts which were privately owned and operated. A Bridge was built and was also privately owned and operated and charged to the public for crossing, in way of tolls. A few years later the Government stepped in and built a ‘free’ bridge built of sandstone to replace the inferior timber bridge in 1850. This bridge was for the growing Swanston St back and fourth population.

An expedition known as the Burke and Wills Expedition was formed as an official attempt of exploring our great southern land from near coast to the ‘unexplored’ inland, this exploratory group was formed in 1860.


As the years rolled on, Melbourne remained Australia’s largest city. In 1901, Federation took place federating six colonies of Australia into one. This monumental day taking place in Melbourne’s very own Royal Exhibition Building. Melbourne’s population growth had subsequently stalled and thenceforth Sydney resumed its place as the most largest city of Australia.


World War II saw a huge amount of military and civilian admin come to Melbourne which in turn saw a huge boost in American Wartime Personnel, leading to very healthy rises in employment. General Douglas MacArthur also made his Wartime Headquarters in our very own Collins Street.


All these landmarks in time are just a tiny portion and pieces of the puzzle in what earns this city the title: “Marvellous Melbourne”.