Situated at the heart of Geelong, Eastern Beach Reserve is home to boardwalk, shark proof – enclosed sea bath, Children’s Pool, floating islands and playgrounds. The facilities here make it ideal for a family outing. It has safe swimming areas patrolled by lifeguards during summer, picnic tables and BBQ facilities, public toilets and plenty of parking. Above all, this reserve with the look of an upper-class resort is free to enter and enjoy.
Situated at the shores of Corio Bay, the swimming enclosure is a wooden structure complete with shark gate sweeps and encloses in half circle an area of around 8.5 acres of sea water. This swim enclosure has diving boards and floating islands. Eastern Beach was fully restored in the 1990’s as a part of Geelong Waterfront precinct rejuvenation plan.
Eastern Beach Kiosk, the 1930’s red brick art deco kiosk building is heritage listed. In 2018, Mulburry Group which is behind some of Melbourne’s popular cafes – Higher Ground, Kettle Black and Top Paddock took a ten-year lease to run the restaurant at the building.
East side of the parkland has a large playground for children.
The Iconic Spanish Staircase connects the eastern beach to the Eastern Beach Road above.
In the mid 1990’s local artist Jan Mitchell created and installed 107 bollards at Geelong Waterfront between Rippleside and Limeburners Point, which became a major tourist attraction. Eastern Beach also got a fair share of them. The travelling Ferry Wheel that calls the Eastern beaches home during the summer months, offers spectacular views of the area.
The Eastern Beach reserve also becomes the hotbed of celebrations during New Year’s Eve and Australia Day. Major events like 2000 Olympic Games Torch Relay and the 2006 Commonwealth Games Baton Run also took place at the reserve.
History of Eastern Beach Reserve
The area of eastern beach and surrounding planes were considered as an eyesore with steep cliffs from the boundary of the town running into the shores of Corio Bay. But the beach area was popular since the 1840’s for its public bathing enclosures, segregated by gender.
Beautification plans proposed in 1914 included, land reclamation and flattening of the cliffs along the beach. The length of the eastern foreshore to be beautified extended from Bellarine Street. The scheme consisted mainly of reclaiming 10 acres of sea frontage providing a concrete wall to retain fillings. A paddling pond and an amusement reserve were also part of the plan. The work began in September 1927.
The Argus on Wed 29 Mar 1939, published a story on the opening of the enclosed Swimming area and it goes as follows,
“The new enclosed swimming area, on the eastern foreshore, constructed by the city council at a cost of £12,000, was officially opened this afternoon by the Acting Mayoress (Miss M. Jacobs). The Mayor (Councillor Jacobs) said that the council had spent in all about £40,000 on eastern beach works. Miss Jacobs cut a ribbon across the entrance to the pool with a pair of silver scissors presented to her by the contractor Mr. C. E. Prentice.
The pool which embraces a children’s paddling pool has an area of about eight acres. It is semicircular in shape, and at the top of the arch has an Olympic swimming area of 165ft by 50ft. An eight-foot promenade surrounds the pool, and a lower promenade is provided for swimmers. Near the swimming area is space sufficient for 500 people to watch races.”
The transportation needs were taken care by extending the tramline along Brougham Street to Bellerine Street and was opened to public in 1940. All of Geelong’s tram lines were replaced by buses in 1956. Today Geelong has no trams.
Another attraction at the beach is the Cranes and the Fountain. The cranes at the fountains are lookalikes of the original statues which are about 90 years old and currently up at the Botanic Gardens.
The Cranes were originally at St Albans Homestead at Whittington, a single storey 30-roomed brick mansion, which was erected in 1873 for noted racehorse breeder and trainer James Wilson. The cranes ride on the backs of dragon tortoises. After Wilson’s death the 330-acre St Albans Park property was subdivided, and A.W. Jones bought some blocks of land initially and later purchased the rest and ran it as a dairy farm. In 1926, when it was sold to Mr H.G. Raymond, Jones transferred the Cranes to his residence at Garden Street in Geelong. Cr Francis Ritchie, the initiator of Eastern Beach Reserve project persuaded Jones to sell the cranes at a nominal price of £25 for the beach project. In the late 1970’s, When the statues became a regular target of vandals, they were transferred to Geelong Botanic Gardens and was replaced by imitation statues of more durable material.
A section of Victoria Tce near the Eastern Beach was renamed as Ritchie Boulevard in 1956 by Geelong City Council, as a tribute to the man who fought for, and won, Geelong’s famous Eastern Beach foreshore playground. Cr. Francis Ritchie was Mayor of Geelong in 1924 and 1925. The council also erected 12 ornamental concrete light standards, with one bearing a bronze plaque in memory Cr Ritchie.
From the 1970’s onwards, Eastern beach experienced a reduction in patronage as more and more entertainment options became available for public. It fell into disrepair and in 1993, the City of Greater Geelong decided to completely restore Eastern Beach. The Children’s pool was rebuilt in 2011 as it had reached end of its serviceable life.