Mornington Camp, Victoria Nov 5-12 2022. (C & B walk reports)

This very happy and friendly camp had been postponed twice by Covid and so the thirty-two B and C walkers who finally arrived were really looking forward to it!  Most of us stayed in Dromana at the Kangerong Caravan Park, a good central location for our day walks. Walkers chose B or C groups depending on the difficulty of terrain and their fitness level. The weather was excellent! We arrived after a week of rain and, following the camp there was another week of more rain and flooding!

 The Mornington Peninsula Walk is comprised of three sections. The Coastal Trail section of the walk between Cape Schanck and London Bridge encompasses many smaller sections of ocean beach walking trails, some along gravel tracks and parts along the sandy beaches. It changes from rugged rocky ocean coast at Cape Schanck to dense vegetation along the way and the famous sandy surf beaches through Rye and Sorrento. The Two Bays section includes a challenging climb up to Arthurs Seat before descending to historic Cape Schanck. The final section is the Bay Trail from Point Nepean to Dromana which weaves through Portsea and Sorrento, past the grand homes of the rich and famous perched up on the high cliffs. 

C Walks

Day116 Beach to Sorrento Surf Club, Back Beach, Coastal Trail. Approx 10 kms.
The sandy track traversed low hills, sometimes with steps provided, with scrub and smaller trees and colourful flowers. We enjoyed beautiful views (often with crashing waves) from the cliffs of the southwestern side of the peninsula, stopping at the first sighting of the seascape for morning tea. A shy echidna appeared briefly. At lunch we were on the side of the track when other friendly walkers passed by.  One group of young men demoralised us a little because they had already completed 26 kms!

 Day 2Arthur’s Seat to Baldry’s Crossing Rd Picnic Area, Two Bays Track. Approx 14 kms (5 hours)
This varied and totally beautiful walk included a family of slightly inquisitive kangaroos greeting us from lush grasses as we parked the cars!  A steep descent on a narrow rocky path rewarded us with wonderful views through large eucalypts down into the distant Port Phillip Bay. At the base of the mountain, we passed a serene lake and then traversed fertile farmland and conservation parks with large eucalypts. It was damp underfoot (from recent rains) with the boardwalks much appreciated. Morning tea was a high point, being at the home of our leader Ian’s brother and sister-in-law. What a view; what luxury for us!
The Two Bays Track was a favourite because of the (prolific at times) Xanthorrhoea which softened the landscape at the base of craggy and unusually curved trees. Closer to the streams, impressive tree ferns dwarfed us.  Near the end point, a stream was at capacity. A brown snake was seen near here. We were surprised that we hadn’t seen more – it was perfect weather for snakes!

Day 3: Green’s Bush to Fingal Picnic Area. Approx 10kms. (Two Bays Walking Track, Cape Schanck Lighthouse)
This lush park with large eucalypts and high green undergrowth reminded us of the English countryside, especially when our narrow path (we walked single file) traversed the side of a hill, and deep green farmland suddenly appeared on a steep hill to our left.  We headed towards the southwestern coast and our first glimpse of a small cove was a beautiful surprise. Out came the cameras! (However, I noticed that the walkers didn’t choose to take a photo of a snake which the front walkers viewed on the track!) Nearing the Cape Schanck Lighthouse, a set of (many!) steps and a boardwalk invited us down to a small bay but we only had time to go halfway while on a loop track to the lighthouse. The coastline from the viewing points looked impressive in the sunlight, stretching down to Point Nepean past Sorrento. The lines of breakers moving towards the shore were perfect! We took an extra loop to our cars to enjoy the sea views for a little longer.

Day 4: Nepean Point. A circular walk. Cars left at the Quarantine Station. Opportunity to take shuttle bus back. 
This walk had a particularly interesting historical aspect. The Quarantine Station (constructed in 1852 for typhus, dysentery and measles) was far larger than we expected, with many buildings, a two-storey hospital included, and large pine trees which would have been planted in the 19th century. We walked on a well-established path (with clear signage) through high scrub with trees providing welcome shade, visiting Gunners’ Cottage and the Point Nepean cemetery (1854). The path continued along the coast of Port Phillip Bay with several views of small coves. We came across a gun emplacement, built to defend a small bay during WW1, soon reaching Fort Pearce, Fort Nepean, and Eagle’s Nest, where a defence system of gun emplacements with tunnels was created to defend Port Phillip Bay during WW1 and WW2. In fact, the first shot of the British Empire against the Germans was fired from these battlements. It was interesting to look down on the narrow peninsula which divides the rough seas of the Southern Ocean from the calm waters of Port Phillip Bay. On the return journey it was also interesting to see Cheviot Bay and the Harold Holt (PM) Memorial. Some keen walkers climbed Cheviot Hill on the way back to the cars. It was very warm in the sun!

