|Melbourne's Yarra River Precinct is tailor-made for short, interesting walks on its three great themes: the arts, maritime heritage, and gardens. Each walk is about 90-120 minutes duration, although the wealth of attractions and points of interest along the way can easily fill-in many hours or an entire day.
The Yarra River Precinct is the hub of Melbourne's artistic and cultural scene. Probably nowhere in the world is there such a concentration of high quality visual and performing arts venues, quite apart from a very generous sprinkling of public art and the exciting architecture on display.
For the Melbourne City Arts Trail, start in Birrarung Marr, the large parkland next to Federation Square.
Map with highlighted locations:
1 The electronically controlled 39 bells of the Federation Field of Bells, installed in 2001, commemorate the Centenary of the federation of Australia.
2 Deborah Halpern's imposing 'Angel' tiled sculpture (sister piece to Ophelia at Southgate) and the Sea Wall are located on the bend in the river.
3 Birrarung Nam (River Camp), a work by Indigenous artists Vicki Couzens, Lee Darroch, and Treahna Hamm that interprets stories from local Indigenous communities.
4 Proceed to the architecturally acclaimed Federation Square, opened in 2002. Don't leave without visiting The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, which houses the world's largest collection of Australian Indigenous art. (Free entry — open daily) Also visit the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), which depicts the development of Australian film as an art form, and includes some exciting contemporary digital art exhibitions to bring you right into the 21st century. (Free entry — open daily). The Koori Heritage Trust's galleries are also well worth a look (Free entry — open daily).
Walk over St Kilda Road at the pedestrian lights and cross Princes Bridge (1888) to the Arts Centre. Walk around the upper level of Hamer Hall, on its river side, to enter Southgate.
5 Explore the series of artworks across all three levels of the complex, including stencil street art by Melbourne artist Be Free, central atrium sculpture 'Riverside Corolla' (2011) by John Meade, and the mosaic-tiled 'Ophelia' (1992) by Deborah Halpern.
6 At river level, stroll to Princes Bridge. The tubular sculpture 'Dervish 1981' is by Australian-American artist Clement Meadmore.
Take the stairs or lift to St Kilda Road.
7 You're now in the hub of Melbourne's arts precinct, comprising Hamer Hall (1982; refurbished 2012) and the lattice-spired Theatres (1984). (You may enter the public areas of the buildings.) Gallery 1 on the ground level of The Theatres displays a rolling program of art exhibitions. Sitting on the lawn between Hamer Hall and the Theatres building is Berlin-born, Melbourne artist Inge King's steel sculpture 'Forward Surge' (1981).
8 The imposing National Gallery of Victoria on St Kilda Road (1967) is the home of the Gallery's international collection, which is regarded as one of the finest in the country. (Free entry open daily)
9 Along Southbank Boulevard you'll find, side-by-side, Melbourne Theatre Company's Southbank Theatre and the Melbourne Recital Centre, with its showpiece Elisabeth Murdoch Hall.
10 Walk about 500 metres along Sturt St to experience the distinctive exterior and interiors of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. (Free entry, open daily). Next door is the Malthouse Theatre, which started life in 1892 as a malting house. Carefully cross the road to inspect Transurban's 'Habitat Filter'.
11 Walk to the river and you will pass the metal sculpture next to the Esso building, 'Shearwater' by Inge King. The polished flat stone sculpture on the grass of Southbank Promenade is 'World Within, World Without' by Helen Bodycomb (2010). It depicts the constellations above Victoria in 2009, when the Prime Minister issued his national apology to the 'Forgotten Australians'.
12 Spanning the river nearby is the 1888 Sandridge Bridge and its movable sculptures 'The Travellers' by Lebanese artist Nadim Karam. They represent the waves of immigration to Victoria since the 1830s. The aboriginal period is represented by the stone and steel sculpture in the Square 'Gayip'.
13 'The Guardians` by Simon Rigg, at the eastern end of Crown Promenade, are carved from Italian statuary marble and are clad with ceramic tiles.
This brochure "Melbourne City River Trails" is available at the Melbourne Visitor Centre at Federation Square.