State Library Victoria > La Trobe Journal

No 74 Spring 2004


Front cover of Picturesque Warrnambool. 1891. *LT 994.5 V66 vol. 6. La Trobe Rare Books Collection.


Michael Aitken
‘In and About the Colony’:
Early Tourist Guides of Victoria

When A Melbourne printer published a Guide for Excursionists from Melbourne in 1868 he was able to claim that it was ‘the first attempt at publishing, in this shape, some account of what may be seen in and about the colony’. Practical guides for immigrants to Melbourne and the Victorian goldfields had been published in the middle of the nineteenth century, but they were essentially utilitarian in nature, as the leisured tourist in Australia had not yet appeared. It is probably at least partly due to the wealth Victoria derived from the gold discoveries that tourism began to emerge in the later decades of the century. During the 1860s simple travel guides to many of our provincial towns and holiday resorts became available to those who could afford a vacation or a day excursion. These guidebooks appear to have been more common in Victoria than elsewhere in Australia.
There is much variation, but typically these booklets were produced in printed-paper wrappers, with between 20 and 100 pages. Advertising was a feature and often there were as many pages of advertisements as of factual text. Some were probably issued free; others were threepence, sixpence or one shilling. Others again were much more extensive and were published in book form with cloth bindings. Undoubtedly, the advertising for hotel accommodation, transport services and local business subsidised the printing costs.
These guides mostly were ephemeral, and very few have survived. All are uncommon on the book market, and some are quite rare. The State Library of Victoria has an excellent holding but nevertheless lacks a few of the scarcer items. Ferguson, in his Bibliography of Australia, seems to have had difficulty in describing many of these guides because the bibliographic details are often haphazard. In this brief survey, describing a selection of items from my own collection, I shall attempt to give an outline of our early tourist industry, and more especially to focus on the richness of some of the published material of the period.
The Guide for Excursionists from Melbourne, which H. Thomas printed and published in 1868, is not typical, in that it is much more extensive than most, comprising 256 pages of text, more than 50 pages of advertisements and a few blanks for written notes. It normally appears in green cloth with rustic gilt lettering OUTS on the front cover. The ‘outs’ were outings, which included fishing, picnicking, shooting, riding and rambling around the suburbs and in the more distant regions of the state. James Hingston, one of the main contributors to this guide, carefully describes ‘Twelve Drives’ including an excursion to the eastern suburbs:
Today we drive down Nicholson St, with the Carlton Gardens on our left, until we reach Johnston Street; turning down which, to the right, we make for the bridge which, at the other end of it, spans the Yarra. On the further side, we enter a cutting, and are in the romantic ground called Studley Park. […] We get out of Studley Park into Kew; and, crossing where the cross roads meet, make
for the road opposite. Going a short way up this, we take the first turning to the right, and are on the high Nunnawading Road, – a nice, smooth one for many miles up. Where the road ends, we find a fit termination in an unexpectedly nice hotel called the ‘White Horse’….
By the middle 1870s the seaside had become a major tourist attraction. In 1874 Henry Cordell produced the delightful Illustrated Handbook of the Bay: For those seeking recreation during the summer months. This booklet features a number of woodcut illustrations and a map showing various beach resorts around Port Phillip Bay. We learn that to go to Mordialloc:
The best route for visitors, not travelling in their own conveyance, is by train to North Brighton station, thence by coach to Mordialloc, direct to Bloxidge's Hotel. Any one travelling in their own conveyance will find the best route to be by the Point Nepean road, through Cheltenham.
And for Dromana:
The means of communication with the city are perfect. A daily mail, and a local telegraph office, brings the place, figuratively, within speaking distance of Melbourne, while a daily coach conveys passengers, via Schnapper Point, to the city in a few hours. During the bathing season a steamer plies regularly to and from Dromana; excursion tickets, available for one month, being issued throughout the season.
