Currie is the administrative and commercial centre of King Island, the western-most island in Bass Strait. Currie is on the west side of the island, occupying a harbour which is protected by an extensive breakwater. It was originally named Howie’s Boat Harbour after David Howie, an early visitor and unofficial resident of the island in the 1840s. It was renamed after Archibald Currie (1830–1914), a shipowner who purchased the remains of the Netherby wrecked near there in 1866, and used the harbour as a base for salvage operations. The harbour was used for similar operations on later wrecks in the vicinity including the ”British Admiral” in 1874 and ”Blencathra” in 1875, the latter being wrecked right at the entrance to the harbour.

The town’s civic institutions include the hospital, King Island District High School (to year 10), the museum, four churches, Council chambers and the town hall. There are golf, bowling, tennis and other sports facilities. The commercial centre include airline agencies, hotel, restaurants, shops specialising in King Island foods and produce and the usual range of supermarket, newsagent’s and pharmacist’s outlets. The Parer Hotel is named after the Parer family, the island’s first hoteliers, from whom Ray Parer (aviator) and Damien Parer (war photographer) were descended.

Local industries are fishing (for which the harbour has a wharf), food processing, tourism and a kelp factory. The kelp is harvested after it is washed up after westerly weather, and milled for export to Scotland. The extract is used in over one-thousand food, cosmetic and other products. Kelp harvesting began in the early 1970s, and has helped to offset unemployment from the closed scheelite mine at Grassy.

A short distance north of Currie are the racecourse, abattoir, aerodrome and the King Island cheese factory. Much of the meat from the abattoir is exported to Japan.

Electricity is generated by a diesel plant and by wind-driven apparatus installed in 1998.

The census populations of Currie have been 215 (1911), 678 (1954), 819 (1991).


Main Street, Currie, King Island, Postcard dated c.1910

Further Reading:

  • Edgecombe, Jean, “Discovering King Island, Western Bass Strait”, the author, 1993.
  • Hooper, R.H., “The King Island Story””, Peko-Wallsend Ltd., 1973.
  • Wood, Michael, “Story of King Island, King Island Quik Print, 1990.

George Town

George Town is on the eastern side of the mouth of the Tamar River, about 45 km. north of Launceston. It is the administrative centre of the George Town municipality of 650 sq. km., which has Bass Strait as its northern boundary.

George Town was fleetingly settled by a party under Lieut. Colonel William Paterson in 1804. The settlement was soon moved down the Tamar to Launceston. In 1812 Governor Lachlan Macquarie proposed that the site of George Town (named after King George III), would be better than Launceston and in 1816 the town was laid out. The first occupants were a military station, a female factory and a few settlers. The Bigge report of 1825 reversed Macquarie’s decision to make George Town the administrative centre instead of Launceston. In the 1830s George Town was an embarkation point for settlers moving to the Port Phillip district (e.g. Dutton, Henty and Batman).

George Town remained a place of small settlement until the 1870s, when gold was discovered at a number of nearby places. The population rose from150 (1869) to 260 (1880), but access remained confined to the river. It did not become a municipality until 1907. The description in the 1904 edition of The Australian Handbook was –

… a watering-place at the mouth of the River Tamar, on the east bank,in the county of Dorset, electorate and police district of Georgetown, about160 miles NW. of Hobart, 37 NW. of Launceston, and 10 miles from Beaconsfield. Steamers ply daily to and from Launceston; fare, 4s. Hotel: Planks; principal boarding-houses: Harris’, Richards’, Hopkins’. It is a post town, and has parcel post, money-order office, savings bank and telegraph station, Itis the cable station for the Australian service. There is a public library,containing 1,200 volumes, two places of worship (Episcopal), St. Mary’s and Primitive Methodist, one State school, and a private school. Road Trust,Main Road Board, Improvement Association, Court of Requests and generalsessions. Gold, iron and coal has been found in the district. Chiefly apastoral district. Good shooting, bathing, boating and fishing and salubriousclimate. Nearest towns are Exeter, 20 miles, Ilfracombe, 3 miles, Sidmouth,13 miles, York Town, 6 miles, Leonardsburg, 6 miles, and Lefroy, 10 miles.At Low Head, 8 miles distant, there is a splendid ocean beach and good boarding accommodation, also at Kelso Bay, favourite marine resort. Ratable valueof property, ‚£17,250. Capital value of district, ‚£158,257. Road Trust valuation, ‚£5,500. Agricultural returns to March 1st, 1901,were 94,175 acres worked: wheat, 138 acres; peas, 141 acres; oats, 350 acres;potatoes, 112 acres; gardens and orchards, 124 acres. Produce: wheat, 2,484bushels; peas 1,833 bushels; oats, 10,724 bushels; potatoes, 355 tons; apples,1,293 bushels; pears, 325 bushels. Stock: horses, 575; cattle, 2,239; sheep,26,490; pigs, 1,041. Population of electoral district, 3,667; town (1901census), 274.

From 1907 to 1936 the administrative centre of the municipality was at the more populous Lefroy. In 1936 the running of the Council was taken overby a commission because of the impoverishment of the municipality. The commission remained in office until 1954. Mining and fruit growing were the district’smain industries.

In 1948 constriction began on the aluminium refineries and smelter at Bell Bay, 6 km. south of George Town. Production began in 1955 under the management of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission (joint Commonwealth and Tasmanian Government’s operation). In 1961 it was sold to Comalco, which increased production capacity. The construction of the plant brought in workers, resulting in a construction-camp population and a brisk hotel trade. Comalco’s expansion led to George Town’s expansion, and other developments were attracted. These included oil terminals, a roll-on roll-off shipping terminal (1958), the Temco high carbon terro manganese plant and two wood chip companies. Bell Bay became Launceston’s container port, connected by railway,and the site of Launceston’s thermal power station (1971).

About 25% of George Town’s residential stock is public housing. In 1996a higher-than-average proportion of George Town’s residents were on unemployment or parenting allowances, and there was a high proportion of children under15.

Whilst tourism is active around George Town, the town centre does not feature as an attraction. The retail centre, however, is comprehensive,Education from kindergarten to year 10 is available.

In 1991 the Bass Strait ferry service from George Town ended and a catamaran service failed in 1996. An oil carrier, Iron Baron, ran aground near George Town in 1996. About 9 km. north of George Town is Low Head, a promontory on the east side of the mouth of the Tamar. Several of its lighthouse (1833)facilities and housing are on the Register of the National Estate.

George Town’s census populations have been 278 (1911),1,868 (1954), 4,838 (1971) and 5,026 (1991). The municipality’s census populationshave been 1,040 (1911), 578 (1933) and 6,929 (1991).


Promotional literature, Municipality of George Town, 1996.

Further Reading:

  • Branagan, J.C., “George Town: History of the Town and District”,Regal Publications, 1994.
  • Carroll, Brian, “Potlines and People: A History of the Bell BayAluminium Smelter”, Comalco Ltd., 1980.


Queenscliff is a township at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay, named by Lt. Governor C. J. La Trobe after Queen Victoria in 1853. Before then the settlement had been called Whale Head and Shortland’s Bluff.

Queenscliff is connected by an isthmus to the Bellarine Peninsula on the west side of Port Phillip Bay. It overlooks The Rip, the entrance to the Bay. In the early 1840s a pilot service for ships was set up at Queenscliff. Lighthouses were erected at Shortland’s Bluff (the white lighthouse, 1862); at a point 300 metres north-north-east (the black lighthouse, 1861-2); and at Point Lonsdale (4.5 km. south-west). Ships fixing their position in relation to the first two lighthouses can navigate The Rip. Between those lighthouses was built Fort Queenscliff (1884-5) one of a defensive network of armed stations guarding the entrance to Port Phillip.

A local fishing industry was established quite early, having access to both the Bay and to Bass Strait. A telegraph station was built in 1856, and a municipal borough created in 1863. Its name is Queenscliffe, and includes the town of Point Lonsdale.
Around this time several other institutions began. A Queenscliff detachment of the Geelong Volunteer Artillery and rifle Corps was formed, the forerunner of the Fort. Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic and Wesleyan churches were opened between 1862 and 1869. Four hotels and the large Foresters Hall were built by 1875. The railway was extended from Geelong in 1879, and during the next decade Queenscliff’s grand hotels were built. A gas works was opened in 1884.

By the turn of the century Queenscliff was a well established holiday resort, reached by railway of Bay steamer. The Australian Handbook, 1904, reflected Queenscliff’s importance –


Queenscliff’s importance for tourists and holiday-makers was eclipsed by motor-car access to other destinations in the inter-war and postwar years, but is had an extensive array of amenities. In 1940 the Victorian Municipal Directory’s description was –


A higher elementary school (1945) became a high school in 1957.

Despite the town’s infrastructure, modern motoring and motels caused a severe decline in Queenscliff’s prosperity. Maintenance standards and property values declined.

The tourism and civic infrastructure saw a revival in the 1980s, not least because of the grand hotel and civic architecture and the proximity to metropolitan Melbourne for day trips and weekends. Passenger and vehicular ferry services also connect to Sorrento on the east side of The Rip. Tourist attractions include the restored Bellarine Peninsula railway, between Drysdale and Queenscliff, the Vue Grand, Ozone and Queenscliff Hotels (making Queenscliff the culinary centre of the Bellarine Peninsula), and the wharves where fresh fish can be bought from the fishing co-operative. The shopping centre in Hesse Street is relatively large for the size of the community. Next to the wharves are the Marine Science Laboratories, and the remainder of the coast around the township is foreshore reserves with a pier and the Australian Staff College (formerly the Fort).
Bowling, tennis and netball facilities are in the town, and the golf course is reached by a bridge to Swan Island. In addition to the high school there are a primary school and a Catholic school in Queenscliff. Registered historic buildings include pilots’ cottages (1853), a lifeboat shed (1887) and the railway station (1881), but not the hotels. The median house price in 1987 was $88,500 and in 1996 it was $150,000.
Queenscliff’s census populations equated with those of the borough until Point Lonsdale grew during the early 1900s. Separate figures for each town have not been published.
Census populations of the borough have been 954 (1871),2,000 (1891), 2,386 (1947) and 3,193 (1996). The 1991 census recorded that 26% of Queenscliff residents were 65 years or more, compared with 11% for Victoria.
The borough was unaltered by the 1994 local government amalgamations, a striking exception to the rest of Victoria.

Further Reading:

  • Bognuda, Joan and Moorhead, Leslie M., “Gateway to Port Phillip”, Jolbo Studio, 1980.
  • D.O.D., “Early Memories of Queenscliff”, 1931.
  • Dunn, N.A., “Borough of Queenscliffe 1863-1963”, Centenary Committee, 1963.
  • Loney, Jack,”Queenscliff Point Lonsdale (Tourist and Historical Guide)”, Marine History Publication, c.1980.
  • “Queenscliffe! How To See It, 1876-7, Facsimile”, Queenscliffe Historical Society, 1984.
  • Whillingham, Allan, “Geelong Region Historic Buildings and Objects Study”, Vol. 3, Geelong Regional Commission, 1986.

Aireys Inlet

Aireys Inlet, a holiday resort on Bass Strait, is between Anglesea and Lorne and is 105 km. in a direct line south-west of Melbourne. It is reached by Geelong and the coastal Great Ocean Road.
The inlet receives river waters from iron bark forests of the Otway State Forest and from several streams which rise in the Angahook Forest Park.

In 1839 John Airey took up a pastoral run near Point Roadknight, east of the inlet. By 1842 his holding expanded along the coast beyond the inlet and was named the Angahook/Angohawk Run. It is probable that Aireys Inlet is named after him, although his brother George was a Commissioner for Crown Lands in the Geelong district, 1839-44.
In 1887 the relatively inaccessible inlet area was subdivided and about one hundred blocks were sold. A few were occupied. In 1890 the construction of a lighthouse was begun on the site known as Eagle’s Nest Point (renamed Split Point in 1913). The lighthouse, 100 metres above sea level, is made of cement-rendered concrete.
A school was opened in 1893, for children of families involved in Otways timber milling and of the few families at the inlet. The first school room was in a boarding house, and it continued until local timber milling declined after the first world war.

The Grand Hotel opened in 1894 and by 1903 there were also a post office and an Anglican church. Agricultural and pastoral activities supported the village. Access to Aireys Inlet, however, was by travel along the beach from Lorne at low tide or by road over the mountainous Otway Ranges. In 1905 a survey disclosed that a track along the edge of the coast was possible, and its construction was taken up as a project to employ returned soldiers. The Great Ocean Road Trust was formed and the road between Lorne and Anglesea was opened in 1922. (Completion of the road westwards to Apollo Bay took another ten years, which put Aireys Inlet on a coastal through-route.)
The opening of the Great Ocean Road ultimately produced a sufficient population for a school to be reopened in the 1930s, and for an Anglican church to opened in 1936. The population was borderline, though, and the school closed in 1942. It remained so until 1960 when classes were recommenced.

Aireys Inlet has a hotel, motel, caravan park and numerous flats and bed-and-breakfasts. The town centre does not have a large range of shops, as tourism depends on the coastal and bush-walking activities. The Angahook Lorne State Park (22,350 ha.) contains heath lands rich in orchids and ground plants, several types of eucalypt forest, meluleuca swamp and a fern gully. There are walking tracks on the lighthouse reserve.

During the early 1950s the Australian crime author, Arthur Upfield, lived at Aireys Inlet. His novel The New Shoe (1951) is based on the township and some of its characters drew on local identities. (The body was hidden in a cupboard in the lighthouse.)

West of Aireys Inlet, on the other side of the inlet, there are the surf beach and residential settlement of Fairhaven (1948) and the older settlement of Eastern View which had a guest house around 1910. The Eastern View subdivision estate was sold in the 1920s to raise money for the Great Ocean Road. Moggs Creek is nearby.

The median house price in Aireys Inlet in 1987 was $74,250 and in 1996 it was $140,000. The low figure in 1987 was three years after the Ash Wednesday fires which destroyed 219 houses in Aireys Inlet, 177 in Fairhaven, 87 in Moggs Creek and 32 in Eastern View. Dame Joan Hammond’s house at Aireys Inlet and her career’s memorabilia were destroyed. Although 83% of dwellings in 1976 were holiday homes, the proportion has fallen to less than two-thirds.
Aireys Inlet’s census populations have been 62 (1921), 93 (1961), 271 (1981) and 675 (1991).


Further Reading:

Aireys Inlet to Eastern View Structure Plan”, Geelong Regional Commission, 1993.

McLaren, Ian, “Aireys Inlet From Anglesea to Cinema Point”, Anglesea and District Historical Society Inc., 1988.

Wynd, Ian, “Barrabool: Land of the Magpie”, Barrabool Shire, 1992.