Beachport

Beachport

Located 385 km south-east of Adelaide, Beachport is a typical seaside resort town. The appeal of the town is created by a wonderful mixture of Norfolk pines, pure aquamarine waters, beautiful white sands and a sense of relaxation produced by people swimming, fishing and boating. It is also an important port for the local crayfishing industry.


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History

In the earliest days, before European settlement, Beachport was known as ‘Wirmalngrang’ to the local Booandik Aborigines. The Booandik, was the largest tribe within the area and occupied that tract of land extending from the mouth of the Glenelg River to Rivoli Bay North (Beachport), for about 30 miles inland. The last of the full blooded members of the Booandik tribe died less than 60 years after the first white people had come into their land.

The first European into the area was Nicholas Baudin in 1802 who named it Rivoli after the Duke of Rivoli who had helped Napoleon defeat the Austrians at Rivoli in northern Italy in 1796.

The area was originally settled by the Henty brothers in the 1830s, who established the first whaling station in South Australia’s south east at this site.

In 1845 the Smiths moved to Rivoli Bay south (Greytown - Now Southend), an isolated port in south-eastern South Australia, where Christina Smith was the sole European woman. James Smith worked variously as postmaster, agent for the South Australian Co. and as storekeeper for his brother-in-law Captain Emanuel Underwood, a successful coastal trader. According to her son Duncan Smith, her husband did not treat Christina Smith well.

Convinced that Aborigines were victims of European aggression, disease and land depredation, Christina Smith ‘yearned to be used by God’ in ministering to ‘the miserable remnant’ of the formerly numerous and powerful Booandik (Buandig) people, whose territory ranged from the mouth of the Glenelg River to Beachport.

At their request, as their numbers were rapidly diminishing she began recording their customs, legends and social relationships for the ‘antiquary, historian and philologist’. Duncan Smith compiled a Booandik vocabulary and was appointed interpreter in 1853, having acted in the position since he was 14.


Geltwood
Following the 1876 shipwreck of the 'Geltwood' at the southern end of Rivoli Bay, the Parliament passed a bill to set up a port at this location.

Beachport was officially recognised by its current name in 1878. It was named in honour of the then-Secretary of State for the Colonies, M.E. Hicks-Beach, rather than for its beaches.

In 1878, Captain Underwood, informed his fellow citizens, and those in authority in parliament, that:

...It was about 1841 or 1842 when bound south in the good ship Governor Gawler of 15 tons, pressed near the coast by contrary winds, I entered in the night. I saw it was a bay and remained there until daylight to examine its features, try the soundings for anchorage (the water was very smooth) and I formed at once the idea that such a bay might be made useful to settlers in the adjacent country for receiving stores and shipping wool...

Soon afterwards Captain Lipson was sent to examine minutely and report on its capabilities it offered for the purposes I have named. His report was altogether unfavourable and mine condemned and, at the time, I had to bear some wordy abuse for my crude opinions; and at the time Guichen Bay was becoming a rival and received all the favours and attention of the government at that period. Nevertheless, I stood up for Rivoli Bay.

I built a store there for the reception of goods... I planted a family therein charge of my venture whose name has been honourably mentioned in the recent speeches at the Mount (Mrs Smith). I met encouragement from the settlers and made a number of trips with stores bringing the wool back in season. But I had to contend with the prejudices of those in high stations and there were no facilities of any kind to forward my views, and that connected with mishaps and one fatal shipwreck forced me to give up my project at great loss and for the time Rivoli Bay was abandoned.

Time has tooled on, changed in opinions of men in power have taken place and Rivoli Bay, now Beachport, looms out prominently as a port in South Australia. I feel gratified at such an issue as it has justified my humble opinion at that early period in our history...

Captain Underwood

One of the characteristics of the area is the shallowness of the waters offshore. Which resulted in a jetty being made in 1878. That jetty now stretches more than 772 metres into the sea and is the second longest in the state. However, the original plan was to build it to nearly 1300 metres long.

A railway line between Beachport and Mt Gambier also opened in 1878, but was closed in 1956.

The ‘Bompas’ building (1878) was constructed by Peter McQueen not long after Beachport was declared a town. A liquor license was held for the building until 1889. The Bay View Hotel (now Beachport Hotel) was built in 1879-80 and has been extended since its initial construction.

The Beachport Post Office was constructed in 1879-80, replacing a tin shed where the postal service had previously been housed.

Beachport’s first school opened in 1879, though the first permanent school building at the corner of Chambers and McCourt Streets opened in 1881. The town’s other early intellectual needs were catered to in temporary premises until the Institute main building and reading room were completed in 1882.

Beachport’s original police station (now privately owned) was established in 1881.

In April 1882 the District Council of Beachport came into existence. The original council chambers are now used as holiday units.

