Dromana to Stoney Point Victoria 9th to 10th September 2007.
23 Sep 2007
Morning dawned and with it a lovely view over Port Phillip Bay and in the distance the skyline of Melbourne. The city of Melbourne is protected by two Peninsulas', the Bellairne Peninsula, and the Mornington Peninsula, and the opening to the bay is known as The Heads. This is where the Bay opens out into the Bass Straight across The Rip, when we were sailing to Tasmania this is the spot where I decided it was going to be a rough crossing and headed for my bed. We are now down near the bottom of the Mornington Peninsula in a small seaside town of Dromana. From Melbourne the road follows the contours of the shoreline taking in some of the regions more exclusive and picturesque residential areas and it was the lights from these areas we saw last night.
Jeff and I spent a very lazy morning whilst Val and Ron got a lot of jobs around the house done. Then after an early lunch we were taken on a tour of the area in Ron and Val's motor home. Our first stop was at the new marina at Dromana where the road has been built under the canal leading into the marina. The boat docking bays have been completed and the land around has been cleared ready for houses and apartment blocks to be built. Some are already in the process and the rumour is that the builder has run into financial difficulties. He will need to sell some of the houses to release money yet I am not sure if anyone would want to pay the asking price to live in the middle of a big building site.
Our next stop was at the lookout on the top of Arthurs Seat, the Peninsula's highest point. There are a number of notice boards at the summit of the peak but none to say why it is so named. It could be it was named after its famous counterpart in Edinburgh as it does have one similarity, that it stands over the town, however that is where it ends. It is much more built up with houses on its slopes and a café at the top which sells ice cream, so it was a good place to visit.
It was now time for us to continue our exploration of the Peninsula and Val and Ron to return to Melbourne. We returned to the house, collected our van and set off down towards Point Nepean and the Mornington Peninsula National Park. It was getting late and we decided it was time to look for a site for the night. So our next stop was at the Blairgowrie Caravan Park. Well I did tell you that around the bay there are some exclusive areas. The owner of the site was very welcoming and told us of his visit to Scotland many years ago, but he never made it to Blaigowrie.
The next morning we drove own to the local shops which were over looking the bay, a little different from the Wellmeadow back home. Back into the van and onto our final destination of the National Park. We paid our entrance fee at the visitors centre and then drove down to the car park where you can either take the 2 mile walk along the road or follow the deviations along the way to visit the various historical sites. We chose the latter route.
Our first stop was at the grave yard, this was close to the quarantine station where people and animals were placed when newly arriving in Melbourne. Some of the people did not make it to the new life in Australia and the small grave yard is testimony to that. From here we walked along the beach to the Eagle Head Point, then crossed the road to follow the bush path round by Happy Valley to cheviot Hill, the highest point in the national park. When we reached Happy Valley we discovered a number of concrete foundations but nothing to say why they were there. It was only when we reached the gun establishments on Cheviot Hill we learnt what Happy Valley was.
Point Nepean was one of the fortified areas established in the early 1880's to defend Port Philip Bay and Melbourne from enemy attack. By 1886 Melbourne was one of the best defended ports in the British Empire and it was sometimes called "the Gibraltar of the south". Point Nepean's main fortifications were at Fort Nepean at the tip of the Point. Soldiers were stationed there continuously from about 1882 until the end of the World War 2. Happy Valley was some of the barracks and the notice told us that the soldiers saw this as one of the worst postings they could get. They described the living conditions as poor and morale generally low as well as being very isolated.
Cheviot Beach below the hill was the scene of a number of tragedies. On a stormy night on the 19th October 1887, the steamer Cheviot was wrecked on the rocky shore and 35 people lost their lives. The beach was named after the ship. The second tragedy happened more recently, on Sunday the 17th December 1967, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Hold, disappeared whilst swimming off Cheviot Beach, just below where we were standing. Despite a massive sea search his body was never recovered.
Our next stop was at Eagles Nest the home of the 'disappearing gun'. Guns that were hidden below ground were introduced to Fort Nepean and Eagles Nest in 1888. They were called disappearing guns as they were raised above ground to fire and then recoiled or disappeared into the shelters of their emplacements. The gun stationed here had a 10 inch diameter barrel and was the largest Disappearing Gun in Australia.
Finally we arrived at the fort itself where restoration work has opened up the tunnels, artillery headquarters and barracks that were built here in 1881 and renovated over the years. It was after World War 2 when costal defences were felt to be obsolete that the buildings were removed. In 1988 the Fort was opened to the general public after being out of bounds for over a hundred years. It was an interesting place to visit and we were sorry we could not spend more time here exploring the area. As you walk around the national park you are continually reminded it was a military area as warning signs tell you to keep to the path as there may be unexploded ammunition still about the place.
We returned on the tractor-train and had a quick lunch before moving off once more. Our destination for tonight was Stony Point at the other side of the Peninsula and overlooking both French Island and Phillip Island. We had visited Philip Island as the first trip in our new van way back last October. To reach Stony Point we had to retrace our tracks through Blairgowrie, where we stopped to take pictures of the marina, then onto the C777 at Rosebud. The weather had now closed in and the rain was falling quite heavily and obliterated most of the views. We arrived at Stony Point and set up camp and got on with some more cleaning. During our travels our living quarters appeared quite small but it seems to have tripled in size as we try and get it cleaned ready for travelling.