Islands near Peterborough
Peterborough (including Bay of Islands
Coastal Park and Port Campbell National Park)
Small, tranquil holiday resort on the Great
Peterborough is a small, tranquil, low-key
fishing and holiday resort of about 200 people
situated on the western side of the Curdies
River estuary which forms a broad inlet behind
the town. Peterborough is located on the Great
Ocean Road 247 km south-west of Melbourne
between Port Campbell (13 km to the east) and
Warrnambool (53 km to the west). On the eastern
side of the river mouth is Port Campbell
National Park and on the western side of
Peterborough is the Bay of Islands Coastal Park.
Both are characterised by sheer limestone
cliffs, offshore islands, towering rock stacks,
gorges, arches, blowholes and other striking
rock formations. Thus Peterborough, with its
small beaches and sandhills, presents an
atypical, family-friendly, if less spectacular,
aspect of the south-west coast.
The caravan parks and camping grounds of
Peterborough are popular at summertime. There is
a seaside golf course, a picnic area beside
Curdies River and plenty of fishing and swimming
opportunities in the river and sea.
Middens around Massacre Bay (just to the west
of Peterborough) are testimony to Aboriginal
contact with the area. The place names -
Massacre Bay, Massacre Point, Bay of Martyrs -
refer to a strong component of local oral
history which suggests that Europeans killed a
large group of Kirrae-Wurrong Aboriginal men by
driving them off the cliffs hereabouts. The
women and children were allegedly killed in a
nearby swamp. Although there is, not
surprisingly, no written evidence, it seems the
local Aboriginal population dropped from a
couple of thousand to virtually nil at some
point, which may suggest migration but this is
not what local folklore suggests.
The Peterborough area was allegedly settled
by Europeans when a giant clipper called the 'Schomberg'
was wrecked on a rock just east of Curdies Inlet
(now known as Schomberg Rock) in 1855. The
captain had previously set a record of 68 days
for a run from Liverpool to Melbourne and was
attempting to make the present trip in 60 days.
Some of those who came to view the wreck
allegedly decided to stay.
There have been numerous shipwrecks along
this stretch of coast. In 1877 the schooner
'Young Australia' was driven ashore at Curdies
Inlet after receiving damage to its foretop mast
at Cape Nelson during inclement weather. No
lives were lost.
Five years later the 'Newfield' was grounded
1 km east of Curdies Inlet when the captain
mistook the Otway lighthouse for the King Island
light. Captain Scott and several other seamen
died and are buried at the Port Campbell
cemetery. Spectators were apparently
disappointed to find that the cargo (or booty)
consisted only of rock salt.
In 1908 the 'Falls of Halladale', bound from
New York, was wedged between two reefs at what
is now Halladale Point when the captain's
judgment was impaired by heavy fog (some of the
cargo is at Flagstaff Maritime Village at
Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser once
owned a holiday home at Peterborough.
Things to see:
The beach at Peterborough is hemmed between
cliffs and has a feeling of some solitude. It is
readily accessible and ideal for swimming,
fishing and surfing.
Curdies Inlet is a large open stretch of calm
water behind the sand dunes which is in
considerable contrast to the turbulence of the
Southern Ocean. It offers safe swimming,
sailboarding, boating and fishing opportunities.
The Bay of Islands Coastal Park and Port
Campbell National Park - General Remarks
The Bay of Islands Coastal Park extends
westwards for 32 km from the Peterborough golf
course to Lake Gillear, 8 km east of
Warrnambool. Port Campbell National Park (1750
ha) extends east from the eastern side of
Curdies Inlet at Peterborough to Point Ronald at
Princetown. Both feature some beautiful vantage
points atop the sheer cliffs overlooking
offshore islands, towering rock stacks, gorges,
arches, blowholes and other spectacular coastal
scenery. There are opportunities for
snorkelling, walking, beachcombing, photography
and surf fishing. As the Great Ocean Road passes
right along most of the coastline in question it
makes for some excellent scenic driving. Tourism
Victoria has put together the Shipwreck Trail,
the Great Southern Touring Route and the
Volcanic Trail and information on these is
available from the information centres at
Warrnambool, Port Fairy, Port Campbell, Geelong
The sculpted coastline has its origins around
10-20 million years ago when billions of tiny
skeletal fragments accumulated beneath the sea
gradually creating limestone formations. The sea
then retreated leaving the soft limestone
exposed above sea-level to violent seas and
strong winds which have carved out some
Shell middens along the coast have provided
evidence of the ancient presence, the diverse
diet and the lifestyle of the Kirrae-Wurong
people. Sealers and whalers were the first
European visitors to these shores. As the colony
grew Bass Strait became a major shipping route
for cargo ships.
The salt-laden winds on the exposed clifftops
have not managed to deter the development of
some fragile grasslands and heathlands which
support a half-dozen nationally significant
plant species including the metallic sun orchid
and the scented spider orchid.
The fauna is mostly ornithological -
honeyeaters, southern emu-wrens, superb
fairy-wrens, swamp harriers and the rare rufous
bristlebird which lives near the ground amidst
sword-grass tussocks and coast beard-heath (look
for the long uplifted tail which jerks upwards
and bobs about as it runs through the
grasslands). Peregrine falcons can sometimes be
seen flying above the cliff-tops. Pelicans,
ducks, black swans and egrets inhabit the
estuaries and wetlands. Penguins, terns and
dotterels hang about the shoreline and hooded
plovers nest in very exposed beach locations so
watch for eggs when walking above the high tide
line. Australasian gannets, wandering
albatrosses and short-tailed shearwaters can be
seen out to sea. Southern brown bandicoots,
swamp antechinuses and echidnas are also found
in the parks.
