Friday, January 4, 2013
Cruising on the river
I've always associated boats and cruises with holidays away from home. We did a family holiday in Echuca back in 2010, and the riverboat cruising was the highlight of that, with all the kids (even then-infant C) loving it. For some reason, it's never really occurred to me to think about water experiences that don't involve swimming here at home. This is kind of odd, given that Melbourne is a bay city served by several rivers, one of the largest of which (the Maribyrnong) is close to my house.
So when a friend told me that she and her kids had done a Maribyrnong River cruise and really enjoyed it, I thought, why not? The prices are extremely moderate - $20 for adults and just $5 for kids - and all four girls were intrigued and enthused at the idea.
Thus we set off yesterday morning, heat beginning to rise (it would eventually peak at 37, although it didn't exceed 34 down on the cool river), to take a 2-hour tour on the Blackbird, a pleasure boat that has been touring Melbourne's rivers for 33 years.
I wasn't sure what to expect, or how well the four kids, aged 9. 8, 7 and almost 4, would handle the extended time cooped up on fairly small boat with nowhere to go, but as it turned out, I need not have feared. The cruise was wonderful, relaxing and engaging for all of us, and the first thing the kids asked when we eventually disembarked was whether we could do it again :-)
We stopped at the Footscray Market on the way and bought sweet Vietnamese rolls, croissants, strawberries, apples and cherry tomatoes to picnic on the boat, and this turned out to be a really smart idea. The boat's captain was cool with eating on board and the flow of snacking helped punctuate the trip nicely for the kids.
The extremely knowledgeable captain provided a fascinating commentary as we glided upriver, pointing out landmarks that, again, I know from a different perspective - the Buddhist temple, Victoria University, the rendering and tanning plants (eugh) and so on. Hearing about the historical uses of the land, versus the attempted gentrified reuses now, was both entertaining and engaged my inner cynic - when former munitions dumps and waste facilities are turned into luxury housing, you *know* you've stepped through the looking glass.
One landmark that we went past was the wonderful Living Museum of the West at Pipemaker's Park. I have read so many good things about this place and somehow have unaccountably failed to take the kids there yet. Seeing it from the water, I am resolved to remedy that this summer.
I would heartily recommend this boat trip to anyone in Melbourne. It departs at 1pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and returns you to dock at Saltriver Place (near the Footscray Arts Centre) by 3pm. They also offer another cruise, at 4pm, in the other direction, towards Docklands (we have tagged that as a future family expedition, as my husband wants to come too!)
Overall - great fun, amazing value for money, very informative (I learned all sorts of things I didn't know before!) and a really relaxing way to spend time together.