South Yarra may actually be the most unimaginative place name in all of the Greater Melbourne Region, but it was not always thus. When the name was first applied, and the course of the Yarra north of the Yarra Bend in Kew was largely unknown, it referred to the whole area between the Yarra and the sea. (It also included Coode Island, which now lies north of the river.) This area was roughly the same as that of the tribal lands of the Boonwurrung, one of the Kulin peoples who occupied most of the land that is now Melbourne.
As the slow process of exploring the river’s headwaters progressed over the years, the area called South Yarra continued to expand, eventually covering an area bounded by Healesville, Port Melbourne and Tooradin, and encompassing all the land on that side of the Yarra and stretching south along the Dandenong Ranges in the east, while following the line of the coast in the west.
But over the years, pieces of it would be parceled off and given other names, slowly reducing the once vast region of South Yarra to the comparatively tiny vestige of it that remains today. Still, that’s a better fate than the now completely lost name of North Yarra, the area once occupied by the Woiwurrung, and now like them, almost entirely gone.
Suburbs near South Yarra: