Clifton Springs, once a coastal spa resort, is 52 km south-west of central Melbourne, facing northwards towards Corio Bay. It is on the Bellarine Peninsula and is 17 km east of Geelong.
Clifton Springs was named after a speculative township between Point Henry and Moolap, laid out in 1849, about midway between Geelong and Clifton Springs. Clifton Avenue is the sole remnant of the township.
In 1870 the discovery of mineral springs north of Drysdale (ie at Clifton Springs) was announced, close to the beach below the Bellarine hillsides. A bottling plant was installed in 1875, and in 1880 a company was formed to develop the site. A railway from Geelong to Queenscliff, with a station at Drysdale, had opened the year before. An elaborate hotel opened in 1888 and a jetty (1890) welcomed passengers from bay steamers. The most favoured spot was the picturesque Fairy Dell set among the coastal hills, near the hotel, sulphur springs bath house and the salt water baths.
The hotel burnt down in 1923 and was replaced by another in 1926, at about the time when the resort's heyday was drawing to a close. The hotel had a golf course, and attained a degree of notoriety with its bachelors' quarters in the 1940s.
In 1959 the developers, Willmore and Randell, acquired 1300 acres with a two mile frontage to Corio Bay, including the hotel. They engaged Victor Gruen and Associates, foremost US planners of shopping centres and resorts, to design a country club estate. There were 5000 house lots. The development did not meet the planning aspirations, although the developer completed reclamation works and sold about half the lots by 1962. The hotel was remodelled as a golf clubhouse. In 1977 the Bellarine Shire Council purchased the golf course, sports facilities and clubhouse from Willmore and Randell.
The Clifton Springs State primary school opened in 1989 when the suburb's population was about 4000. The Clifton Springs primary school had 272 pupils in 2014. Residents' recreation and sports facilities are found at Clifton Springs, including a boat harbour and jetty. Shopping, most churches, lending library and secondary schools are in Drysdale. The remains of two old jetties extend into Corio Bay. The springs have been submerged and the beach has not recovered from shell grit mining before World War II and littoral sand drift. Nevertheless State Government studies record the foreshore as being important for Aboriginal archaeology and bird habitat.
Clifton Springs has tennis and bowl facilities, two kindergartens and a small local shopping area. Its census populations have been:
John Richardson, Clifton Springs: past, present, Geelong, Bellarine Historical Society, c1978
Ian Wynd, Balla-wein: a history of the Shire of Bellarine, Drysdale, 1988, 2005