A similar small publication by Cordell in the same year, titled Queenscliffe: How to see it, includes details of accommodation, the sights and climate. The advertisements are always interesting. To travel there from Melbourne by steamer, visitors could take the ‘Queenscliffe’, in which ‘the Saloon and Fore Cabin are roomy and well furnished with an Excellent Table, and Refreshments are supplied at a Moderate Charge’. Or alternatively: ‘Passengers desiring Speed, Safety and Punctuality, with first-class Refreshments at Moderate Charges', are invited to patronise the “Williams”.’ An announcement at the beginning of the booklet indicates that for the Queenscliffe Public Baths ‘The Bathing Hours are arranged so as to accommodate Ladies and Gentlemen; and will be denoted by a White Flag for Ladies, and a Red Flag for Gentlemen.’ These small guides are sometimes exceedingly scarce, and State Library does not appear to hold an original copy of this item.
A true rarity, again published in 1874, is A Guide to Sorrento, printed by Stillwell and Knight of Collins St East. This pamphlet includes numerous testimonials for Sorrento as a health resort. Ernest Carter, a Melbourne dentist, was confident that the naturally-occurring lime of Sorrento would be beneficial for the teeth of young people. The notable Melbourne surgeons, James Beaney and John Blair, believed that the Sorrento air and scenery would assist their invalid patients in recovery.
Geelong is another area for which there are a number of early tourist booklets, perhaps the most appealing being the Visitors' Illustrated Guide to Geelong, 1879, ‘penned and pencilled by R. C. Q’. This guide, which was issued at one shilling, contains several very attractive lithographs. Similarly attractive is The Tourists' Guide to Geelong and the Southern Watering Places. (Melbourne, c. 1892). The one copy I have seen (which happens to be in the State Library) is so fragile that it now exists in a number of carefully preserved fragments. It contains a delightful advertisement for the Bay View Temperance Hotel:
This Hotel, which indeed partakes rather of the nature of a Superior Private Boarding Establishment, instead of the commonly met with so-called “Temperance Hotels”, is situated in one of the most salubrious and sight-pleasing positions in the town of Geelong, being on the rise of the hill ascending from the Bay, and standing at the corner of Bellerine and Corio streets […]
With the advent of the present proprietress, the house has been thoroughly renovated; and the whole of the furniture was renewed at considerable expense, combined with taste and a view to comfort. The cuisine is by no means one of the least praise-worthy points in the general conduct of the Hotel; the table always bearing ample testimony to this fact. All visiting this Hotel during the holiday season, or, indeed, at any portion of the year, may be sure of receiving every attention and all the comforts of a refined home.
From Geelong we naturally pass on to Lorne but not by the route we would normally take today. The La Trobe Collection has two differing copies of a small book bound in red boards and gilt-titled ‘Beauties of Lorne’. One copy has a folding strip of illustrations of Lorne. A drop-title, Lorne: the Australian Torquay by James Hingston, is followed by twenty-one pages of text and advertisements. There is then at page 25, a drop-subtitle, Lorne, a Seaside Sketch by Wm. Little (Ballarat), and further description continuing through to page 43 which is dated 1879 (in one copy only). There are colophons for F. W. Niven of Ballarat at page 22 and page 44.
In Hingston's account he left Melbourne at 6 am and travelled by train via Geelong Junction to Winchelsea where he arrived at 9.30 a.m. A Cobb & Co. coach took him on a very rough ride through the Otways via Dean's Marsh to Lorne, where he lodged at the Grand Pacific. Hingston notes that the amenities of this great hotel included gas lighting, telephones and electric bells. By contrast, William Little stayed at the more modest, but very popular Mountjoy's (Erskine House). Both accounts give a good picture of Lorne long before the time of the Great Ocean Road and motor transport.
A Trip to Portland: The Watering Place of the West, Melbourne, 1880, is a typical guide for this period. Portland could be reached by train from Melbourne in 12 hours for 45 shillings ($4.50). Alternatively, a more leisurely sea voyage with calls at Warrnambool and Belfast (Port Fairy) took about 24 hours but cost only ten shillings ($1.00). Again, the various attractions of the town and district are described; but conservationists today would be alarmed by a comment in regard to caves known as the Bats Ridges on the way to Bridgewater:
And here the curious in such matters may explore to their hearts' content, sometimes even lose themselves, and take away a cargo of stalactites and stalagmites if their horses have no objection.
By far the most spectacular, and one of the rarest of these guides is Picturesque Warrnambool, edited by H. W. Davis, and printed and published in 1891 by F. W. Niven & Co. of Ballarat. This guide was unknown to Ferguson, and therefore warrants further description. It is a small folio production in coloured pictorial wrappers. There are 37 pages of text and 34 pages of advertisements, many of which are in brilliant colour. In addition, there are 8 sepia lithographic plates of views around Warrnambool. The text covers all the sights and

Front cover of Guide to Ballarat. 1890. Copy in possession of Michael Aitken.

