Arthurs Seat in Mornington Peninsula is situated 60km south of Melbourne CBD overlooking the Port Phillip Bay. This is a popular tourist attraction for its panoramic views of the coast, walking tracks and the famous chairlift.
Mornington Peninsula was the land of Boonwurrung people, who named Arthurs seat ‘Wonga’, after the Wonga Pigeon which used to flock to the area to nest. The beginning of the end of peaceful existence for aborigines began on February 1802, when six men entered the Port Phillip Heads in a launch from the Lady Nelson, which had been despatched from Sydney to make a close examination of the southern coast of what later was named Victoria. A fortnight later Lady Nelson, anchored near the Today’s Sorrento. The Commander of the Ship, Lieutenant John Murray, named the high mountain situated eastward as Arthur’s Seat, for its resemblance to a mountain of that name in Edinburgh.
The hill rises to 314 m (1,030 ft) above sea level. On a clear sky day, standing at the lookout points of Arthurs Seat offers the finest panoramic views to Victoria’s coastline. In the west are the Otway Ranges; across the bay the You-Yangs ; to the north Macedon; and toward the east are the Dandenongs, and, towering behind them, the Warburton and Healesville ranges. Turning to the right- about, one may see Westernport, partly surrounded by forest, and beyond Phillip Island the waters of Bass Straits glimmer away to the skyline.
Murray and his team did not climb Arthurs Seat for the fear of an attack from hostile aborigines. On 27th April 1802, Mathew Flinders, aboard ‘Investigator’, entered Port Phillip. The next day, a small party including 16-year-old John Franklin, climbed Arthurs Seat.
In 1844, when Sir John Franklin’s term as Governor of Australia was at an end, he came to Victoria to visit some old friends and among them was Captain James Reid who had taken up cattle run and built a home on the stream now known as Balcombe’s Creek. One day Sir Franklin, Captain James Reid and McCray who’s run included Arthurs Seat set out on horseback to climb Arthurs Seat hill. It was reported by Argus that , When about two thirds of the way up Sir John Franklin dismounted, and in reply to a question whether he had dropped anything, he said, “I am looking to see whether there is any sign of the heap of stones I placed here when I was on the mountain in April, 1802, with my commanding officer and kinsman Matthew Flinders, of the Investigator.”
Until the dirt track ascending the summit from Dromana opened in 1929, the access to Arthurs Seat Summit was through Red Hill. In 1931 Howard Lawson started the development of the Garden of the Moon, originally the Hollywood Inn, bringing tourism to Arthurs Seat. The lookout tower was opened in 1934. The Arthurs seat Chairlift was opened by Dr Vladimir Hayek in 1960.
Attractions of Arthurs Seat
Arthurs Seat has many lookout points which give panoramic views of Victoria’s Coastline
Chapman’s Point – At 274 meters. The plaque at Chapman’s point reads, ‘In honour of a pioneer family. Presented by Mr & Mrs G.R. Dyson 14/12/1929. James Chapman was the first known European resident of Arthurs Seat. He built a house at Seawinds. Chapman worked as a Gardener at Heronswood (Homestead) in Dromana.
Arthurs Seat Summit – At 305 meters. The plaque here reads, ‘This Tablet was unveiled by Baron Somers K.C.M.G. D.S.O. M.C. Governor of Victoria to commemorate the opening of the Arthurs Seat Road on 14th December 1929. The First Trig Station was erected on this site in 1853. Presented by Spencer Jackson Esq.’
Murray Road Outlook – At 247 metres. The plaque here reads, ‘To Commemorate Lieut. John Murray who named this mountain on 15th Feb. 1802. Presented by L. Carrigg Esq. 14/12/1929’
Franklin Point – At 195metres. To commemorate Sir John Franklin, who as a 16-year-old climbed the mountain in 1802 as a member of Mathew Flinders exploration team and later in 1844 with his friends. The plaque here reads ‘To Commemorate Sir John Franklin who ascended this mountain in 1802 and 1844. Presented by A.V. Shaw Esq. 14/12/1929’
Bowen’s Outlook – At 145metres. The plaque here reads, ‘Bowens Point to Commemorate Chief Officer Bowden of the Lady Nelson. First White man to enter Port Philip on 4th February 1802. Presented by J.H. King Esq. 14/12/1929’ . Bowen was a Chief Officer at Lady Nelson. He was the first known white man to enter Port Phillip Bay on 4th February 1802.
