Churchill Island

Connected to Phillip Island via a long bridge, the 57-hectare Churchill Island truly can claim to be one of Victoria’s best-kept secrets.

While it is stunningly beautiful in its own right and boasts some fantastic walking trails, it is the history of the island – and its fascinating heritage farm – which ultimately persuades most grey nomads to make the trip here.

A few years after being discovered by George Bass and Matthew Flinders in 1798, Lieutenant James Grant arrived and built a small cottage on the island, as well as initiating what is reputed to be the first European gardens in Victoria.

He named the island after his friend, John Churchill, who had given him the seeds to plant wheat, corn, potatoes, peas, coffee berries, apples, peaches and nectarines.

Churchill Island

The heritage farm gives visitors a glimpse into yesteryear. PIC: Tourism Australia

The island was bought by the Victorian Government in 1976, and is now part of the Phillip Island Nature Park.

The piece de resistance is the fascinating heritage farm (entry fees apply) where visitors can see restored buildings and get a real sense of how early settlers farmed the land.

There is plenty of historic farm machinery on display and daily demonstrations of activities such as sheep shearing, blacksmithing, cow milking, and whip cracking.

Interesting buildings include the grand house built by former mayor of Melbourne, Samuel Amess, after he bought the island in 1872. The property has now been fully restored, and is furnished in the style of the 1870s to offer visitors an insight into life at the time.

There are also a number of heritage cottages to enjoy, including the former home of the Rogers pioneer farming family. Another highlight is the sight of the distinctive Highland cattle, which were introduced to the island by Samuel Amess to remind him of his Scottish homeland.

Grey nomads who time their visit for the last Saturday of any month, can also enjoy a lovely little farmers market boasting a large array of local produce.

Churchill Island

There are regular demonstrations of many aspects of life in the 1870s. PIC: Tourism Australia

Away from the farm, the island itself is spectacular and there is a series of scenic walking trails. Among the most popular are the 4.5-kilometre Churchill Island loop; and the two-kilometre North Point loop.

Neither is particularly demanding, and both deliver truly stunning views. Taking a stroll around the island is also a great way to spot some fascinating wildlife – including a large variety of wetland birds – and to get up close and personal with some ancient and gnarled Moonah trees, which are reputed to be some 400 years old.

There are plenty of camping options on Phillip Island proper, so Churchill Island makes a great – and extremely worthwhile – day trip.

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