Tourist guide: ATP Altona
Going to All Tomorrow’s Parties in February? Make sure you read our tourists’ guide to Altona, the jewel in the crown of Melbourne’s outer-west.
There was a time when Altona was best known for its petrochemical storage plant and drive-by shootings. These days, however, the “Sorrento of the Outer West” is home to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her partner Tim Mathieson, is only the 131st most burgled suburb of Melbourne, has its own blog and next February will host the long awaited return of All Tomorrow’s Parties.
Positioned 13-kilometres south-west of Melbourne’s CBD, Altona proper has a population of 10,000 and (according to Wiki) is “one of only two swimming beaches in the western suburbs”. So if you have invested tickets to attend I’ll Be Your Mirror, why not make a weekend of it and discover the area’s hidden gems? Here’s our handy guide.
Where is Altona
Getting to know the venue
In the great tradition of ATP venues, I’ll Be Your Mirror will happen across two “non traditional” venues: a reception centre and an entertainment and sporting complex that was once host to Melbourne’s infamous “Every Picture Tells A Story” raves of the early 90s.
GRAND STAR RECEPTION CENTRE
According to the website GSR was the winner of the 2006 Australian Achiever Award for best function centre and features three elegantly appointed dining rooms: “The Imperial Room, “The Venus Room” and “The Starlight Room”.
The Imperial Room
Modelled on a 3000-year-old palace, it has a soft pastel theme and traces of gold and burgundy to follow the classic style of a Palace Ballroom. Features include a large parquetry dance floor, a grand curved staircase, a central main stage area and its own bar.
The Venus Room
Elegantly styled and finished in soft blue pastels and silver hues, it has a seated capacity of 220 patrons, boasting a parquetry dance floor, a stage and its own bar.
The Starlight Room
The smallest of all the rooms it was “designed to represent a clear night sky”. Features include bronzed walls and an undulating ceiling covered with down lighting.
The Cruiser Bar
Otherwise known as “The Party Room”, it features a Billiard table, bar and big screen TV.
WESTGATE SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE
The Westgate Entertainment Centre, also known as the Westgate Sports & Leisure Complex (or just “Westie” to locals), is home to a shopping complex, a rock climbing wall, and indoor tennis and volleyball facilities and plenty more sporting activities. Sadly, the sporting activities will not be available on the weekend of the festival, so there will be no abseiling while singing along to My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Soon’.
Things To do in Altona
Altona Minature Railway
Open every 3rd Sunday (11am-4pm) the Altona railway stretches over a leisurely 1.5-kilometres of track. Shunning inflated “inner-city” price structures, it’s only $2.50 per ride or 11 rides for $25. Babies under 12 months ride free, but make sure you bring ear muffs for later.
Visit the Prime Minister’s House
While we are not quite sure of the address, her neighbour Charles Wang told the Hobson’s Bay Leader: “When you see the federal police cars, you know that she is home.”
The Altona Mural
Painted by local artist Vladimir Bykovec in 2009 the Altona Mural depicts life “in and around Altona” from settlement to present day.
Upon closer inspection it is evident the artist not only predicted the settlement of Julia Gillard but also the arrival of ATP in Altona North.
Since undergoing an official name change from “Flood Retarding Basin” to “Cherry Creek” this coastal wetlands has become a popular Altona recreational space attracting anglers and kite-surfers.
Truganina Explosives Reserve
Since being transformed from a fenced-in area used for the storage of explosives and chemical landfill, and following extensive works to remove contaminated soil, the TER is now open as a nature park to visitors. It’s home to three bird species, four bat species, eight types of mammals and two types of reptiles.
Altona Gate Shopping Centre
The four level sub-regional centre incorporates a car park and gymnasium at basement level with three floors of retail trading, including late night shopping on Thursday and Friday. Major anchors include Coles supermarket (13 aisles) Safeway (seven aisles) and Best and Less. It also featured prominently in the short lived Channel Ten comedy series, The Wedge.
Located near the Altona pier Seaborn is “a harmonious arrangement of five bronze marine creatures” including cuttlefish, weddy sea dragon, leatherjacket.
The Altona Pier is a popular fishing spot for local anglers who compete to get their hook into one of areas vast array of marine life including but not limited to: jelly blubber, snapper, gummy shark, toadfish, stingray, weedy seahorse, leatherjacket fish and the thresher shark. Julia and Tim have also been known to take a stroll down the jetty at sunset.
Requiem for a Champion
Created by artist Yvonne George this four-metre sculpture was installed at Altona Coastal Park as a historical marker to commemorate the location of this once third largest racecourse in Victoria at which, it is believed, Phar Lap once ran.
Fun Fact about Altona
It has its own species of butterfly: The Altona Skipper aka the hesperilla flavescens flavescens waterhouse. For those without a degree in lepidopterology, it’s a genetically isolated sub-species of the skipper butterfly, and is the only yellow form of this insect. It’s endangered, so watch where you sit.
It’s even on the Altona mural:
ATP ‘Ill Be Your Mirror’ will take place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th February.