Balnarring is a rural township on the Mornington Peninsula 2 km from the coastline of Western Port Bay. Balnarring Beach is the small coastal resort on the bay, at the mouth of Merricks Creek, looking towards Phillip Island. Balnarring is approximately 65 km south-east of Melbourne. The origin of the name is uncertain, although phonetically it is most likely derived from an Aboriginal word or expression.
Balnarring was on the Ballanrong (an early rendering of Balnarring) or Coolort pastoral run, taken up in 1840 by the brothers Alfred and Henry Meyrick (the origin of Merricks). A pioneering settler, Paul Van Suylen, acquired a large pastoral holding and in about 1860 built the Warrawee homestead (now a restaurant and guesthouse), one kilometre west of Balnarring. In 1863 local landholders laid out the Emu Plains racecourse, north-east of Balnarring, which is now the home of the Balnarring Picnic Racing Club.
The formation of the Balnarring village came with the opening of the post office in the Warrawee homestead (1866), the opening of a school (1871) and the opening of a Catholic church (1881). The Van Suylens also had a general store at Warrawee, and it was the Junction General Store, c1900, that confirmed the future position of Balnarring village. In 1921 a railway line through Balnarring to Red Hill placed the station near the junction. The public hall (1898) was some distance to the north-east. The junction general store continued until 1984, when it was demolished for a supermarket.
Balnarring was described in the Australian handbook in 1903:
In about 1916 the Balnarring Beach became a popular picnic and bathing place. A kiosk was opened there during holiday seasons and a tea room was opened in 1923. There was foreshore camping, and a Harley motorcycle club ran races along the beach. During the 1940s a guest house, Tulum Lodge was opened. (Tulum was the place name which preceded the name Balnarring Beach.)
Balnarring has a substantial residential area with a shopping centre and public hall. There are two reserves, one with a wetland which adjoins the school (408 pupils, 2014) and the former railway reserve. There are tennis and bowling facilities and a sports oval. Balnarring Racing Club has races during November until Easter, and the racecourse is used for Sunday markets each month from November to May. The Catholic church closed in 1972, but Anglican and Uniting (originally Methodist) churches continue. Balnarring Beach has a general store, holiday and permanent resident houses, camping reserves, a yacht club and a foreshore reserve. The reserve also adjoins the Merricks Creek which enters Western Port Bay near the Coolart wetlands and the Somers children’s camp. Balnarring underwent bank closures in 2009.
Balnarring’s census populations have been:
Balnarring Beach’s census populations have been:
On census night in 2011 about three quarters of the houses were unoccupied, most being holiday houses.
Balnarring byways and memories, 5 volumes, Balnarring and District Historical Society, 1995-2011