Rochelle's mystery tour

Rochelle’s Mystery Tours – The best way to see Melbourne

A sunny autumn morning riding to discover Sandridge’s secrets is what we had in spades in Rochelle’s Mystery Tour. A small group, riding the historical journey enriched our learning in unique ways, with the added bonuses of stunning sea views, nautical breezes, native vegetation, capped off with a workout!

Devised by Rochelle, in partnership with the Social Health & Inclusion Port (SHIP) project and Port Phillip Bike Users Group (BUG), the ride is flat and suitable for people of all ages and ability, approximately 11.5 kms long. Her relaxed approach was genuine: she showed her connection to the suburb, its past, and her desire “to share it with others” in what she has designed to be a self-guided tour.

A handy pocket-size map is passed round as we kick off at the 1918 Women’s Committee rotunda, shorefront. Two hours is the formal time taken but you could easily bring a lunch and pass the entire day following her route, such are the range of delights uncovered. With views of the two major piers, and present era ocean liners, Rochelle leads us into this quaint seaside town’s past, revealing that it had always been dual use- a mix of the industrial with the residential.

We ride to a range of sites, but from whichever position you look, you see its long time links to the sea. This area well balances a mix of locals, visitors, commuters, and tourists, and has a vibrant feel.

As with all situated historical tours, the facts uncovered fascinate. The former ‘Sandridge’ was named in 1839 after its sand dunes and formed the link between inbound ships and the Yarra river leading into Melbourne city and the goldfields beyond. Local indigenous people were painted at beach camps by one of the earliest settlers. As with many of Melbourne’s earliest towns, it was a land grab, first in, best dressed, and this suburb shows a mix of working class cottages, formal Victorian terraces and mansions, and its famous Garden City pocket of low-cost housing.

The piers on the beachfront speak of mass migration. Our ride takes us to the restored Westgate Park (get your selfie here!) with views of the city skyline. Looping back via the former 1920s-’40s ‘Garden City’ housing estate, we pass iconic Bank Houses alongside early public housing, finishing at the old Gasworks coal refinery, now a recreation park and arts zone.

Pausing en route, we learns stacks of facts. Garden City once had three airfields! General Motors had a huge factory, employing thousands. There was once a lagoon in the area. The park where the former railway line ran is itself heritage-listed. We learn of the function of beacons, and what Aussie ‘Trugo’ is by the Trugo clubhouse, all this, while engaging in chats with Rochelle and her encyclopedic knowledge.

You bring your own bike, or borrow one from the nearby Melbourne Blue Bike Station. Bay Street, once the mail run, is full of cafes and it’s a nice finish to chat over a coffee in the lovely seaside air at any one of these.

Sarah Wallace is a dance-trained theatre lover with a flair for the Shakespearean and non-traditional performance forums. On the street or in the box seat, she is always looking for works that push the envelope.

Click here to visit the Port Phillip Bike Users Group page and for more information.
Check out The Australian Heritage Festival for other heritage event details.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were guests of Articulate PR.
Image credit: National Trust of Australia.