From 1896 to 1944, the crossing between Williams Road in South Yarra and Burley Street in Richmond was served by a ferry boat. For a penny, passengers were rowed across the river in a heavy boat. On this side of the river passengers had to descend a long flight of steps from the top of the hill then cross the swamp on a long wooden board walk. The ferry was then hailed from the Burnley side of the river.
Both Prahran and Richmond Councils shared the expenses for the ferry. In 1896, Prahran council agreed with the Richmond Council in accepting the tender of Mr John Plunket for leasing the Burnley Ferry for the year ending 30th September 1897 for a sum of £13 13s for the year.
The job of the ferry man could be dangerous. Ferry man John Kelly drowned in 1900 while trying to cross the swollen river to collect a passenger from Toorak. In 1906 Hans Nelson drowned when the rope broke, and the boat tipped him out. Hans Nelson, who was a coppersmith, was replacing his brother James Smith, who was the ferryman, for the night the rope broke off.
A few passengers also drowned at or near the ferry over the years.
In 1918, Charles Nelson who was running the ferry, requested the council to close the ferry after nightfall siting only very few people use the ferry after nightfall and his long wait for passengers are useless and unprofitable. His request was agreed to by Richmond Council.
The road improvement eventually made the ferry redundant. By 1934, unemployed workers on sustenance relief had cut through the hill to form Williams Road North and extended Alexandra Avenue as far as Grange Road where it connected with the new Mc Robertson Bridge.