Inverloch is a seaside town located in Victoria, Australia. It is located 143 km (89 mi) south east of Melbourne via the South Gippsland Highway on the Bass Highway at the mouth of Anderson Inlet, in the Bass Coast Shire of Gippsland. Known originally for the calm waters of Anderson Inlet, it is now also known for the discovery of Australia’s first dinosaur bone and at the 2016 census it had a population of 5,437.
The Bunurong aboriginal people were custodians of this stretch of coast for thousands of years prior to white settlement. The Boakoolawal clan lived in the Kilcunda area south of the Bass River, and the Yowenjerre were west of the Tarwin River along what is now the Bunurong Marine and Coastal Park. Middens containing charcoal and shellfish mark the location of their campsites along the coast.
The first European to settle in the Inverloch area was Samuel Anderson, who, together with his brothers and Robert Massie, ran cattle and grew wheat in the area. The Post Office opened on 1 September 1883 as Anderson’s Inlet and was renamed Inverloch in 1889 after Loch Inver (Lake Entrance) in Scotland.
As the area developed, Inverloch became a port for the shipment of black coal from Wonthaggi to Melbourne.
Australia’s first dinosaur bone, the Cape Paterson Claw, was discovered here in 1903 by William Ferguson in Cape Paterson or what is now Eagles Nest, Bunurong Marine National Park, Inverloch. Today, the Dinosaur Dreaming fossil excavation at the Flat Rocks coastal site by Anderson Inlet attracts both Australian and international visitors. More than 6,000 bones and teeth of small dinosaurs, mammals, birds, turtles and fish have been excavated.
Indigenous Heritage: The Bunurong People are part of the language group known as the Koolin nation. They utilised natural resources including crayfish, shellfish, seal, mutton bird, wattle seed, orchid bulbs, wildlife for meat, furs and leathers. Conflict, together with European diseases, caused rapid decline in the population by the 1840s and the last families left to join other Koolin tribes in the Melbourne area.
1840: Exploring East from Bass, Samuel Anderson, reported a “big river” and a shallow inlet”. In 1840 Thomas Scott Townsend sailed in the cutter ‘Prince George’ to survey the area naming the “shallow inlet” Anderson Inlet and Townsends Bluff. Between 1841 and 1846, brothers’ Henry and George Smythe carried out a survey of the coast and inland from Cape Paterson to Cape Liptrap, naming Point Smythe, Eagles Nest and Petrel Rock.
1863: The Amazon, a 387 tonne wooden barque, was stranded at Wreck Beach and remnants are buried in the sand past the surf beach.
1870: Land Selection in the Inverloch region was opened by the Land Act of 1869. Settlers cleared land largely by axe and built wattle and daub huts. A large part of the current town is built on subdivisions of selections taken up in 1874 and 1883.
1879: Martin Wyberg was found guilty of receiving sovereigns struck by the Royal Mint in Sydney for the Government of Ceylon. Wyberg was involved in exchanging the sovereigns for lead, en route aboard the Steamer ‘Avoca’. Arrested in 1878, he escaped, moving around Anderson Inlet until again captured in 1879. On release from jail five years later he disappeared. As only 1,700 of 3,500 sovereigns were recovered, it is an ongoing mystery.
1880 – 1929: The Ripple was a 17m sailing ketch built in 1872. It called at Inverloch, Maher’s Landing and Tarwin Lower providing a monthly service from Melbourne carrying supplies and passengers. With the draining of the Koo-Wee-Rup swamp and the opening of a road from Melbourne, The Ripple’s visits declined.
1886: Anderson Inlet was proclaimed the town of Inverloch by Governor Loch. The town began as a port, which serviced farms around Anderson Inlet. Inverloch comes from the Gaelic ‘Inver’ meaning ‘at the entrance’ and ‘Loch’ meaning ‘Lake’.
1886: State School 2776 was the first state school in Inverloch established on a shared basis with Pound Creek School. Anderson Inlet School ran full time until 1899 and in 1898 changed its name to Inverloch. The new state school 2776 was built in 1914. Swimming classes were held every week (tide in or out). There were two bathing boxes near the swimming enclosure for girls and boys (1920s). Swimming lessons and sports days were later held at Pine Lodge Pool, where girls used the change rooms whilst boys headed for the bushes and held up towels.
1888: Anderson Inlet Cemetery was established not far from where the current Inverloch Cemetery is located. The first interment was Isabella McLeod in 1891. After WW1, burials became infrequent and the cemetery derelict, closing in 1961. It reopened in 1980 with effort made to search for original graves and recreate the original cemetery register.
