“On paper it sounds great but the reality is sterile.” That’s Lonely Planet‘s summation of Melbourne’s Docklands.
Just beginning a second decade, its own website overstates, “From one of Victoria’s first ports to an industrial wasteland in the 1990s, Docklands today is being transformed into a modern residential, commercial and visitor destination in the heart of Melbourne.” Well, it wasn’t much of an attraction for this visitor.
The free City Circle tram makes two stops at Docklands, so Ruth and I decided to jump off and check it out. Granted, we were there during an afternoon with no event in Eithad, a nearby multipurpose venue with over 50,000 seats (!) for sports and entertainment. The only venue of this size in the Southern Hemisphere that has a fully retractable roof (!), Eithad hosts AFL (Australian Football League) matches, cricket, rugby, and Barbra Streisand (!). There was nothing for us to do other than tour a replica of Endeavor, explorer James Cook’s ship, which was in the harbor only until April 29, 2012 (!).
There were few people strolling the boardwalk, and most of the restaurants were closed either for the afternoon or permanently. Harbourtown, Docklands open-air shopping center, was not especially enticing. With store names like Tunzafun, Rainbows, and Bra’s n Things, Harbourtown looked like a not-so-successful venture and I felt sorry for the idle employees. But again, perhaps Tunzafun’s busy on weekends and during events. But I doubt it.
The same general lassitude is also true of Port Adelaide, another victim of overripe promotion. “Take a deep breath of fresh sea air and get ready to experience South Australia’s maritime heartland,” one Adelaide tourist booklet said without the usual exclamation point.
Although it was about half an hour north of Adelaide’s go-go downtown (!), the Port’s description made it sound exciting but, then again, tourist lit always hypes. Dolphins! The finest Victorian buildings in Australia! …climb the old ketch and ride the steam train! ….see live seahorses!
Well, the reality of the place was, The Seahorse Museum had permanently closed, cruise boats didn’t seem to be operating, and the only visitors around in the entire precinct were some not-well-supervised, bored school kids on a field trip. We followed them to The Maritime Museum, which was open, but it looked like a cramped space that no one sane would want to share with a rowdy school crowd, so we skipped it.
In the area were also the Australian Museum of Childhood (!), the National Railway Museum(!) and the South Australia Aviation Museum (!), but we had generally lost interest in Port Adelaide after our walkabout. Adelaide, a tourist guide, described the lighthouse in the picture above as ICONIC! and said about Port Adelaide, “There are great local cafes…and pubs! We even have our own brewery hotel!” No thanks.
Adelaide’s Best Attractions promoted fun and friendly markets! on the first Sunday of each month. So maybe that’s the best time to visit Port Adelaide. It certainly wasn’t on a weekday April afternoon. We left to explore Glenelg (Adelaide’s favorite beach!)