TRAVELLING across the single-lane bridge, you could be forgiven for thinking you are travelling back to a time when life was a little simpler.
The Cape Barren geese greet you, honking and showing off their bright green beaks. The Highland cattle lift their heads from their green pastures, idly acknowledging your presence, and the windmill blades turn slowly in the breeze. Welcome to Churchill Island.
Take time to explore this little hidden gem to discover a place of many stories. You’ll find walks under ancient Moonah trees, fresh produce and coffee, gardens and friendly farm animals, and sweeping lawns with views stretching across Western Port Bay.
The Island is known as Moonar’mia by the Bunurong People, who are the Traditional Custodians of the area and their history dates back tens of thousands of years to when they visited during summer months to feast on shellfish, Short-tailed Shearwaters, and marsupials.
Since European settlement in the 1800s, the Island has been a farm, a vegetable garden, and a summer retreat for the well-heeled.
The Victorian gardens are a legacy of those days and are lovingly tended and preserved for us to share and explore today. As summer arrives, the hollyhocks are out in full bloom, putting on a spectacular show of colour. In the orchard, the fig trees are starting to bear fruit, and the annual contest begins between the farm staff and the over-interested possums to see who will reap the rewards.
As well as being entertaining to watch, the ducks and chickens help the farmers by keeping cabbage moths at bay, so the kitchen garden is also bursting with life. Summer seedlings like tomatoes and cucumbers are being closely watched by the chefs in the café, waiting to harvest this home-grown produce, and prepare some tasty treats.
Order a delicious farmhouse breakfast in the cafe from 9am on weekends and enjoy the peaceful views from the deck across to French Island. Or reward yourself with a coffee and cake any day of the week after a walk on one of the Island’s walking trails.
The North Point Loop trail follows the shoreline for an easy to moderate 2km, winding its way past the Clydesdale horse paddocks and underneath arches of ancient gnarled Moonah trees. As you walk, look out for scratchings in the ground which indicate the nighttime wanderings of our newest marsupial resident, the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. At every bend, you’ll find views over Churchill Island Marine National Park, across to Rhyll, the Mornington Peninsula, and around to French Island and Corinella.
And there’s still so much more to see and do – we’ve barely even scratched the surface. There are restored cottages and homesteads to poke through, daily farming activities to experience, and friendly farm staff that love a yarn. There’s even a farmers’ market with plenty of fresh, local produce on the first Saturday of every month.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore and experience all that Churchill Island (Moonar’mia) has to offer.