The first Europeans to visit the area were; the Surveyor Charles Grimes, who, in 1805 travelled some way up the Maribyrnong river and in 1824 the explorers Hume and Hovell passed through what is now Cairnlea and Deer Park on their way south.
Here’s an excerpt from Hovell’s journal.
Note the glowing terms he uses to describe the landscape.
Tuesday, 14th December
Mr. Hume ascended a high but single hill (Mt Beveridge), in front, from which we saw a very gratifying sight. This was a very extensive plain, extending from west to S.E. for several miles with patches of forest, which appear to separate one plain from another. But the whole appeared in front, say, south, to be level, but in parts in the plains, some hills rose, of conical shape, with only here and there a few trees upon them, and all of the soil of the best quality. At eight miles we had got to the entrance of a forest and continued till we got to another hill (Gellibrand Hill) from which we had another gratifying sight. This was plains and open forest, the latter serving to give the former a more beautiful appearance.They stretched beyond the reach of the eye and as far as we could see with the spy-glass, say, from S.E. to west, and the land fell with a gradual descent towards the south. Never did I behold a more charming and gratifying sight, at least not where it is in its natural state. I have travelled from Launceston to Hobart Town, but in the whole distance, I do not recollect seeing any one place where it can at all be compared with the spot we have passed and this before us. It perhaps may be supposed that I speak interestedly, or beyond what it really deserves, but that is not the case. I am always anxious to confine myself as near to truth as possible, and in this case in particular, as someday not far distant it might be proved that I had pictured it beyond what it deserved, thereby making me ashamed of what I had made public. After descending from the hill we went in search of water for ourselves and cattle, but we had to travel twenty-one miles from where we started this morning before we succeeded in getting any, it being nearly sundown before we arrived at the creek.
Wednesday, 15th December
As the cattle were very much fatigued from yesterday’s journey, we did not start till after breakfast, half past 8 o’clock, and having kept a course about S.S.W. four miles, we came to a very deep creek, (Maribyrnong River at Keilor) which I suppose, lower down, becomes a river.
From where we now are (Keilor Downs), we can see at least fifty miles in any direction. It is all plains and small forests around. The whole is easy travelling. Should I be asked if I should, or would, come to reside here, which is usually the question first asked when recommending any place, my answer would be, yes, provided encouragement is given to me, as is usually given to gentlemen coming to reside among us as settlers under this Government. I have been endeavouring to bring to recollection a resemblance of this country to some counties in England, and of those I have seen the nearest of any which I can bring to mind is that of the County of Norfolk. That is supposed to be the most level county, and has the best soil; and this at first view would appear level, but after observing it closely you may perceive the gradual descent.
Following this they crossed the Werribeee river at Cobbledick’s Ford and made their way toward Geelong. They refer to the You Yangs, which they called Mount Wollstonecraft and that the local Wathaurong people call Wibamanharter.
John Batman arrived in the 1830’s and within a few years the area was overrun by several million sheep, which soon destroyed much of the original vegetation and the original inhabitants.