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History

There's a good reason that The Bluff and Granite Island are Victor's most prominent landmarks: both are made of super-hard granite, formed some 500m years ago when molten rock (magma) was squeezed up from deep within the earth.

The mainland however is made of softer rock types (typically schist) which have succumbed to the erosive power of the ocean, the elements and glaciers. Some 280 million years ago, rain, waves, wind and ice had eaten away at the coastline to leave the granite exposed – and plain for all to see!

Indigenous History

For thousands of years, the Ramindjeri people hunted and gathered in the region they called ‘Wirramulla’. The fertile lands supported huge animal populations while the waters were sheltered and rich with life. Among the local dreamtime stories, Nulcoowarra (the indigenous name for Granite Island) has tremendous spiritual significance, as does the southern right whale, told in the ‘Kondoli’ dreaming. Ironically, non-indigenous settlers approved of the region for the same reasons – rich lands, sheltered waters and whales. Steadily, the indigenous peoples were displaced, but attempts were made to bring The Causeway from Granite Island, circa 1920s the two groups together. In the 1840s, Victor Harbor missionaries taught Ramindjeri children to read and write in their own language, one of the earliest attempts to do so.

European History

First Europeans to sight Victor Harbor more than 200 years ago were Captain Matthew Flinders of the British sloop Investigator and Captain Nicholas Baudin of the French ship Le Geographé.

Their meeting took place at sea in 1802, a few kilometres from the Murray Mouth. Although their countries were at war, they exchanged information and maps.

The first non-indigenous inhabitants of the area were fishermen, whalers and sealers, seeking an easy catch. Some were to jump ship and settle.

Ridgway William Newland, a Congregational clergyman from the south of England, led the first true party of settlers to Encounter Bay in July 1839. The group comprised his family, some relations and friends along with several skilled farm workers and their families.

Newland had obtained letters of introduction to Governor George Gawler from Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Gawler told Newland that the village of Adelaide was becoming overcrowded, that most of the nearby land had been taken up and splendid land was available at Encounter Bay for only one pound an acre.

Newland took his advice and transported his party to their new home via the Lord Hobart.

LR: Captain Matthew Flinders, Captain Nicholas Baudin & Ridgway William Newland
LR: Captain Matthew Flinders, Captain Nicholas Baudin & Ridgway William Newland

Whaling stations continued trading until around the mid-1860s, but bigger profits were to be had from boats carrying wheat and wool down the Murray River to the port of Goolwa. Since Goolwa was unsuitable for ships, a 12km railway was built to connect with Port Elliot in 1854 – creating Australia’s first public railway. But Port Elliot was also found wanting so a safer, more sheltered port in the lee of Granite Island was chosen. The railway was extended from Port Elliot to Victor Harbor in 1864.

The horse drawn railway was extended along the Causeway to Granite Island in the mid-1860s to service large American and European clippers. By the 1880s, 25,000 bales of wool from western New South Wales and Queensland were being paddled down the Murray, freighted by train to Victor Harbor and then shipped to the world. But railways killed the river trade in the 1890s – and Victor Harbor’s history as a holiday destination began.

Old Port Victor

HERITAGE WALKING TRAIL

To learn more of the history of Victor Harbor, collect the Old Port Victor Heritage Walking Trail brochure from the Visitor Information Centre or click here to download. (PDF 339 KB)

Historical Sites

1. Adare House (1852) / Map Ref: J4
The Drive, Victor Harbor
First Established as the summer residence of Governor John Hindmarsh. The Cudmore family from Adare in Ireland built the present elaborate castle

2. Bluff Jetty / Map Ref: B8
Rosetta Head, Victor Harbor
(Also known as Whalers Wharf & Lilliput Jetty) Built by the colonial government in 1854, the first jetty in Victor Harbor, called the Lilliputian jetty. The road built around the base of the Bluff to connect it to Yilki was built, with some controversy, by the Encounter Bay District Council.

3. Bluff Summit / Map Ref: A9
Rosetta Head, Victor Harbor
(Historical Encounter Plaque) Rosetta Head was named after the wife of George Fife Angus, Chairman of the South Australian Company. A plaque on the summit commemorates the encounter at sea of Captains Matthew Flinders and Nicholas Baudin in 1802. The site of the encounter between Flinders and Baudin 8th April, 1802. About six kilometres S.E. of the Murray Mouth and 33 km east of the Visitor Information Centre. A plaque was placed on the seabed in 2002 to commemorate the encounter.

4. Breakwater Granite Island / Map Ref: H8
Granite Island, Victor Harbor
Completed in 1882. The breakwater of huge granite boulders blasted from the rock of Granite Island, was a massive and expensive undertaking for a young colony.

5. Castlemaine House / Map Ref: I3
Gum Avenue, Victor Harbor
Built in 1927- 8 as a summer residence for Sir William Sowden, proprietor of the “Register”. A distinctive landmark.

6. Coolanine Mine / Map Ref: B8
The Bluff, Victor Harbor
Sunk in 1863 in an unsuccessful search for an economic deposit of copper ore.

7. Customs House (1865) / Map Ref: H6
Flinders Parade, Victor Harbor 
(Now National Trust Museum) Built in 1866-67 for the collector of customs and harbour master. Became the stationmaster’s residence in 1911. Now the National Trust Museum. Believed to be built of ship’s ballast.

8. Fountain Inn First Inn (1839) / Map Ref: C6
Franklin Parade, Victor Harbor
The first hotel in the district (lic 1847). Private residence from 1894. B&B accommodation from 1998.

9. Glacier (Selwyn’s) Rock / Map Ref: E1
Inman Valley, Victor Harbor
First recorded discovery of glaciation in Australia. Of Cambrian Kanmantoo quartzite, about 450-500 million years old.

10. Horsetrams (1894) / Map Ref: H6
Causeway, Victor Harbor
Commenced 1862. Broad gauge track first laid from mainland to Granite Island in 1875. First double decker passenger service commenced in 1894.

11. Mt Breckan House / Map Ref: I4
Renown Avenue, Victor Harbor
Built in 1880 at a cost of 10,000 pounds for the Hay family. Burnt down in1909 and rebuilt in 1912. (Now private residence only).

12. Newland Memorial Church / Map Ref: G5
Victoria Street, Victor Harbor
Built in 1927, the second Newland Memorial
Church. The foundation stone was laid by Sir Henry Newland, Rev. Ridgway Newland’s grandson. (See Tabernacle Cemetery).
For further information on the History of the Newland Church please click on the following link www.newland.unitingchurch.org.au.

13. Old Mill / Map Ref: E6
Gibson Street, Victor Harbor
Built in 1844 of limestone by a farmer, Peter Helmore. William Hunt was the first miller. Damaged in 1853 in a storm. Now a private residence.

14. Old Primary School Building / Map Ref: H5
Torrens Street, Victor Harbor
(1876-1986) The first public school building was opened in 1877 in Torrens Street. One building still remains and is well-used as a community centre.

15. Railway Goods Shed / Map Ref: H6
Railway Terrace, Victor Harbor
(Now ‘Whale Centre’) Built in 1864 from the ballast from sailing ships, was the railways goods shed until the 80’s. Became the Whale Centre in 1994.

16. Railway Station / Map Ref: H5
Railway Terrace, Victor Harbor
The first railway line to Victor Harbor was established in 1864 to link River Murray trade with the sea. The present brick station building was erected in 1926.

17. Ramindjeri (last) Campsite / Map Ref: E5
Kent Reserve, Victor Harbor
In the late 1890’s the last of the Ramindjeris were rounded up against their will and put in huts on Kent Reserve. A few still lived there in the 1920’s.

18. Read’s Wool Store (1868) / Map Ref: H6
Flinders Parade, Victor Harbor
(Now RSL) Several large woolstores were erected along the railway line. The last remaining store used by George Read has been the RSL Clubroom for many years.

19. Screw Pile Jetty / Map Ref: H8
Granite Island, Victor Harbor
Finished in 1882, this jetty expanded Victor Harbor’s capacity as a deep sea port. The iron piles were screwed into the limestone seabed.

20. St Augustine’s Church / Map Ref: G5
Burke Street, Victor Harbor
St Augustine’s Anglican Church was built in 1869 from shell grit limestone.

21. Tabernacle Cemetery & Church Site / Map Ref: C5
Tabernacle Road, Victor Harbor
The first church in the area was built 1846 of limestone with a shingle roof, by the congregational minister, the Rev. Ridgway William Newland.

22. Telegraph Station Gallery / Map Ref: H5
Coral Street, Victor Harbor
Victor Harbor’s first Post Office. Built in 1866, it became the postmaster’s residence when the post office was built in Ocean Street in 1921. Now an art gallery and studio.

23. Town Hall / Map Ref: H5
Coral Street, Victor Harbor
Library built in 1877 and Town Hall in 1905 by the Institute Committee. They were bought by the council in 1935. Both continue to play active role in community education and entertainment.

24. Warringa Guest House (1906) / Map Ref: H5
Flinders Parade, Victor Harbor
(Now ‘Anchorage Seafront Hotel’) Built by James Halliday in 1906. Additions were made in 1912 and 1952.

25. Whaling Station (1834) / Map Ref: A9
Rosetta Head, Victor Harbor
Established by the South Australian Company. William Wright was one of the headmen and gave his name to Wright Island nearby.

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