San Remo

Formed as a fishing village, San Remo’s economy is now more largely based around tourism. It is located at the western tip of the Anderson Peninsula, 122 km south-east of Melbourne via the South Gippsland Highway, opposite Newhaven on Phillip Island. Between San Remo and Newhaven is the eastern entrance to Westernport Bay known as ‘The Narrows’ which is spanned by a bridge offering good views over the township.

The land around San Remo was occupied for thousands of years prior to European colonisation by the Bunurong Aborigines. San Remo was the landing point for surgeon George Bass on his important 1797 voyage during which he explored about 1000 km of coastline on board an 8.7 metre open whaleboat. It entailed the European discovery of Westernport and the confirmation of the existence of the Bass Strait. William Hovell explored this coast on foot in 1826.

The Anderson Peninsula was named after Samuel Anderson who migrated from Scotland in 1830 and took up a grazing lease in the area in 1841 after working for the Van Dieman’s Land Company and then farming wheat in South Gippsland. The European setlement of the local area was related to the establishment, around 1840, of a deepwater port at Griffiths Point, for the exportation of wattle bark, cattle and farm produce and, from the 1870s, coal. The latter was relayed to Grifiths Point from Kilcunda, 11 km south-east, via tramway.

The township that developed around the port became a drawcard for tourists and was named San Remo in 1888 after the famous resort town on the Italian Riviera. Commercial fishing comenced early in the 20th century when the railways enabled access to the Melbourne markets. A ferry relayed tourists to Phillip Island until a suspension bridge was built in 1940. The present bridge dates from 1969. Today there is a fishing co-operative near the bridge that supplies good fresh fish, particularly the King George whiting for which the area is known.

The Best Time To Visit: Phillip Island is an all-year destination, but as expected of a coastal island, the wind can be icy during winter and there is also more chance of rain in the colder months. It’s a very popular place, so there will always be plenty of people around whenever you go.

Melbournians enjoy coming to Phillip Island for the weekend or during their annual vacation (January is the peak month), so avoid weekends and the month of January if you’d rather avoid the crowds. The island also gets busy where there is a race on, so check the circuit’s website for a calendar of racing events.

The Nobbies, Phillip Island

Things To See and Do

San Remo village is where the ritual of pelican feeding takes place every day at 11.30 am. These enormous birds congregate daily on the San Remo beach adjacent to the fishing fleet to receive their free meal. Cape Woolamai, which features rugged granite cliffs and black basalt outcrops, is home to Phillip Island’s largest colony of Short-tailed Shearwaters, a migratory sea bird that arrive in the thousands between November and April.

San Remo offers visitors a range of accommodation – bed and breakfasts, motels, caravan parks – as well as restaurants, a shopping centre and sporting facilities. Families can enjoy sheltered bathing at Children’s Beach while surfers will appreciate the more exposed conditions at Foots Beach. Children’s play facilities, toilets and barbecues are available on Back Beach Rd and Marine Parade.

Vietnam Veterans Museum: is located on Phillip Island Road at San Remo. It is open Monday to Thursday from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., from and Friday to Sunday from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5678 5999.

Fishing and Diving Charters: The waters around San Remo are very popular with anglers and divers. Charter services are available from Stuart Garner (tel: 03 5678 5346), San Remo Fishing and Diving Charters (tel: 03 5678 5426) and Bay Connections, tel: (03) 5678 5642.

Surrounding Area

George Bass Coastal Walk: (6 km one way) follows a strip of public land on the clifftops between Punchbowl and Kilcunda. There is an information shelter at the southern end of Punchbowl Rd which heads south off Phillip Island Tourist Road to the Punchbowl (an impressive blowhole).

Care must be taken as there are some electrified fences to keep cattle in and these must only be crossed where stiles are provided. These are outlined in a guiding map and pamphlet available from Parks Victoria (tel: 131 963). Moreover, be sure to wear sturdy shoes, a good sun hat and sunscreen as there is little shade in summer and the surface along the cliffline can be slippery and uneven.

Remnants of native vegetation cling stubbornly to the clifftops in spite of years of grazing. These include coastal tea-tree, white correa, coast beard-heath, sea box, coast banksia at Half Moon Bay and boobiallas along a creek just west of the bay. From the clifftops, Southern right whales can be seen near the shore in winter. Seagulls utilise the updraughts caused by sea winds bouncing off the cliffs while nankeen kestrels and black-shouldered kites hunt in the farmlands.

Kilcunda, 11 km to the south, is a serene, salt marsh reserve, frequented by aquatic birds and surrounded by green hills. The Kilcunda Ridge Road offers pleasant views of the bay. After coal was discovered in the cliffs near the town, the Western Port Mining Company began excavations in 1871. Until the railway line was extended from Kilcunda to San Remo in 1883, the black coal was transported to San Remo by bullock teams. From there it was conveyed to Melbourne. A charming trestle railway bridge, built in 1910, still stands 2 km south of Kilcunda.

Kilcunda Beach is a white sandy strand surrounded by rolling hills. There are a few remnants from a coal mine which operated here from the 1870s, including a coal waste dump near the highway, an old steam winch, two mining tunnels through the cliff face and a trestle railway bridge (1910) which was part of the now dismantled line that connected Nyora and the coal mine at Wonthaggi. Kilcunda Beach is suitable for anglers and surfers though swimming is only recommended in the shallow waters near the shoreline. Horse rides along the ocean beach are available at the mouth of the Powlett River, on most days, with Victorian Horse Treks, tel: (03) 9782 2749 or (0417) 347 954.

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