Sights you’ll see
1. Queenscliff Harbour
Queenscliff Harbour is a modern marina precinct established in a true Victorian working harbour, so there is always something to see and do. Whether you’re watching the Pilot boats returning from their trips into the rip, or you’re signing on for a dive trip to one of Victoria’s famous historic dive sites. Perhaps you’re just taking it all in from the second story fine dining room located in the restaurant or braving the heights and soaking up the wonderful 360 degree views from the harbour’s very own observation tower. www.queenscliffharbour.com.au
2. Shortland’s Bluff
The upper lighthouse (High or Black Lighthouse) situated in the grounds of Fort Queenscliff was built in 1863 to replace a wooden structure which was moved to become the first lightstation at Point Lonsdale. Built of solid bluestone from the Maribyrnong district, this lighthouse was never painted and is the only black lighthouse in Australia.
Soon after the completion of the High Light, the building of another lighthouse, to be known as the Low Light, commenced on the South side of Shortlands Bluff. The Low Light is also referred to as the White lighthouse. These lighthouses sits within the walls of Fort Queenscliff and it shines its light guiding ships through the RIP.
Point Lonsdale is a coastal township neighbouring Queenscliff. Point Lonsdale is also one of the headlands which, with Point Nepean, frame The Rip, the entrance to Port Phillip. The headland is dominated by the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse. With a small population of 2477 Point Lonsdale is the final resting place for many WWII veterans and Fort Queenscliff personnel in its small cemetery.
Port Phillip (also commonly referred to as Port Phillip Bay or (locally) just The Bay) geographically, the bay covers 1,930 square kilometres (480,000 acres) and the shore stretches roughly 264 km (164mi). Although it is extremely shallow for its size, most of the bay is navigable. The deepest portion is only 24 metres (79 ft), and half the region is shallower than 8 m (26 ft). The volume of the water in the bay is around 25 cubic kilometres.
The only sea passage between Port Phillip and Bass Strait is through a narrow entrance called the ‘Rip’. The headlands at the entrance to Port Phillip are Point Lonsdale and Point Nepean, know as the ‘Heads”. A third headland at Queenscliff, Shortland’s Bluff, is also important for navigating through the Heads. Although the Heads are 3.05 km apart the reefs on either side restrict the navigable channel to about 300 metres. In the early 19 century many groundings and wrecks occurred as mariners attempted the passage through the Rip. There are over 20 shipwrecks between the ‘heads’.
Point Nepean marks the southern point of The Rip (the entrance to Port Phillip) and the most westerly point of the Mornington Peninsula, in Victoria. It was named after the British politician and colonial administrator, Sir Evan Nepean. It is within the suburb of Portsea. Its coast and adjacent waters are included in the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park, while its land area is part of the Point Nepean National Park. Cheviot Beach is located on Point Nepean, where the SS Cheviot was wrecked in 1887 and Prime Minister of Australia, Harold Holt, disappeared on 17 December 1967, presumed drowned. Visit website
Swan Island is home only to the Queenscliff Golf Club, which occupies the western end of the island, and to the Department of Defence which operates a training facility occupying the central and eastern parts of the island. It also serves as the land access point for the Queenscliff Cruising Yacht Club on Sand Island. It can be reached by a one-way vehicular bridge and causeway from Queenscliff via the small saltmarsh-covered Rabbit Island. Access to both Swan and Sand Islands is restricted to members of the golf and yacht clubs, Defence Department personnel, or by permit, with the only road guarded by a security gate. The bay between the western and eastern lobes of the island is Stingaree Bight. Swan Island now adjoins Sand Island, formed by the cutting of a channel between Port Phillip and Swan Bay to make the entrance to Queenscliff Harbour. The continual maintenance pumping of sand from the harbour’s entrance channel to keep it navigable has resulted in longshore drift of sand north-eastwards to connect Sand Island with Swan Island and create two lagoons Pope’s Eye is the uncompleted foundation for an island fort intended to defend the entrance to Port Phillip.
7. Popes Eye
Construction of Pope’s Eye began in the 1880s, under the supervision of Sir William Jervois, by dumping bluestone boulders on a submerged (12 m deep) sandbank until they formed a horse-shoe shaped artificial reef, open to the north-east, just above high-water level. Construction ceased before completion as a fort because improvements in naval gunnery enabled the entrance to Port Phillip (The Rip) and the associated shipping channel to be protected by guns at the nearby Swan Island fort, as well as at Fort Queenscliff and Fort Nepean, making Pope’s Eye redundant for military purposes. The reef now hosts a navigation beacon.
The inside of the ‘eye’ is only about 2 m deep and is accessible to small boats as a sheltered anchorage. It is protected from strong currents and the whole structure is popular with snorkellers and scuba-divers.
