Points of Interest Category: Bay | Ocean, Beach, Community | Public Space, Historical POI's 1861-1880, Historical, Natural POI, Park | Garden | Reserve, Site | Cultural, and Site | Explore, PioneerPoints of Interest Tags: Attractions | Things to See - Mornington Peninsula, Back Beach | Ocean Beach | Surf Beach - Mornington Peninsula, Coastal Walk - Mornington Peninsula, George Coppin, History | Historical - Mornington Peninsula, Mornington Peninsula, Mornington Peninsula National Park, and Picnic Area - Mornington Peninsula
Located a short 1.5 km from the bayside township of Sorrento, which is located on the shores of Port Phillip Bay, the ‘Sorrento Back Beach’ precinct is situate on the ‘surf-side’ of the Mornington Peninsula – abutting Bass Strait. The ocean beach is captivatingly beautiful revealing a sandy cove protected by rocky outcrops at each end – as the surf rolls in . . . Walking paths meander through the dunes bestowing magnificent views along the rugged coastline. The higher one ascends → the greater the views. The sea mist generated by the surf flows unhindered across the land mass, sometimes so dense it resembles a thick fog. The crystal clear water of the ocean, so inviting . . .
As one explores the beautiful suburb of Sorrento, on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, it is interesting to discover that one does not wander far without encountering the name ‘Coppin’:
Coppin’s Lookout, Coppin’s Track, Coppin’s Tramway . . .
Some further investigation reveals that these landmarks are named in honour of Mr George Selth Coppin – a man of many talents, who endured the highest of highs and the lowest of lows during his lifetime. Arriving in Australia from England in the March of 1843, George Coppin began his career as an Australian actor in Sydney. Being a man of the theatre, his acting career bestowed fortunes, however, his investments often left him penniless. Unperturbed, Coppin persisted building theatres and entertainment venues, of which Sorrento’s ‘Ocean Amphitheatre Park’ was one.
Signage is the main reminder of the European beginnings of this area → the person responsible for many of the beautiful buildings and infrastructure that adorns the township → the man behind the dream . . .
In his own words, which are taken from a Birthday speech held in his honour at this Sorrento Amphitheatre in the April of 1890, Coppin reminds the attendees of the finery of his Birthday Ball of the previous year and declared:
” . . . This year we have gone to the the extreme of Sorrento. Potatoes boiled with their jackets in sea water, and mutton chops grilled over a ti-tree fire – two luxuries that cannot be obtained in the city . . . “
” . . . It is, now about 14 years ago since I originated companies to clear the bush, to form and make roads to the Ocean Amphitheatre, to erect rotundas, and seats along four miles of paths running by the side of the ocean, to erect the Continental Hotel and several cottages, to erect public baths, Mechanic’s Institute and Public library and to purchase the New Zealand steamer ‘Golden Crown‘, reducing the return ticket from 20s by the tug steamer ‘Williams‘ to 7s 6d. by the first excursion steamer that ever ran down the Bay; and although have a balance of £6000 or £7000 upon the wrong side of my ledger, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have secured good health for my family, and the pleasure of seeing the gradual progress of the place. The great attraction of the present season has been the tramway, as upwards of 50,000 passengers have travelled by it. Next season will be the most important since Sorrento has been established. We are to have a new steamer 50 ft longer and 3 miles an hour faster than the Ozone, and as both boats will run to Sorrento, a great addition to a number of passengers and a reduction in fares may be expected. The directors of the tramway have, therefore resolved to increase the capital of the company for the purpose of laying down ‘a double line of rails, forming a terrace, and building a large refreshment room at the Back Beach. I shall also endeavour to obtain funds for the erection of a town hall, each subscriber receiving tickets for the opening entertainment at which I hope to take part. Additional hotel accommodation will be provided, and the shire council has borrowed £4000, to be expended in and about Sorrento. These facts give additional pleasure to the present entertainment, and I thank you very much for the kind mannner in which you have drunk my good health. The party then formed a procession round the back beach oval and recreation ground, when Mr Coppin declared ‘it open for the free use of the public under the rules and regulations of the Ocean Park Trustees. The first race upon the oval was run by Master Cecil Ashton and George Anderson, both about 5 years old. Their grandfather acted as judge, declared it a dead heat, and divided the prize (a sovereign). The officials of the tramway and workmen at the oval also drank Mr Coppin’s health . . . “
Source: Excerpt – Queenscliff Sentinel, Drysdale, Portarlington and Sorrento Advertiser (Vic) – Article ‘Mr Coppin at Sorrento’ – published 26th April 1890
Hence the mid 1860’s saw George Coppin begin to formulate his plans to develop Sorrento as a tourist destination. The early 1870’s saw day trippers and travellers embarking steamers to enjoy the beauty of of this area. From the 1890’s a steam tram would complete the journey from Port Phillip Bay to the ‘Ocean Amphitheatre Park’.
The historic photo above displays the infrastructure that once occupied this site for the enjoyment of all those who visited – little of which remains today – walkways, look outs, rotundas, tram terminus, refreshment houses, amenities, facilities, accommodation nearby . . .
” . . . Refreshment rooms and a dancing rotunda have also been erected for the benefit of picnicers near the back beach. Here may be seen the “league long roller” breaking on the shore, and the curious isolated rock, called Darby’s monument . . . “
Source: Excerpt – ‘Illustrated Australian News’ (Melbourne, Vic) – Article “A Holiday Tour Round Port Phillip” – published 18th December 1886
Today, ample car parking facilitates this beautiful ocean beach precinct. Walking paths abound, the beach below is so inviting. Picnic facilities, Surf Life Saving Club, information signage, restaurant, take-away, amenities – all ensure that visitors enjoy this scenic locale.
Facilities available at Sorrento’s ‘Back Beach’ include: public toilets, picnic tables, sheltered picnic tables, numerous bench seats, outdoor showers, water fountain and rubbish bins.
– Located approximately 1.5 km South-West of Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Parking is available in the adjoining Car Park
– Attractions & Facilities available along the Mornington Peninsula Coastal Walk
– Beach Access
– Facilities available at Sorrento include:
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- Bathroom Amenities:
- Public Toilets
- Mobile Data 3G - 4G
- Mobile Reception
- Walking Track
- Waterway Access
Supplies & Services:
- Drinking Water
- Picnic Tables
- Rubbish Bins
Parking & Transfers:
- Off Street Parking
- Big Rig Access
- Sealed Road