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Mornington, VIC

Major daytripper and holiday destination on the Mornington Peninsula

Located on the Mornington Peninsula, Mornington overlooks Port Phillip Bay. It is a combination of a day tripper destination, a southern commuter belt suburb, a holiday location beside the bay and a place for retirees. Historically it was a quiet village but in recent times it has become suitably urbane with over 370 retail outlets including a large number of cafes and restaurants as well as boutiques and designer stores.
Sailing is popular and there’s a marina where you can dine overlooking the water or fish off the pier. On the eastern side of Schnapper Point is the sheltered Mothers Beach and Scout Beach, while Shire Hall Beach and Mills Beach with it’s very popular bathing boxes are located further east along the coast; all perfect for swimming. Around a kilometre south of Schnapper Point is Fisherman’s Beach which ends at the scenic rocky outcrop of Linley Point where there are boat ramps and scenic viewing spots.
The Esplanade, a beautiful walk along the shoreline, passes a series of small, attractive bays and safe beaches which extend from Mt Martha in the south to Mt Eliza in the north. To the south of Schnapper Point are Fishermans Beach, where there is a boat-launching ramp; Fossil Beach, where 25-million-year-old fossils have been found; and Mt Martha Beach. To the north are Sunnyside Beach and Ranelagh Beach.


Mornington is located 72 km south of Melbourne's CBD via the M1 and M3.


Origin of Name

The settlement was officially named Mornington in 1864 after the Earl of Mornington, the son of the Duke of Wellington who had won against Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.


Things to See and Do

The Shoreline at Mornington
Part of the appeal of the towns along the shores of Port Phillip lies in their beautiful beaches, their leisurely coastal walks and their easy access to swimming and boating options. In the case of Mornington, Schnapper Point has a boardwalk overlooking Mornington Pier and Harbour where there is a yacht club and a boat-launching ramp. The jetty, first established in the 1850s, was used for trade with Melbourne and, later, used by holiday-makers eager to escape the city.

Tall Ship Enterprize
Located at Mornington Pier, just beyond the marina, is the replica of John Pascoe Fawkner's Schooner Enterprize - the ship that sailed from Van Diemen's Land in 1835 with the first permanent white settlers who established the first European colony on Port Phillip - a colony which eventually became Melbourne.​ The vessel offers two experiences - a one hour sail during the day and a 90 minute sail in the evening. The vessel sails during daylight hours on the third Sunday of the month and usually at 11.00 am, 12.30 pm and 2.30 pm. The evening cruise, which also departs from Gem Pier, usually departs at 6.00 pm on Saturdays during daylight saving times. For more detailed information check out https://www.enterprize.org.au.

Mornington Historical Walk
There is an excellent, and very detailed, overview of the main historic buildings in the town at http://www.discovermorningtonpeninsula.com.au/sightseeing/mornington-historical-walk.php. It lists a total of 25 places of interest and includes photographs of all the buildings. The most interesting include:

1. State Savings Bank
Located at 787 The Esplanade, the State Savings Bank was built at a cost of £939 in 1912. Electricity was installed in 1923. It was sold in 1954 when the bank moved to new premises.

2. The Old Post Office Museum
Located at the corner of Main Street and The Esplanade, the Mornington museum is located in the old Post Office which dates from 1863. In the early days the mail arrived by boat and was taken to the building which was built with local bricks. A Telephone Exchange was built at the rear of the building in 1905. The Museum, which is open Sundays from 1.30 pm - 4.30 pm and Wednesday 11.30 am - 3.00 pm has displays of old telecommunications equipment and items relating to local history. For more information tel: (03) 5976 3203 or check out http://aumuseums.com/vic/mornington-and-district-historical-society-inc.

4. RSL Memorial Hall
Located at 19 Main Street this building was completed after World War I. The cost was raised by public subscription and the building was completed in 1922.

5. Mechanics Institute - Shire Offices
Located at 21 Main Street the Mechanics Institute was formally opened on New Years Eve 1885. The building cost around £900. It was taken over by the Mornington Shire in 1940 and converted into Shire Offices.

6. The Westminster Bollard
Located on the corner of Main Street and Queen Street, this strange relic was given to Mornington in 1993 by the City of Westminster. It has a fascinating history. "The bollard originally stood at the head of the steps leading down to the River Thames opposite Millbank Prison, where prisoners condemned to transportation to Australia began their journey."

7. St Peter's Church of England
St Peter's Church of England, 3 Queen Street, is an impressive Gothic Revival structure built of brick made locally in Thomas Allchin's Brickworks and opened on 19 May, 1861. The cost of the church was raised by public funding which was supplemented by a government grant.

8. Drapery Store
Located at 35 Main Street and built around 1930 this shop still has the original leadlight windows with kookaburra, parrots and gum leaves. A true rarity.

