Somers (including Balnarring)
Seaside resort on Western Port Bay which is
home to Coolart Mansion
Somers is a popular seaside resort with a safe
and pleasant swimming beach located 85 km
south-east of Melbourne on the southern shore of
the Mornington Peninsula, facing out towards the
western entrance to Western Port.
Somers began to emerge from the subdivision
of pastoral land in the 1920s. The town's
general store and post office date from 1927 and
are still in operation. The RAAF trained here
during World War II and the military buildings
were later taken over by the Education
Department which established Somers Camp. This
focus on the area's recreational and scenic
values led to the emergence of holiday homes and
campgrounds. The area is noted for its koala
population, its foreshore walks and for Coolart
mansion and estate. Somers and Merricks had a
combined population, in 1996, of 963.
The Emu Plains Market is held at Balnarring
Racecourse on Coolart Rd, on the third Saturday
of the month from November to May.
Things to see:
Somers possesses a safe and pleasant swimming
beach. Just to the west is Balnarring Beach
which has a general store on the foreshore. It
is suitable for surfing, bodyboarding and
'Coolart' is a magnificent 27-room Victorian
mansion situated on Lord Somers Rd. The Coolart
property (7000 ha) was established by Alfred
Meyrick in 1840 on land once occupied by the
Bunurong people. Its name derives from a
Bunurong word for nearby Sandy Point. Meyrick
moved to Gippsland in 1846 and the property
passed through various grazier's hands. The
first homestead was built in the 1860s.
The current home was erected in 1897 by
Frederick Grimwade of the pharmaceutical
company, Felton, Grimwade and Duerdin. The
outbuildings, which can be inspected, include an
earlier farmhouse. Inside is a collection of
paintings and photographs. The downstairs has
been redecorated in Victorian style while the
facade has been re-rendered.
Coolart is situated on the remaining 87
hectares of the original estate. It features
formal, English-style gardens, a circular rose
garden which blooms in summer, and a substantial
wetlands area which incorporates a several
distinct habitats which are home to different
species of waterbirds, including hundreds of
Australian white ibis which breed in the
wetlands each year. The birds can be seen from
two birdhides which are fitted with one-way
glass. Binoculars can be borrowed from the
visitors' centre which also has bird lists. At
1.30 p.m. on weekdays and 2.00 p.m. on weekends
there is an audio-visual on Coolart's history
and wildlife in the Wetlands Observatory.
The Visitors' Centre has guides to both the
formal gardens and the Woodland Walk which leads
through remnant woodland (watch out for the
koalas) and along Merricks Creek, across a
footbridge to the Balnarring Foreshore Reserve
which proffers fine views of Western Port and
Phillip Island. Wheelchairs can also be borrowed
from the Visitors' Centre.
The complex is open from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00
p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5983 1333 or 131 963.
Devonshire teas are available on Sundays and
there are wood-fired barbecues and picnic areas.
Numerous events are held on the grounds
throughout the year.