Flock this way
So you think you know Werribee? A journey around the suburb will encourage you to broaden your perspective. Story: Erika Jonsson Photos: Anne Morley
Wyndham, which includes Werribee and Point Cook, is the fastest growing municipality in Victoria and the third fastest growing in the country. About 60 babies are born here each week and annually the population grows by about 12,000: the equivalent of the population of Colac or Echuca moving to Werribee each year.
People aren’t the only living beings that flock to Wyndham. Every year, huge numbers of migratory birds from as far away as Siberia and Alaska seek a second summer in the Werribee Avalon Important Bird Area. The coastline has a series of marine parks and internationally important wetlands (known as Ramsar) sites deemed critical to the survival of a variety of endangered flora and fauna. The Western Treatment Plant forms part of the larger Ramsar site, as does Point Wilson, which still handles explosives imports.
One of the most unusual parts of the shoreline is Avalon Beach, just beyond Wyndham’s borders. A narrow sliver of land between saltpans and the sea houses a couple of dozen unassuming beach huts – there’s a boat in front of nearly every one of them. More than 85 bird species have been identified at the beach and wetland, which featured in the original Mad Max film.
Another Mad Max location inspired one of Australia’s most iconic bands. A sign on the way to a gig in Geelong gave birth to the Little River Band and a piece of Rock’n’Roll history. The nearby You Yangs’ volcanic origins are obvious during a circuit drive through the regional park, which showcases several diverse habitats within a small area. Take a short walk to the top of Big Rock – it’s only 100m from the car park and the vista is stunning.
For another beautiful view, this one of the city from the water, head to Point Cook Homestead. Construction started in 1852 for Scotsman Thomas Chirnside and his brother Andrew, whose next project was the Werribee Mansion.
The homestead’s restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday from 9am-4pm if you’re peckish.
Agriculture has been an important part of the City of Wyndham’s economy, and the market gardens still survive, despite the growing demand for housing.
At Wyndham Harbour, a marina development on the Werribee South waterfront, the modern housing estate buildings seem at odds with the neighbouring cauliflowers and lettuces. It’s worth a look just to imagine how different the landscape will be in a few years. And the views of the city are great.
In the Werribee town centre there are many eating options from around the world. Almost any of the eateries in Watton and Station streets provide good food, but if you’re in the mood for a drink, the Park Hotel is the place to go. The bar staff sit a written test monthly on the range of more than 500 craft beers and the food focuses on local and house-made produce – even the butter is churned on site. Visit theparkhotel.net.au.
Just beyond the town centre is the B-24 Liberator Museum, a labour of love for volunteers who visit daily to restore Australia’s only surviving B-24 Liberator. The fuselage of the plane was bought in 1995 after 50 years’ in a Moe paddock, where it once served as a temporary home for its owner. The volunteers are happy to answer questions about the plane, which is slowly being returned to working condition.
The museum is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 9.30am-3.30pm. Visit b24australia.org.au.
Plane enthusiasts can visit the RAAF Point Cook Aviation Museum, open Tuesday to Friday, 10am-3pm and on weekends, 10am-5pm. Visit airforce.gov.au/raafmuseum.
Wyndham’s most famous tourist attractions are all nestled within a tight precinct on K Road. Werribee Open Range Zoo, Werribee Mansion and the State Rose Garden draw hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, with the Zoo alone attracting around half a million visitors.*
Shadowfax Wines is another important K Road drawcard. Its modern menu and award-winning wines are available seven days a week from 11am-5pm. Nearby, Wyndham Cache and Egg Farm has earned locals’ admiration as a top spot for coffee and cakes as well as delicatessen items and, well, eggs.
Stop at the K Road Cliffs for a great view of the Werribee River.
Farming: If you eat cauliflower or broccoli, chances are you’re supporting a farmer in Werribee South. The small, intense market gardening precinct about 30km west of Melbourne’s CBD grows around 10% of Victoria’s vegetables, including the bulk of the state’s cauliflower and broccoli.
Local tip: Visit Werribee Open Range Zoo and enjoy its two winter programs – Monkey Play (27 June-31 Aug) and Wild Nights (27 June-11 July). Visit zoo.org.au/werribee.
Local tip: Werribee Tigers are a proving ground for mature-age footballers. Catch the Tigers in action against Richmond at 2pm on 6 June at Avalon Airport Oval.
Local tip: Every two years the sky over Avalon becomes a showcase of the history and present of aviation. Unfortunately, we must wait until 2017 for the next Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defence Exposition, otherwise known as the Avalon Air Show.
*11 June. Visitors figures updated from tens of thousands visitors.