14. Balcombe Water Fountain
Located in the Empire Mall, this water fountain was given to Mornington by Jane Balcombe Murphy in 1924 in memory of her father, Alex Balcombe, one of the early settlers in the district.

19. Grand Hotel
Located at 124 Main Street, the Grand Hotel started life in 1892 as the Grand Coffee Palace. It was designed and built by the architect, William Pitt, for Cornelius Crowley. The Grand Hotel was a two story brick building with a central tower. Originally a carriage way went through to the rear with stables to the west side and accommodation built over the stables. The hotel undertook extensive renovations in 1978 when the tower, which had been removed, was replaced. The building now looks as it did when it was first built.

22. Commercial Bank of Australia
Located at 62 Main Street, this bank was built in 1889 in a typical, highly ornamented Italian Renaissance Revival style. In 1918 the building was taken over by the National Bank of Australia. They sold the building in 1986.

24. St Peter's Vicarage
Located at 1 Ross Street and known as "The Parsonage", this building was a gift from the wealthy Balcombe family who owned The Briars. It comprised four bedrooms. Of particular interest is the fret saw gable fascias and the stuccoed finish.

25. Court House
Located at 2 Main Street, the Mornington Court House was built in 1860 and is the oldest public building in Mornington. The Mornington Historical Walk records: "In 1862 Alex Balcombe (the Briars) was chairman of the local magistrates who include Mr. J Barker, Mr. Edward Lintott and Mr. W.P. Cobb. Typical cases heard included misdemeanours for drunkenness, larceny, civil disputes and later, motoring offences. One of the most notorious cases was the "Mornington Scandal" concerning John Blacker in 1919. Blacker had been Shire President and was a prominent store owner. He was charged with forgery and falsification of accounts but was let off lightly, leading to accusations of improper influence by the Solicitor General. The lock up was declared a gaol in 1862 but discontinued as such in 1882. It was then mainly used to hold prisoners overnight or during court sessions." Check out http://www.discovermorningtonpeninsula.com.au/sightseeing/mornington-historical-walk.php.

Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery
Located in Civic Reserve, Dunns Road, and opened in 1971, the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery features changing exhibitions, public lectures, workshops and musical events. It describes its collection as embracing "traditional and contemporary art in all its forms, ensuring there’s something for everyone. National touring exhibitions and MPRG-curated exhibitions offer a rich cultural experience for the local community as well as visitors to the region." There is a specific section for "images of the Mornington Peninsula" which features works by Albert Tucker, Fred Williams and Rick Amor. It is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm from Tuesday to Sunday. Tel: (03) 5950 1580 or check out https://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au.

Mornington Boat Hire
Located at Boatshed 7, Schnapper Point Drive, the Mornington Boat Hire has operated, seven days a week, for over one hundred years. They proudly announce that they have boats so visitors can "Catch the fish of a lifetime, cruise the coast, reefboard with sea horses, kayak past historic beach houses or stand up paddle with dolphins." Check out http://www.morningtonboathire.com.au/ or tel: (03) 5975 5479.

Fossil Beach Geological Reserve
Located 3 km south of Mornington these coastal cliffs can be accessed from the parking area off The Esplanade which is 200 metres north of Bentons Road. The Victorian Resources Online website (http://vro.agriculture.vic.gov.au/dpi/vro/portregn.nsf/pages/port_lf_sig_sites_fossil) notes: "The site exposes several units of the Tertiary marine transgressive-regressive sequence of the Mornington district. The area is extensively land slipped with unstable cliffs partly protected by masonry and boulder walls. The exposures available to earlier workers have been degraded in recent years due to landslips, revegetation, coastal protection works and over-zealous fossil collection by enthusiastic amateurs and excursion groups. The site includes all the units from the Older Volcanic basalt to the Baxter Sandstones and displays the complete sequence beginning with volcanics and non-marine sediments, passing to marine and then returning to non-marine conditions." The website offers a more complete explanation of the geology.


Other Attractions in the Area

Other towns in the region:
There are a number of small towns around Mornington which have attractions which are easily accessible. Mount Martha lies 8 km to the south; Mt Eliza lies 8 km to the north; and Moorooduc is 8 km to the east. Each has attractions worth exploring.

(a) Mount Martha
Mount Martha is a low key, picturesque holiday resort which is famous for its colourful bathing boxes which line the beach south of the Surf Club and have views across Port Phillip Bay. There is a general store, some quality shops, a community centre housed in a gracious old guest house and a pleasant beach backed by a foreshore reserve. Mt Martha was named after Martha Lonsdale whose husband was the first police magistrate of Port Phillip.

