Just down the road from Melbourne on Corio Bay is the city of Geelong and all it has to offer.
The Bellarine Peninsula is one of Victoria’s premier recreational destinations attracting vast numbers of local, interstate and international visitors. Geelong, the region’s largest population centre and Victoria’s second largest city, is an integral part of the Bellarine’s popularity and one of its standout attractions.
Named in 1837 by Governor Burke, Geelong grew on the back of its importance as a port trading mainly in valuable Western Districts wool. Today it handles hundreds of ships annually turning over billions of dollar’s worth of cargo. But pre-settlement, back in the early 1800s, the western end of Corio Bay was a shallow backwater blocked by a sandbar crossing the Bay on a line from Point Henry to Point Lillias. Before the port could develop there was much work to be done dredging channels to enable access by commercial shipping.
With the ships came the shore-based infrastructure. Projects like the Mooroobool Street Wharf, Steamboat Wharf, Yarra Street and the Customs House piers were all built to handle the ever increasing volume of cargo passing through the port. The city prospered dramatically and quickly became a focal point for export of the ‘Golden Fleece’, Victoria’s precious wool-clip.
In 1854 work began on the Railway Pier, a state-of-the-art wharf complete with a railway line running its full length then down along Cunningham Street to the city centre. Much modified and updated over the years the Railway Pier remained an integral part of the Port of Geelong into the 1970s. Today it’s much better known as Cunningham Pier.
By the early 1900s the city’s waterfront was unable to cope with the number of ships visiting the port. New facilities were developed in North Geelong and much of the cities maritime industry shifted to the north shore.
The Mooroobool Street Pier was demolished in the 1950s. By the early 1980s Cunningham Pier lay idle, deteriorating significantly with each passing day, and fire destroyed the Yarra Street Pier in 1988.
So by the late 1980s, while Geelong’s maritime industries flourished on the north shore, the cities original waterfront precinct was reduced to a run-down, disused industrial wasteland, a blight on the city skyline.
But take a look at it now!
From the mid-1990s the investment of millions of dollars has turned the once derelict waterfront into a fabulous public leisure, residential and entertainment precinct.