1890’s: Coal Mines opening in Korumburra, Outrim and Jumbunna saw the beginning of Inverloch developing as a seaside holiday resort. Some miners cottages were moved from the mining towns and can still be seen in Inverloch.
1893: Owen Longstaff Ullathorne came to Inverloch where he had the ‘coach run’ to Outtrim and Jumbunna carrying mail, groceries and passengers. Horse and cart was used, later a T–Model Ford and then an International Bus. He died in 1942.
1896: The Esplanade Hotel was first licensed in 1896. The current building replaced a wooden structure destroyed by fire in 1934.
1900: Inverloch Rocket Brigade was formed as part of a Victoria wide system to assist ships wrecked on the coast. The First Race Meeting was held at the Inverloch Racecourse on 21st February 1900 at the eastern corner of Cuttriss Street, Inverloch. The first lighting was provided by five gaslights. Electricity arrived in 1934 in the form of an SEC single-phase power line from Kongwak.
1909: The Original Inverloch Jetty was situated to the right and further inland from the current jetty. A Ports and Harbours storage shed stood at the head of the jetty with a trolley that ran on iron rails to carry the goods between the ships and the shed. The site of the original jetty filled with sand after WW2 and in 1956 a new jetty was built and extended in 1977 to add an L shaped piece. The pier was also the venue for annual regattas with stalls, demonstrations and competitions including the crowning of Miss Inverloch in the early 1920s & 30s. The current jetty was built in 1999 with the boat ramp and parking area upgraded.
1910: Seaport – From 1900, Inverloch grew as a seaport with ships transporting black coal from Powlett River coalfields to Melbourne, until the railway line was extended through to Wonthaggi in 1910. Bullock teams and a steam traction engine brought the coal from Wonthaggi mines to steam traders at Inverloch jetty, and from there it was shipped to Melbourne.
1920: The Steamship Moonah was a small coastal supply vessel that ran between Melbourne and Port Albert. The Moonah ran aground on the sand bar in 1920 but was refloated successfully.
1930: Pine Lodge Private Hotel was opened in 1930 with luxury accommodation, entertainment and sporting activities including a nine hole golf course, two tennis courts and horse riding. Designed as a country club it continued to run until 1981 attracting the social elite from Melbourne. Pine Lodge had the first telephone in Inverloch and a 33 yard sea water swimming pool (when built, the largest private swimming pool in Australia). For five years during WW2 it was used as a Naval Hospital. It was demolished in 1985.
1934: Shack Bay is between Inverloch and Cape Paterson and got its name from the miners shacks built there during their five month long strike in 1934. They were removed in 1977.
1936: The Inverloch Carnival and previously, the Inverloch Regattas, attracted many visitors over summer. A Miss Inverloch and a Mr Inverloch could win prizes such as three pairs of Beau Monde Hosiery and an Austral Bicycle. The Ferris wheel, highland dancing, illusion show, races and sand castle competitions were favourite activities until the mid 60s.
1991: Bunurong Marine Park was established in 1991 to protect all flora and fauna in the fragile environments of the marine cliffs and rock platforms. The road to Cape Paterson was sealed in the late 1970s.
1991: More than 6,000 Dinosaur Bones have been found along the Bunurong Coast including teeth of small dinosaurs, many mammals, birds, turtles and fish. Every year since 1991 a team of Melbourne Museum and Monash University palaeontologists and volunteers return to the site at The Caves. It is 100 years since the first dinosaur bone, a terminal toe bone from a carnivorous dinosaur, now known as the Cape Paterson Claw, was discovered.
1994: Inverloch Jazz Festival started and has become a very popular event held annually on Labour Day Weekend in March.
2009–10: The Inverloch Community Hub was completed in 2010 and is home to the Library, Council’s Customer Service Centre, Visitor Information Centre, Community House, Maternal and Child Health, a gallery space and the YMCA.
- Inverloch: A Patchwork of Historical Stories. J Crawford (Ed) 1980.
- Anderson Inlet Inverloch: Murder in Inverloch: The Sodeman Murders. B Sartain 1999.
- Anderson Inlet Inverloch: a short A–Z history. Inverloch Historical Society 1997.
- Inverloch & District Identities and Pioneers. Inverloch Historical Society 2000.
- Silvertails on the Hill. Inverloch Historical Society 2002.
- The Bunurong People. Steve Compton. Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.
Inverloch History – Bass Coast Shire Council brochure