The historic and colourful Brighton bathing boxes are an iconic tour attraction for visitors.
You can visit Brighton Beach on our Phillip Island tour to marvel at the long row of colourful beach boxes. It is a great spot for photos and it has an interesting history.
From our First Nations peoples living of the bayside land, to European settlers bathing traditions. Then on to today, where the colourful bathing boxes are a major Melbourne attraction for locals and tourists alike.
Read on to find out more about the interesting history of the iconic Brighton Bathing Boxes.
Indigenous Australians in the bayside area
The Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung peoples were the Indigenous Australians who inhabited the area know known as Melbourne. They are the traditional owners of the Yarra River catchment and land surrounding eastern Port Phillip Bay and Western Port.
We recognise their continuing connection to the land and waters, and thank them for protecting this coastline and its ecosystems since time immemorial. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.
These clans of the Kulin Nation have a relationship with the land that extends back tens of thousands of years to when their creator spirit ‘Bunjil’ formed their people, the land and all living things. Their culture and traditions survive amongst people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung today.
European settlement and the construction of the Brighton bathing boxes
In the 1830s groups of pastoral pioneers crossed Bass Strait from Tasmania (known as Van Diemen’s Land at the time) in search of fertile grazing land. It was John Batman’s expedition in 1835 that led the way to the occupation of the area.
From Batman’s colony grew Victoria’s capital city, Melbourne. The Gold Rush of the 1850’s and 60’s brought many more settlers from all over the world. As a result, the city’s population boomed. The wealth from the Gold Rush was all centred around Melbourne, which drew even more migrants to the area.
With the European occupation, came many new traditions. Included in these were the bathing boxes. At the time it was considered inappropriate to change at the beach. As such, many bathing boxes were built on the waters edge at locations around Port Phillip Bay.
In 1906 a tram line was built from Melbourne to Brighton. This triggered a significant increase in applications for Brighton bathing box permits and construction. By the 1930’s likely there were more than 100 bathing boxes in the area.
Moving the Brighton bathing boxes
Around the 1930’s a bluestone promenade was built along the bayside. The City of Brighton responded by planning a break in the promenade at Dendy Street Beach. This was in order to remove or relocate all other bathing boxes to Dendy Street Beach.
In 1934 many of the bathing boxes were moved again back from the high water mark to their present position. It was also around this time the Brighton Bathing Box Owners Association was formed.
Brighton’s bathing boxes today
Today there are almost 90 bathing boxes lining the sand at Brighton Beach. They are privately owned by local residents. As such, in summertime it is common to see the beach and the beach boxes in use.
The bathing boxes are painted in many different colours and different designs. There are some restrictions as to how the boxes can be decorated, but otherwise it is up to the owner to choose. The bathing boxes do not have running water or electricity. In addition you are not allowed to sleep overnight in them.
Mostly the boxes are used to store chairs, beach umbrellas and fishing equipment. Often over summertime a few of the boxes are put up for sale by the owners. In recent years they have attracted record prices. Such as upwards of $300,000 per bathing box.
Visiting Brighton Beach
You can visit Brighton Beach on our Phillip Island day tour from Melbourne. It is our first stop on the tour, just a short drive from the city centre. It is a great place to take photos and scroll along the sand to admire the many different designs.
Brighton Beach is not the only stop on our Phillip Island tour. Here are some of the other highlights:
- Take a guided tour of the award-winning Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park
- Meet and feed a wide range of Australian animals including koalas, wombats, dingoes, and more
- Tour Point Grant for views of the Nobbies and Seal Rocks
- Visit the Penguin Parade to witness thousands of Little Penguins returning from the ocean to their burrows in the dunes
See the full tour details at the bottom of the page or click here for more details.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where is Brighton Beach?
Brighton Beach is located in Brighton, a leafy beach-side suburb nestled 11kms south-east of Melbourne’s CBD.
What are Bathing Boxes?
The bathing boxes were originally built along Brighton’s beaches to allow for modest bathing. At the time changing at the beach was not acceptable. The solution was to have a private bathing box in which to get changed.
Where else can I see bathing boxes near Melbourne?
Melbourne’s Brighton Beach has the largest concentration of bathing boxes in the area. There are almost 90 boxes lined up along the one beach. However, other beaches along the Mornington Peninsula have bathing boxes as well. These can be viewed on our Mornington Peninsula Tour.
Here’s an overview of our Ultimate Mornington Peninsula Tour – including viewing the bathing boxes in the area:
- Explore the coastal enclaves of Portsea and Sorrento, home to Melbourne’s rich and famous
- Visit the Peninsula’s iconic and colourful bathing boxes
- One-way gondola ride on the Arthur’s Seat Eagle
- Chocolate tasting at Mornington Peninsula Chocolaterie
- Optional strawberry picking – Nov to March only
Our Phillip Island Day Tour
Departing Melbourne at around midday, we journey to the city’s most colourful attraction – the iconic Brighton Beach bathing boxes – for an opportunity to visit the beach and take some time to admire these historic landmarks.
Afterwards we visit Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park to take a guided wildlife walk and meet and hand-feed many species of native Australian animals. Learn about iconic species such as kangaroos, koalas, emus, and wallabies, as well as some of our lesser-known favourites including quolls, owls, bandicoots, and Tasmanian devils.
Continuing to Phillip Island, a visit to Point Grant and The Nobbies gives us an opportunity to enjoy views over Westernport Bay and Bass Strait, including Seal Rocks, home to Australia’s largest population of fur seals.
And then it’s onwards to the main event, the Phillip Island penguin tour. Just after dark every night, the world’s smallest penguins waddle ashore after spending the day fishing out at sea. You’ll be truly enchanted as the stars of the show emerge from the surf and pass right before your eyes on their journey back to their homes..
Written by: Leah Furey – Digital Content Coordinator @gowest.com.au