Learning a bit of the local history is one of my favourite things about travelling to new places.  On my first morning in Melbourne I opted to take the I’m Free Walking Tour to get acquainted with the city, and picked up some interesting tid-bits of history along along the way.

Melbourne is a Gold Rush City

In the 1850s Melbourne experienced a major gold rush that was larger than those in California, Alaska and Canada.  Many of the historic buildings in Melbourne were built around this time, and during the ‘Marvellous Melbourne’ period that followed.  Interestingly, the discovery of gold in the region occurred right around the time the state of Victoria separated from New South Wales. The potential concealment of the discovery remains a topic of much debate.

The Yarra River

The Yarra River, around which the city of Melbourne was built, was called Birrarung by the aboriginal people.  Yarra means flowing water and the Europeans mistook this as the name of the river and the misnomer has lived on for more than 150 years.


John Batman, a British settler, played a major role in the establishment of the city and at one point declared the land would be called ‘Batmania’.  If this name had stuck, would modern day Batman still have lived in Gotham City?

Hook Turns

Melbourne boasts, among other things, the largest tram network in the Southern Hemisphere.  In order to keep the trams moving, there are many intersections in the city where you turn left from the right lane in what is called a ‘hook turn’.  Equal parts confusing and fascinating to observe for the first time, and just another reason why I’m trying to avoid driving on this trip!