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Southbank, Melbourne
Photograph: Josie Withers

See Melbourne by boat with these river cruises

You'll see a whole different side to the city cruising on the Yarra

By Nicola Dowse

You've seen Melbourne by land and maybe you've even seen it from above – but have you seen the city by boat? The Yarra River is a long and winding creature that starts nearly 250km north-east of Melbourne and winds down the ranges and valleys until reaches the city. It's Melbourne's main aquatic artery meaning it's unsurprisingly a fantastic way to see the city. Travel upriver for greenery, down for industry or plonk yourself on a grand vessel for dinner and a show – the choice is yours.

Melbourne River Cruises
Photograph: Josie Withers

1. Melbourne River Cruises

For more than 30 years the Melbourne River Cruises fleet has been showing guests Melbourne from an on-water perspective. They run daily one hour sightseeing tours to either the river gardens or docklands (or both in their two hour tour). They also offer a cruising restaurant every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and can be booked for events.

Melbourne Showboat - Lady Cutler
Photograph: Supplied

2. Melbourne Showboat - Lady Cutler

Aye, the Lady Cutler is a fine old ship. She also knows how to throw one hell of a party. If you’re looking for a gentle sightseeing cruise look elsewhere: if you’re looking for a party at sea (at river?) the Cutler is your girl. They regularly host themed events onboard the ship like boozy seafood brunches, burlesque showboat nights and Christmas cruises.

Photograph: Supplied

3. GoBoat

Things to do Southbank

You’ve had lunch by the river, now try lunch on the river. GoBoat is an electric boat hire service currently running in Melbourne that makes it super easy to have picnics at sea (well, a river in this case). GoBoat’s five-metre-long boats seat up to eight people and don’t need a boating licence to operate. The best part? They come equipped with a built-in picnic table in the middle of the boat. 

Yarra River
Photograph: Supplied

4. City River Cruises

Sail upstream or downstream with City River Cruises.  The upstream option leads to Herring Island and Como House. If you’re interested in sport it’s ideal as you’ll pass the MCG, Rod Laver Arena, Olympic Park and AAMI Park. But downstream to Port of Melbourne is just as interesting. It’s the busiest port in the Southern Hemisphere and a great reminder of the area’s industrial roots.


5. Williamstown Ferries

Sail, don’t drive to Williamstown. The quaint little seaside town at the mouth of the Yarra can be accessed by a scenic one hour trip down the river. Williamstown ferries are the oldest ferry operator to Williamstown, and depart several times a day from Southbank (on the eastern side of the Southbank Pedestrian Bridge).

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