Day 5: Portsea to Camp 60, Port Phillip Bay side of the Peninsula
This walk alongside the Port Phillip Bay section includes the interesting Portsea “Millionaires Walk” which passes mansions from previous and present times alongside the shore, looking down onto the private moorings and jetties with boathouses and small beaches. It felt strangely intrusive to be passing through many gates into what sometimes felt like the front gardens of the wealthy. In contrast, further along this path we walked through public lawns, playgrounds, and caravan parks alongside the very popular beaches.
An interesting plaque commemorated the first hoisting of the Union Jack on Australian soil in 1802! There were also plaques (Sorrento- Portsea Artists’ Trail) depicting paintings which had been inspired by various points of interest.

Day 6: Camp 60 to Anthony’s Nose. Approx 12 kms.
A straightforward, flat walk following the popular mixed-use path through the area between the main road and the beach, dipping into the sandy beaches along the way.  There are multiple opportunities for camping/caravanning provided in this continuous stretch of land, often with shady trees. We had lunch in a recently constructed playground.

B Walks 

A select group of five B walkers completed the full Mornington Peninsula Circuit of 100 kms traversing spectacular ocean coastlines, peaceful bay beaches and tranquil bushland. The weather was kind to us although at times it was quite hot. Apart from a couple of days the B and C walks were in similar locations, so numbers varied each day. 

 On day one the group tackled the 17 km walk, mainly on the beach from Cape Schanck to No 16 beach on the Coastal Trail. Four hundred steps took down us to the beach where we saw Hooded Plovers, Pacific Gulls, sculptured cliff faces and many surfers on the famous Gunnamatta Beach. At times we had to scramble over rocks and around rock pools. We left the beach several times to walk along the cliffs and enjoy the stunning views and crashing waves. The beach walking was tiring but enjoyable. We were pleased to reach the carpark at No 16 beach where we were greeted by some interesting beach/party goers dressed in minimal attire. 

On Day 2 the group was much larger for the walk from Baldry Crossing Picnic Area to Arthurs Seat. The Two Bays track wound through eucalyptus bush and fern filled gullies then through the streets of Rosebud before the steep climb up to Arthurs Seat. We were rewarded with views far across Port Phillip Bay. The Matthew Flinders Cairn was a point of interest. He was the first European to scale Arthurs Seat in 1802 where he constructed a stone cairn to mark the location. 

On Day 3 we continued from Baldry Crossing to Cape Schanck. This was a lovely walk passing through eucalyptus forests, grass trees, fern gullies and open grasslands culminating in coastal ti tree. The views of the coast down to Cape Schanck were stunning. A small group chose to go down onto the beach to view “Elephant rock”. There was much discussion on why it was called elephant rock as most could not visualise an elephant, possibly whoever named the rock had a better imagination than us.  
The day ended with a shared BBQ at the caravan park which gave the different groups a chance to catch up and share experiences. 

The rest day (day 4) was much appreciated by all and a variety of activities was enjoyed including visiting Cruden Farm, the previous home of Dame Elizabeth Murdoch, Cranborne Gardens, local wineries and Op shopping.

On Day 5 a group of 8 made an early start for the 17km walk on the Coastal Trail, from Point Nepean to No 16 beach. The walk was mainly along the cliff tops, which had many scenic lookouts, and occasional forays onto the beach. Morning tea was enjoyed under a pagoda high above the ocean. This spot was voted as the best rest spot of the week!  There were many blue tongued lizards sunning themselves on the track enjoying the first glimpse of summer. There were numerous sea stacks which are a large stack of rock in the sea that looks like a tall tower, we thought many looked like church pulpits. A large sphinx shaped rock covered one headland. We had a quick lunch stop sheltering under large rocks on the beach to escape the heat.

The last two days saw us on the Bay Trail which weaves through Portsea and Sorrento, past the grand homes of the rich and famous perched up on the high cliffs. We stopped at the Collins Settlement, site of the first official settlement of Victoria in 1803, followed by a short walk-through several foreshore campsites where many generations of Melburnians have spent their summer holidays.

General Conclusion:
We really enjoyed this camp which had a variety of walks catering for multiple needs. I particularly enjoyed the earlier walks because of the terrain but the historical aspect of the later ones was interesting.  Above all I enjoyed the support and preparation of each walk leader, the friendship and inclusive nature of the participants and the pleasure of sharing the experience with others I had never met before.
Thanks to those for organising a great camp and to all those who took on the roles of leaders.