One of the most fascinating periods of Australian history is free for you to explore in the beautiful Point Nepean National Park at the southernmost tip of the Mornington Peninsula. Lined by a stunning narrow beach for a midday dip, landscaped with lovely wooded paths, it is hard to imagine the suffering that occurred when 305 infected ships landed here. Read on to learn about this exquisite day trip destination from Melbourne, nestled in a stunning National Park along Port Phillip Bay. Do it yourself or take a day tour, this comprehensive post gives you all the information you need to see a beautiful and extraordinarily interesting (and sad) part of early Australian history and culture.
Take a Day Trip to the Quarantine Station in the Mornington Peninsula’s Point Nepean National Park
The large site is beautifully preserved. There are almost 50 heritage buildings and you can wander through many of them.
Each building has its own artifacts and there are extensive signboards telling you about the sad and spooky history of the Quarantine Station. There’s a shuttle bus around the site and you can hire bikes and e-bikes or bring your own. With great parking, it’s easy to explore the Quarantine Station.
It’s also possible to include the Point Nepean Quarantine Station on a day tour from Melbourne and the very best tours are below. In addition to regular tours of the Port Nepean Quarantine Station, there are also Ghost Tours that explore the quarantine hauntings and ghost stories.
- Point Nepean National Park location: Ochiltree Rd, Portsea VIC
- Quarantine Station location: Coleman Rd, Portsea VIC
What is Quarantine?
I first visited the Quarantine Station just before the COVID-19 Pandemic, in the month before Australia shut its borders for almost 2 years. Back then, a Quarantine Station was a weird idea, a remnant of our past. But we all know about quarantine now!
According to the Point Nepean Quarantine Station, the definition of quarantine is:
The principle of preventing the spread of infectious disease by which people, baggage…likely to be infected or coming form an infected place are isolated at frontiers or ports until their harmlessness has been proven…
The word ‘quarantine’ gives away the period of time people were isolated – 40 days. These days people are quarantined until no longer in an infectious stage, meaning quarantine times are much shorter.
Quarantine in Australia followed these international guidelines. The quarantine definition only applied to the plague, cholera, relapsing fever, smallpox, typhus fever, and yellow fever.
Read on to discover how awful it would have been to have come to Australia all the way from England on a diseased ship!
The History of Quarantine at Port Nepean Quarantine Station
In 1852 the SS Ticonderoga arrived from Liverpool, England. Onboard were 300 people suffering from measles, typhus, and dysentery.
The SS Ticonderoga was the first ship to be quarantined at Point Nepean. A Quarantine Station and cemetery were established to accommodate the passengers. Only two years later, another cemetery needed to be established. The last person buried in the cemetery was in 1926.
Each year more buildings were added to the site, including a hospital, bathhouses, and quarantine jetty. Industrial disinfecting equipment for infected clothing was also housed at the Quarantine Station.
All of these buildings erected on the site and their equipment are wonderfully preserved and a fun self-guided destination.
Lepers, Consumptives, Cemeteries, and Crematoriums
In 1864, the Victorian armed forces began constructing defensive fortifications at Point Nepean.
The Quarantine Station was also a hive of building activity. A Leper’s Station, a Consumptive Camp, and an Isolation Hospital were created.
Up until the turn of the century, the Quarantine Station expanded and became more orderly. This included the building of a crematorium in 1892 for leprosy patients.
The map above is a map of the Quarantine Station in 1920 that shows the position of the leper colony and consumptive wards relative to the main areas of the Station.
There was something for everyone – one hospital was upgraded into a facility for the ‘first-class’ passengers.
The image above is of the first-class dining area.
This was a time when passengers would alight from ships in very ill health and many subsequently perished.
Heaton’s Monument stands on the site of the original beach cemetery. The cemetery was created to bury the passengers who died from the SS Ticonderoga in 1852.
It had to be moved as bodies would be washed up by the rough seas. Heaton’s Monument records the names of the 100 people buried in the original beach cemetery.
Spanish Flu and the World Wars
The first half of the twentieth century saw Australia become adept at housing quarantined passengers.
