The Historic Charm of Churchill Island

Stepping onto Churchill Island is like stepping back in time. Connected to Phillip Island via bridge, it harks back to yesteryear, when stocky horses pulled wooden carts and fresh produce markets were the highlight of the week.

As well as a look at life from another era, Churchill Island is a picturesque place to discover; quaint cottages are tucked among pretty gardens and immaculate lawns, while the coastal landscapes offer breath-taking views of Phillip Island and the surrounding scenery. At the heart of it all, a well-restored farmhouse takes visitors back in time and shows them how life once was on this cute little island.

It is the historic draw of the island that keeps visitors coming back for more. Holding a vital spot in the history of Victoria’s European settlement, it was the site of the very first agricultural activities in the state, dating back to the mid 1800s. As well as holding this title, it also boasts the privilege of being home to Victoria’s first European style garden, making it a prime location for wedding venues.

Since the 1850s, the land on the island has consistently been farmed using traditional methods and practices. In 1872, it was bought by Samuel Amess, a former Mayor of Melbourne, and has continued to thrive as a historic farming hotspot.

Today, the 57 acres of lush land and picture-perfect scenery is open to the public, who can explore artefacts from the past and discover a way of life that has long since disappeared. Surrounding the farm land, there are beautiful wetlands, ancient Moonah trees, and historic gardens that complete the heritage feel of the island.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm

Things to Do on Churchill Island

Churchill Island is full of things to do for all the family, and makes for the perfect day out for all ages. Farm activities begin in the afternoon and are sure to delight the whole family. Some of these activities include cow milking, sheep shearing and whip cracking demonstrations. It truly is a step back into the pioneering lives of those who farmed here in the late 1800s.  Be sure to visit the heritage homes to see the living conditions that well-off prospectors had on Churchill Island.

Amess House and Other Heritage Homes

Built in 1872, the home of Samuel Amess was built as a holiday house by the former mayor of Melbourne and stonemason. Amess is known to have built several landmarks around Melbourne and had earned enough of an income to have his holiday house built on the picturesque land of Churchill Island. Today, it’s been restored to its former glory of the 1870s thanks to the National Trust who has lent furniture from that time period to decorate the house, so that visitors can have an idea of what life in the late 1800s would have been like on this tiny island.

Also on display are heritage cottages, one of these homes is from the Rogers family, who were pioneer farmers. There home dates to 1862, making it one of the oldest in the Phillip Island area.

Visitor Centre

Boasting an exhibition bursting at the seams with fascinating historic information and a licensed café that’s ideal for soaking up the views, the Visitor Centre is an important stop on any visit to the island. Lunch here is a firm favourite with visitors, who can enjoy a glass of wine while basking in the sun.

Walking Trails

The picturesque scenery of Churchill Island lends itself perfectly to walks and hikes. All around the coast there are crisscrossing pathways that expose walkers to stunning views and breath-taking landscapes. A walk to the island from nearby Cape Woolamai takes in dense forests, sprawling wetlands, tidal inlets, and a collection of local flora and fauna.

Island Markets

On the last Saturday of each month, the local market brings the island to life. Here, you can browse stalls piled high with cheeses, fruit, vegetables, and fresh produce. With over 40 stalls to work your way through, you’re sure to find a little souvenir to bring back with you, whether it be local crafts or even homemade jams!

Churchill Island Walks

There are two walks along Churchill Island that are both family-friendly and graded at a moderate level. The first is called the Churchill Island Loop which is the longer of the two, coming in at around 5 kilometres. The trail will take around 2 hours to complete but it’s a lovely walk to explore the green scenery and wildlife on the island. The second and shorter circuit is the North Point Loop, a 2-kilometre walking trail that will take around an hour to complete. Both tracks are suitable for prams and bicycles as the ground is mostly compacted granite sand.

Activities on the Island

Churchill Island is very kid-friendly and a great place to let the kids run around, play in the grass and experience life on the farm. They’ll be able to milk cows, ride on a wagon or even a tractor, and crack a whip. There are even demonstrations such as sheep shearing and a look into how working dogs are used on farms.

Discover the Ancient Moonah Trees

There’s another reason that makes Churchill Island so sacred to the traditional custodians of the land; the Bunurong people. The old Moonah trees that surrounded spots around the island have a lifespan from 300-500 years old and a tragic love story to go with it. It’s said that these twisted trees were once a young couple from a tribe in the area. After they refused to separate from each other and contribute to do work on the island, the tribespeople banished them both. After they were banished, it’s said that the lovers froze to death still locked in their embrace. From them grew the Moonah trees which are an integral and symbolic part of the island today.

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