You would be pressed to find a place less disturbed by nature that’s teeming with significant cultural history dating back thousands of years, a well preserved wildlife population and ocean that holds mysteries and stories from a time gone by more so than Point Nepean National Park.
After exploring the region and ticking off your Mornington Peninsula itinerary you will undoubtedly find yourself at the westernmost point of the entire Peninsula coastline in Point Nepean national park.
One hour and 37 minutes from Melbourne CBD, this is the perfect day trip plan to really escape the city.
Surrounded by the waters of Bass strait, Port Phillip bay and what’s known as ‘The heads’ (Port Phillip heads marine national park), Point Nepean is a culturally significant landscape to the Boonwurrung first nations people of Australia; having lived in the region for tens of thousands of years before european settlement.
Point Nepean national park has been used over the centuries as an important Quarantine station for ships arriving onto the shores of Victoria as well as a World War gun placement and defensive fortification.
In addition to protecting the Victorian population from infectious diseases throughout the rich immigration history, Fort Nepean took refugees from Kosovo in 1999 after the Kosovo conflict.
It’s also the site to which a former Australian Prime Minister disappeared in 1967 into the sea, never to be seen again.
There are so many interesting and beautiful hiking trails within Point Nepean national park, an abundance of wildlife including kangaroos, wallabies, snakes and birds makes it the perfect place to break out your mountain bike and your camera.
Read Next >> Continue to explore the Mornington Peninsula with our locals guide right here
Where is Point Nepean national park?
Located at the westernmost point of the Mornington peninsula, following Point Nepean road through Sorrento and Portsea until you reach the front entrance to the national park.
Less than 5km in length from start to finish ‘as the crow flies’, point nepean covers 560 hectares of land with a mix of bush and coastal walks.
It’s worth adding Point Nepean to the end of your Mornington Peninsula itinerary as it is the furthermost spot to reach by car.
Governed by Parks Victoria and separated from the Mornington Peninsula national park, it is surrounded by protected marine parks all around, from Phillip Heads marine national park to the south and Ticonderoga bay to the north.
Point Nepean national park is located at the end of Defence road in Portsea 3944 VIC
We highly recommend this private day tour that takes you from the Melbourne city centre all the way to the Point Nepean National Park showing all the highlights along the way.
A brief history of Point Nepean national park
The Boonwurrung first nations people inhabited the region for 40,000 years prior to European settlement collecting shellfish and other foods as their main source of food.
Point Nepean served as a purpose built quarantine station back in 1852 and served as such until officially closed down in 1980 when it became used as an army officer cadet school and the school of army health until 1998.
Visitors to Point Nepean national park are able to walk about freely and admire some of the earliest built intact infrastructure in Victoria’s quarantine history dating back 150 years.
It’s incredible to see how the buildings have stood the test of time being so isolated and exposed to strong winds and the salt of the sea.
You can pick up a guide from the visitor centre that’s exactly like the one here
Did you know that Point Nepean was the most heavily defended and fortifed place in the southern hemisphere during the 1880s- 1940s?
It’s one of Australia’s best examples of how military engineering and technology has evolved over the course of 100 years or so.
With over 50 heritage listed buildings that make up the Quarantine station in Point Nepean national park and 14 major buildings waiting to be explored, a fantastic way to explore them all is through a self-guided walking tour of the national park.
By grabbing a map from the visitor information centre you can explore the region and discover over 5 major walking tracks carved out within the park that explore significant coastal regions, old gun cottages and placements as well as exploring the natural flora and fauna of the park.
Some of the major walking tracks in the region include the Bay beach walk, Wilsons Folly track, a section of the Mornington peninsula walking track (100km) or the Walter Pisterman heritage walk.
All of this is included in your private full day tour from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula.
The best things to do at Point Nepean National park
One thing you should definitely NOT DO, is walk into the fenced off region south west of the entrance through unexplored bushland.
Remembering this is an ex-military fort, hence a large chunk of the land is unexplored and deemed dangerous as it may contain unexploded devices such as land mines and potential grenade land so…just don’t !
Explore Gunners cottage at Fort Nepean, a single story building constructed to house military personnel and their families. Originally located near Fort Pearce, it had been moved during the early 1900s.
Located near Gunners Cottage is the Point Nepean cemetery, in which infected ship passengers and crew on board the clipper ‘the Ticonderoga’ succumbed to the fever Typhus and were later buried along with fallen military personnel.
Not far from Gunners Cottage is what remains of an old cattle quarantine facility at Observatory point, in which cattle were quarantined to prevent the spread of what we now know are Zoonotic viruses.
A small wooden jetty sitting in the water is all that remains of this structure.
Both cyclists and hikers can take Coles track to the quarantine station.
Monash light lookout was originally built as a form of a lighthouse for seagoing vessels, but is now used to relay transmission for tidal buoys.
Cheviot Hill and Harold Holt memorial
Located halfway between the start and finish of Point Nepean national park is Cheviot Hill, the highest point of Point Nepean and home to World War 2 fortifications.
Named so after the SS Cheviot became shipwrecked here in 1887 killing at least 35 passengers on board.
Admire the views over Bass strait and Port Phillip heads marine national park where there is absolutely no swimming whatsoever due to the rough seas and unpredictable nature of the ocean.
So unpredictable in fact, that in 1967 a former Australian prime Minister by the name of Harold Holt disappeared off Cheviot beach after being granted special permission to swim here (it was and still is a no swim area).
His remains were never recovered and is presumed to have drowned – all that remains is a Memorial to his name not far from Cheviot Beach.