activities that could have engaged a visitor. It is odd that such a lavish production was made for Warrnambool, a town that never really developed as a major tourist destination.
There was a range of tourist guides produced in this period for the obvious provincial cities and towns. Ballarat is represented by several published by F.W.Niven & Co, a firm whose printing style was particularly suitable for this kind of publication. Earlier, James Curtis had published The Visitor's Guide-Book to Ballarat in two editions and late in the century (1898) there appeared Coulthard's Illustrated Guide to Ballarat and District, which is so rare as to not be noted by Ferguson beyond the Mitchell Library copy. For some strange reason there does not appear to be much in the way of the typical tourist guidebook for Bendigo (or Sandhurst as it was known for some of this period).
Daylesford had become a fashionable health resort on account of its mineral springs, and again there are several guides, including Daylesford and its Surroundings by ‘A Wanderer’, Melbourne, 1885, with four tipped-in lithographs by the publisher, Troedel and Co.
Gippsland was a relatively less developed part of Victoria in the nineteenth century. The principal tourist attractions were in the region of Sale and Bairnsdale, but travel from Melbourne by road was extremely difficult due to the ‘gluepots’ in the middle section and the mountainous terrain beyond. The extension of the ‘iron horse’ to Sale in 1877 made a holiday visit feasible. The rail journey took about six hours and a similar time was needed to do the sixty-mile steamer trip through the Lakes to Bairnsdale.
J. B. Howie compiled The Tourists' and Sportsman's Guide to the Gippsland Lakes and Surrounding Country. This was printed and published in Sale around 1880 for the Lakes' Navigation Company which, as owner of the steamers, supported all the relevant guidebooks. Howie's account takes the visitor through the Lakes to Bairnsdale and then up the Tambo River towards Bruthen where a trip to the Buchan Caves could be arranged. There are a detailed map and a number of illustrations and many advertisements.
Prior to Howie's guide, J.W.Baker had published The Tourists' Guide to Gippsland and its Lakes, a much more basic pamphlet of just six pages of text and a large folding map on linen. (Only the third edition has been noted.) His description finishes with a note that ‘Comfortable hotels are to be met with on the journey, and the angler, tourist, and artist can find abundant enjoyment to their respective tastes.’
From 1882 onwards there appeared at least three editions of Our Trip to Gippsland Lakes and Rivers by ‘Tanjil’. A number of contributors added information on the early history of the Lakes and the surrounding areas. This is a very comprehensive work, eventually running to 99 pages of text plus numerous advertisements and including the same coloured folding map seen in Howie's guide. ‘Tanjil’ is full of praise for the mission stations of Ramahyuk and Lake Tyers, both for their educational standards and the general demeanour of the Aborigines. However, in regard to our native fauna, it is disappointing to read that lyrebirds offer good game for the sportsman.
By the last years of the nineteenth century the North-East country and the Victorian Alps were opening up for visitors. Consequently the Illustrated Guide to Beechworth and Vicinity was published in 1892. It comprised 54 pages of text and advertising, and twelve photo-printed plates. The author describes the attractions and peacefulness of Beechworth. It is pointed out that the busy Melbourne merchant could depart the city on the 4.55 p.m. train to arrive in Wangaratta at 9.16 p.m. take the connecting train to Beechworth and be in bed by midnight.
Around the same time there appeared one of the most attractive booklets in the genre, the Illustrated Guide to the Australian Alps and Buffalo Ranges. This was printed in Bright and published by the recently formed Bright Alpine Club, making a very appealing provincial imprint. The cover depicts two elegantly attired mountaineers, perhaps more ready to ascend the Matterhorn than Mount Feathertop. There are 72 pages of text including advertisements, a map and a plan, and six charming lithographic plates, which had been produced from photographs by Nicholas Caire. (A second edition of this work appeared in 1897, but it suffers by comparison because the illustrations are inferior photogravures rather than lithographs. However, perhaps reflecting the Depression that had overtaken the colony, this second edition could be bought for sixpence, compared with the shilling charged for the first edition.) This guide gave careful details of walking and riding trips in the Alps and the means by which visitors could organise themselves in summer and winter. It was long before the introduction of ski-ing but snow-shoes were recommended for winter walking. If time permitted the tourist could travel across the Alps by coach from Bright, staying at Boustead's on the first night, then crossing Mt Hotham and going on to Omeo for the following night. On the next day another coach went on to Bairnsdale, and subsequently a steamer would convey the tourist across the Lakes to Sale to meet the train to Melbourne.
There were of course a number of guides to Melbourne itself. These would have been needed by visitors from the country and interstate, and perhaps occasionally by international visitors, particularly at the time of the Melbourne International Exhibitions of 1880 and 1888. De Gruchy and Leigh's Strangers' Guide to Melbourne, Descriptive, topographical and social was issued in 1866 in several variants. A ‘complete copy’ would ideally include four lithographic plates and a map, but I am yet to see such a copy. The compilers commence the guidebook with a tour around the city and in regard to the Melbourne Public Library (now the State Library of Victoria) it is stated
Access to it is entirely unrestricted, the student or visitor being at liberty to remove the books he desires to consult from the shelves without the intervention of the employes. Happily, this inestimable privilege has been abused to a very slight degree.
(However a copy of this very book, donated to the Library by the publishers in 1866, has unfortunately lost its front wrapper, some preliminary leaves and the map, if it was ever present.) De Gruchy and Leigh's publication seems to have metamorphosed into

Front cover of Illustrated Handbook of the Bay. 1874–1877. *LTP 919.450431 IL6C. La Trobe Rare Books. The Library's catalogue record includes a link to a 6.8 MB, PDF version of this pamphlet.

H. Thomas's Guide to Melbourne and Suburbs, Descriptive, topographical and social, being the Strangers and Visitors Vade Mecum of 1873, and this was enlarged again in 1878. Ferguson overlooks most of these issues but they are certainly sources of valuable information. It was the ephemeral nature of these early guides which has made them so uncommon today.
Massina's Guide to Melbourne was a similar publication for the visitor with at least five issues over the following decade. The 1879 issue included hotel tariffs. We learn that, for a week's board and lodging, the top hotels like the Menzies and Scotts charged up to five guineas ($10.50). These hotels were favoured by the squatters and their families while Asche's Union Club Hotel was especially frequented ‘by the wool kings of the Western District’. At the other end of the scale the Duke de la Victoria charged about $2 per week and was the ‘house of call for equestrian and circus people generally.’
Wimpole's Visitors Guide to Melbourne, 1881, was a more substantial item, published in cloth, rather than paper wrappers. It was sponsored by Frederick Wimpole, the proprietor of the George Hotel in St. Kilda, who in his introduction states:
This “Guide” will be presented to every visitor to the ‘George’ Hotel, and copies will be placed for distribution on board all the Intercolonial and British steamers, as also at the chief hotels on the mail routes, and in those of the adjoining colonies. The book, too, will be found on the tables of the great hotels of European capitals, but the proprietor will, at all times, be pleased, on request, to post copies to intending visitors from any part of the world.

Daylesford and its surroundings. 1885. *LTP 919.453 W18D. La Trobe Rare Books. The Library's catalogue record includes a link to a 5 MB, PDF version of this pamphlet.

Wimpole reproduces J. Hingston's ‘Twelve Drives from Melbourne’ with some updating. As expected, he advocates starting tours from St Kilda, with a view to having visitors lodge at his hotel.
The last guide I want to describe is again more of a book than an ephemeron, but still uncommon enough to have been missed by Ferguson. It is the very desirable Visitor's Guide to the Upper Yarra and Fern Tree Gully Districts, printed and published by Massina and Co. in 1888 for one shilling. There are 12 maps and detailed descriptions of the holiday destinations east of Melbourne. It was published at the time the railway was being constructed between Ringwood and Fern Tree Gully, and the Dandenongs were beginning to be appreciated as a great recreational resort. Incredibly, there were already proposals to build cable tramways from Bayswater to Sassafras, and from Oakleigh to Fern Tree Gully.
My focus has been on late nineteenth century-guidebooks because these constitute a distinct and appealing group. This was the era before the arrival of the motor car which was to completely change the experience of tourism in the twentieth century. It was also the period before photography was widely available. A little guidebook was sometimes kept as a simple souvenir of a holiday or an excursion: the illustrations, by way of lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings, were more attractive than the primitive photo-printings which were to emerge at the turn of the century. There were many other ways of presenting tourist information, including newspapers, magazines and books by visiting travellers. However, it is the rare ephemeral guidebooks that are of very special interest. Some titles may yet to be uncovered, and no doubt others have disappeared forever.