We recently spent a weekend down on the Mornington Peninsula, right on the very tip, past Portsea is Point Nepean National Park.The entrance to Port Phillip Bay was the most heavily fortified ports in the Southern Hemisphere with Colonial and Commonwealth structures from 1880 – 1940s located all around the park. There is also a Quarantine Station which was established in 1852 and was used as such up until 1980. You can walk the length from Gunners Cottage to Fort Nepean (3.8kms) or catch the handy shuttle bus. Past the Cottage there is no transport allowed beside pedestrian and bicycle. The park itself is 560 hectares and has a rich history in shaping early Victorian settlement. In 1967 it was the scene of a baffling mystery involving our then current Prime Minister Harold Holt, who went for a swim and never came back – check out the conspiracy theories, they are quite diverse.
This is an area Moth and I have never been too, although we have made frequent visits over the last 12 months to the Mornington Peninsula, it was one of those places we would visit eventually. Ever noticed how sometimes such a small area can required a huge amount of exploring to uncover all it’s secrets? I have tried to keep photos brief, but there is still a lot, also notice those fluffy white clouds? That’s what stuffed up our astro shoot the night before – no wonder we hardly saw any sky!
This is mid way between the Quarantine Station and Fort Nepean and where you need to leave your car. Some interesting information and photographs contained at the cottage, although not much else, more of a picnic area. There are quite a few walks starting from here; Coastal Walk (500m), Range Area Walk (1.8km) which takes in the former rifle range, Monash Break and you can climb the Monash Light Tower, the range area was used to train cadets for firing rifles, grenades and machine guns. Wilsons Folly is a 1.7km track down to London Bridge, it joins up with the long Coastal Walk from Cape Schanck. From here we caught the shuttle to Fort Nepean.
There is a series of Military fortifications, dating back to 1880s with stunning views of Port Phillip Bay. We explored the extension tunnels, forts and gun emplacements which were actively used during WWI and WWII. It is quite amazing and most of it is quite intact, although the guns have been moved. You can also take a rather long, steep walk down to the Engine Room and explore along the beach line. We then walked the 800m (approx) up to Pearse Barracks, going through an areas called The Narrows, it’s easy to see why, both the Bay and the Ocean are separated by a mere sliver of land, which continually needs re inforcing from the elements, there is a single lane road which services pedestrians and the shuttle bus. We even managed to save the life of a local Blue Tongue Lizard which had wandered across the road from the shuttle bus.
More fortifications and remains of where many of the army personnel stationed at Point Nepean lived. Someone has a sense of humour as there are no walls, but the toilet, showers and even a bed have been replaced (all concrete to survive the extreme weather), giving an idea of the sparse accommodation they endured. There is more stunning views and the Eagles Nest was the site of Australia’s largest disappearing gun
A disappearing gun, a gun mounted on a disappearing carriage, is an obsolete type of artillery which enabled a gun to hide from direct fire and observation. The overwhelming majority of carriage designs enabled the gun to rotate backwards and down behind a parapet, or into a pit protected by a wall after it was fired; a small number were simply barbette mounts on a retractable platform. Either way, retraction lowered the gun from view and direct fire by the enemy while it was being reloaded. It also made reloading easier, since it lowered the breech to a level just above the loading platform, and shells could be rolled right up to the open breech for loading and ramming.
We then jumped on the shuttle bus and got off at the next stop Cheviot Hill, unfortunately we missed the echidna which had wondered across the road between the two stops 😦 by the time we started to wander back it had disappeared again.
Cheviot Hill is the Park’s highest point and contains WWII Fortifications, everywhere there are signs warning people not to leave the marked trail due to unexploded bombs! After the arduous climb to the top it over looks Cheviot Beach, the site of Harold Holt’s disappearance. A memorial is placed 500m up the road. We then caught the shuttle back to Gunners Cottage and walked to the cemetery and onto the coastal walk to Observatory Point where the remains of the old Cattle Jetty can still be seen, as well as what remains of the border fence between the two areas; Defence and Quarantine.
By the time we had explored and investigated most of Point Nepean it was getting quite late and our feet were extremely sore and we were getting really tired. 30 minutes to explore the enormous Quarantine Station would not have done it justice, so we opted to leave it for another day. We love this area and frequent it often, so another trip is definitely on the cards.
On a side note I found this grave in the cemetery, this little girl died over 120 years ago, she drowned in a shipwreck on an immigration boat coming to start a new life in Australia, she was one month old. Sad, but even if she survived she would still have been gone by now. However it struct a chord with someone who left a small teddy bear next to the grave in her memory. The original grave marker, has been replaced, as most of the graves here have, perhaps the harsh environment took it’s toll.
Well that’s about it from here, til next time, happy snapping………..