I remember as a kid sitting in the car as we were driving to Melbourne and pouring over the Melbourne Street directory. In particular I remember following the Nepean Hwy all the way from the intersection with Punt Road, along the coast, down to the small town of Portsea. I then became really disappointed that the map cut off there so I couldn’t see how the peninsula that it followed came to an end. Actually. I was under the impression that this road was the longest road in Melbourne because I believed it started around Kilmore and went all the way down to Point Nepean. Actually, it could still quite well be Melbourne’s longest road, it is just not as long as I originally thought it was.
However, my Dad was never particularly interested in taking us all the way down to the end of the Nepean Hwy because, well, he just never saw it as a necessity. However when I was older, and had access to a car, and happened to be in Melbourne, I decided to make the trek myself (and dragged my sister along with me). However, that was quite a long time ago and I can’t actually remember what we saw and did when we got there. However, the one thing I do remember was that we didn’t make the trek out to the point.
Then later on I grabbed a car, and another friend, and once again decided to head down to the end of the peninsula. This I do remember, and I also remember driving into the national park that is now located there, and my friend made the decision that he wasn’t really interested in a walk. As such we just sat down at the information centre, and then got back into the car and headed off to the back beach.
Well, I had the day off work, and since I had failed to fulfill my goal of trekking to the end of the Mornington Peninsula, or to be more precise Point Nepean, I decided that I would make the attempt again. The only problem was that I didn’t have a car. Well, that wasn’t a huge problem because I could actually catch the train to Frankston and then from Frankston head down the Peninsula by bus. So, early one morning (or not so early as to be caught up in the commuter rush) I jumped onto the train and made my way into the city. Once I arrived at Flinders Street I changed trains to the Frankston Line and an hour later I had arrived at Frankston.
Well, Frankston has a bit of a reputation, and it didn’t take all that long for that reputation to be justified (they call it The Frankston Greeting: what the f*ck are you looking at!). Needless to say I looked for a place to grab a coffee, and then made my way to the bus stop to catch the bus. I have been to Frankston in the past, and even had a beer a three of the four pubs that happen to sit at a major intersection, but since time was limited I simply made a mental note and caught the next bus out to there.
Which took me to Dromana. Okay, Dromana isn’t the first stop on the trek down the peninsula – Mornington and Mt Eliza are – it is just that since I was reliant on public transport, and time was limited, I skipped them for another day and jumped off at Dromana, which is your typical seaside village (or should I say bayside because the bay tends to be a lot less rougher than the sea). In fact most of the stops down this route really have little difference about them – I jumped off the bus at Rosebud, Rye, and finally Sorrento, namely to visit the pub and have a quick look around.
Well, there was something quite nice in Dromana namely a coffee shop that also doubled as an antique dealer. I did have a bit of time to kill here, and as normal I was going to visit the pub and was planning on grabbing some fish and chips (because, what else do you have for lunch when you are down by the beach). Actually, the big problem was that there were so many fish and chip (and chicken) shops and I could only visit one of them, so I ended up going in to the cafe for a coffee, which I have to admit was pretty cool in and of itself, especially sitting among the antiques.
I eventually got some fish and chips, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Rye (and after I visited a rather disappointing pub).
End of the Line
Well, Sorrento isn’t exactly the end of the line, but it is pretty close to it. Actually, I had actually been to the Sorrento in Italy and I have to admit that the one one in Italy has much more charm, even if the trains that take you there don’t have any airconditioning (which is a nightmare on one of those really hot days), however the thing with this Sorrento is that the one in Italy doesn’t have a beach. Well, it might have one but all I could see were cliffs heading down to the water, and a dock for the ferries that take you out to the island of Capri.
As for this Sorrento, while it doesn’t have the same charm, it still is somewhat lovely. From what I could tell there were two pubs here, but one of them I decided to pass in favour of the one that I had visited before, which I have to admit is nothing short of awesome. Actually, it is more like a hotel that happens to have a bar attached to it, though I would probably describe it better as being a pub that has a hotel attached, particularly since there happens to be at least three bars here. However, it is the rooftop deck, and just the general atmosphere of the place, that really caught my attention. When I was heading back home a number of ladies piled onto the bus at Portsea and were looking for another pub to spend the rest of the night, and a couple of kind gentlemen recommended this particular pub.