Balcombe Creek Estuary Boardwalk
With a starting point at 16a Mirang Avenue, the Balcombe Creek Estuary Boardwalk is a 2.5 km (about 2 hours return) wooden boardwalk which passes through bushland along the southern shore of the estuary. The area is rich in flora and fauna. There is a path which connects the boardwalk to a walk which eventually arrives at the Briars Park. The local Aborigines called the Balcombe Creek area Tji’tjin’garook – the voice of frogs. For more details check out https://www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/PlacesToGo/Walks/AllWalks/tabid/399/View/5af4e6d92d0e4da17228fa9c/Balcombe-Creek-Estuary-Boardwalk/Default.aspx.

Mt Martha Park
The starting point for walks is the corner of Forest Drive and Hearn Road, the  Mt Martha Park (53 ha) has two enjoyable walks - the Calder Valley Walk (900 metres one way) and the Grimwood Nature Walk (800 metres one way). There is a picnic area and an excellent children's playground.

The Briars Historic Park
Located at 450 Nepean Highway, Mt Martha, the National Trust's Briars Historic Homestead and Gardens is open from 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week. The Briars is an historic homestead and wildlife sanctuary which comprises a visitor’s centre, wetlands, gardens, nursery, vineyard, café, restaurant, kiosk and picnic areas. It covers 230 ha. Entry to the park is free and there is a charge to enter the homestead. Check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/the-briars for details.
The Briars property was established in 1840 by retired British army officer Captain James Reid. Reid named the 2000 ha property 'Tichin-Gorourke' (meaning 'voice of the frogs'), after the local Aboriginal name for the area. The land was purchased in 1846 by Alexander Balcombe who renamed it 'The Briars' after his family home on St Helena. Balcombe built the earliest section of the graceful 12 room homestead between 1848 and 1851 with extensions in the 1860s. The house and estate remained in the Balcombe family until 1977 when all but 8 remaining hectares around the home were sold to the shire. The house, with its old established trees, lawns, gardens and farm buildings was donated to the shire. Inside are items given by Napoleon to the Balcombe family, whom he befriended while in exile on St Helena in 1815. Historic farm machinery is on display in the farm buildings behind the stables.
Within the park is Josephine's Restaurant, located in the converted stables, and an information centre with audio-visual displays, family photographs, artefacts, information and an aquarium presenting some of the local wetland fauna.

Guided Tours of the Homestead
There are guided tours of the Homestead. It is important to check availability as the house is only open for guided tours.

Eco Living Display Centre
A display exploring sustainable living. The Centre explains: "At the Eco Living Display Centre you can learn about a range of easy lifestyle changes you can make as well as modifications to improve the comfort of your home.  See a variety of insulation types, double glazing, external shading, internal draught proofing, energy saving lights as well as sustainable flooring and bench-tops, a water efficient toilet, taps and shower, solar power, solar hot water and much more!  In the garden you can learn a range of ways to create beautiful garden for dry conditions from planting indigenous plants to creating wicking beds and no-dig gardens." It is open Fridays from 1.00 pm - 4.00 pm. Check out https://www.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Activities/The-Briars/Eco-Living-Display-Centre.

Walking Trails
There are five walks around the Homestead. There is a downloadable map and detailed instructions at https://www.mornpen.vic.gov.au/Activities/The-Briars/Walking-trails-at-The-Briars.
* Wetland Walk - a 600 metre (15-20 minutes return) boardwalk through wetlands which includes two bird hides and leads to the Wetlands Viewpoint. The wetlands cover 30 ha of wetlands where there are more than 120 bird species, along with koalas, kangaroos and wallabies. Entry to the wildlife reserve, the bird-hides and access to the picnic/barbecue facilities is free of charge.
* Kur-Bur-Rer Walk - 4 km return (90 minutes) walk within the Wildlife Sanctuary. It passes through dense scrub woodland and follows Balcombe Creek passing reed swamps and farmland to reach the Wetlands Viewpoint.
* Woodland Walk - 2 km woodland walk taking 30-45 minutes and passing through Manna and Swamp Gum woodlands.
* Balcombe Creek Walkway - 1.6 km return (30-45 minutes). It can be extended to 7 km and reach the Balcombe Creek estuary. The shorter route follows the Balcombe Creek.
* Harrap Creek Walkway - 1.7 km (30-45 minutes) along the creek and through mostly a Swamp Scrub of paperbark trees.

(b) Mount Eliza
Located 8 km north of Mornington, Mount Eliza is an attractive and chic seaside village on the slopes overlooking Canadian Bay. The first European to settle in the area was John Thomas Smith in the late 1830s. In 1851 James Davey bought 640 acres of coastal land in Mount Eliza and built a homestead on the headland. He built a jetty from which he shipped timber, cattle and tallow. The first Crown land was sold at Mount Eliza in 1854 with Smith purchasing two blocks. Large, impressive holiday homes were built on the cliffs in the late 19th century. The settlement grew in the 1920s when post office and general store were established and Walter Burleigh Griffin (who designed Canberra) designed the distinctive streets of the Ranelagh Estate. They are a series of crescents. In 1959 Mount Eliza beach was used as a setting for the film On The Beach which starred Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner. By the late 1960s Mount Eliza had become an exclusive residential area on the shores of Port Phillip.