Flying the yellow “Q” Quarantine Flag, ships would wait in Port Phillip Bay. The Flag meant:
My ship is ‘suspect’
I have had cases of infectious diseases more than five days ago, or there has been unusual mortality among the rats on board my ship
Spanish flu (influenza) killed between 50 and 100 million people globally and came to Australia in 1919. One-third of all Australians contracted the disease. Approximately 15,000 Australians died in the first year that the Spanish flu arrived in the country.
It’s no wonder the Point Nepean Quarantine Station housed so many passengers from ships carrying the Spanish flu. 125,000 people were tested at the Quarantine Station in 1918-1919 for Spanish flu. They were mainly soldiers returning home from World War I.
The Australian Defence Forces were billeted at the Quarantine Station in World War II as the demand for Quarantine areas decreased with medical advances making them less necessary.
The Military Years and the Kosovars
After the end of the Second World War, the Australian military decided to hold on to the Point Nepean National Park.
In 1952 an Officer Cadet School was established and shared the Quarantine Station site. From 1963 the Army built facilities for accommodation and training. In 1985 a School of Army Health was opened at the site.
These buildings, now abandoned, contrast with the cream brick and wood buildings of the earlier phases of Quarantine Station builds. The Quarantine Station stopped operating in 1978 and was closed in 1980. But then, in 1999, Australia granted 400 Kosovar Albanians temporary protection as part of Operation Safe Haven.
These 400 refugees had fled the Kosovar region of the former Yugoslavia and the Quarantine Station once again housed people fleeing suffering. In 2009 the Quarantine Station was handed over to the Victorian Government and it became part of the Point Nepean National Park.
Point Nepean Quarantine Station Map
Quarantine Station Ghost Tours
In the Quarantine Station haunted? You’ll only find out if you take one of the Point Nepean ghost tours. The Point Nepean Quarantine Station ghost is believed to be that of Adeline Eliza Satchwell. Adeline was 83 when she died in 1943.
The Quarantine Station tours can be taken as regular tours of the facilities during the day, or as a ghost tour at night. Both are offered by the Nepean Historical Society located in nearby Sorrento.
On the quarantine station ghost tour not only will you look through some very creepy buildings with no one for miles around you, but you will also hear about the Quarantine Station Ghost Stories!
You can book these tours on the Nepean Historical Society’s website: Nepean Historical Society
Point Nepean National Park
Get orientated and learn all about Point Nepean Park at the Point Nepean Information Centre.
Here you can pick up a Point Nepean National Park Map and see the locations and timetable for the hop-on-hop-off-again Point Nepean Shuttle Bus.
- The old Melbourne Quarantine Station is just one part of Point Nepean and its National Park. Fort Nepean, Eagles Nest, Fort Pearce, Observatory Point, and the memorial to the former Primer Minister Harold Holt are all must-see parts of the Point Nepean National Park. See how to spend a great day in Point Nepean here: Point Nepean: Best Day Trips from Melbourne.
- From Melbourne, take the train to Frankston, and then the 788 bus along Point Nepean Road. The bus stops at the entrance to Point Nepean National Park. From there it’s a short walk to the Point Nepean Information Centre.
- Don’t leave the Mornington Peninsula without doing the Millionaire’s Walk! This short and easy walk along the cliff top at neighboring Portsea is a must-do part of any Mornington Peninsula itinerary. Click here to read about how to take the Millionaire’s Walk: Portsea Mansions on Port Phillip Bay.
- Now that you’ve seen the Mornington Peninsula, you must see the other side of Melbourne’s coastline: the Great Ocean Road and the 12 Apostles. Get my Great Ocean Road Holiday Complete Planning Guide here. Where to Stay on your Great Ocean Road Holiday? See my Ultimate Guide to Great Ocean Road Accommodation here for where to stay on your trip, and check out these itineraries from one day to one week here: Great Ocean Road Itinerary.
- Get Your Guide 12 Apostles activities and tours are here
- For other great day trips to Melbourne, see my blog post on wonderful walks and hikes to the east of Melbourne in the Dandenong Mountains and Yarra Ranges here
- For 5 great reasons to visit the village of Gembrook in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, see my blog post here
- For other wonderful destination information when you are planning your Australian holiday, see my Australia destinations page here
- More detailed information on how to book transport, airfares, accommodation, and travel insurance is available on my Travel Resources page