Melbourne – National Trust properties to explore

We found Australia a very expensive country to visit. I posted while we were in Melbourne on our quest to find things that were free in Melbourne, here. We were house and dog sitting in Melbourne so our accommodation was free which saved us lots of money. Food and the cost of transport using Myki (think Oyster but complicated and expensive) really took a chunk out of our budget. We wanted to make the most of our time there, yet we needed to find free things to do and see. Fortunately my old uni friend, whose house and dogs we ‘sat’ for a month in Melbourne advised us to bring our National Trust card with us as we could use it in Australia.

And this is where we visited.

The Old Melbourne Gaol

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This would have normally cost $25 per adult if not for our trusty National Trust Card.

To visit the Gaol you need to book a timed tour. This is no ordinary tour as there is a lot of role play. We were taken into the police station, assigned names and had our charges read out to us. The police officer then accompanies you to the cells and divided up the men and women and then locked us up in separate cells. Even though you knew it was  all part of the ‘experience’ and fully participated in this, it was still very unnerving. I was glad to hear the key turning in the lock to set us free.

The most famous prisoner here was Ned Kelly who was hanged there in 1880. After the tour you are able to explore the rest of the gaol, and learn more about some of the prisoners held there. There are some very sad stories. While highly recommended, a visit to the Gaol comes with a health warning; you will probably leave with low spirits. I recommend that you line something up afterwards that is outside and cheers you up such as …

Polly Woodside

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As you enter the visitor centre you are assigned a role and then treated accordingly on the guided tour. We were the only ones on our tour, the upside was we got the guide to ourselves, the downside was that some of the role play was impossible with only two of us. This wasn’t the only time when visiting attractions that we had a guide to ourselves visiting Melbourne attractions. The Polly Woodside was built in Belfast and was sold to the National Trust for one cent in 1968. Great for families, children, big kids and history buffs alike. A good place to visit after the Gaol as it is in the open air and fun, and you can purchase a combined ticket with the Gaol for $30.

 

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Once more this is by guided tour only and according tp the web site:-

Como is not open to walk up visitors in the short term however, the site will continue to be available for bookings covering group tours of 10 or more people (a minimum of 20 people on weekends), as well as events and private functions.

We were lucky as we turned up on spec and joined the a small guided tour of just four. The house and gardens are beautiful, a real insight to how the privileged lifestyles of the rich. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit, it is a shame that they have limited opening now.

Rippon Lea House and Garden

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Our tour guide informed us that the family that built this house had made its fortune in Manchester. As there were only two of us on the tour (do you see a pattern emerging here?) I gently pointed out that most, if not all Brits, would think she was talking about the city in England. The guide was surprised to learn that it is only in Australia and New Zealand that bed linen and towels are referred to as ‘manchester’.

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Once we had cleared that little misunderstanding up, she went on to tell us that this house, amongst others mentioned in this post, had recently been used as a film set for Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.

Labassa

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Labassa was closed when we visited. It was within walking distance of where we were staying, and is surrounded by residential properties.We did manage to get a few photos of the interiors. Stunning house and disappointed that we were unable to go inside.

Use them or lose them Melbourne folks

What struck me was how few visitors most of these really interesting places were getting. By far the most popular was Melbourne Old Gaol. At most of the other places we were often the only ones there. Why is this? Was it the time of year, mid December, just before the school holidays? Do visitors to the area not know or are not interested in this part of Australian history? In the UK most National Trust properties are full of visitors. There has to be timed entrances due to the volume of visitors. Yet these beautiful properties are struggling to remain open due to lack of visits.

The guides at Como and Rippon Lea were baffled, as to why people from England were interested in these houses, when we had much older and grander properties to visit in the UK. We explained that we knew very little about the history of Australia, I frankly had no idea that we would find properties to visit like this. My limited knowledge of Australia was that it was hot, had kangaroos, spiders that would kill me and sharks that would kill me. And what I had seen in Neighbours and Home and Away. I thought everyone would have swimming pools and that most people living there were descendents of criminals or £10 Poms. OK I may be over exaggerating just a bit, yet Australia was full of surprises for me, (rain, cold, bad tv, heritage properties) despite reading Down Under by Bill Bryson who writes:

‘It was as if I had privately discovered life on another planet, or a parallel universe where life was at once recognizably similar but entirely different. I can’t tell you how exciting it was. Insofar as I had accumulated my expectations of Australia at all in the intervening years, I had thought of it as a kind of alternative southern California, a place of constant sunshine and the cheerful vapidity of a beach lifestyle, but with a slightly British bent – a sort of Baywatch with cricket . . . ‘

Yes, he loves Australia as much as I do. The rich culture, the amazing food, the skyscrapers in the CBD and these beautiful properties to visit, all knocked me for six. I cannot wait to get back there and spend some more time in this beautiful country.

Have you been to or live in Melbourne? What would you recommend to a visitor?

And if you live in or are visiting Victoria, go visit these properties, while you can.