A SEASIDE GEM
Sorrento,that The earliest white settlers were
pastoralists, farmers, market
beguiling Mornington gardeners and timber cutters.
They soon found a more
Peninsula seaside lucrative future in an abundant
supply of high grade limestone.
village, is more than It was burned to use as mortar
just a pretty face. in building construction. Lime
burning was the main local
In addition to its picturesque beaches, industry until the 1890s. Several
gorgeous coastal walks, spectacular parks, majestic limestone buildings still
swish accommodation, lovely eateries, exist in Sorrento.
fabulous shopping, and ferry service to
Queenscliff, it's the birthplace of our state. Fishing was another early
industry of Sorrento and the
The first (newly created) Union Jack to fly in Pier was built in 1870 and it has
Australia was raised at Pt King in Sorrento
on March 9, 1802 by Acting Lieutenant John
always been a hub of tourism Sorrento also
Murray of the H.M.S. Lady Nelson.
Along Ocean Beach Road businesses rapidly
has some truly
Lieutenant Governor David Collins in the
H.M.S. Calcutta, along with the supply
sprang up, such as, Stringer's Stores which spectacular
were the first village shops in Sorrento.
ship the Ocean, came next to establish the
When it comes to tourism, recreation and
first Victorian settlement at Sullivan's Bay
in October 1803. It was here that the first commercial development, special credit Some go for many kilometres, some a few
white marriage ceremony, birth, christening, goes to George Coppin. He was a colourful hundred metres, encompassing key aspects
funeral and schooling took place. It was character who began his career as an of local history.
also the site of the first stonemasonry, actor and took to the stage throughout his
One little walk is up the track from
store, hospital, wharf, magistrate's court, life. He was also an entrepreneur with
the new (2003) historical marker for the
government printing press, postal service many and varied ideas and later became
Collins Settlement Historic Site on Leggett
and public water supply. a Parliamentarian. Modern Sorrento really
Way (Mel. 157 F/G 10) It goes to the hilltop
owes it's identity to his ability to promote
All of this was accomplished between graves of the early settlers.
the commercial opportunities and natural
October and May! It's a pretty walk taking in some lovely
virtues of the area.
The Collins settlement site was deemed views. Standing in front of the settlers
unsuitable and they relocated to Hobart in Amongst many other graves is humbling when considering how
they built a whole settlement from scratch
1804. However, there were some notable ventures Coppin envisioned and in a brave new world.
identities amongst their numbers.
started the Sorrento Tramway
During the early days of settlement, a few Another irresistible walk is variously
convicts escaped. All these escapees Company which ran a steam tram called the "millionaire's walk", the "green
died, except for one William Buckley. from the pier to the back beach gate walk" or the newly sign posted Sorrento
He disappeared and lived amongst the - Portsea Artists' Trail. Begin at the end of
from 1890 until 1920. Point King Road (Mel Ref 157 A4).
Aboriginals for 32 years! He reemerged later
and was duly dubbed the "wild white man". Another Coppin company initiated the Go to the end of the road and turn right
regular paddle- wheel steamer service from going through the green gate, one of many
Another notable was an eleven year old boy Melbourne. The Ozone, Weeroona and gates along the way. Please keep in mind,
named John Pascoe Fawkner who later Hygeia plied the waters of the bay daily in though the cliff top is public land, the walk
became the founder of Melbourne! "the season" which ran from Cup weekend runs right along the front of many beautiful
The next set of settlers stuck. to Easter. He was also instrumental in private properties.
These early pioneers of Sorrento establishing the Mechanic's Institute (1876)
established an identity from the 1830s which provided a public library, concert Continue along the walk stopping to have
that still exists today. I met Jenny Nixon venue, dance hall & all manner of uses over a look at the cairn and artists' trail sign
(Skelton) at the Nepean Historical Society. the years. He established the Ocean Park at Point King. Along the path you'll take
Her father's family line has lived in Sorrento Trust which built the amphitheatre lookout & in incredible sea views on your left and
since 1841. She wrote a very interesting limestone pathways at the back beach. magnificent homes on your right. There are
account of early families called Family, two artist trail signs at the point that juts
Coppin's friend, Sir Charles Gavin, who out farthest from the cliff past the two white
Connections, Sorrento and Portsea. was Premier of Victoria in 1871-2 was metal gates beyond "Cliff Crest".
She cautions that you better be careful what also important in the early development
you say in Sorrento because the person of Sorrento. He is credited with naming My favourite house, a few properties past
you're talking about may be related to the Sorrento after the similarly lovely Sorrento on this point, is "Netley" built in an unusual
person you are talking to! the Bay of Naples in Italy. adaptation of the Californian bungalow
style. Further along the cliff top you reach
While in Sorrento you really shouldn't resist a trip to the fascinating Nepean Historical a high charcoal grey fence which is Lentell
Society at the Mechanic's Institute, 827 Melbourne Rd. Touch screen tutorials, early Avenue, go left through the gate to the little
photographs, beautifully displayed costumes, excellent scale models and intriguing point across the way, there is another artist
artifacts from Aboriginal times to shipwrecks are on offer. trail sign and that is the end of the walk.
The volunteers are friendly & knowledgeable. Watts Cottage ("Ilfracombe"), built Retrace your steps from there.
in 1869 as home to John and Jenny Watts, overlooks the lovely Pioneer Memorial - Andrea Thomas
Garden. It's a wattle and daub cottage fitted out as it would have been in the day. Many thanks to Janet South, NHS
Tours are available. The NHS has done an outstanding job of illuminating the early archivist, for her generosity of time and
history of the Nepean peninsula in a fun and engaging way. recommendation of useful resources. - A.T.