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Newhaven, VIC

Small settlement over the bridge from the mainland on Phillip Island

Newhaven is a small, attractive village with a jetty, a boat ramp and a marina. It lies across the bridge which joins Phillip Island and the mainland at San Remo. It is often passed by holidaymakers and visitors eager to head to the main attractions - the Noddies and the Penguin Parade - on Phillip Island.


Newhaven is located 126 km south-east of Melbourne via the M1 and Koo Wee Rup.


Origin of Name

The four towns on Phillip Island were all named in the 1860s when the sites were surveyed. Two - Cowes and Ventnor - were named after towns on the Isle of Wight. Rhyll was named after a holiday town in Wales and Newhaven was almost certainly named after a port of that name which lies on the coast in East Sussex. Newhaven was originally known as Woody Point.


Things to See and Do

National Vietnam Veterans Museum
Located at 25 Veterans Drive, and open from 10.00 am - 5.00 pm daily, the National Vietnam Veterans Museum was established by John Methven in 1996 in San Remo and moved to near the Phillip Island airport, near Newhaven, in 2007. The website explains: "This volunteer created and run museum is home to a huge collection of artefacts, both large and small, interpreted with information, imagery and audio (using our fantastic InfoWand devices and touch screens). It will keep you, your family and friends engaged for the length of your visit. At NVVM you will see the conscription ballot balls used in the system of National Service that divided our nation. You will walk beneath and around such key vehicles as helicopters, a tank, even a bomber used in Vietnam. See yourself in the boots of a Tunnel Rat or the helmet of a Chopper Pilot. For more information check out https://www.vietnamvetsmuseum.org.

Fishing around Newhaven
The waters off Newhaven are known for their fishing with anglers catching squid, snapper, channel whiting, gummy shark, flathead, King George whiting, flounder, Australian salmon, garfish, trevally and pike. Newhaven has an all-tide boat ramp and a slipway.


Other Attractions in the Area

Churchill Island and Churchill Island Heritage Farm
This tiny and historic island covers 57 hectares. It is located 4 km north-west of Newhaven via a bridge which allows unlimited access. Access is from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Churchill Island was discovered, along with Phillip Island, by George Bass and Matthew Flinders when they arrived in the area on the sloop Norfolk in 1798. In 1801 Lieutenant James Grant constructed a simple cottage and named the island after his friend, John Churchill, who had supplied him with seeds. He planted corn and wheat and created a small vegetable garden. This is seen as the first European settlement in Victoria. Nine months later Lieutenant Murray visited the site and found the crops grown to two metres but there was no further interest and the island was abandoned.
In 1857 Samuel Pickersgill and his family settled on the island and in 1886 John Rogers built two small cottages.
Six years later the island was purchased by Samuel Amess, a building contractor responsible for the post office, customs house and treasury buildings in Melbourne. He built a symmetrical weatherboard homestead on the island in 1872. In 1976 it was bought by the Victorian Conservation Trust and it is now part of the Phillip Island Nature Park.
There is a useful two page guide to the island which can be downloaded at https://www.penguins.org.au/assets/Attractions/Churchill-Island/PDF/Churchill-Island-Visitor-Map-190514.pdf.

* Churchill Island Heritage Farm
The Heritage Farm is located where Samuel Amess built his seaside retreat (a 9 room house, a half cellar and barn) and includes the Rogers Cottage. It also has a range of daily activities including wagon rides, cow milking, sheep shearing, whip cracking and working dogs. There is also an animal nursery and a section where wallabies live. A Norfolk pine planted by Amess in 1872 has now grown to 25 metres with a girth of 4.4 metres. It stands outside his house. Also there is a cannon from the US ship Shenandoah which was given to Amess by the ship's officers in his appreciation of his hospitality when the ship visited Melbourne in 1865.

