Historic Williamstown is the perfect spot to peer over the bay to the city while indulging in some aromatic coffee and mouth-watering cake or pastry. The seaside suburb has maintained its historic village feel and the streets are usually quiet, except for on weekends, when day-trippers swamp the promenade, parks and beach.
In a booming metropolis like Melbourne, the rediscovery of Williamstown was inevitable and today the waterfront suburb hosts some of the most expensive real estate in Western Melbourne. It’s easy to see why: Its residents enjoy multi-million dollar views across the bay to the CBD, catch fireworks at major city events, and watch the ships coming and going through the port from their living room window.
Most visitors arrive on a passenger ferry at Gem Pier from Southgate or St Kilda (on weekends only). Across the ferry terminal is Nelson Place, the suburb’s main waterfront street. It’s peppered with historic ornate buildings hosting cosy cafes, authentic restaurants and alternative little shops, including the Lolly Shop stuffed floor to ceiling with sweet goodies.
The "village green" between the pier and Nelson Place is known as the Commonwealth Reserve. This is the location of the impressive Customs House. Nowadays a popular crafts market is held here on the third Sunday of each month.
The visitor centre provides brochures on three historic walks through the suburb and along the waterfront, which are well worth a go.
At the south-eastern end of Nelson Bay by the shore is Timeball Tower, which used to help ships navigate on long ocean voyages. Until 1926 the ball at the top of the tower would decent slowly at precisely 1 pm everyday. From here, a footpath takes you right around the shore to the Botanic Gardens and Williamstown Beach.