Urbex Melbourne (if you don't know, urbex is an amalgamation of "urban" and "exploration") established a Facebook page less than three years ago, but they’ve already documented the best large-scale derelict spaces in Victoria. That’s dozens of properties—from office buildings to quarries—and in doing so they know exactly what the state has to offer in urban exploration.
Like every urbex community around the world, Urbex Melbourne is reluctant to share building names and addresses, or even discuss who’s involved. As an interest group basically built around trespassing, they understandably like to keep a low profile, but they were happy to give some semi-vague recommendations.
We asked about their three favourite abandoned buildings in Victoria. In no particular order, they nominated a coal-fired power station, a 24-story office tower, and an abandoned laboratory. Here we’ll briefly describe those properties, before we hear from the head of Urbex Melbourne.
The Power Station
This is a decommissioned power station that was criticised for its operating costs and environmental impact, before being closed. Virtually left untouched, the tools, machinery and equipment all sit unmoved from the day the place got shut down.
Originally a HIV research centre, this incredible building still had power and running water when it was first explored, however it was heavily vandalised and has since been demolished.
This is located in the centre of Melbourne. It was notoriously difficult to get into, with a single door the only way in and no way of knowing it would open until you got there. It remains abandoned, however new security measures around the exterior have made access pretty much impossible.
VICE: Hey guy from Urbex, why have you nominated these three places?
Guy From Urbex: These places all offered something unique. Whether it was the maze of hallways and catwalks in the power station, or the mass of levels in the CBD tower, each had a wealth of areas to explore. They were all relatively untouched as well, which was quite a bonus.
How did you get access to them?
The tower in the CBD and the lab had already been opened by previous explorers so we found an unlocked door. But with the power station we didn’t really know how to do until we got there, but often the people before you create entrances—which in this case were gaps under the fences. The power station spans about 93 hectares, so it’s one of the largest sites we've ever been to. It took almost three full days to see it all.
How did you find these places?
With all three we just heard about them through other explorers. The power station required a bit of research, as it’s rural and you can’t just drive past and check it out before going in. But by the time we were ready to explore, we already had a fair idea of the size and layout of the place, which made a big difference.
And when exploring these buildings what have you found to be the biggest dilemmas in capturing them?
Often it's just about safety. You just don't know what's around the corner. A couple of times I have stepped on a dodgy patch of ground and have literally fallen through the floor.
What are some tips on getting into a place that’s securely locked up?
It's a combination of persistence and luck. For the tower we happened to know a guy who had been through before and he was able to get us in. In other places you just have to be determined and look for any sort of opening. You have to be willing to climb and fit through tight spaces too! Sometimes you won't find a way in so you keep coming back and checking and eventually there’s an entrance
Which abandoned building will you forever remember as being the most mesmerising experience?
There was this old army base that had been used for weapons manufacturing in the 1900s. It was closed down in the 90s and because it’s such a high profile location, not many people dared to get in. But we explored it and everything was completely frozen in time.
You had these 80-year-old buildings that were untouched by vandalism, and instead were falling apart just through natural decay. The whole place had this amazing atmosphere about it. It was like you weren't even in Melbourne, which was eerie but also kind of peaceful.
Finally, what’s your advice for the budding enthusiast?
My advice would be to simply go out and explore the world. There is so many empty buildings in Melbourne that you're bound to find one if you look long enough. Some of the best places are the ones you find yourself. You just have to be observant.