History & Heritage


The history of the Fleurieu Peninsula goes back many, many thousands of years before European arrival and is documented in the rich oral traditions continuing with the Kaurna, Peramangk and Ngarrindjeri.

The estates of the people of the Lower Murray are interlinked with a network of sites that collectively serve to document the creation of their lands, as well as to provide a repository to an encyclopaedic body of knowledge about the plants, the animals, the seasons, the climate and the people's continuing relationship to 'country'. 

In 1802, the English navigator, Matthew Flinders and the French explorer, Nicholas Baudin mapped the southern coast of Australia. They met at a point just off the mouth of the River Murray, and although their countries were at war, they exchanged information and maps, coining the name of Encounter Bay, which includes Victor Harbor.

Baudin named the region after the eminent French wanderer, Charles Pierre Claret, Comte de Fleurieu.

On September 8th, 1836, Colonel William Light made his first South Australian landfall on the Fleurieu Peninsula at a place he named Rapid Bay, in honour of his ship. The colony of South Australia was established soon after and today, a bolder at the southern end of Rapid Bay inscribed by Colonel Light commemorates the landing.

The first non-indigenous inhabitants of the area were fishermen, whalers and sealers, seeking an easy catch. Some were to jump ship and settle.

Ridgway William Newland, a Congregational clergyman from the south of England, led the first true party of settlers to Encounter Bay in July 1839. The group comprised his family, some relations and friends along with several skilled farm workers and their families.

Newland had obtained letters of introduction to Governor George Gawler from Lord Glenelg, Secretary of State for the Colonies. Gawler told Newland that the village of Adelaide was becoming overcrowded, that most of the nearby land had been taken up and splendid land was available at Encounter Bay for only one pound an acre.