* Churchill Island Walks
* The Churchill Island Loop Track is an easy 5 km stroll which starts at the Heritage Farm and takes around 120 minutes.
* The North Point Loop Track is 2.5 km and starts at the Heritage Farm. It takes around one hour.
* Grant's Monument Loop takes about 30 minutes and heads west from the Heritage Farm across to Grant's Monument.
* Wadjil'garook Wetlands takes around 45 minutes and heads east from the Heritage Farm to the mangroves and mudflats. It has signs which explain the indigenous culture and wetland birds.

Churchill Island Sights
On the walks it is possible to experience the fine views across Western Port and the island's flora and fauna. The northern-most tip of the island, known as North Point is a particularly good place to see the migratory birdlife, especially at low tide when the mud flats are exposed. There are pied oyster catchers, royal spoonbills, herons, ibis, cormorants and gulls. Nearby are basalt rocks which are 50 million years old and were originally part of Phillip Island. They were separated when sea level rose 10-15,000 years ago. The woodlands of the island's north-west feature the gnarled trunks of the island's stands of moonah, or melaleuca, trees which are 400-500 years old, and there are a few koalas in the manna gums. On the west coast is a monument to Lieutenant James Grant. It notes: "This cairn was erected by the Victorian Farmers Union to commemorate the first cultivation of wheat in Victoria by Mr James Grant in 1801."

Cape Woolamai State Faunal Reserve
Cape Woolamai covers 308 ha and is located at the tip of the island's south-eastern peninsula, directly south of Newhaven. The turnoff into Woolamai Road is 3 km west of the Newhaven bridge. It leads to a car park at Woolamai Beach Surf Lifesaving Club. Woolamai Beach faces out to Bass Strait on the western side of the peninsula. It is recognised as one of the island's best surfing beaches but it is known for its strong rips and currents. It has been recognised as a National Surfing Reserve.
The peninsula is known as the Cape Woolamai State Faunal Reserve and is characterised by dry coast scrub and rugged coastal scenery made up of granite cliffs and black basalt outcrops. The rocks of Cape Woolamai are home to around one million short-tailed shearwaters (known as mutton birds) which migrate from Japan, Alaska and Siberia, arriving on the island in late September to breed. They mate in early November, most eggs are laid in late November, and incubation lasts for 53 days. In that time the father and mother share the egg-minding duties. The chicks grow rapidly until they outweigh the parents. The adults leave on their migration two weeks ahead of their chicks which depart in late April. As they have a high body weight to wing surface ratio they utilise high winds, low sand dunes and a running jump to launch themselves.
There are three walks - all of which can be combined into one 8 km walk around the peninsula - check out https://www.visitphillipisland.com/listing/walking-trails for more details:

* The Pinnacles Walk - (4 km, 2 hours return) is signed by green markers. It heads south from the Woolamai Beach Surf Life Saving Club car park along the western edge of the peninsula and passes the offshore rock formations known as The Pinnacles.

* Old Granite Quarry Loop - (6 km, 3 hours return) includes the Pinnacles and the highest point on the island (109 metres) which offers panoramic views. It passes Gull Island, which lies offshore, and a secluded cove on the eastern shore which was once a granite quarry employing 300 people. At the quarry wooden pegs were hammered into the rocks. These would swell when wet, thus cracking the rock.

* Cape Woolamai Beacon Walk - (6.6 km, 3.5 hours return) can be part of a combined walk which includes both the Pinnacles Walk and the Old Granite Quarry loop. It goes to the southern tip of the peninsula where there is a beacon and a lookout which looks east from the headland. See https://www.phillipislandpoint.com.au/attractions/cape-woolamai-state-faunal-reserve for photos of the walks.

The Colonnades
The Colonnades, an unusual rock formation of columnar basalt resembling organ pipes on the cliff face, lie at the western end of Woolamai Surf Beach. They form a natural barrier between the two beaches and are best seen at low tide. The Colonnades can be reached by walking north from the Woolamai Surf Beach car park.

Forrest Caves
Located off Phillip Island Road 5 km west of Newhaven, the Forrest Caves are a series of large sea-eroded caverns - they have been eroded in the red basalt cliffs - which are best seen at low tide. In fact they can't be accessed at high tide. The coastline near the caves is home to mutton bird rookeries and the birds can be seen between the end of September and April particularly around dusk. There are useful photos at https://walkingmaps.com.au/walk/4005.

