Photograph of the week: Princes Pier, Port Melbourne, Victoria, Australia


Wander to the very end of the 580-metre long Princes Pier in Port Melbourne, Victoria, and you will see, stretching into the distance, a mesmerising series of wooden pillars, emerging from the shimmering water in hypnotic lines. Mere wooden stumps to some, an Instagrammable photographic opportunity to others, for so many others these pillars represented freedom and safety in years gone by. These old pylons are the remains of the original wooden pillars of a pier which served as a major arrival point for new migrants to Australia for over half a century.

Photo of the week: Princes Pier, Port Melbourne, Australia

Built between 1912 and 1915, Princes Pier was the third major pier constructed at Port Melbourne. From its completion in 1915 until 1969 it was the gateway to a brand new city, in a brand new country, and a brand new life, for immigrants disembarking here, particularly during the post-war period.

Over and above this, together with its neighbour, Station Pier, Princes Pier served as a major passenger and cargo terminal in the twentieth century until it was decommissioned in 1985.

Originally known as the New Railway Pier, it was renamed Princes Pier after a visit from the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII) in May 1920. In the years since, it has seen more than its fair share of activity. Linked by rail right from the pier to the Port Melbourne railway line, eight railway tracks ran onto the bridge, ferrying passengers and cargo from ocean to city up until 1953. The line continued to work as a siding from 1961. Eventually, after years of use, Princes Pier would succumb to poor timber condition, helped along by a fire caused by squatters, and was closed to all public access in the early 1990s.

Reopened in December 2011, after a multi-million dollar refurbishment and restoration, today Princes Pier is the second-largest-timbre-piled wharf structure in Australia. More open air museum than mere pier, though, as you stroll its length you will find sprinklings of historical information and exhibitions, which will leave you informed of both its working past and social significance.

To get there, Princes Pier is a short, easy walk from the Beacon Cove Tram Stop (Tram 109). Bus lines 234 and 235 also stop near Princes Pier, while the closest train lines are Belgrave, Frankston, Pakenham, Sandringham and Sunbury.

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Comments (6)

  1. Bob Brown says:

    With its fascinating history as an arrival point for so many new Australians seeking foot in their new country at Melbourne Pier, the historic location is the Aussie equivalent of New York’s Ellis Island.

    Is there a museum recording Melbourne Pier’s dramatic history? If there were an equivalent of Ellis Island’s Museum it would be great to have the story of all those thousands of people who arrived to escape their past, often persecution, and to launch new lives.

  2. Dick says:

    It is a very atmospheric photograph. I like the sentence, “Mere wooden stumps to some, an Instagrammable photographic opportunity to others”. It sort of sums up how we all react differently to places. I can see that many people wouldn’t get the significance of the pier and wander on without really taking it in,

  3. Kate says:

    Definitely a sight to see the next time I visit my sister in Melbourne and probably one for either sunrise or sunset.

    • Nick says:

      Often when we are travelling time is tight but if I go somewhere special I like to do two visits. One in daylight when you can read the info and get some sense of the place. Then, ideally, I’d give it a day or two for my brain to take it all in, then I’d go back at sunset with my camera to get some images when there were less people around.

      Recently, a friend of mine went to the Taj Mahal and he actually visited three times. As he said he doubted that he’d be back in the near future and he wanted to make the most of it.

  4. Nicola Clarke says:

    My aunt & Uncle live in Australia and I remember them telling us about this place. I hadn’t realised it was previously called New Railway Pier, only changed from a visit by a royal! It’s definitely a stunning structure like nothing I’ve seen before, and very photogenic. Love that purple sky photo, it’s very pretty!

  5. Abigail says:

    Woahh!! The photograph almost seems like an illustration or a painting produced by one of the most skilled artists. I actually had to rub my eyes twice only to realize it’s a real time shot captured. I guess words can’t do justice to describe the place.

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