Watching ocean liners enter The Rip is a calming indulgence at Point Nepean. The Bass Strait’s powerful forces crashing against Port Phillip Bay are clearly at play. But the land on which Point Nepean National Park stands is also significant to the Bunurong People of the Kulin Nation. It had fulfilled a vital military role and served as a quarantine station. And, as the site of Harold Holt’s disappearance, mystery abounds but clues to its intriguing past remain.
Stunning coastal walks unveil this remarkable history; check out the Visitor Centre near the Quarantine Station for historic monuments, cairns, shuttle bus access and more.
MON MON-A WOMAN’S PLACE
For more than 35,000 years, Mon Mon, as it’s known to the Bunurong people, was home to a sacred birthing site. Within Point Nepean National Park, more than 70 sites are culturally significant. Many remain protected but you can respectfully admire the long-standing connection at publically-accessible coastal midden sites.
Today, the Bunurong People work with Parks Victoria to preserve the landscape here.
THE QUARANTINE STATION
Port Nepean’s isolation, deep channel, potable groundwater and abundance of wild parsley (for the scurvy-affected) pegged it as the ideal site for a quarantine station.
After it was assessed in 1850, authorities ‘encouraged’ farmers, locals and limeburners to move on and in 1852, the-then Port Phillip Government poured the equivalent of £5,000 into a wooden infirmary. By decade’s end, the government erected another five two-storey hospital blocks as the local gold fields opened up through central Victoria.
It operated as a quarantine station until the 1980s and was home to the School of Army Health until 1996. But, intriguingly, many of the original sites remain, snapshotting a remarkable 150 years in medical evolution.
TOURING THE QUARANTINE STATION HISTORIC SITE
Among the restored assets are a luggage fumigator, hospital, a military school and a washhouse for infected clothing.
Interpretive signs shed light on the immigrant experience, and medical progress through the years at the Quarantine Station Museum.
But you can also uncover more secrets wandering the grounds and Quarantine Station Museum at your leisure, with Parks Victoria’s audio tour as your guide.
European settlers on the Mornington Peninsula earned a crust purifying lime for stone dwellings as early as the 1840s. There’s actually two lime kilns within the park. They’re inaccessible but you can walk into the cellar of the Shepherd’s Hut at the Quarantine Station, Victoria’s earliest sandstone dwelling.
WALKING ‘THE NARROWS’ TO FORT NEPEAN
Port Nepean’s 270-degree views presiding over The Heads sealed its role in Victoria’s defence back in 1878, when barracks were built.
Gun batteries originally manned and maintained by the Royal Victorian Volunteer Artillery Regiment in 1886, remained a first line of defence until the end of WWII in 1945 at the point’s Peak. By walking, riding or bussing ‘The Narrows’ you’ll find the Pierce Barracks, the gun batteries and an eerie warren of tunnels.