Williamstown is located at the mouth of the Yarra River where it enters Hobsons Bay and Port Phillip, south-west of the Melbourne city centre.
Originally Melbourne's first sea port, Williamstown has developed from what was a neglected industrialised centre into a popular and fashionable maritime village.
Williamstown's attractive main commercial precinct is located along Ferguson Street and Douglas Parade. Around the corner in Nelson Place is what was originally the town centre, lined with historic buildings which are now restaurants, hotels and galleries.
Williamstown is surrounded on three sides by water. The eastern shoreline consists of foreshore reserves dotted with piers, gardens and remnants of Williamstown's maritime history. Scenic views of Melbourne's city skyline can be enjoyed from Gem Pier where cruises on the Yarra River and the bay depart regularly. The rocky south-eastern coastline consists of open parkland which includes the Point Gellibrand Coastal Heritage Park. This park preserves the cultural heritage of the area with items of significance such as the old Fort Gellibrand military site which was first developed in 1860, and the Timeball Tower which was used by ships for timekeeping and navigation. Along the south-western coastline is Williamstown Beach which consists of a sweeping expanse of sand fronting sheltered swimming waters. Further west is Jawbone Reserve, a coastal wetland conservation area.