A customs office was established in the late 1800s to collect customs duties on goods being transported between the states. After interstate tariffs were abolished when Australia federated in 1901 it became a railway office. The building has since been restored to resemble its 19th century functions.

Today the town is sustained by a combination of fishing (this is an excellent crayfish area) and tourism.

Things to see:

  • Old Wool & Grain Store - National Trust Museum

Now a National Trust Museum, the Old Wool and Grain Store is located in Railway Terrace. Dating from the 1879-80 and built of local freestone and limestone quoins. The building was originally constructed as a wool and grain store. The stores were held downstairs and the upstairs was used as a residence. At one point a railway line ran from the store to the jetty. It was restored by the National Trust in 1972. The museum has a good collection of artefacts from the town’s whaling and shipping past. It also, for those curious about the drains outside the town, has a special exhibition titled Down the Drain which explains the region’s water drainage. For details and opening times (08) 8735 8013.

  • Cape Martin Lighthouse

The light from the Cape Martin Lighthouse was originally located in the Penguin Island Lighthouse tower now lying abandoned several kilometres to the South. Established in 1960 the lighthouse replaced the nearby Penguin Island Lighthouse. The light from Penguin Island was reused in the new structure.

The apparatus was converted to electricity in 1974. Only being 4.5 metres high the new light was found to be inadequate due to the build up of nearby sand dunes that obscured the light. In 1980, the tower was raised to its current height of 12 metres using precast concrete slabs.

The lighthouse is located on a point above Beachport and the reserve is accessible to the public. It is with close walking and driving distance. From this point the Penguin Island Lighthouse can also be viewed. There are no tours.

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  • Pool of Siloam

Located on the Scenic Drive, this is about as close as Australia gets to the Dead Sea. It is fed by underground springs and has a salinity seven times that of the sea. This means that it is popular for therapeutic purposes. It also means that if you are a non-swimmer you will float. You can even lie on your back and read a book.

  • Beachport Conservation Park

The excellent handout ‘Beachport Walking Trails’ explains: ‘Drive from the jetty with the sea on your left-hand side and turn around the roundabout passing the National Trust Museum and the Beachport Hotel. About 0.7 km from the roundabout you will see a road sign posted to Lake George. Follow this for 5.2 km until the sealed road ends at the boundary of the Beachport Conservation Park.’

The path (taking the right hand fork) follows the edge of Lake George. The park is important as the habitat for Lewin’s Water Rail, Rufous Bristle Bird and the Olive Whistler. There are also some particularly important Aboriginal middens in the area.

  • Penguin Island Conservation Park

Drive to the seaside end of Foster Street and you can walk past the lighthouse to a lookout which looks across at Penguin Island. The lighthouse, which was built in 1878, used to be on Penguin Island but was moved to the mainland in 1960. The lookout, particularly if you have a good pair of binoculars, offers an excellent view of Penguin Island which is characterised by 10-15 metre cliffs and is the breeding ground for silver gulls, little penguins and crested terns. There are also Australian fur seals on the island.

Located 10km north of Beachport this cutting (ie huge trench) took M. B. McCourt and another man three years to complete. The local publicity declares that it is 'probably Australia's biggest engineering feat performed by two people. It did convert a large area of swamp into farmland. There's an observation platform where you can admire the two men's tenacity and hard work.
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  • Beachport Walking Trails

There is an excellent brochure listing a number of walking trails in the district which have been named after local identities. There is Lanky’s Walk (named after an Aboriginal tracker and reputedly the last member of the Booandik tribal grouping) which lasts 30 minutes and moves through native bushland to Lanky’s Well (where Lanky used to water the police horses) starting from Railway Terrace just beyond North West Terrace. There’s Jack and Hilda McArthur Walk around Wooley’s Lake which starts at the car park in the Beachport Conservation Park and Wendy’s Walk (45 mins) which offers views across the Southern Ocean and starts at the steps opposite South Terrace on Foster Street.

Motels

Beachport Motor Inn

  • Railway Tce
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8070
  • Rating: *

Hotels

Beachport Hotel

  • Railway Tce P.O. Box 94
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8003

Bompa's Private Hotel

  • 3 Railway Tce
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8333
  • Rating: *

Cottages & Cabins

Beachport's Southern Ocean Tourist Park

  • Somerville St P.O. Box 44
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8153
  • Facsimile: (08) 8735 8218
  • Rating: *

Caravan Parks

Beachport Caravan Park

  • Beach Rd
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8128
  • Rating: 1/2

Beachport's Southern Ocean Tourist Park

  • Somerville St P.O. Box 44
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8153
  • Facsimile: (08) 8735 8218
  • Rating: *1/2

Restaurants

Beachport Hotel

  • Railway Tce P.O. Box 94
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8003

Bompa's Restaurant

  • 3 Railway Tce
  • Beachport SA 5280
  • Telephone: (08) 8735 8333

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