THE rich history of the Mornington Peninsula has captivated the imaginations of many of those who have delved, but it’s also behind a new wave of history-based tourism.
The interest in the peninsula’s past adds another feather to its cap, joining the beaches and the rolling verdant pastures as a reason to visit.
History teacher and Eerie Tours proprietor Nathaniel Buchanan said his passion for history led him to the quarantine station at Point Nepean.
“When I learned all about the history of the quarantine station I was amazed – it’s got a colourful, tragic and interesting past that many people on the peninsula wouldn’t even know about, let alone people from further away,” he said.
“I have spent many years leading historic tours in Europe, and then Port Arthur, so I understand the interest from tourists to visit and learn.”
Buchanan, who has run tours at Ararat’s Aradale asylum for more than a decade, says his passion includes “opening up old buildings to the public”.
He secured permission from Parks Victoria to run Eerie Tours at Point Nepean and is in his seventh week at the site.
Visitors carry lanterns to light their way through the buildings at night and hear accounts of the many diseases that came into Port Phillip, killing hundreds of “inmates” at the quarantine station. Some of the tales make COVID-19 sound like a picnic in the park.
Buchanan weaves the stories with intrigue and suspense, sometimes leaving visitors wondering where facts become fiction. But it’s all in the name of education and, of course, entertainment.
While visitors won’t necessarily experience any eerie sensations on the tour, Buchanan’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the site’s chequered past is something to behold.
He says promoting public interest gives old buildings another chance to be relevant.
“The old quarantine station was a wasted asset, at risk of falling into disrepair, but now more people will see and appreciate it, and learn about it’s fascinating role in Australia’s history.”
In Sorrento, former AFL player Russell Morris is also championing the history of the area.
Morris, a Sorrento visitor for many years, started history walking tours with a less dark flavour after being “taken” by the sights and background of the scenic town.
“I just love the stories about the buildings, the stories about the people and the things that went on here – I really wanted other people to enjoy it,” he said.
“I love being able to share that with visitors, to walk around with them and show them another side to Sorrento.
“It took me a while to do the research for Sorrento Walks, and I’ve spoken at length to people who know the history, so I can give that insight and make it interesting.”
Morris launched his tours in October, coinciding with 220 years since the HMAS Calcutta sailed into Port Phillip and Lieutenant Governor David Collins set up camp. Among his cargo were 299 male convicts, 16 convicts’ wives, some children of convicts, and 50 Royal Marines and the civil staff.
“I really couldn’t find anything like this when I had the idea of a tour, and I wanted to be able to showcase this wonderful area and its history,” he said. “There is so much more to Sorrento than people realise.”