Phillip Island & District Historical Museum

The Phillip Island & District Historical Museum is small but packed with interesting exhibits on Phillip Island’s history.

Discover the museum at Berninneit (formerly Cowes Heritage Centre) in Thompson Avenue, Cowes.

The history of the first Europeans starts when Lieutenant James Grant landed at Elizabeth Cove.  He later began Victoria’s first farm on Churchill Island.

The historical museum follows the story of the pioneering families, depicting the ballot system for buying land plus a look at their everyday lives. Descendants of some of these families still farm on the island today.

Furniture, clothing, bric-a-brac and journals from these early times are on display.

Phillip Island & District Historical Museum overview of some of the displays.

Phillip Island & District Historical Museum

A fascinating part of Phillip Island’s history is the growing of chicory, begun in 1870, with a comprehensive exhibit showing all aspects of this industry, including a local invention, the "chicory devil", to assist with digging up the chicory plant.

Visitors to Phillip Island can still see original chicory kilns on the island to this day, as well as architecture inspired by this iconic shape.

Model of a chicory kiln in the Phillip Island & District Historical Museum.

Model of a Chicory Kiln

Quite a bit of space in the museum is devoted to the wreck of the SS Speke which foundered on to rocks at Kitty Miller Bay during a storm on 22 February, 1906.

Locals salvaged much of the ship’s equipment including the figurehead, which is proudly displayed here. After it was salvaged, it was repainted by local schoolchildren.

Figurehead of SS Speke in the Phillip Island & District Historical Museum.

Figurehead of SS Speke

A very important part of the island's history was the construction of a bridge linking Phillip Island to the mainland.

Before the construction of the bridge, punts and a ferry were used to ferry people, goods and animals to and from the island. The ferry Killara joined Stony Point and Cowes, while a punt operated between Newhaven and San Remo.

Learn about how the connection to the mainland developed over the years to the bridge that we know today, and also the influence of tourism.

Old bridge sign and mile post in Phillip Island & District Historical Museum.

One of the stranger exhibits are cannon balls found on an island farm! Perhaps a relic from an early military post.

The displays are complemented with very interesting audio and visual as well as written information.

89 Thompson Avenue, Cowes
(enter via the library)

Open Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.00pm; Saturday and Sunday from 10.00am to 4.00pm.

Free entry.

Discover more about the history of Cowes by taking the two Phillip Island Heritage Walks.

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