Melbourne Star observation wheel closes: Goodbye to the attraction no one asked for

The Melbourne Star has joined the Sydney monorail in the Great Infrastructure Resting Place in the Sky.

Having lived in London and then Singapore, I watched giant observation wheels pop up all over the world but was surprised to hear Melbourne was putting its hand up for one. Situated at Docklands, it was not the world's largest, fastest or most scenic wheel and it brought to mind that line from The Simpsons' monorail episode: "a town with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel – no one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it".

Opened in 2008, the Southern Star, as it was known then, had an inauspicious start and shut just over a month later due to cracks in the structure. It took a further four-and-a-bit years to reopen (and for us to forget about those cracks). When it started up again as the Melbourne Star it seemed like the answer to a question that no one had asked: what does a Costco car park look like from slightly higher up?

You see the thing about an observation wheel is you need something to observe, not just building sites, vacant lots and how slowly time actually passes when stuck on an observation wheel. But there are Southbank balconies, rooftops and possibly basements that have a better view than the dear-departed star, an unavoidably large example of the property adage, location, location, location.

As a newly arrived Melbourne resident, I was invited to ride the wheel years ago by its then PR firm. They asked the whole family and the four of us, and a PR rep, wove our way up to the entry, pausing to take a photo in front of a pretend Melbourne tram façade.

I was writing about the wheel for another tourism dinosaur, the inflight magazine, and while I was not excited by the circular trip at least it would be fun for my boys then aged five and eight.

Up close the size of the wheel is truly impressive, on sheer engineering alone it is well worth a close look.

But my hopes of amusing the kids were dashed when, interrupting a chat I was having with the PR, my youngest tugged my pants leg and loudly exclaimed "Dad, this is boooorring!" before our journey had even hit the halfway mark. Ever since seeing the wheel has reminded me of the most excruciatingly uncomfortable half hour of my travel-writing career.

The Melbourne Star will have happier memories for others, most notably the many proposals that took place there. And there is no denying that at night it was prettier to look at the star than it was to look out from it and I will miss its nocturnal lightshow as I drive over the Bolte Bridge.


The lights may now be off but the fate of the wheel itself is yet to be decided. Will it be sold off and reopened? Dismantled to rest in pieces? It is far too big to just hide across the other side of town like the Yellow Peril.

I have a suggestion.

If you stop lighting the central star formation and instead light up the circumference of the wheel and the attached pods it looks a bit like a giant coronavirus and could signify our fast-approaching global crown as the most locked down city in the world – and the tourism sector that has been knocked for six.

See also: Unbeatable views: The world's 10 best Ferris wheels

See also: Ten of the world's greatest abandoned, unfinished and unused behemoths