8. Quarantine Station
The arrival of the sailing ship ‘Ticonderoga’ at the Port Philip Heads on 3rd November 1852 after a voyage from Liverpool during which 100 people had died necessitated the opening of the Quarantine Station at Point Nepean. The site had already been selected to replace the former quarantine area off Point Ormond, near modern-day Elwood, but no ships had actually been directed there before the arrival of the Ticonderoga with 300 or so very ill people. Control of the site was taken over by the Commonwealth Government in 1910, after federation. As years passed and health regulations changed because of modern developments in medicine, the use of the Station for quarantine purposes became less frequent. In 1952, the Department of the Army took over some of the buildings to establish a training college for officer cadets, while the Department of Health continued to maintain some buildings for use should the need for quarantine arise. Later use of the site by the Department of Defence was for the training of medical personnel. In 1998 the army left the area and the only use for the rest of the century was for a group of visitors from war-torn Kosovo who were brought for a respite visit by the Commonwealth Government in 1999. Visit Website
9. Chinaman’s Hat
The term Chinaman’s Hat is the local name once associated with the site of a former military structure, Station M, but now transferred to a new seal platform erected by Victoria’s Park Authority in 2002. The post-war structure was built to replace a dilapidated military installation erected on a dolphin as part of the Port Phillip bay defence system shortly before 1942. This earlier structure is often said to have supported an optical mount, or ‘Magic Eye’ which transmitted two Piezo electronic beams across the Rip to a large mirror, and then to two reflectors, respectively Station P, and Station S, at the Heads of Point Lonsdale. Any break in transmission in such a system was designed to set off an alarm to signal the possible presence of enemy vessels. The mechanism apparently did not function as expected, and the equipment was removed two years later, in 1944. Some doubts, however, have been expressed regarding the existence of this interception system: the site certainly was equipped in wartime with underwater indicator loops to detect submarines. After it was abandoned, the dilapidated remains were used as a perch for both recreational fishing and as an anchorage. It rested on a circular concrete caisson base, roughly 7 metres in diameter, raised on a sandy shoal some 6 metres below the water line.
The western most settlement on Victoria ‘s scenic Mornington Peninsula , Portsea has become a popular holiday destination. Most of the holiday makers come during the summer months to escape the hussle and bussle of nearby Melbourne (100 km away). Portsea has been described as “exclusive” and the “preferred holiday destination of Melbournes ‘ elite” however this sleepy little seaside town of 550 permanent residents have something for most tastes. From the always lively “Portsea Pub”, which has become an icon in its own rite, to the rugged windswept coast line, which feature the world famous “London Bridge” rock formation (no so much a bridge these days!), It’s a great place to spend a couple of days resting and relaxing. Portsea front beach is overlooked by the Portsea Hotel, and plays host to the rugged open ocean, ideal for surfing and the regular iron man competitions. Other events of note on the Portsea calendar include the Portsea Pro-Am Classic, the Pier to Pub Swim, the Portsea Swim Classic, the Melbourne to Hobart and Melbourne to Davenport Yacht Races. See how the other half live with you view of million dollar mansions taking inhabiting the cost line.
11. South Channel Pile Light
The South Channel Pile Light is a single-storey octagonal lighthouse in Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia. It was built between 1872 and 1874 and originally served to guide ships through the narrow South Channel and was occupied by lighthouse keepers until 1925. The light was finally switched off in 1985, having operated as a navigational beacon for 111 years. It ceased operation in 1985, and fell into an era of neglect and vandalism. The structure was restored by Parks Victoria in 1998 in accordance with Heritage Victoria guidelines and relocated three kilometres off the coast of Ryde Beach.
12. Mud Island
The Mud Islands cover an area of about 50 ha is made up of three low-lying islands surrounding a shallow tidal 35 ha lagoon connected to the sea by three narrow channels. The shapes and configuration of the islands change over the years due to movement of sand by tidal currents
13. South Channel Fort
South Channel Fort is a 0.7 ha artificial island in southern Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia, 6 km north-east of the town of Sorrento. It was part of a network of fortifications protecting the narrow entrance to Port Phillip It is 122 m long, 76 m wide, and is 6.4 m above sea-level. It was built on a shoal, close to the main shipping channel of the bay, with 14,000 tonnes of bluestone boulders, concrete and sand. It was constructed during the 1880s as part of a defensive strategy to protect and control access by sea to Port Phillip and the cities of Melbourne and Geelong. It still contains remnants of its original military equipment, including disappearing guns. South Channel Fort has been listed on the Register of the National Estate both for its historic significance and its conservation importance as a breeding site for the White-faced Storm-petrel. Other species visiting the island include Little Penguins , Black-faced Cormorants and Australian Fur Seals. Since 1995 it has been managed as part of the Mornington Peninsula National Park. Public access is permitted during daylight hours and it is a popular diving site.
14. The Boiler
Boiler remains of the Steamer Wauchope sinking in 1918.
15. Sorrento Pier
The Sorrento Pier was constructed in 1870 and became essential to the development of the township. Steamships brought visitors from Melbourne. From the pier a ramp provided access to a steam tram which ran to the back beach. The steam tram was enormously popular in the early 1900’s, carrying up to 20,000 people in a season. The tramway closed in 1921. As road transport became more competitive, paddle steamer usage declined and the last steamer came to Sorrento in 1942.
Today, the Sorrento Pier is visited by many different types of recreational and commercial vessels. On any day during the summer months, people stroll along the pier or make it their departure point for a variety of water-based activities.
Eliza Ramsden – (Wreck is about ½ way between Queenscliff and Sorrento on the ferry route)
Built in 1874 in Scotland, owned by Samuel Ramsden it was known as “one of the finest ships on the coast”. The Eliza Ramsden hit a Corsair rock while navigating its way through The Heads on the 24th July 1875. All the crew were safely taken to shore by lifeboats. The captain returned to the wreck site the following day to find the ship floating up towards the South Channel, it only reached the entrance of the channel where it founded with Topmasts visible above the water and sunk. The wreck is reported to be visible when the strong tides move the sands exposing the hull.