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...preserving the history of the Bellarine Peninsula

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Bellarine Peninsula History

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The Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, Australia : bounded by Bass Strait to the south, The Rip at Port Phillip Heads to the east, Swan Bay and Port Phillip Bay to the north, and the Barwon River to the west.

The area was originally inhabited by the Bengalat balug (Clan) of the Wathaurong Tribe. The first European in the area was the infamous William Buckley in 1803, followed by members of the Port Phillip Association in 1835.  By 1836 the peninsula was occupied by squatters before becoming an agricultural area. Today small farms still exist across the peninsula between the numerous towns and holiday resorts dotted around the coast, with Geelong (to the north west of the peninsula) being the nearest city.

John Batman (representing the Port Phillip Association) landed at Indented Head in 1835 and made that his base camp while he returned to Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) for more supplies and his family. An Historic marker stands where he landed.

The early immigrants landed at Point Henry because of a sand bar across the inner harbour of Corio Bay and the entrance to Geelong, and a channel was not dredged till later. It was possible to walk at low tide across the bay.

Migrants went to all points of the compass from Pt. Henry with a lot going to the gold fields at Ballarat, Clunes and Bendigo to make their fortune and hopefully return and buy that block of land.

Early migrants went down the Peninsula to found the early settlements of Moolap, Leopold (formerly Kensington), Clifton, Curlewis, Wallington, and all the other small towns on the peninsula.

The whole peninsula was called Indented Head in the beginning and it wasn't until later that it was to take the various names of the early settlers.

Miss Anne Drysdale was such a person. She came out from Scotland in 1840, bought land at Breakwater and called the property "Boronggoop". She owned all the land between the lakes and Corio Bay. She was joined in partnership by Miss Carolyn Newcomb, and together they made quite a contribution to the early life of the Bellarine Peninsula.

They eventually sold the property at Breakwater and built "Coryule" at Drysdale and the town was named after Anne. They were members of the early Tuckfield Chapel named after the first minister. The ruins are still to be seen in Wyndham Street, Drysdale.

Descendants of the early settlers are still living on the peninsula and have a wealth of history.

Clifton Springs in the 1880s was a busy place with its hotel, bottling plant, mineral waters, and bath house - quite the done thing to go there to recuperate and drink the waters. Sadly the hotel burnt down in the early 1920s and was not rebuilt.

The first flour mill was built at Drysdale in Jetty Road in 1853, but was burnt down in 1861 and not rebuilt.

There are many historic buildings in Drysdale :-

  • Free Library - now the Art and Craft shop
  • Uniting Church
  • Church of England
  • Catholic Church
  • Colonial Bank - now offices
  • the old Court House - now the headquarters of the Bellarine Historical Society Museum
  • the early Shire of Bellarine council offices
  • United Service Home built after the Crimea War to house the destitute soldiers. It is situated in Crimea Street but is now a private home
  • Drysdale Railway station - being restored and rebuilt to its original design where the tourist line from Queenscliff terminates
  • Drysdale Hotel - formerly the Bucks Head Hotel
  • Lake Lorne and McLeods water holes fed by permanent springs - the source of early water for the aboriginal tribes that frequented the Peninsula.

Heading out of Drysdale you drive through the black hills - a very rich source of food for the early settlers with wheat, barley, onions, peas, potatoes being grown in the rich soil. The onions then got a disease and even today they cannot be grown because of that.

There is lovely hilly country between Drysdale and Portarlington with vineyards and lovely vistas to Corio Bay. Bellarine, which you pass through was the early settlement before Portarlington which became a fishing village. On the way to Portarlington you pass one of the early properties called Spray Farm - it is off the road with wonderful views of Corio Bay.

Portarlington has its original Grand Hotel still in business today. There were two other hotels at one time but they are now being used for different purposes. The main street was named after Caroline Newcomb and is the town's shopping centre, with views of Port Phillip Bay and the skyline of Melbourne. In summer, Portarlington's population expands by many thousands as visitors come to camp along the foreshore and enjoy the beach and the relaxed lifestyle. Scallop boats operate from the local pier and also some fishing vessels.

Indented Head is a small community most of the year until the Summer, when, like Portarlington, it explodes with campers right along the foreshore swelling the population by several thousands. Near the tennis courts, there is a memorial to John Batman where he first landed from Van Diemen's Land. There is also a wreck of a paddle steamer which was being towed to form a breakwater and was wrecked just off the beach.

At the eastern end of the Peninsula are the historic towns and popular holiday resorts of Queenscliff and Point Lonsdale at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay. Ocean Grove to the south facing Bass Strait was first settled as a township with the subdivision and land sales in 1887.

[From files held at the Bellarine Historical Society]

Bellarine Shire

The following information on the Bellarine Shire is from the 1900 Victorian Municipal Directory.




Bellarine and Moolap; part Paywit

Members Council

South Western
Hons. Sir Henry John Wrixon, K.C.M.G., Q.C.; Sidney Austin and Thomas Charles Harwood, M.L.C's.

Electoral District
Member Assembly

Bellarine, Moolap & Paywit
Hon. Jonas Felix Levien, M.L.A.

Constituted a District

Feb., 1854

Proclaimed a Shire

18th Sept., 1865


128 sq. miles




£38,368 for 98-9
£38,691 for 1899-1900


1s. in Pound for 1899-1900


£3548 for 98-9

Number of Assessments


Ratepayers in Rate Book


On the Voters' Roll


Presidential Allowance



William Gray






Bellarine Riding

Thomas Tobias Grigg, J.P.*DrysdaleAug 1900


Fredk. J. Pacey, L.F.P.S., J.P.*DrysdaleAug 1901


William GrayPortarlingtonAug 1902

Moolap Riding

Joseph B. WillisMoolapAug 1900


Denis O'HalloranMoolapAug 1901


David RhindWallingtonAug 1902

Paywit Riding

George WebsterPortarlingtonAug 1900


James Wilson, jun."Bonnyvale", Ocean GroveAug 1901


William Henry Capron*PortarlingtonAug 1902

* These gentlemen have occupied the presidential chair.

Council meets on First Wednesday in month at 2 p.m. Secretary and Rate Collector attend Thursday, 3 to 5 p.m.


Secretary, Treasurer and Engineer

Samuel Le Cocq, A.M. Inst. C.E.

Official Post Address


Valuer, Collector, Collector Statistics, Revenue Officer and Inspector Slaughterhouses and Thistles

John Edwin Yeoman

Sanitary Officers

Mesech Butcher, Portarlington
John Edwin yeoman for other portion of Shire

Dog Registrars

Joseph Searl, Drysdale, Bellarine, Paywit and Moolap;
Mesech Butcher, Portarlington


Agnew Ferguson, Drysdale
Margaret A. Long, Leopold

Health Officer

James Grafton Carstairs, M.D., L.R.C.S.


George Frederick Link, Geelong

Government Auditor

Richard Steel Shalders, 3 Gladstone-st, Windsor

Local Auditor

Frederick J. Leary, Moorabool-street, Geelong


Harwood & Pincott, Geelong


Colonial Bank of Australasia Limited, Drysdale



Police Magistrate

George William Frederick Patterson


William Gordon Coughlan
Thomas Tobias Grigg
Michael McDermott
Mark Thomas
Frederick John Pacey, L.F.P.S.
Frederick Willey
William Gray (President)


Drysdale, Second and Fourth Monday in month, 10 a.m.


David Stephen Alberd

Electoral Registrars

Bellarine (C); Bellarine and Paywit (A) - Robert Gilbert King (acting), Drysdale.
Moolap (A) - Richard Quin McWilliams, Leopold.

Nature of Country

Good grass land, partly covered with scrubby timber. The agricultural land varies from sandy loam to rich black soil.


Leading Industries

Production of corn, hay, potatoes, onions, carrots, marigolds and fruit.


Places of Note

Clifton Spa (chalybeate springs - sulphur baths at the Spa); the Basin (an extinct volcano) near Drysdale; two horse-training establishments; St. Alban's stables, within three miles of Geelong; also Marcus Hill stables, five miles from Queenscliff.



Postal township 15 miles from Geelong. Daily coach to and from Drysdale, fares, single, 2s., return, 3s.



Municipal township with telegraph station, savings bank, post and money-order office and court-house; station on Queenscliff line 57½ miles from Melbourne; fares, 10s. 6d. and 7s. Situated 1 mile from Lake Lorne, 2 miles from Drysdale jetty, on Port Phillip bay, 12½ miles E. of Geelong and is 57½ miles S.W. of Melbourne by road. Telephone communication with Melbourne, Geelong, Queenscliff and Portarlington from the post office. Coach daily from Geelong to Portarlington, fare, 2s. 6d.; also from Portarlington to Drysdale, 7 miles; fare, 1s. Hotels at Drysdale and Clifton springs (1 mile distant). Jetty opposite Fairy dell with 10 feet of water at low tide, allowing steamers of light draught to come alongside. Substantial brick shire hall and court-house, free library, branch of bank, four churches, State and Roman Catholic schools and three insurance agencies. Land is well tilled for onions, potatoes and corn. Perch, carp and tench caught in local reservoir; fishing licence, 1s. per month. Several mineral springs at Clifton, strongly impregnated with iron, magnesia and sulphur. Catherine Maguire, postmistress. Population, 550.



Small village 52 miles S.W. of Melbourne, 7 miles E. of Geelong and 15¾ miles W. of Queenscliff, with Lake Connewarre 2 miles S. District well suited for fruit-growing. Three churches, State school and post office. Station on Queenscliff line; fares, 9s. 5d. and 6s. 2d. Sarah Reynolds, postmistress. Population, 100.



Small postal village 50 miles S.W. of Melbourne and a station on Queenscliff line; fares, 8s. 11d. and 5s. 11d. Coach from Geelong daily at 9 a.m. arriving at 9.30 a.m.; fare 6d. Eliza Yeoman, postmistress.



Seaside resort, on S. shore of Bellarine Riding, and commanding a good view of Bass strait and cost line E. and W. Coffee palace and two churches. Daily communication by rail and coach with Geelong, Drysdale and Queenscliff; and telephonic communication with Geelong, Drysdale, Queenscliff, Barwon Heads and Melbourne. It lies 15 miles from Geelong, 9 from Queenscliff, 3½ from Marcus Hill station and 6 from Drysdale railway stations. Coach by good road from Geelong, 15 miles; fares, single, 3s.; return 5s.



Postal township 19 miles E. of Geelong, 6 miles N.E. from Drysdale and 63 miles S.W. of Melbourne, with savings bank, money-order office and telegraph station. Favorably known as a health watering place with superior public baths. Good jetty, from which large quantities of cereals, potatoes and onions are shipped to Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland and Western Australia. The chief export trade is carried by steamers. Portarlington is exceptionally clean and being situated on slope facing Port Phillip bay, within view of surrounding shores, unfolds scenery of remarkable beauty. Land to the S. is rich black soil and carries excellent crops of all kinds. Four churches, branch of bank, three hotels, free library (containing 1500 volumes) and two agencies of insurance companies. Coach from Geelong, 20 miles, passing through Drysdale; fare, 2s. 6d.; Drysdale railway station is 7 miles distant; fare, 1s. Two steamers daily - passenger and cargo - Melbourne and Geelong. Mary Corteen, postmistress. Population, about 400.



A bathing and fishing village on western shore of Port Phillip bay, 24 miles S.W. of Melbourne by steamer. In its secluded position St. Leonards possesses great attractions as a watering place and has some excellent scenery, both marine and landscape. Jetty with 16 feet of water and safe anchorage for small vessels. Land chiefly used for grazing sheep and farming. It is situated 7 miles from Queenscliff, 6 from Portarlington, 9 from Drysdale, 22 from Geelong and 69 S.W. of Melbourne. Pleasant road from Portarlington to St. Leonards - shaded by the broad-leaved ti-tree. Comfortable and well-kept hotel. State school and post office. Alice Curnow, postmistress. Population, 50.



Agricultural and grazing district half way between Geelong and Queenscliff. Hotel and post office. William J. Hill, postmaster.


Record Sources for the Bellarine Peninsula

  • Photographs : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre; various private collections.
  • Maps & Plans : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
  • Newspapers : Geelong Advertiser Indexes - Bellarine Historical Society & Geelong Historical Records Centre; Geelong Advertiser on microfilm - Geelong Historical Records Centre; various local newspapers - Bellarine Historical Society.
  • Miscellaneous Documents & Advertisements : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre; various private collections.
  • Bellarine Shire Council Records : Geelong Historical Records Centre.
  • More recent Council Records : City of Greater Geelong.
  • Cemetery Records : (Leopold Cemetery) Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
  • Land Records : Registrar of Titles, Melbourne; Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.


Blake, Les. Tales from Old Geelong, Neptune Press Pty Ltd, Belmont, 1979.

Brownhill, Geo. H. Illustrated Guide to Geelong And District, Facsimile edn., Deakin University Press, Geelong, 1990.

Campbell, A. J. Tourist Guide to Geelong and Southern Watering Places, Henry Thacker, Geelong, 1893.

Drysdale Fire Brigade : The First 50 Years : 1944-1994, Drysdale, 1994.

Dunn, N.A. A history of Point Lonsdale, F. W. Cheshire Pty Ltd, Melbourne, 1949.

Edwards, Ronald G. The History of Ocean Grove, Limited edition, The Edina Press, Lower Ferntree Gully Victoria, 1952.

Hourn, F.C. (Eric). United Services Home : A Drysdale Romance, F.C. Hourn, Indented Head, 1991.

Knights, Ann, & Wilson, Betty. The Sword of Faith : A History of St. James' Church Drysdale 1871-1996, Revised and Updated, Drysdale, 1997.

Loney, Jack. Ships and Shipwrecks at Portarlington, Marine History, Portarlington. n.d.

Loney, Jack. Shipwreck Strait, Marine History, Portarlington, 1993.

McKeown, Gil. The Grove That Grew : The History of Ocean Grove, Gil McKeown, Ocean Grove, 1983.

McLeod, Eunice. Early History of Portarlington and East Bellarine, Indented Head and St. Leonards, Eunice McLeod, Portarlington, 1962.

McLeod, Eunice. Portarlington, Indented Head, St. Leonards : History & Reminiscences, Marine History, Portarlington, n.d. (reprint with changes to above publication).

Millis, Peter. Ocean Grove Primary School No. 3100 : Centenary 1891-1991, Ocean Grove Primary School, Ocean Grove, 1991.

Prowse, Helen & Cliff. Ocean Grove : A Century of Christian Witness 1888-1988, The Ocean Grove Uniting Church, Ocean Grove, 1988.

Richardson, John. Clifton Springs : Past - Present, 2nd reprint, Bellarine Rural City Council, Drysdale, 1985.

Richardson, John. The Lady Squatters : Miss Anne Drysdale and Miss Caroline Elizabeth Newcomb : 'Boronggoop' and 'Coriyule', Bellarine Rural City Council, Drysdale, 1986.

'Souvenir of the Opening of the New Ocean Grove Post Office', booklet, Post Office : Public Relations Office, Victoria, 1979.

Timbury, Cheryl. The Little Church of St Peter : Ocean Grove, Cheryl Timbury, Ocean Grove, 1996.

Timbury, Cheryl. St Peter's Anglican War Memorial Church : Ocean Grove, 100 Years of Worship 1888-1988, St Peter's Anglican Church, Ocean Grove, 1988.

Townsend, Alix. These Friendly Shores : A Personal History of Ocean Grove, A. Townsend, Ocean Grove, 1988.

Wynd, Ian. Balla-wein : A history of the Shire of Bellarine, Shire of Bellarine, Drysdale, 1988.

Wynd, Ian. Geelong The Pivot : A Short History of Geelong and District, Cypress Books, Mont Albert North, 1971.

Zada, Susie. The Ocean Grove Corner Store, unpublished Conservation Study, Ocean Grove, 1996. Three copies only, held by Susie Zada, Ocean Grove Library and the Geelong Historical Records Centre.

Last Updated on Monday, 11 May 2009 02:03  

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