History of Torquay
Torquay is situated on Wadawurrung country which is part of the Kulin nation that surrounds Port Phillip Bay. Bunjil the Eagle is their totem. Wadawurrung country encompasses the area from the Great Dividing Range in the north to the coast in the south, from Werribee River in the east to Aireys Inlet in the west, which includes Geelong and Ballarat.
The first non-indigenous inhabitant was William Buckley who escaped from what became a temporary penal settlement at Sullivan’s Bay (Sorrento) in 1803 and circled Port Phillip Bay to what is now the Surf Coast and tried to survive in a harsh and alien environment. Suffering from starvation and fatigue he took a spear stuck in a mound (a grave) on the banks of Spring Creek to use as a walking stick. Found collapsed and near death by the aboriginal people he was taken in as they believed him to be Murrangurk, the ghost of the dead man. Buckley lived amongst the indigenous Wadawurrung people for 32 years until John Batman arrived at Indented Head in 1835.
From the early 1830’s the first selectors took up land along Spring Creek and across to Bream Creek and Lake Connewarre. In 1866 the first town allotments were sold and in 1880’s accommodation was available for holiday makers and picnickers who initially travelled to the area by Cobb & Co coach. In 1885 the township of Puebla was gazetted that was bounded by the Esplanade, Bell Street, the Surf Coast Highway and Anderson Street. By the end of the 1880’s bathing boxes appeared on the beaches. In 1889 the Post Master General unofficially changed the name to Spring Creek as the area was more commonly known. However, the settlement was officially renamed Torquay in 1892. The Post Office opened in 1894 and a bridge across Spring Creek gave easier access to towns further down the coast. By 1900 the town had a primary school that was conducted in a community hall and by 1910 a permanent school building was erected and opened. Torquay became a popular holiday destination in the 1920s leading to the building of a golf course, tennis courts and a bowling green. The Torquay Surf Life Saving Club was formed in 1946, the oldest and largest club in Victoria. Bells Beach held its first Surf Classic in 1961 and it is now the world’s longest running surfing competition.