Named after the wife of John Batman, the town of Mt. Eliza is Frankston’s friendly rival for the title of the “Gateway to the Peninsula.” Large numbers of kangaroos once roamed through the Mt. Eliza vicinity, serving as a source of food and income (through sale of kangaroo pelts and meat) for early settlers.
Unknown to those unfamiliar with Mt. Eliza history, was an event called “The Battle of the Bulge”. It was a proposal for a railway to be built to link Frankston and Mornington via Mt. Eliza. Unfortunately, the section of track through Mt. Eliza was both unsightly, and hazardous, and residents campaigned against it. Eventually, an alternative route was proposed and Mt. Eliza was saved. Ironically enough, years later, the issue of a through route came up again.
In 1862, Captain Edward Lintott donated almost 4 acres from the corner of his property so that a church could be built in Mt. Eliza. It was on Monday 16 November, 1865 that the corner stone of “St. James the Less” was laid. By chance, 51 years later, when repairs to strengthen the wall of church were being performed a large, sealed bottle was discovered behind the stone.
Inside the bottle – which was accidentally broken, it was revealed that a ceremony had in fact taken place when the stone was laid. The contents included a Melbourne newspaper to commemorate the date, information highlighting the gift of land given by Captain Lintott and coins in the currency used in 1865. The contents were placed in a new bottle and returned to its resting place, which probably still remains there to this day.
Built with a Tudor-Gothic influence around 1870, the eponymously named Sunnyside (now better known as Morning Star), sits near the border of Mornington and Mt. Eliza. It was at one time converted into the Morning Star Boys Home by the Roman Catholic Church. Now, the Morning Star Estate, with its vineyard visible from the Nepean Highway, boasts beautiful formal gardens with bay views, which visitors can enjoy for a fee.
Mt. Eliza is also home to Victoria’s oldest independent girls’ school, better known as Toorak College. The college made its home on the Old Mornington Road site, where it still stands, in 1928; however nowadays the boarding school is also co-ed from Pre-school to Year 6.
It was in the 1950s that the tiny village of Mt. Eliza began to develop. Today, The Village, Mt. Eliza, is a juxtaposition of the old and new, with quaint shops doing brisk business alongside modern stores. The shopping centre that is the heart of The Village was established in the 1960s. It is this unique anachronism that infuses The Village with its inherent charm.
Aside from the scenic views and whimsical village ambiance, Mt. Eliza’s more well known attractions include the lush gardens of the award-winning Lintons, established in 1937 and Manyung Gallery. Modelled on mediaeval architecture, and including a quaint drawbridge, the gallery’s name originates from the names of two creeks: the Manmangur and Gunyong.
Mt. Eliza also partakes in the sun and sand lifestyle enjoying the slight seclusion of its beaches such as Daveys Bay (where the yacht club resides) and Canadian Bay (aptly named after three Canadians who owned a sawmill in the area in 1850′s) in comparison to its surrounding counterparts.
It is perhaps the very reason scenes from On the Beach was filmed in 1959 in this location starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner.