Victoria’s Bellarine Peninsula is one of Australia’s great tourist precincts boasting fabulous beaches, captivating coastal vistas, serene holiday spots and some of the Nation’s very best wineries.
The gateway to the Bellarine is Geelong, Victoria’s second largest city, but to my mind the real jewel in the Bellarine Peninsula crown is nearby Queenscliff.
I can’t remember the first time I went to Queenscliff but I can remember coming away intrigued by the town’s history, a trail of cannon, Couta boats and Coffee Palaces leading to a 21st century seaside resort boasting a variety of bars, restaurants and accommodation including grand Victorian era hotels and guest houses complete with fine dining and silver service.
Queenscliff’s early history included settlement as a pastoral run, a home to bay fishermen and later the colony’s first sea pilots but the first recorded sighting of the area was probably made by Lieutenant John Murray RN who, in 1802 and in command of the LADY NELSON, entered the un-charted Port Phillip Bay, named it Port King and claimed it for Britain.
But there was no permanent settlement at Queenscliff until 1836 when squatters arrived to take up a selection on what was then known as Whale Head, later renamed Shortlands Bluff.
By then moves to establish a major permanent settlement in the Port Phillip district were well advanced and, as the number of ships supplying settlers increased, so too did Queenscliff’s importance.
Overlooking ‘The Rip’, the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, Queenscliff was popular with mariners because it offered safe anchorage for vessels tucked up beneath Shortlands Bluff. But the dangers associated with the perilous entry to the Bay were quickly identified.
In 1839 George Tobin introduced the first Pilot service, guiding ships through the treacherous waterway. Tobin, and others who followed in his footsteps, initially operated from the beach on the north side of Shortlands Bluff and were rowed to and from ships in whaleboats. By 1856 there were fifty-five sea-pilots operating from Queenscliff.