While suburban housing developments characterise the Cranbourne of today, the original town had a long history, having first been settled in 1836. The region has strong agricultural roots, with a large cattle market established in the area soon after settlement, and more recently, Cranbourne was the location of one of Melbourne's major market gardening industries from the early 1900s. A few of those market gardens still remain, situated south of the city and in the neighbouring communities of Clyde and Devon Meadows.
Cranbourne offers a large and modern commercial centre which lines the wide boulevard of High Street (South Gippsland Highway) and includes the Cranbourne Park Shopping Centre.
Cranbourne has had a long history with the horse racing industry, having held its first meeting in 1867. These days, the modern racecourse and adjoining training complex are popular facilities, hosting the Cranbourne Cup and other carnivals.
One of the major tourist attraction in town is the 363 hectare Royal Botanical Gardens which include wetlands, woodlands, walking tracks, picnic and BBQ areas. The 11 hectare Australian Garden, located within the grounds of the Botanical Gardens, showcase the diverse plants and landscapes of the country.
An unusual attraction within Cranbourne is a meteorite display. Situated within the park on the corner of the South Gippsland Highway and Camms Road (opposite The Settlement Hotel) are full-scale replicas of meteorites that landed in the area in 1860.
Cranbourne is ideally situated just a short drive away from the many coastal attractions of the Mornington Peninsula and Western Port, as well as being on the main route from Melbourne to Phillip Island.