(3199, 41 km S, Frankston City)
Like many former country towns that have been absorbed by the Melbourne metropolitan area, the history of this suburb on Port Phillip Bay has passed through several stages, each shaped above all by the town's links to a changing and sprawling Melbourne. The town, once isolated from Melbourne, grew as a suburb and a resort with the arrival of the railways. Suburbanisation of the area accelerated after World War II with the adoption of motor cars and improvements in major roads. Cars and trucks are vital to the economic prosperity of Frankston today, not so much because they enable people and products to move to and from Central Melbourne, but because they bring business from all over the Mornington Peninsula and allow workers to commute to Frankston's own manufacturing, service and retail jobs.
There is no conclusive evidence of the origin of the name, but the town may have been named after Major General Sir Thomas Harte Franks, a contemporary British military hero. When the first land sales were held in 1854, Frankston was one of the few potential town sites along the bay that was not swampy or hilly, and that had good supplies of fresh water. The soil nearby was not rich, but the town's early growth was sustained by fishing and by the provision of services to the pastoralists and farmers of the Mornington Peninsula. The opening of a rail link to Melbourne in 1882 confirmed Frankston's status as the peninsula's major urban centre because it provided lower fares and faster services than those available to potential rivals Hastings and Mornington.
Nevertheless, Frankston was too distant to profit substantially from the 1880s land boom. As a Frankston Standard correspondent observed in 1889:
Frankston is only 26 miles from the City, a by no means outrageous journey when consideration is given to the fact that in England businessmen find their way to and from their places of business morning and evening, a distance of 60 miles, and never turn a hair. This is a fact that I am never weary of drumming into the ears of my Metropolitan friends, but they simply look on it as a place distant so far from the city as only fit to spend a holiday in.
Frankston's boosters tried to offset this isolation by providing modern amenities in the town, and by reserving a large area of Crown land, which was offered as a site for a new Melbourne cemetery and crematorium (Springvale was chosen instead).
By World War I Frankston was still very much a country town. When Melbourne's railways were electrified, the suburban development of the Frankston area accelerated. Electric trains reduced the journey time to and from Melbourne from 90 to 62 minutes. As a result, Frankston became a popular destination during the interwar years. To many people, it resembled an English seaside resort with its sea breezes, pier and tea-rooms (today the City of Frankston has a much higher proportion of British-born residents than Melbourne in general). The hilly areas of South Frankston and Mount Eliza had no railways, and their development was slower. At the end of World War II, when Melbourne's city growth created a large demand for suburban home sites, Frankston had an abundance of cheap land close to railway stations, and large areas of pleasant country that needed only improved roads to stimulate subdivision and building. Frankston was now undeniably a part of metropolitan Melbourne and ready to boom. Since 1945 a fast rate of population growth (between 1947 and 1981 the city's population rose from 12 000 to 82 000) has brought major changes. As roads, cars and trucks brought new jobs to the area, and as the houses that workers needed were built, the rural charms of Frankston all but disappeared. The town centre, with its new shopping mall, has been increasingly shaped by the need to accommodate motor vehicles. Despite some attempts at traffic-calming and the building of many new parking areas, Frankston has made little progress in solving its traffic congestion problem or alleviating its chronic lack of parking space. The challenge in the 21st century is to retain the quality of life that is so important if new job-creating businesses are to be attracted.