In 1803, Lt. David Collins attempted, but failed, to found a settlement in Port Phillip Bay, where Melbourne now lies, and it was to be more than three decades before a further attempt was made.
In fact, the first permanent settlement in Victoria was not in Port Phillip Bay, but at Portland in the extreme west of Victoria. Portland dates from 1834. Port Phillip Bay was settled in the following year, 1835, by John Batman and John Fawkner, who crossed Bass Strait from Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) in order to found the city which is now Melbourne. Unlike previous settlers, Batman and Fawkner made an attempt to purchase the land from the local aborigines. At the time, the government of New South Wales was trying to discourage settlement in outlying areas, but it was soon forced to recognise the existence of a community in Port Phillip Bay and to send administrators.
The new settlement strongly resisted the introduction of convicts, although in the end some convict labour was used in the area. The settlers also requested, from an early stage, independence from New South Wales, and this was granted in 1851, when the new colony of Victoria was established.
It was at this point that gold was discovered in Bendigo, Ballarat and several other locations in Victoria, and the finds included the largest known nuggets in history. Suddenly Victoria became rich. The population of the state trebled and the new-found prosperity endured for a period of thirty years, manifesting itself even now in the form of some magnificent public buildings, both in Melbourne itself and in the gold towns.
When the gold ran out in the 1890s, a period of economic depression followed, but Victoria was already so well established that Melbourne was chosen in 1901 as the venue for the temporary capital of the new Commonwealth of Australia.
In the 1950s, Victoria became a great centre for immigration, particularly by those from Italy and Greece, and Melbourne was hailed as the third largest Greek city in the world. The city still retains a great cosmopolitan flavour reflected particularly in its cuisine and in its corner shops.
Victoria is the smallest mainland state, with an area of 227,420 square kilometres. Only Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are smaller. In terms of population, however, it is the second most populous, after New South Wales, with a population of approximately five million, which is to say that this small state contains a quarter of the total population of Australia.
Only the Australian Capital Territory is more densely populated. In fact, though, as in other states, two-thirds of the population lives in the capital city. As soon as one leaves Melbourne it is difficult to believe that this is Australia’s most densely populated state. Melbourne itself is an attractive and interesting city and its trams clattering through the streets give it a sense of individual character greater than that in any of the other capitals. It also offers a line of pleasant beaches stretching round the bay.
Outside Melbourne, the principal scenic rural attractions are the Great Ocean Road, the Grampians, the Murray River towns, the ski areas, the fairy penguins of Phillip Island and the beaches along the coastal route to Sydney (many of which, however, lie within New South Wales).
Free camping in Victoria
Great Ocean Road
Mt Hotham Ski Resort
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