How we got there: We drove, Point Nepean is about an hour and a half from Melbourne via tollways and freeways. We actually drove along the coastal road the whole way, which is about a two hour drive, but prettier. See Dromana, the first photo above (and also a great place to stop for coffee!)
It’s also possible to get there via public transport from Melbourne: catch a suburban train to Franston, and then the route 788 bus to Portsea – it stops right outside the national park. Train trip is about 60 minutes, bus trip an extra 90 minutes (the bus also stops in Dromana if you want coffee/brekky there).
Activity summary: Three hour walk including beaches, beautiful coastal forest, historic maritime defense ruins, historic quarantine station. You could spend longer here if you wanted to spend more time than us exploring the ruins and the quarantine station. Note also that there’s a shuttle bus that runs IN the park that cn shorten the walking if you prefer.
What we did (the details): We arrived at the Gunner’s cottage car park at around 11:15am and headed off past the cemetary and towards the beach. We ignored the turnoff to the left along Coles track, continuing on down to the sand of Bay Beach.
We walked west along the beach, the sun sparkled on the water and the Queenscliffe ferry sailed off across the bay. At the end of the beach a set of stairs heads back into the bush and we turned onto the south west track, crossing back along the main road, making for Happy Valley.
The short section of track named Happy Valley was amazing. The close canopy of the coastal trees made the area feel like another world, and after the bustle on the tracks elsewhere, we had this trail to ourselves. The track is called Happy Valley but it was the barracks for Cheviot and a nasty place, named ironically by the soldiers (read more here http://nepeanhistoricalsociety.asn.au/history/defence/defence-in-the-20th-century/ ). The track descended down through the ruins of the barracks, and the miserable history of the place pressed close.
Emerging from Happy Valley the track soon heads up around to Cheviot Hill which rewards a short steep climb with views across the peninsular. We then walked back to the road, crossing back over to the trail on the north side of the peninsular, heading towards the machine gun emplacement. This area is where we saw the most birds.
Back onto the road and deeper into the park we stopped briefly to explore the gun emplacements and dark tunnels of Fort Pearce and admire the ocean-side coast, then continued to Fort Nepean. The views walking along the road were incredible.
We only had to dodge the bus once on this stretch of road. A few small family groups hopped off with bikes and scooters, and a group of four surfers, whooping with joy at the sight of the waves.
Once at Fort Nepean we headed right and down the steps to the Machinery Workshop and latrines and anticlockwise around the road looking out across the Bay. We stopped to help a surfer crossing over the fence back onto the road OUT of the ‘danger! bombs!’ signed beach. He was struggling getting both bike and surfboard over the fence. I guess the surf is good enough to risk the old ordinances…
After more breath-taking views across the heads, we turned back to the fort and to the final bus stop to check the timetable. With half an hour till the next bus, we shouldered our packs and walked the 30 mins back to our car. As we headed along the ithsmus with the waves crashing on the outward shore, or rescued surfer cycled past, and with a glance at the wild surf he called back to us “I guess that’s why Prime Ministers die…” We agreed grimly.
Arriving back at the car, we drove into the Quarantine station for a quick look around, but feeling tired and with so many people already at the place, we only spent about 20 minutes or so there. The station was intriguing in a disturbing way. There’s something about the isolation cells, and the cold reality of the dissecting tables that speak loudly of the misery of the place.
We left the park around 2:30pm.
Feeling like more of a look around the Mornington Peninsular, we drove out to Cape Schanck for a quick poke around. The walk to Bushrangers Bay is now pretty high on our to-do list!
Birds we saw: Singing honey eaters, red wattle birds, wrens!
Books: The walk is described in Day Walks Melbourne by John Chapman and co. Also a similar walk is in Top Walks in Victoria by Melanie Ball. Both are great references.
- Parks Victoria page for Point Nepean http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/explore/parks/point-nepean-national-park
- Parks flyer, including map: http://parkweb.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/315565/Park-note-Point-Nepean-National-Park.pdf
- Environment department Quarantine station information: http://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/places/national/point-nepean
- Wikipedia article, includes the history of the site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Point_Nepean
- Nepean Historical Society http://nepeanhistoricalsociety.asn.au/history/defence/defence-in-the-20th-century/