Port Campbell is a small coastal village with a population of approx 300 people.
The government’s Great Ocean Road Strategy 2004 noted to retain the small village character and send large developments to larger towns such as Apollo Bay, Camperdown and Warrnambool. Port Campbell’s infrastructure and potential for development is limited by its position in a narrow valley surrounded by high limestone cliffs.
Port Campbell Urban Design Framework 2002 highlights that the southern [Headland]end of the development site is sensitive.
The headland, bottom right of photo on the left, is a narrow peninsula – in comparison with other headlands which have formed ‘Apostles’.
Port Campbell Early Settlement.
History. Old Port Campbell, European Settlement: The settlement at Port Campbell was founded in the 1840s and named after Captain Alexander Campbell. Captain Campbell, affectionately known as ‘the last of the buccaneers’, sheltered in the Bay while chasing a whale; he was a regular trader between Victoria and Tasmania and in charge of the whaling station at Port Fairy.
La Trobe recognised Port Campbell’s significance as a Port and wrote on his map: ‘I think a boat might possibly land at Port Campbell in most weathers; but with this exception, I do not know a single spot on the whole coast from Hopkins to Cape Otway where a landing could be effected with any chance of certainty’.
This coastline was isolated and it wasn’t until 1875 that the town site was surveyed. The survey of the town site was in part due to the establishment of a beacon on the headland in 1874. By 1878 a pier had been built at the site of the present jetty.
Port Campbell’s port directly fronts the Southern Ocean. Port Campbell is renowned for its extreme sea conditions and frequent early maritime disasters, sea rescue and salvage as its rugged cliffs are situated at the ‘Eye of the Needle’ – the narrow entrance to one of the world’s most notorious and treacherous stretches of sea, Bass Strait.
The port was originally developed as a result of one of Australia’s worst maritime disasters, the wreck of the Loch Ard in 1878. The historic rocket shed, reminiscent of the times still stands and the associated cliff rescue crew remains operational to this day.
Port Campbell is now renowned as the centre of the internationally known Shipwreck Coast. There have been over 80 shipwrecks along the 130 km of coast between Moonlight Heads and Port Fairy, and many of the relics are still to be discovered.
The port is highly significant to maritime archaeology as the sole reliable access to research and manage numerous Commonwealth and State proclaimed shipwrecks, including those of the Loch Ard, Fiji, Schomberg, Marie Gabrielle, Newfield, Napier and the Falls of HalladaleWreck of the “Fiji”. Men cling to the bowsprint as the cargo included Dynamite.
Rocket Rescue Apparatus and Crew at the wreck of the Fiji, 1891.
(Sepia photos: Heytesbury & District Historical Society.)