Camping and sleeping overnight in vehicles is
forbidden but there is accommodation available
at Peterborough, Port Campbell and Princetown.
There are good opportunities for reef and
wreck diving off the park but it is advisable to
check with local divers first or ring Parks
Victoria on 03 5598 6382.
Bay of Islands Coastal Park - Specific
Just to the west of the golf course is Wild Dog
Cove which has a secluded little beach with rock
pools and safe paddling for family groups. There
is a small carpark with steps leading down to
the beach. A dirt walking track extends
westwards past Halladale Point to the Bay of
Martyrs although the quality of the track is
better at the Bay of Martyrs end.
Further west along the Great Ocean Road is a
turnoff into a dirt track which leads to a small
carpark at Worm Bay which is a popular fishing
spot with sheer red cliffs projecting out on
either side. Usage of this carpark is not
strongly recommended due to its size and the
problematic access. However, Worm Bay is
directly east of the Bay of Martyrs (see next
entry) which therefore is a ready point of
access to Worm Bay.
Thus it is a very short distance to the
heavily signposted Bay of Martyrs carpark. There
are viewing areas, interpretative signage and a
short but spectacular self-guided clifftop walk
from the eastern end of the carpark which leads
to Point Halladale where there is seating and
signage relating to the shipwreck of the 'Falls
of Halladale' which ran aground here in 1908.
Fine beach walking can also be enjoyed at the
Bay of Martyrs.
Further west again, via the Great Ocean Road,
is Massacre Bay. A new carpark has recently been
completed work is being done to create
boardwalks and viewing areas which will protect
the middens and other archaeological material of
the area from harm.
Next is the carpark and viewing area above
Crofts Bay, a secluded beach area with a
spectacular cliff line, fishing opportunities
and some fine beach walking.
The next carpark is associated with the Bay
of Islands, 8 km west of Peterborough via the
Great Ocean Road. As its name suggests the bay
enfolds a series of tiny offshore islands. A
walking track starts from the carpark and leads
along the coastline to viewing platforms with
perspectives over the bay. Rock stacks offshore
provide nesting sites for silver gulls while
another is home to Victoria's only marine
cormorant, the rare black-faced cormorant.
A little further west a signposted side road
on the left leads out to Boat Bay where there is
a boat ramp.
From this point the Great Ocean Road heads
inland, passing through some unspectacular rural
scenery. However, a series of side roads on the
left lead back out to points on the coast. About
7 km from Boat Bay is the turnoff into Radford
Road which leads out to a carpark with a viewing
area, information boards and shipwreck views.
About 8 km beyond the turnoff into Radford
Road is the turnoff into Mathieson Road which
leads to a carpark with a lookout above Three
A fraction beyond the Mathieson Rd turnoff is
another turnoff into Childers Cove Rd. Keep
turning left and you will end up at Childers
Cove where the barque 'Children' was wrecked in
1839 with the loss of 16 lives. There is a
carpark, viewing area, picnic tables and
toilets. To the immediate east are a series of
bays, beaches, coves and points. The Childers
Cove Road leads back to an intersection which
gives you the option of veering right back to
Peterborough or left to Warrnambool.
Port Campbell National Park
Just to the east of Peterborough is Newfield Bay
which is a popular surf-fishing and
About 4 km east of Peterborough, via the
Great Ocean Road, is a turnoff on the right
which leads to a lookout over 'The Grotto' - a
geological formation created when sinkholes in
the limestone cliffs met with a receding cliff
About another 2 km east is the turnoff to
four viewing platforms over London Bridge - a
natural archway and tunnel in an offshore rock
formation caused by waves eroding away a portion
of softer rock. The main arch collapsed in 1990
thus making London Bridge nothing more than two
stacks. Artificial burrows have been built to
encourage the nesting of fairy penguins. There
is no access to the beach.
About another 600 metres east, just beyond
Point Hesse, is the lookout over The Arch, which
is another rock formation caused by water
For further information on either Park, ring
the Parks Victoria information line on 131 963
or the Port Campbell office on (03) 5598 6382.
For information on points of interest located
further east in Port Campbell National Park, see
entry on Port Campbell.
There are two excellent books on the Great Ocean
Road which we strongly recommend to anyone
planning to spend extended time in the area.
Explore The Great Ocean Road has very
detailed information on all the attractions and
excellent maps of the towns and the coastline.
It is an ideal companion if you are going to do
some bushwalking or you want to reach beyond the
regular tourist destinations. See http://walkabout.fairfax.com.au/fairfax/booksMaps/booksMaps00018.shtml
for more information.
Great Ocean Road: A Travellers Guide has been
written by a photographer consequently the
pictures are excellent and his focus has been on
providing detailed information on the
accommodation and attractions in the area. It
has a comprehensive listing of all the Bed and
Breakfast and Guest Houses along the road with
photographs and prices. Very handy if you are
planning to stay somewhere other than a motel or
caravan park. See http://walkabout.fairfax.com.au/fairfax/booksMaps/booksMaps00019.shtml
for more information.
Both can be ordered from the Walkabout Books
and Maps location.