“It is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came. “
— President John F. Kennedy
I grew up a stones throw from the ocean and can’t imagine not having it to reach. A trip to the seaside or the beach makes me feel complete if I am lost and Williamstown was my self prescribed medicine for rejuvenation for the week. Although only a short train ride away it still felt like I was a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the CBD. Williamstown is a small dozy seaside village with a rich maritime history that everyone is quick to point out and although one can’t see the ocean from the train station you can smell it immediately. I followed my nose to the sea where the glimmer of sun hitting off sailboats and the tall buildings of Melbourne’s CBD stare at you from across the shores and felt my shoulders drop.
My first destination was the information centre where I was greeted before I had even stepped indoors with a map and a brochure on the area. When I stated that I had actually been planning on coming into the office, I was ushered in and given an over view of the town complete with three self guided tours which wind themselves through the back streets and the high street pointing out buildings of interest. With maps, brochures in hand I set off at a very leisurely pace.
Everyone was so friendly. I befriended a jogger out for their morning, a shop keeper whose sister was leaving on a cruise that afternoon and I was told I could watch it leave port around 4pm if I wanted to, a delicious ANZAC biscuit from a small bakery where everyone was a regular and learned all about an Australian organic cosmetic line called the Grown Alchemist which was being sold in one of the little boutique shops along Ferguson St that I popped into.
The high street, Nelson Place and the Strand on top of being architecturally very pretty is filled with restaurants and cafes and the oldest post office in Victoria. Not to mention an old fashioned sweet shop and an award winning traditional ice cream shop. Most of what you get around Melbourne is Gelato due to the large Italian population so I got rather excited looking at all of the 100 flavours of hard served ice cream on show!
The biggest draw, in a historical aspect, for Williamstown is the Timeball Tower. Built in 1849 as a light house it was converted to a Timeball Tower in 1861 and commands a view of the open sea at Point Gellibrand, the mouth of the harbour. Timeball towers were built so that a ships chronometers could be set against it. Therefore everyday at 1pm the ball on the roof rises to the top of a spire and then descends down the shaft. Today, it is one of only five left in the world. By complete coincidence I arrived at the tower at 1pm and watched the ball go up and down the shaft. From here there is a great sea walk along the coast that goes all around the point and brings you to Williamstown Beach. Throwing off my shoes I waded into the water but wasn’t quite brave enough to jump in. It’s a lovely beach though and I can vouch for the salt and pepper squid served at the newly opened renovated Bath House which has a wonderful patio overlooking the beach.
If you had the time or bikes you could drive for miles of coastal park to Cherry Lake or Atlona Beach where they have a beach side market every Tuesday. I sadly didn’t have the time or a bike but from my googling the pictures look lovely and I will need to get back out again with the time and perhaps a bike to explore further a field. By the time I got back on the train at the end of the day the seaside had worked its charm. Relaxing my mind and body, giving me a bit more of a healthy glow and that sought after hairstyle of wind swept and sea spray tousled.