So, after having a beer here, instead of catching a bus I decided to walk to Portsea and then continue on beyond. I was a little concerned since I wasn’t sure how long the trek to Point Nepean would take, though Google Maps suggested that it was going to be something like two hours, and I have actually found that Google Maps is pretty spot on when it comes to the time it takes to travel certain distances, at least when it comes to walking. Mind you, I wouldn’t trust it when it comes to public transport, nor driving, but walking it does tend to be pretty good.
One thing that really stood out as I made the trek along Point Nepean Road towards Portsea were the pretty expensive looking houses. In fact they are probably better termed as mansions. Mind you, in an era where the price of houses has literally shot through the roof to the point that your standard three bedroom house is worth something like three-quarters of a million dollars or more, the price of these houses is mindboggling. However, I am pretty happy with my house – it may not be big but it is functional, and easy to clean, and since I am one of those people that can’t justify spending money on a cleaner, I am happy with where I am.
I did have a chat with some friends about the houses here, because I really couldn’t fathom that there were that many people in Australia that had that much money to be able to afford such houses. Mind you, a lot of these houses are either owned by celebrities, or are some very, very old money. I also speculated that maybe some of the houses are owned by people overseas. That could be the case as well, however what I have determined is that whoever owns these houses probably owns multiple houses around the world, and more likely than not the people who live here only live here for short periods of time.
Into the Park
When I arrived at Portsea I suddenly discovered that I was standing outside the pub, so as is typical I went inside and had a beer. It was a pretty impressive pub, but then again I am not all that surprised considering the value of the property that seems to be around here. The problem was that when I arrived I landed up behind the start of a wedding party, which meant that there was a string of orders at the bar (and only one bartender) before I got my opportunity. All the while I was looking at my watch only to discover that I actually had more time than I had originally bargained for, so I finished my beer, stood up, and went for a walk into the park.
It turns out that this used to be a military base, and as I was heading along the main path I noticed signs that warned me not to trek across the bush because to do so might result in me stepping on some unexploded ordinance. Sure, this is something that might happen in the fields of Flanders and Piccardy, but I didn’t expect this to be the case in Australia. Well, as it turns out it is, especially when they used to use the place to practice firing artillery. In fact there is even an old hut here called ‘The Gunner’s Hut’, which I suspect is where the gunner used to live. There is also an old quarantine station, but I didn’t get around to checking it out due to time limits.
The thing with Point Nepean is that it sits at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, upon which the city of Melbourne is located (and up until 1920 it was the capital of Australia, and is also a major shipping fort). As such this place is pretty strategic, and if the enemy either captured it, or laid mines out the front, then there could be quite a lot of trouble. As such they decided to fortify the place, and as you head closer to the end of the peninsula you begin to see quite a lot of bunkers. At one point there was a sign that directed me to The Eagles Nest, and when I wandered along it I found a bunker hidden in the scrub, but it turned out that this wasn’t the nest that I was looking for.
Closer to the tip you then approach a couple of forts, with Fort Nepean being right at the end. You also being to see Queenscliff on the other side of the bay, which is a pretty good indicator that you are almost there. In fact there is a ferry that travels regularly between Sorrento and Queenscliff so you don’t have to take the long way round. A friend theorised that that was what I was planning on doing, but I thought there was a gap between Queenscliff and Geelong – it turns out that there isn’t. Further along the peninsula becomes much narrower to the point where you can turn around and see both sides at one, which I have to admit is awesome.
Then I arrived at Fort Nepean, which is right at the tip of the peninsula, and it turned out that this fort is more than just your typical fort. In fact little of it can be see from above, and it instead dives into the ground to riddle the area with tunnels and bunkers. This is not surprising in an age of artillery and bombs, since underground fortifications stand up much, much better to such assaults than your traditional forts. However, despite wanting to spend a lot more time exploring the place, I had a quite look around, and on the way back stopped off at the Harold Holt memorial, which is erected near where he was taken by a rip.