Quiet seaside resort town on Western Port Bay
Somers is a seaside resort town with a safe and pleasant swimming beach which is located on the southern shore of the Mornington Peninsula. The area is noted for its substantial koala population, its pleasant foreshore walks, its semi-rural ambience and for its primary attraction, Coolart Wetlands and Homestead, an ideal place to explore a Victorian mansion and its beautiful gardens and wetlands.
Somers is located 75 km south-east of Melbourne on the eastern shore of the Mornington Peninsula.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The village was originally called Balnarring East but it was changed to Somers in 1925. It was named after Lord Somers, Governor of Victoria, who had established a boys camp at Coolart.^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Coolart Wetlands and Homestead
Located on the shores of Western Port on Lord Somers Road, 'Coolart' is a magnificent 27-room Victorian mansion situated on Lord Somers Road. The complex, which includes the historic homestead, outstanding gardens, a woodlands walk, farm outbuildings and a bird observatory, is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily, tel: (03) 5983 1333 or 131 963. For more information check out https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/coolart-h.a/things-to-do/coolart-wetlands-and-homestead and the Friends of Coolart website at https://www.coolart.org.au.
The Coolart property (7000 ha) was established by Alfred Meyrick, and his brother Henry, in 1840 on land once occupied by the Bunurong people. Its name comes from the Bunurong word - "colourt" or "callert" - for nearby Sandy Point. Meyrick moved to Gippsland in 1846. The current home was erected in 1897 by Frederick Grimwade of the pharmaceutical company, Felton, Grimwade and Duerdin. He had bought the property in 1895 as a country retreat for his family. The outbuildings, which can be inspected, include an earlier farmhouse built in the 1860s. Inside the main house is a collection of paintings and photographs. The downstairs has been redecorated in Victorian style while the facade has been re-rendered.
The Friends of Coolart website explains: "The building, which is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register, was designed by Melbourne architects Reed, Smart & Tappin for Frederick Sheppard Grimwade, who purchased the estate in 1895 for £10,000.
The wrap-around verandah, with its original lacework and tessellated tiles, leads to a wide main entry and into a grand reception foyer. Off this foyer are the formal reception rooms of Coolart: a morning room, a large sitting room and grand dining-room, each with fireplace. A generous timber staircase winds upstairs past an ornate leadlight window. At one end of the ground floor are the original servants’ quarters and service areas of the house. Today, this area contains a large kitchen, sitting room and meeting room for groups that use Coolart including the Friends of Coolart. This section of the house has its own staircase leading upstairs to what would once have been the servants sleeping quarters. Upstairs, off a wide landing, are the main bedrooms and an original bathroom. The house also has a three-storey tower with a mansard roof, one of its most prominent features, characteristic of the Second Empire architectural style."
Coolart is situated on the remaining 87 hectares of the original estate. It features formal, English-style gardens, a circular rose garden which blooms in summer, and a substantial wetlands area which incorporates a several distinct habitats which are home to different species of waterbirds, including hundreds of Australian white ibis which breed in the wetlands each year. The birds can be seen from two bird hides which are fitted with one-way glass.
There are four pleasant Woodlands Walks (ranging from 1 km - 3.1 km) all of which begin outside the Visitors Centre which leads through remnant woodland (watch out for the koalas) and along Merricks Creek, across a footbridge to the Balnarring Foreshore Reserve which has impressive views of Western Port and Phillip Island.
Other Attractions in the Area
Somers has a 3 km-long safe and pleasant swimming beach which is backed by a Foreshore Reserve. Just to the west is Balnarring Beach which has a general store on the foreshore. It is suitable for surfing and body boarding. For detailed information about the beach, check out https://beachsafe.org.au/beach/vic/mornington-peninsula/somers/somers.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Bunurong Aboriginal people.
* The Coolart property was established when Henry and Alfred Meyrick settled on 16,000 acres in 1840.
* In 1897 Frederick Grimwade built the Coolart Homestead
* Somers began to emerge from the subdivision of pastoral land in the 1920s.
* In 1925 24 one acre block were put up for sale at Balnarring East.
* The town's general store, tea rooms and post office date from 1925.
* In 1937 Thomas Luxton purchased Coolart - he developed a lagoon and bird sanctuary.
* Coolart's gardens were designed in 1938 by David Mathews, the curator of the Footscray Gardens.
* The RAAF trained near Somers during World War II and the military buildings were later taken over by the Education Department which established Somers Camp.
* In 1977 the Victorian State Government purchased 87.5 ha of Coolart and turned it into a reserve.
* In 1996 Parks Victoria took over the management of Coolart.
* Today Somers is determined to maintain its rural ambience.^ TOP
There is a useful Visitor Centre and Ranger Station at Coolart, tel: 13 1963.^ TOP
There is a useful website for Somers. Check out https://www.somers.org.au.^ TOP