Focus On: Mt Eliza
Recently ranked as the 14th best suburb in (greater) Melbourne by homely.com.au, Mt Eliza residents would prefer to keep Mt Eliza a secret.
Sitting snugly between Frankston South and Mornington, Mt Eliza is a gateway to the Mornington Peninsula. A bustling seaside suburb, the area has a certain ‘je ne se quois’ about it. It’s somewhat elegant and refined, and indeed prestigious, and within an easy 45 minute reach from Melbourne’s CBD it provides a comfortable commute for city workers.
The area is bordered Kackeraboite Creek, Humphries Road, Moorooduc Highway, Wooralla Drive, the Mornington railway line, Oakbank Road, Manyung Creek and Port Phillip Bay, and there are several beaches to enjoy including Half Moon Bay, Moondah Beach, Ranelagh Beach and Sunnyside North Beach.
Mt Eliza straddles both sides of Nepean Highway, with the more prestigious properties and higher price tags sitting beach side as you would expect. And while the main strip does carry traffic through to Mornington and beyond, Peninsula Link takes the bulk of the traffic heading south. As such the area isn’t a public thoroughfare filled with tourists, it’s more like a quaint village with tree lined streets and a safe and friendly community atmosphere.
Mt Eliza was named by Captain William Hobson after Eliza Elliott, his wife, in 1836 when he surveyed Port Phillip Bay. The area didn’t attract European settlement early in the pastoral occupation of the Peninsula, it was better known for timber milling.
Canadian Bay was named after three wood cutters who worked in the area (Mr Hodgins, Mr McCurley and Mr Jones) who cut wattle and sheoak logs and shipped them on the schooner ‘Liverpool’ from Canadian Bay to Sandridge (now Port Melbourne).
Davey’s Bay is named after James Davey who constructed a jetty in the 1840s to ship his produce to Melbourne (the Daveys Bay Yacht Club was later established in 1909).
With a similar social profile to Sorrento and Portsea, Mt Eliza offers prestige with a (slightly) smaller price tag (and much smaller summer crowds). It is undoubtedly a popular holiday destination for Melburnians though, providing a coastal getaway with all the amenities of a more urban life – boutique shopping, fine dining and great coffee.
Mt Eliza is one of three prominent rises, mainly granite, that protrude to the western coastline of the Mornington Peninsula (along with Mt Eliza and Arthurs Seat, which is the highest). The coastline around Mount Eliza is jagged with cliffs that provide scenic walking tracks above stretches of secluded sandy beaches in small bays and coves. Access to most of the beaches along the coast is via residential streets (most have small car parks at the end) – and most of these streets have spectacular bay views from prime real estate filled with high end homes and weekend retreats.
Mt Eliza Village was established in the 1950s. It’s a popular destination (and yes, parking can be an issue), but it really has something to offer all who stroll along its pristine streets. A little confusing for the uninitiated, the Village runs along Mount Eliza Way and Canadian Bay Road. The shopping precinct is a mix of fine boutiques, gift stores, gourmet grocers, cafes, restaurants, a few bars and some small supermarkets, along with all the essential amenities. It is fragmented, but very interesting to explore, and quite peaceful and quiet in the mornings and evenings.
Architecturally there is a real mix of the ultra modern mansion sitting alongside grand old homes, interspersed with 1970s retro styles and mid century homes, and the more non-descript late century homes too. There is little high rise to speak of.
In 1865 the local Anglican community constructed the St James the Less church, a heritage listed building made from local granite. In the following decade well-to-do Melburnites began to construct large holiday homes along the coast including Sunnyside (now Morning Star) which was built in 1870. Morning Star Estate is a distinctive example of a Victorian era mansion built as a rural or holiday retreat on the Mornington Peninsula, with nods to the Tudor and Gothic revival. It was originally purchased by Londoner Francis Alfred Gillett in 1865. In 1932 the property was purchased, with funds from a bequest, by the Catholic Church and became known as Morning Star Boys' Home. The Estate is home to one of the largest rose gardens in Victoria, the extensive gardens surrounding the main mansion are home to more than 700 varieties of ornamental roses. The property was sold earlier this year to a Chinese developer or approx $36.2million.
There are a number of significant properties in Mt Eliza, including Trawalla which was built in 1871 and Manyung which was constructed in the 1860s and later renamed Norman Lodge when acquired by Norman Myer (to be used as a staff holiday centre for the Myer Emporium in the 1940s-50s).
There are some excellent schools in the area too, including the prestigious Toorak College (established 1928), one of the oldest independent girls schools in Victoria.
It wasn’t really until the 1920s (with the electrification of the train service to Frankston and the wider availability of motor cars) that Mt Eliza became more residential. In 1924 Marion Mahony Griffin and Walter Burley Griffin designed the Ranelagh estate with its own country club (Ranelagh Club 1924) and beach.
During the early post war years some of Melbourne's foremost architects designed houses in Olivers Hill (just north of Mt Eliza) and Mt Eliza itself. Robin Boyd's Pelican House (1957) and Roy Ground's Round House (1953) are celebrated examples. Hollywood glamour came to Mt Eliza in 1959 when movie stars Fred Astaire, Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner arrived to shoot the Stanley Kramer film, On The Beach, based on the novel of the same name by British novelist Nevil Shute who had lived at nearby Langwarrin.
Today Mt Eliza is home to well-off retirees, with over 30% of the permanent populations aged over 55. However with the easy commute to the city, the area is becoming much more popular with young families too. (Population 2016: 17,888).