Seawinds is a garden situated in Purves Road, near the Arthurs Seat Summit. The garden has picnic tables, BBQ facilities and a range of walking tracks. The garden was part of the property of Arthurs seat’s first settler, George Chapman. Chapman acquired the property of 34 hectares in 1896. He worked at a homestead named Heronswood in Dromana. Chapman lived in a small shack near the north lookout and walked to work each day.
The Garden was developed by Sir Thomas Taverns from 1946 to 1975. The seawinds Gardens were purchased by State Government in 1975 and was opened to the public.
The Giant Chair at the park is the third one positioned there on 1st December 1979. As per the plaque, it is positioned there as an effort to maintain tradition as its two predecessors were lost in history and also accommodated many an important backside.
Flinders Cairn is erected at the area where Mathew Flinders viewed the Bay.
The Plaque here reads, “On April 27th, 1802, MATHEW FLINDERS RN stood on this mount named Arthurs Seat Lieut Murray who discovered the bay Jan 5th 1802. Franklin verified this spot in 1844. Dromana Progress Association 1914”
The Enchanted Maze Garden
The maze Garden website describes it as “Amazing gardens and mazes, bush scramble obstacle courses, thrilling tube slides and indoor 3D spooky maze”. The garden is open every day of the year except on Christmas Day.
Arthurs Seat Chairlift
The Arthurs Seat Eagle links base station Dromana to the Summit of Arthurs Seat. The construction of the new Chairlift began in October 2015 and was opened on 3rd December 2016. Arthurs Seat Chairlift has more than fifty years of history behind it. In 1959 Czech Engineer Vladimir Hajek designed and built the Chairlift and was opened in 1960. It was first of it type in Victoria. The Chairlift structure was 950 metres long and 225m high with 60 double chairs. It was taken over by Richard Hudson in 1979. By year 2000, chairlift began experiencing many safety issues and even found it difficult to obtain public liability insurance. In 2003, a pylon collapsed bringing down the Chairlift. 18 people were injured and another 65 were trapped for upto 6hours and as a result the lift was closed. In 2004, the Chairlift reopened after half a million renovation. The same year, an elderly woman broke both her legs, when the Chairlifts collided. In 2006, mechanical problems resulted in ten people getting trapped at the top for around 3 hours. The chairlift was closed and decommissioned in 2006. In 2014 VTAC approved brand new Arthurs Seat Eagle and the newly built chairlift was opened on December 2016. The ride has 24 fully enclosed gondolas.
For details about Arthurs Seat Chairlift visit https://aseagle.com.au/
Walking tracks around Arthurs Creek
(The information is provided by Parks Victoria)
Arthurs Seat Circuit Walk – 1.8km Circuit walk takes visitors to major points of interest close to the Arthurs Seat Summit. Follow the Crimson Rosella Symbol to stay on track. Walk includes the Matthew Flinders Cairn, Seawinds Gardens, William Ricketts sculptures, the Seawinds Nursery Volunteers Indigenous Garden and all of the major lookouts
TC McKellar Circuit Walk– This 1km walk starts from the Seawinds Gardens information shelter. In springtime you can see many wildflowers which were once common on the Mornington Peninsula. The track passes through areas burnt by the January 1997 wildfire.
Kings Falls Circuit Walk – The falls, which flow most of the year, are on the southwestern slopes of Arthurs Seat. A small gravel carpark is the start of a pleasant 1km circuit through native bushland and a magnificent fern gully
The Two Bays Walking Track– This 26km track enables people to walk from Dromana on Port Phillip Bay to Bushrangers Bay near Cape Schanck. The track passes through a variety of habitats as it traverses the peninsula. Rather than walk the entire Two bays Walking Track on one day, many walkers prefer to incorporate sections of the track into smaller circuit walks by including adjoining walking tracks and roads.
The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957) Sat 12 Nov 1927 accessed on 7th January 2018 through Trove