Full day tour >> Check out your private day tour from Melbourne to the Mornington Peninsula
Explore Fort Pearce, Eagles Nest & Pearce barracks
Probably our favourite piece of military fortification in Point Nepean national park is located towards the end of Defence Road and overlooks Port Phillip Bay at the water’s edge.
Eagles Nest was built in 1889 and is the site of an old gun placement that held a 6 inch mark iV disappearing gun that had a 12.5 kilometre range over the protected waters of Port Phillip Bay.
It had a 10 inch diameter barrel that served as the main artillery weapon during the region’s history.
The Pearce barracks were used as accomodation and housing for the military personnel that occupied and engaged during the world wars.
Getting to the pointy end of the island, Fort Nepean is at the very tip of Point Nepean national park where visitors can explore the range of military fortifications, underground tunnels and gun placements from which shots were fired during WW1 & 2.
If you’re a massive history buff and want to really take advantage of the history of the region you can purchase the award winning virtual audio tour form the information centre at the entrance to the park.
Conversely you can purchase the audio on your smartphone through the app store and download from there. Allow two hours to fully explore the region and take time to soak it all in.
You will notice trolley tracks and remnants of a transportation system here built in 1885 that provided the personnel with ammunition, food and other supplies within the region between forts and barracks.
The tunnels that run through Fort Nepean were reportedly built around 1882 as a way of safely navigating the north and south lookouts of Point Nepean national park.
The first shots of World War one by the British Empire and Australia’s first shot of World War 2 came from Gun placement number 6 not far from the parade grounds in Fort Nepean.
The searchlights of Fort Nepean used to be powered by coal-fired boilers; as there is no need for search lights nowadays, the tunnels that interconnect the fort are powered by solar panels that illuminate the darkness of the tunnels.
Hiking through Point Nepean national park
The Range area walk is a 1.8km hike traversing through coastal scrub, the old rifle range of the military cadets as well as connecting you through to the Happy Valley track.
The Wilsons Folly walking track connects London Bridge, a sandstone formation off the back beach waters in Portsea to Point Nepean.
This is in fact an extension of the Coastal walk that runs from Cape Schanck at the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula through coastal Banksia sands, Moonah woodlands and native grasslands.
Taking this full day tour from Melbourne and explore all the National Park has to offer
Probably the most famous of all the walks on the Mornington Peninsula is the Mornington Peninsula walk which is in fact composed of 4 shorter walks, the two bays walking track, the coastal walk, Point nepean walk and the Bay trail.
All four of these hikes make up the Mornington peninsula walk and is exactly 97.5km in length and takes approximately 8-10 days on average to complete.
It’s regarded as one of Victoria’s top walks in the state.
You can visit the Victoria Tourism board website for information about the hikes in the region.
Native wildlife of Point Nepean national park
With over 650 hectares of land including native australian shrub & coastal vegetation, hiking through Point Nepean national park is actually really interesting.
I took Laura through here not too long ago and we managed to stumble across a few eastern brown snakes, a much larger one and a baby snake. If you happen to see snakes best to leave them well alone as they will bite if they feel threatened and they carry one of the world’s most venomous bites.
Home to many native animals such as the white footed dunnart, long nosed bandicoot, black wallaby, singing honeyeater, hooded plovers and kangaroos.
Point Nepean is unquestionably the largest, intact area of remnant coastal vegetation on the southern side of the Mornington Peninsula.
Marine protected areas
Marine protected areas are bodies of water geographically assigned protection by the state’s parks services because they are deemed rich in marine biodiversity and hence are off limits to commercial and recreational fisheries.
The inter-tidal zones of the Port Phillip heads are home to an abundance of marine life including shellfish, marine invertebrates, beautifully coloured sponge gardens, tall kelp forests and emerald green sea grass beds.
Further out away from the protection of the coral that live here are a number of larger species including sharks, migratory whales during the winter months, pods of dolphins and Orcas known to frequent these waters.
Important things to remember when visiting Point Nepean
We all love the environment and nature so we’ve included a short list of things to consider when visiting national parks in Victoria.
- Take all rubbish with you when you leave
- Fires and camping is prohibited in Point Nepean national park
- Access to certain parts of the coast is prohibited due to danger and land preservation
- Swimming is not allowed due to the dangerous rips and currents
- No dogs or animals allowed
- Drone use is not allowed
For more information on parks regulations and emergency contact information visit their website for up to date info.
On days of extreme fire risk the park will be closed to the public, you can call 13 1963 for park info.
When is the park open to the public?
Point Nepean is open to the general public everyday from 8am to 5pm, exiting permitted at any time afterwards.
The information centre is open to the public from 10am to 5pm daily
Point Nepean national park extra information – Open times and car parking
There is a large car park at the quarantine station or you can choose to park at Gunners Cottage and walk the 2.6km to Fort Nepean from here.
If you prefer to let someone else do the driving for you then why not hop on their shuttle service that operates daily from 1030 am to 4pm between the quarantine station and fort nepean.
Transport around the park
Once inside the national park it’s quite easy to drive your own car around to the different locations however you can only go as far as Gunners Cottage and you will have to ditch the car and walk the rest.
However if you prefer to explore more slowly you can always hire a bike from the main visitor info centre and return it before 4pm.
Alternatively, you can use the many hiking trails to navigate your way between each location on the map.
The shuttle bus service runs as a hop on hop off system on a time table. Most pick up times run every half an hour so plan accordingly to suit between exploring Fort Nepean and the viewpoints.
The shuttle service will cost you $12 per adult and $8 per child and can be paid for when boarding from the bus driver. They are only valid for one day and cash and card are both accepted.
Have you been to Point Nepean national park?
With the covid situation constantly evolving, Point nepean national park is currently closed to the general public