Surf Beach and Surfies Point
Located 8 km west of Newhaven and off Phillip Island Road is Surf Beach and Surfies Point. The surf forecast website explains: "Surfies Point in Phillip Island is a fairly exposed point break that has fairly consistent surf and can work at any time of the year. Offshore winds blow from the north. Clean groundswells prevail and the ideal swell direction is from the south. Best around high tide when the tide is rising. Often Crowded. Beware of locals, sharks and rocks." Check out http://www.surf-forecast.com/breaks/Surfies-Point for more details and useful information.

Smith's Beach
Located 10 km west of Newhaven via to Phillip Island Road is the one kilometre long Smith's Beach. Smith's is a surfing and diving area which is described by Surfunation as "normally the best surf spot for kids and beginners surfers on popular Phillip Island. This small beach has soft waves that are ideal for practising in the whitewater or catching green waves when the surf is small. The relative close proximity to Melbourne sees some big crowds flock to this spot on hot summer days and long weekends". Check out https://surfunation.com.au/surf-spots/smiths-beach-phillip-island.

Koala Conservation Centre
Located 10 km west of Newhaven at 1790 Phillip Island Road, is the Koala Conservation Centre. The centre, which covers 6 ha, has two unique elevated boardwalks which pass through the tops of the trees and allows a unique, close up, viewing of koalas who, for the most part, are sleeping or lazily chewing eucalyptus leaves. One boardwalk is an 800 metre loop and takes around 20 minutes. The other is a 600 metre loop which also takes around 20 minutes. This eco-tourism attraction has been vital in saving Phillip Island’s koala population. There is a special koala breeding program and visitors have the opportunity to experience a ranger-led ‘Koala Eco-Explorer Tour’.
The Koala Reserve is open from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm daily. It has a gift shop, toilets, disabled facilities, souvenirs, refreshments and picnic tables. There are also native birds, wallabies and echidna at the centre, tel: (03) 5951 2800 or check out https://penguins.org.au/attractions/koala-reserve.

Oswin Roberts Reserve and Conservation Hill - Walking/Cycling Tracks
A short distance beyond the Koala Conservation Centre there is a turnoff into Harbison Road which heads east towards the Oswin Roberts Reserve, a narrow remnant of pre-colonial forest. There is a pleasant bushwalk from the Oswin Roberts Reserve via Conservation Hill to Rhyll. The total distance is around 7 km one way and the track is used by both cyclists and walkers. The main track links up with the Conservation Hill to Rhyll Walk which is only 1.2 km return.  There is an observation tower at Conservation Hill which provides impressive panoramas of the wetlands around Rhyll. Check out https://www.visitphillipisland.com/listing/walking-trails/ for information about the walks in the Oswin Roberts Reserve and information about Conservation Hill.

Rhyll, which is located 13 km from Newhaven, was named after Rhyl, a holiday resort town in North Wales. It is located on the island's north-eastern corner. The land around Rhyll forms a saltwater lagoon that attracts migratory wading birds which fly thousands of kilometres to feed and breed at the inlet including royal spoonbills, straw-necked ibis, swans, little pied cormorants and the rare hooded plover. A boardwalk through the mudflats and mangroves provides excellent bird watching opportunities and there is a wetland observation tower on the Cowes-Rhyll Road.
Rhyll is a small fishing settlement with plenty of accommodation, two jetties, an all-tide boat ramp, a slipway, a yacht club, an angling club, a sailing school, a general store and a cafe.
Anglers will find plenty of squid, snapper, whiting, gummy shark, flathead, whiting, flounder, salmon, garfish, trevally and pike about. Check out https://www.visitphillipisland.com/category/explore/destinations/rhyll for more information.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans Phillip Island was home to the Boonwurrung Aboriginal people.

