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Apollo Bay – A brief history

The Gadubanud or Katabanut known to the Europeans as the King Parrot People are the traditional owners of the Apollo Bay area and much of the Otways. The Cape now Cape Otway was discovered by Europeans when Lieutenant James Grant surveyed the Victorian coast sailing the Lady Nelson in 1800. Several years after sealers and whalers worked in the region and the Henty Brothers wailing station was set up at Point Bunbury on the west end of the bay, the Apollo Bay Golf Course now stands on this land.

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The land was originally called Krambruk which was an Aboriginal word for Sandy Place, then around 1877 the Europeans renamed it to Middleton, twenty or so years later the name again changed the name to Apollo Bay after the schooner called Apollo sailed by Captain Loutit in 1845 which used the bay as a refuge on a trip between Melbourne and Warnambool.

In the late 1870’s and 1890’s a bit of infrastructure was built in the town including a school and a post office, churches and a pub, but with the rugged Otways access to the town was difficult and the only real means was by sea. But it wasn’t really until 1927 when the town saw some road access then in 1932 the Great Ocean Road opened up the town and then it never looked back, becoming an important fishing town and a very popular holiday destination.

Apollo Bay became a very important centre for communications in 1936 with the installation of a submarine telegraph and telephone cable to Tasmania. This was the first communication between the tiny island state and mainland Australia. Technology has now moved on and the line is no longer used, but the station is a very popular and interesting tourist attraction in Apollo Bay.

During the 1950’s timber cutters came to the area and floated their timber to waiting ships in the bay. Timber has remained a very popular and successful industry in the area with blue gum, grey gum ash and silvertop messmate cut from the Otways for many years, today there is much plantation timber including pine on much land around the region with much of the timber exported as woodchips.

In 1900 building began on a spectacular railway line that ran between Beech Forest and Colac until 1962, serving Apollo Bay and the timber industry. Fishing became important to the town in the 1930s when the Great Ocean Road made possible daily deliveries of fresh fish to Melbourne. In recent decades, tourism has become the major industry of Apollo Bay.

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One of Australia’s worst shipping disasters happened off the Apollo Bay coast on 10 July 1932 The coastal steamer Casino, was hit by a freak wave as it tried to berth at the town’s jetty, sinking killing 10 people in front of many of the town’s people who were watching helplessly. The anchor of the vessel is now an important monument located outside the post office.