Historical Towns Directory

By clicking on a state or territory on the map, you can access a regional guide to Australia's historic towns, including a wealth of information about organizations, museums and locations.

We invite organisations to submit information for inclusion on this site. Please click here to email your information to the Directory Editor, Ros Stirling.


 Victor Harbor

Find Victor Harbor

The coastal resort Victor Harbor is located on Encounter Bay, 84 kilometres south of Adelaide. The bay was named by English navigator Matthew Flinders in 1802 after his ship encountered Frenchman Nicholas Baudin's 'Le Geographe' in the area while both explorers were mapping Australia's south coast.

Whalers and sealers were the first Europeans to utilise the area, arriving as early as 1819. A whaling station was established just off the coast at Granite Island in 1837. Captain Crozier anchored the HMS Victor off the island while surveying the harbour in 1837, naming the area Port Victor after his ship. The name was later changed to Victor Harbor.

The site was declared a port in 1838, with the first permanent European settlers arriving in the area the following year. These early settlers began pastoral activities in the district as well as taking up employment at the whaling stations.

In its early years Victor Harbor progressed slowly as a small port. The first pub, the Fountain Inn, opened at the townsite in 1847. A windmill (now in ruins) was constructed in 1851, but closed as a result of storm damage two years later.

Meanwhile Captain Charles Sturt had navigated the Murray River in 1829-30, and though the site of Adelaide was chosen as the harbour for the South Australian colony, there was also support for the development of shipping along the Murray River.

Goolwa was chosen as the last port on the Murray while Port Elliot (which was declared a port in 1851) was chosen over Victor Harbor as the river's ocean port. A horsedrawn railway, Australia's first public railway, was constructed between the two locations from 1851-1854.

The Port Elliot site, however, did not prove ideal and seven ships foundered within ten years in the rocky coastal waters off shore. In 1861 the decision was made to relocate operations to the more sheltered Victor Harbor.

Accordingly the railway was extended from Port Elliot, arriving at Victor Harbor in 1864. This was also the year that Victoria Pier was established at the site.

Victor Harbor became the main port on the Fleurieu Peninsula, shipping around 25,000 bales of wool around the world from its port by the 1880s.

A customs house (still standing) was built in 1865. By 1867 the township also contained a bank (1865), a stone telegraph station (1866) and a hotel.

The first Newland Memorial Congregational Church dates from 1868 and now stands opposite the Newland Memorial Church (1927). Both are listed on the State Heritage Register and are named after Reverend Ridgeway Newland who arrived with the initial 34 settlers in 1839.

St Augustine's Church of England was constructed in 1869. St Joan of Arc Catholic Church was named in 1920, interestingly a few months before Joan of Arc was made a Saint.

By 1875 Victor Harbor had a population of around 250 residents. This was also the year that the jetty was converted to a causeway connected to Granite Island.

Work on a breakwater constructed from granite rocks blasted from Granite Island was undertaken from 1878 to 1882.

The development of the railway network inevitably resulted in Victor Harbor's decline as a port.

Victoria Harbor developed as a resort town and retirement centre from the 1960s.

Horse Drawn Tram, Granite Island, Victor Harbor (courtesy South Australian Tourism Commission)

It is today recognised as the unofficial 'capital' of the Fleurieu Peninsula and was recorded as having a population of almost 10,563 residents in the 2001 Census.

Victor Harbor Horse Tramway
Information: A team of Clydesdales pulls Victor Harbor’s trams (which run on roller bearings to ease the burden on the horses) along the Causeway to Granite Island.
Contact: Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre
Phone: (08) 8552 5738

Start of the Causeway next to the Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre
Victor Harbor SA

Victor Harbor Visitor Information Centre
Information: Open 7 days (except Christmas Day) between 9am and 5pm.
Phone: 08 8552 5738
Fax: 08 8552 5476

The Causeway
Victor Harbor SA 5211

Postal Address:

PO Box 1230
Victor Harbor SA 5211

Email: vic@victor.sa.gov.au
Website: http://www.tourismvictorharbor.com.au



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