The town of Mornington is the home of the ever popular Wednesday Market along Main Street, and the Mornington Raceourse, which holds the equally renowned annual Mornington Cup. Incidentally the Mornington Racecourse also holds a craft market on the second Sunday of each month which boasts a generous collection of food, art and crafts, and garden plants and accessories. Over the years the town has grown to accommodate its increasing population with minimal sacrifice to the Main Street.
Main Street hosts a selection of cafés, hotels (often promoting local wines and produce), and boutiques that attract locals and travellers alike; however these aren’t Mornington’s only drawcard.
Mornington was named after the Duke of Wellington’s father, the Earl of Mornington’s seat in Mornington, County Meath, Ireland. It was however, originally named Schnapper Point. A.B. Balcombe, one of the first settlers in the area, is credited with naming the area after the Snapper, a small boat that paid periodic visits to Port Phillip and eventually met its end there. The name Mornington came into use circa 1860, for legal reasons.
Schnapper Point’s rise in importance instigated the construction of the Mornington Pier in 1855, at a cost of £10,000. The pier was completed in 1857 and remains today, differing slightly from the original structure. Locals still tend to refer to the area as Schnapper Point which also tends to encompasses the Mornington Yacht Club as well as the surrounding Mothers Beach.
Overlooking Schnapper Point, is a boardwalk (which provides views out to Port Phillip Bay), with picnic facilities, a monument to Matthew Flinders (1774 – 1814), Commander of H.M.S. Investigator, and a plaque commemorating the bi-centenary. At the entrance to Schnapper Point Drive is Mornington Park, which was developed in the 1900s by the Mornington Progress Association. The stone entrances of Mornington Park were built in 1932 as part of a job creation scheme during the Depression. The park boasts a playground, picnic and barbecue facilities, and a statue of Matthew Flinders. Mornington Park is also utilised in conjunction with some festivals and celebrations, such as Australia Day.
By the year 1860, Mornington had bloomed – it was made the legal centre for the whole peninsula. For this reason a courthouse and police station were also erected. The Mornington Petty Sessions Courthouse & Lockup was constructed at a cost of £892 and remained in use till 1988. In 2000, the campaign to rescue it from demolition was won, and work commenced to restore the dilapidated courthouse. Today, it serves as a tourist information centre staffed by volunteers and, not only is it the oldest public building in Mornington, it is the oldest courthouse on the Mornington Peninsula. Still retaining its original form, it is also the oldest surviving one in Victoria. The old Mornington police station, built circa 1862, still stands adjacent to the courthouse.
Across the road from the Courthouse Information Centre stands the Old Post Office Museum. It houses antiquated telecommunications equipment, bric-a-brac from the Victorian era, a collection of old newspaper clippings, as well as miscellaneous items of yore. Among the artifacts on display are an assortment of tools – scythes, butcher’s scales, etc. that were donated in a state of acute disrepair. These were reconditioned by a volunteer who painstakingly removed rust and dirt. The building formerly served as the Mornington Electric Telegraph Office and was opened in 1861, operating until 1963. Prior to the electric telegraph, the only communication with Melbourne was through a coach service established by Cobb & Co. which departed from the Royal Hotel on the Esplanade. The coach continued until 1889 when the Mornington railway opened.
The railway service ran from Frankston to Mornington via Baxter. Sadly the railway station, at the end of Blake Street, saw its last train on Wednesday, May 20, 1981, and was closed despite community efforts to keep it running. Through the tireless efforts of dedicated volunteers who began reviving the locomotives and the tracks, part of the Mornington Railway (Moorooduc to Mornington) has been reopened as a tourist railway. The steam driven locomotive runs on Sundays and also provides a courtesy shuttle at the Mornington Station to take travellers to and from the Main Street of Mornington.
On the side of the Mornington Peninsula Shire building facing Main Street, stands a bollard that was a gift from Westminster, London, to the Shire of Mornington Peninsula to mark its centenary in 1993. The bollard originally stood at the head of steps on the Thames.
The history of Mornington’s hotels date back to the mid-late 1800′s and to this day The Grand Hotel, The Royal Hotel & Kirkpatricks’s Hotel are still in operation.
Mornington’s attractions are not limited to historical buildings, monuments, and parks. At the Civic Reserve (located on Dunns Road), the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery and the charming Oak Hill Gallery, wherein various local artists exhibit.
Also notable is the Mornington Farmers Market (featuring produce from the Mornington Peninsula) at Mornington Primary School on Vale Street. Mornington also holds a variety of festivals such as Mornington Food, Wine and Performing Arts Festival.
For further information on Mornington’s attractions, events and places of interest one can visit the Mornington Information Centre located on Main Street for an array of brochures and assistance. The aforementioned Old Post Office Museum also offers a comprehensive walking guide to places of historical significance in Mornington.