Australia has a complex and interesting colonial history. It is known as a country settled by convicts, but there is more to the story than that. Traces of this history can be found all around the country. Let’s explore some of Australia’s great colonial and convict built estates where history is kept alive.
Melbourne’s rich history can be seen in the numerous historical buildings and monuments around the city. This is the original dwelling of the Kulin nation with five Aboriginal language groups. You may visit the Koorie Heritage Trust and the multi-award-winning Bunjilaka at the Melbourne Museum and journey into the ancestral lands of the Kulin nation and explore their rich and thriving culture on a heritage walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Inside the Old Melbourne Gaol. Image from the Old Melbourne Gaol.
The Royal Exhibition Building is a World Heritage-listed building. It was built for the 1880 Royal Exhibition and later hosted the opening of the parliament. Explore horrifying tales of prison life in the Old Melbourne Gaol. Discover Melbourne’s maritime past. Stop by the beautiful Fitzroy Gardens to see the reconstructed Cook’s Cottage – the childhood home of Captain James Cook, one of the first European navigators to map the east coast of Australia.
The Melbourne Museum. Image from Melbourne Museum – Museums Victoria
Melbourne is also home to many exceptional and architecturally significant National Trust homes and museums, as well as historically significant parks and gardens. Among these are the extravagant French Rennaisance-inspired Como house, a colonial mansion set in five acres of garden at Toorak, and Rippon Lea Estate, the last of Australia’s great privately owned nineteenth-century suburban estates.
Still, in Fitzroy’s Gardens, Captain Cook’s cottage stands still. Image from Flickr – Percita.
Perth, Western Australia
There lots of fascinating places to visit within a couple of hours in Perth City.
The Perth Mint. Image from The Perth Mint – Facebook Page.
Stroll around Beverley which is one of Western Australia’s oldest towns that has many attractions including the Avondale Discovery Farm, the Station Gallery, Dead Finish and the Aeronautical Museum. The town also has many beautiful buildings. Be delighted by a visit to the Perth Mint which offers a unique combination of attractions that allow you to experience all the magic, allure and wonder of gold.
The view of Perth CBD at night, from Kings Park. Image from Flickr.
Take an Aboriginal tour through Kings Park, where the mythical Wagyl serpent is said to have entered the ground before emerging at the foot of Mt Eliza to shape the Swan River. Immerse yourself to Fremantle’s history at the Roundhouse, the state’s earliest convict jail, as well as the Fremantle Prison and Western Australian Maritime Museum.
Hobart has many early colonial buildings such as the Penitentiary Chapel which is one of Australia’s most important convict sites pre-dating Port Arthur. The Coal Mines Historic Site preserves the history of Tasmania’s first coal mine which was operated by the ‘worst class’ of convicts.
A Tasmanian Devil. Image from Flickr.
See early settler art and a pair of preserved Tasmanian Devils in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. You can also wander nearby places like the beautiful Theatre Royal which is Australia’s oldest working theatre and is a perfect example of intimacy on a grand scale. By the water at Sullivan’s Cove, the fine Georgian sandstone buildings of Salamanca Place and Constitution Dock look out over the boat-filled port and provide a wonderful atmosphere for diners and walkers.
A quiet night stroll at Salamanca Place. Image from the City of Hobart.
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory
The 1867 Gothic two-story additions to the Campbell home called Duntroon in Canberra. Image from Canberra Times.
Canberra is well-known for the Australian War Memorial, Parliament House, and Lake Burley Griffin. These popular sites showcase the rich history of Australia. Aside from these well-known places, you may wander around different old sites which are of great historical significance, such as the Albert Hall, Duntroon House, the Government House and the High Court of Australia. Learn and get in touch with Australia’s social and political history through a visit to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. And see ancient Aboriginal rock art in nearby Namadgi National Park and Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.
Old Government House, Parramatta, Sydney
Governors of the colony preferred the clean air and space of rural Parramatta to the unsanitary and crime-ridden streets of Sydney Town. Image from the Holiday Inn Parramatta Accommodation.
Parramatta’s collection of colonial heritage sites tells the stories of its struggle and survival. They date back to the 1700s and 1800s and mark the arrival of the British colonialists to a region once inhabited by the Burramatta indigenous clan (Parramatta’s namesake). Many significant properties were protected as the city of Parramatta grew.
These sites have been preserved as museums, churches, protected parkland and monuments and many are now open to visitors. You can see signage that has a description of the building. Standing in 200 acres of the parkland overlooking historic Parramatta is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and Australia’s oldest surviving public building, Old Government House. This place was the residence and offices of 12 prominent governors of New South Wales, from 1788-1856 and contains a major collection of Australian colonial furniture.
Australia is a young country by old world standards, but its history is significant and interesting. Take the time during your trip to Australia to explore it.