By the time the first stone of Point Cook Homestead was laid by pastoralists Thomas and Andrew Chirnside, they were already wealthy men. Arriving in Australia in 1839 from Scotland, they established a string of grazing properties across the Western district. Just before the gold rush they bought a property on Port Phillip Bay by the Werribee River and in 1857 they built a substantial but isolated bluestone home by the bay's edge near a wooden jetty from which wool was shipped to Melbourne then to Britain. Twenty years later they constructed the much grander Werribee Mansion, and the old homestead was then used as a hunting lodge. Then Thomas Chirnside fell into "fits of melancholia" and fretted "over imaginary losses", committing suicide in 1887. Point Cook Homestead is now owned by Parks Victoria but is temporarily closed to the public. However, next Saturday night, an evening tour of the grounds and homestead will be led by Lantern Ghost Tours, during which guides will tell stories of the Chirnsides and, presumably, tales of alleged paranormal activity.
Point Cook Homestead Rd, Aug 18, 8.30pm, $36, lanternghosttours.com
The only sound is the breaking of small waves on the shelly beach. Pelicans and herons fly overhead, the tranquillity broken by the small but powerful training aircraft circling the nearby air base. Point Cook Beach is a long, quiet stretch of golden sand beach easing into gentle shallow waters backed by low sand dunes and a forest of casuarinas. With a playground, barbecue and toilet facilities, it's a popular place for young families throughout the year.
Point Cook is the birthplace of Australian military aviation. In January 1913, a 300-hectare sheep paddock was purchased from the Chirnside family by the Australian Government to establish the Australian Flying Corps, later the RAAF. In March 1914 the first plane took to the skies. Point Cook is still home to RAAF Base Williams, the base for RMIT's pilot training school and the RAAF Museum, which is open to the public, with aerial demonstrations every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 1pm. In the hangars is a collection of retired aircraft such as one of the Iroquois helicopters that flew at the Battle of Lon Tan in Vietnam. The collection covers the history of the RAAF from canvas-covered wood planes of the early 20th century to the F-111 from the jet age.
Point Cook Rd; Tue-Fri 10am-3pm; Sat-Sun 10am-5pm; entry free; Photo ID essential for over-16s.
Saltwater Coast is a new development within Point Cook. Park of the master plan was a large amount of parkland, including Crocodile Park, a popular children's playground. This long, narrow park straddles a series of wetland ponds home to swans and wading birds, and is beautifully landscaped with native trees, banksias with meandering paths, playgrounds, water features and lots of nooks for hide and seek.
260 Saltwater Promenade
There is some decent Malaysian food at Sanctuary Lakes Shopping Centre; try Kampung Story for the $12.80 two-course special that could be spring rolls, beef rendang, roti and sweet tea. Nyonya House has a selection of dishes from Peranakan Chinese Malay Cuisine including Nyonya chicken and rice along with other popular dishes such as char kway teow, the popular fried flat noodle dish.
300 Point Cook Rd.
The astonishing feature of the red-necked avocet is its fine upturned bill. With black markings on white wings and a russet hood, the wading bird has an almost aristocratic air. It is one of the many birds that call the Ramsar-recognised Cheetham Wetlands home. This 420-hectare complex of lagoons, once a salt works and natural wetlands, was declared a reserve in 1996, and is the summer home of thousands of migratory birds. The Cheetham Wetlands are open for special tours during the Summer by The Sea program run by Coastcare (summerbythesea.vic.gov.au).In other seasons, you can take the 1.5-kilometre stroll to The Tower, a monument to migration, that stands more than 10 metres above the wetlands looking out over the samphire, karkalla and ponds of water towards the city skyline.
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