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Museums, History & Heritage

Much of the region's maritime history and heritage is still visible in the lighthouses that dominate the landscape at various points along the road.  In Queenscliff the Maritime Museum celebrates the town's background in the marine industry with fantastic displays. 

Also in Queenscliff, Fort Queenscliff is an interesting look at a still functioning Australian Defence Force facility that was initially built on the cliff overlooking the Rip to protect ships during the gold rush of the 1800's.

Torquay's position as the capital of the international surf industry makes the local museum 'Surfworld' ideally placed to deliver a historic look at the origins of surfing and the phenomenon it has become.

Geelong grew on the back of the sheep, and the 1800's bluestone building in the centre of town that now houses the National Wool Museum was initially a woolstore facility.  The wool industry in Geelong was built around the need for wool grown in the surrounding districts to be processed and shipped internationally from the docks on Corio Bay.  Also in Geelong, the Ford Discovery Centre is an interactive museum profiling the history of Ford in Geelong as well as giving a behind the scenes look at the design, engineering and manufacturing processes in the automobile industry.

Across the broader region, there are several National Trust properties open to the public that give an indication of early life in the region.  There are also a range of interpretive historic sites, such as the old mill site at Triplet Falls and guided heritage walks in towns such as Queenscliff.

Historic means of transport in the region have been preserved by the Bellarine Railway, with their steam hauled engines still running on weekends and holidays and also powering The Blues Train - a moving, progressive concert on board.

Highlights

Barwon Grange

Barwon Grange is an elegant intact brick home dating from Geelong's earliest residential settlement. It was built in 1855 and reflects the aspirations of middle class businessman Jonathan Porter O'Brien and his family who had emigrated from Liverpool. The picturesque Gothic style architecture includes steep gables, unusual decorative timber bargeboards and veranda parapet. The interior contains a fine collection of early Victorian furniture and fittings faithfully accumulated according to an inventory compiled when the house was auctioned in 1856. The garden complements the house with a Victorian fountain. Lawns sloping down to the Barwon River are planted with species from a mid-19th century plant catalogue.

Steiglitz Historic Park

Situated between Geelong and Ballarat, Steiglitz is almost a ghost town today but in the 1860s and 1890s it was a busy goldmining township with hotels, shops, churches and a population of over 1000. At the height of the 1860s gold rush, Steiglitz township had more than 1500 residents, four hotels, a newspaper, a variety of shops and even an undertaker. Now most of the town and its surroundings are included in the Steiglitz Historic Park. Enjoy a pleasant bushwalk, relax with a picnic or pan for gold. Of course, a trip to the park wouldn't be complete without a visit to the Steiglitz Court House, with its display of photographs, maps and relics of gold year. The court house is open on Sunday and public holidays, and at other times by arrangement. Before you go Conditions can change in parks for many reasons. For the latest information on changes to local conditions, please visit the relevant park page on the Parks Victoria website. Be bushfire ready in the great outdoors. Refer to the Bushfire Safety section on the Parks Victoria website for tips on how to stay safe.

The Heights Heritage House and Garden

The Heights Heritage House and Garden dates back to the 1850s. The house was built in 1855 and is remarkable for being the largest (14 rooms) German, prefabricated house in Victoria. During the 1930s, the building was extensively altered to reflect contemporary taste although the extensive gardens, stables, outbuildings and water tower survive intact from the 19th century. The Heights retains a small collection of fine Georgian furniture collected by the last owners, Louis and Marnie Whyte. Early 1860s plantings still dominate this beautiful Geelong garden today and the aged oaks and conifers provide great delight to visitors.

National Wool Museum

The National Wool Museum is housed in a beautifully restored 1872 bluestone wool store close to the vibrant new Waterfront Geelong. The Museum is Australia's largest comprehensive museum of wool, showcasing the region's wool story from the sheep's back to the clothes rack, and from the birth of the industry in the 1840's to its place in the world today. Central to the Museum experience is the 1910 built Axminster Jacquard carpet loom. Daily demonstrations by the Museum's skilled carpet weavers show how the loom works, and at the same time produce the Museum's own Manor House Rug, available for purchase through the Museum Shop. The Museum has two permanent galleries telling the Australian story of wool. The first, The Wool Harvest, looks at sheep farming and wool production. Exploring the pastoral aspect of wool in Australia, visitors can follow the path of the fleece through shearing, classing, wool pressing and dispatch. A recreated shearing shed and a film about shearing demonstrate what life in the shearing industry was like. Shearing demonstrations can be arranged for group bookings. Gallery Two, From Fleece to Fabric, looks at the processing of wool into fabric and offers an insight into the people and processes involved in the textile industry. A sequential display of the machinery actually used in the process demonstrates the transformation of fleece to fabric. The Museum also has an exciting annual calendar of temporary exhibitions and events. On the ground floor, the Museum Shop stocks a wide range of woollen products and unique local crafts while Denny's Kitchen (previously Black Sheep Cafe) offers great food, wines, coffee and cakes. The Museum is fully wheel chair accessible and there are accessible parking spaces located directly in front of the Museum. Bus parking and group tours are also available.

Surf World Museum

The Surf World Museum in Torquay, Australia’s surfing capital, celebrates the story of surfing. It also charts Australia’s significant contribution to the development of surfing around the world. Through the colourful and exciting permanent displays and temporary exhibitions of important surfing artefacts and memorabilia, the museum commemorates Australia’s fantastic surfing heritage and rich beach culture. An unforgettable experience, Surf World provides the opportunity to immerse yourself in one of Australia’s most popular pastimes. It’s a place where you can experience or relive, surfing’s sense of fun, and marvel at the changes that have taken place over the years. We look forward to welcoming you.
 

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