* In January, 1798 George Bass entered Western Port. He named it Western Port as it was, at the time, the most westerly known harbour on the coast.

* Bass returned in October, 1798 with Matthew Flinders. They anchored off what is now the settlement of Rhyll on the eastern side of Phillip Island. Bass thought that Cape Woolamai resembled the head of a snapper and so the island became known as Snapper Island.

* Lieutenant James Grant made the first known passage through Bass Strait from the west in 1800.

* Grant returned in 1801 at the instruction of Governor King. During that voyage he built a simple cottage on Churchill Island and planted corn and wheat with seeds supplied by his friend John Churchill, after whom he named the island. This was the first European settlement in what is now Victoria.

* Nicolas Baudin explored Western Port in April, 1802. He named French Island.

* The explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell believed that their 1824 overland journey from New South Wales had reached Western Port. This was wrong. They had reached Corio Bay near Geelong.

* In 1826 a French vessel, the Astrolabe under Dumont d'Urville, examined Western Port, arousing fears of French colonisation.

* Hovell's exploration revealed that Western Port was unsuitable for agriculture, owing to poor soil and a lack of fresh water. Also there were no French settlers. This led to the abandonment of the settlements in 1828.

* In 1840 the explorer Paul Edmund de Strzelecki passed through Western Port on his journey from the Murrumbidgee River through Omeo to Melbourne.

* Between 1802 and the 1840s, because of the colonies of seals which inhabited the coastline, sealers made regular stopovers on the island. Their settlements were short-lived and designed only to process their catch.

* The first permanent settlement occurred in 1842 when the McHaffie brothers were granted a pastoral lease covering almost the entire island. It was mainly used for grazing sheep.

* In 1868 the island was surveyed and made available to selectors. The first recorded land sale took place at Rhyll.

* More sales proceeded in 1869 at Cowes which had been known as Mussel Point.

* Jetties were built at Rhyll in 1868 and at Cowes in 1870.

* By 1870 the Isle of Wight Hotel had been built at Cowes. An Anglican church was built that year.

* A jetty was built at Cowes in 1870 and a ferry service began from Stony Point on the Mornington Peninsula.

* By 1872 there were 165 settlers on the island.

* Fishing had emerged (particularly for crayfish) and chicory was grown for the first time in 1870.  Sheep, cattle and mustard were also part of the island's agriculture.

* Municipal government commenced in 1871.

* A State primary school was opened in 1874.

* Development was slow. A number of early settlers were forced to abandon their land owing to drought. An exodus occurred in the 1870s with much of the property bought up by a small number of landowners.

* A Presbyterian Church was built in 1895.

* By 1902 there were no more than 50 settlers.

* The real development of the island occurred in the 1920s with the establishment of an access track to the penguin colony.

* In the 1920s visitors accessed the island by means of the ferry service at Cowes where a number of grand guesthouses were built. Visitors tended to explore the island by horseback.

* Warley Hospital was opened in 1923.

* The Isle of Wight hotel burnt down in 1925. It was rebuilt.

* The Shire of Phillip Island was declared in 1928 and the first motor race was held on the island that same year.

* In 1928 St Paul's Training College was opened.

* A Catholic Church was built in 1938.

* A bridge linking the island to the mainland was built in 1940.

* By the late 1940s nearly three-quarters of Australia's chicory crop was being grown on Phillip Island. 

* A Catholic Church was built in 1938.

* A bridge linking the island to the mainland was built in 1940.

* By the late 1940s nearly three-quarters of Australia's chicory crop was being grown on Phillip Island.

* In 1980 St Paul's Training College was converted into a private school, Newhaven College.

* In 2013 Newhaven was identified as a place likely to be damaged by storm surges, wind, waves and tides in the next 80 years.


Visitor Information

Phillip Island Visitor Information Centre, 895 Phillip Island Tourist Road, Newhaven, tel: 1300 633 422, Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm daily.


Useful Websites

There is a useful official website. Check out https://www.visitphillipisland.com/category/explore/destinations/newhaven.

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