Community Art: Brief History of "Port Victor" now Victor Harbor, South Australia

Hi Everyone - Victor Harbor in South Australia not only boasts magnificent coastal scenery and the best fish and chips in the world but it is the home to a thriving art community, a community of both indigenous and other cultures which continue to bring their perspectives of their worlds to us. Today Rowdy Wylie and I begin a series of posts to bring to you the township and the creative peoples of Victor Harbor located on the Southern Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.

The Victor Harbor Regional Gallery members co-op acknowledges the Ramindjeri & Ngarrindjeri people as Traditional Custodians of the land and oceans where we live and create works of art.

Prior to European settlement in the Fleurieu Peninsula region… the local Aboriginal clans were the Ramindjeri clan and the Ngarrindjeri people from the upper Coorong Region around Lake Alexandrina and the Lake Albert country… encompassing the Victor Harbor region which was called “Wirramulla” for thousands of years by the clans...

English & French explorers were independently surveying and mapping the southern coastline near Victor Harbor on the 8th April 1802.. The surveying was actively underway by two European explorers… when Captain Matthew Flinders from England who was commanding the sailing ship “Investigator” and Captain Nicholas Baudin the French explorer in the ship “Le Geographe” both arrived at the same southern destination on this day…… they met each other in the “Bay”!!

Matthew Flinders on HMS Investigator and French naval captain Nicolas Baudin on Le Geographe meet at Encounter Bay on South Australia's Fleurieu Peninsula in 1802 Image of original painting by John Ford courtesy State Library of South Australia (Credit:

At this time both nations were at war but Flinders and Baudin decided to remain friendly due to the distance from their “homelands” and the surprise “encounter”… It was on the basis of this unlikely encounter that Flinders named the stretch of coast line “Encounter Bay”….1

You can read more about The Encounter and Encounter Bay by clicking on the image below.


And here is the plaque commemorating this remarkable meeting.

Plaque commemorating the meeting of Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin ( domain)

Rowdy has sea water in his veins and on his palette and has painted Nicolas Baudin's ship S.S.Casuarina as you can see below. This is not the ship he was on when he met up with Matthew Flinders but if you click on the image you will be taken to AnArt4Life past post on the story behind the S.S. Casuarina and the French explorer Nicolas Baudin.

S.S.Casuarina by John "Rowdy" Wylie ©

In 1837 Captain Richard Crozier who was en-route from Sydney to the Swan River Colony in command of the Cruiser-class HMS Victor, anchored just off Granite Island and named the sheltered waters in the lee of the island Victor Harbor after his ship.2

About the same time two whaling stations were established, one at the Bluff (Rosetta Head) and the other near the point opposite Granite Island. Whale oil became South Australia’s first export. The town of Port Victor was laid out on the shores of Victor Harbor in 1863 when the horse-drawn tramway from Goolwa was extended to the harbor.2

Port Victor was named in 1837… the first non-indigenous inhabitants of Port Victor were fisherman… whalers & sealers… Many of whom jumped ship and settled in the area… The last whale was caught off Port Victor in 1872… Click on the image below and learn a little more about the history of the whaling industry from the National Trust of South Australia.2


The “lee” side of Granite Island became a major southern port in the district… until the railways took over in the 1890s.. during this period in time…
Port Victor’s tourism and holiday destination began… continuing through to present day… Visitors would travel from Adelaide by train through the Adelaide Hills and enjoy a “day trip” to Victor…

The town's name was changed to 'Victor Harbor' in 1921, as a result, it is said, of a near shipwreck blamed on confusion with Port Victoria in the Yorke Peninsula. Despite the fact that harbour is normally spelt with a u in modern Australian English, the name of the city is spelt Victor Harbor. This spelling, found in several geographical names in South Australia, including Outer Harbor, is the result of spelling errors made by an early Surveyor General of South Australia. Conversely Victor Harbour railway station is spelt with the u.2

Victor Harbor Early Days (Credit: State Library of South Australia)

Rowdy tells us that he used to enjoy having an ice-cream at the “ice cream” shop building on Granite Island while having a swing ... all those years ago in the 50s!!!

The "Ice-Cream shop" Victor Harbor (Credit:

The landscape around Victor Harbor is an artist's paradise and tomorrow Rowdy and I are going to begin to tell the story of how an artist community gradually grew in the area and flourishes to this day. But before we sign off today let us enjoy the beautiful scenery around Victor Harbor and Encounter Bay.

Encounter Bay, South Australia by H.P.Gill (Credit: State Library South Australia)

The painting above of Encounter Bay with the Hindmarsh River in the foreground was created by Harry Pelling Gill (1855-1916) painted in 1904. Harry was commonly referred to as H. P. Gill or Harry P. Gill and was an English-born Australian art curator, teacher and painter, who lived in Adelaide, South Australia for much of his life.2

And here is Rowdy Wylie's interpretation of the same seascape as seen over hundred years later.

Haven in the Sandhills by John "Rowdy" Wylie ©

Victor Harbor is located on the Fleurieu Peninsula south of Adelaide and is one of South Australia’s major tourist destination with numerous attractions including the prime wine regions of McLaren Vale, Langhorne Creek, Currency Creek and Clarendon…

The Horse Drawn Tram to Granite Island or a Steam Ranger Train ride along the coast, taking in Port Elliot, Middleton & Goolwa, wildlife park ... are all fabulous tourist attractions. But we especially want you to take in the regular artisan markets...and numerous art galleries…

Victor Harbor… with its picturesque landscape… sea breeze, salty air coastline and rich history has been a nursery, an incubator of artistic talent since the early 1900s…

It is renowned nationally for its long standing and established Art Community… A major attraction is the annual Victor Harbor Rotary Art Show which is held in January…

The year of 1959 marks the birth of the Choral Street Art Society which was the very beginning of establishing numerous art groups and galleries in the Victor Harbor and the Fleurieu Peninsula Region of South Australia. Tomorrow we will continue with this story.