Canadian Bay Walk
There is a pleasant walk along the foreshore from the Mount Eliza Foreshore Reserve ( at the beach end of Williams Road) via the Canadian Bay Lookout and/or the Canadian Bay Beach to the Canadian Bay Yacht Club and on to Half Moon Bay Beach.

Mount Eliza Regional Park
Located off Two Bays Road, the Mount Eliza Regional Park includes the former Moorooduc Quarry (now filled with water) and the Mount Eliza Lookout offers impressive views across the Moorooduc Plains. There is a 1.5 km circuit walking trail with lookout points

(c) Moorooduc
Moorooduc is located 8 km east of Mornington and is essentially a rural area characterised by horse studs, wineries and and farming ventures which lie just beyond suburbia like bee keeping and dog kennels.

The Big Goose
Located at 233 Mornington-Tyabb Road (entry is from Stumpy Gully Road), Moorooduc, The Big Goose calls itself the Mornington Petting Farm and is a mixture of an old fashioned farm experiences with a tractor ride and Sheep Dog and Reptile Shows. It is primarily designed for children and provides opportunities to pet animals, to play mini golf and to have fun on an interesting and unusual variety of play areas.It is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10.00 am - 4.00 pm and open every day during Victorian school holidays, tel: 0459 911 549 or check out https://thebiggoose.com.au.

Mornington Tourist Railway
Located at Moorooduc, the Mornington Railway Preservation Company has a 1941 steam train which takes passengers on a a 12 km track between Moorooduc and Mornington, stopping at Tanti. Details of the timetable and running days (it usually runs four times on every Sunday) can be accessed at https://morningtonrailway.org.au/excursion-trains.
Carriages are hauled by a steam locomotive on most journeys. A heritage diesel locomotive is used on days of total fire ban and often through the summer months. The journeys start at Moorooduc Station which is opposite Mt Eliza Regional Park. The station has a large car park, a food and drink kiosk, historical photographs and a souvenir shop. For bookings ring 1300 767 274 or check out https://morningtonrailway.org.au.

The Bottom Drawer Antique & Home Decor Centre
The Bottom Drawer Antique & Home Decor Centre is located at 545 Mornington-Tyabb Road, Moorooduc. This enormous building houses a vast number of dealers in antiques, bric-a-brac, old tools, linen, dolls, jewellery, china, furniture, books, radios, retro style pottery, ceramics, candle holders, mirrors, jewellery, silverware and kitchenware. It is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm from Thursday to Sunday, tel: (03) 5978 8677.



* The Bunurong Aborigines used the area on a seasonal basis for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans.

* Lieutenant James Murray explored Port Phillip Bay on board the Lady Nelson in 1802.

* Later that year Matthew Flinders landed at Schnapper Point. Flinders mistook Port Phillip Bay for Western Port.

* The first European settlement was established by the British in 1803 on the Mornington Peninsula. It was abandoned in 1804.

* European settlement of the peninsula started in the 1830s.

* In 1840 a pastoral run named Tinchingorourke was established south of Schnapper Point.

* In 1846 Alexander Balcombe purchased Tinchingorourke and built The Briars homestead.

* A store was established at what is now Mornington in 1852. The area was surveyed shortly afterwards.

* A post office was opened in 1856. It was called Schapper Point.

* The Schnapper Point School was opened in 1856.

* A hotel was built c.1856 and the township began to develop.

* A Union Chapel was built in the town in 1859. A general store opened that year.

* The Mount Eliza Road District was established in 1860. The Court House opened that year.

* The town became the legal centre for the peninsula in the early 1860s when the police station, courthouse and post office were built.

* The Anglican Church was consecrated in 1861.

* The settlement was officially named Mornington in 1864. That year saw the post office change its name to Mornington.

* Limestone was mined at Fossil Beach in the 1860s and used for cement.

* St Andrews Presbyterian Church was opened in 1867.

* The Mornington Shire was created in 1871.

* Mornington began to develop as a seaside resort in the 1880s.

* The railway reached the town in 1889 from Frankston.

* By the 1920s it had become a popular day tripper and holiday destination.

* During World War II there was a military camp at Mt Martha which houses 3000 troops.

* Mornington High School opened in 1957.


Visitor Information

Mornington Court House Visitor Information Centre, 2 Main Street, tel: (03) 5975 0466 and the Mornington Community Information Centre, 320 Main Street, tel: (03) 5975 1644.


Useful Websites

There are two very detailed website on all the towns on the Mornington Peninsula. Check out https://www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org and https://www.visitmorningtonpeninsula.org/PlacesToGo/TownsVillages/Mornington.aspx.

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