One of Geelong's most-popular picnic venues and waterbird havens was once an unattractive patch of swampy riverside land.
In fact, around 30 years ago, much of the land beside the Barwon River was regarded as either swamp or industrial zones. Down the decades, woollen mills, tanneries, paper mills and a host of other factories came and went beside the river.
Today, most of the industry has gone and efforts to beautify the river's banks and floodplains continue, returning the land to the people as parks and walking/running/cycling paths.
One of the earliest rejuvenation projects proposed to create a bird haven and picnic ground on the Newtown side of the river, beside Princes Bridge. It involved draining the swamp, deepening the lake, tree plantings and significant landscaping of the area. It also created three islands, two of which are linked by bridges. The third is a nesting place for the native birds.
The project, covering nine hectares, was completed in 1972, and also provided excellent picnic facilities among the gum trees. Among the birds you will see are swans, pelicans, Eurasian coot, dusky moorhen, Pacific black duck, mallard, pied cormorant, geese and silver gulls.
The land has a long connection with Geelong's early European settlement with the town's first police magistrate, Captain Foster Fyans, once owning it. He built his home, "Balyang", there.
Riverside walking/bike paths link Balyang Sanctuary with other parks along the Barwon River.
The sanctuary is located at the river end of Shannon Avenue, Newtown, beside Princes Bridge. Nearby are Balyang Par 3 golf course, Yollinko Park and Leech Wood Gardens. Balyang Sanctuary has picnic areas and toilets.