Surf Coast Shire

Surf Coast Shire (1994-) is on the coastline west of Port Phillip Bay, approximately from Breamlea to Lorne. It extends northwards to the Barwon River, westwards to Deans Marsh and eastwards to Greater Geelong.

The new municipality was formed on 9 March 1994, by the union of Barrabool shire, most of Winchelsea shire and part of South Barwon city (Torquay). Its area is 1562 sq km.

The coastal component includes Torquay, Jan Juc, Anglesea, Aireys Inlet and Lorne, interspersed with numerous surf beaches, including Bells, Jan Juc and Fairhaven. The eastern Otway Ranges rise behind Anglesea, and Lorne is described as sitting below a forested amphitheatre.

The Great Otway National Park (2004), an amalgamation of Otway, Angahook, Carlisle and Melba Gully National/State Parks, encloses all the coastal communities south-west from Anglesea. It extends about 10 km inland and is 6.6% of the shire’s area.

Bells Beach is internationally known for its Easter surf contests which began in 1963.

The shire is crossed in generally south-westerly directions by the Princes Highway, the West Coast railway (1877) and (along the coast) by the Great Ocean Road. About 65% of the shire’s population is in the coastal towns (2011 census), with Torquay and Jan Juc having 51.6% of the shire’s population. Many Torquay residents commute to Geelong and Melbourne for work.

Inland there is farmland of good quality. The Barrabool hills were once home to vineyards and extensive cereal growing. The Mount Moriac/Winchelsea areas were taken up and developed as pastoral estates in the 1830s, soon after the settlement of Port Phillip. In 1995-96 the value of the shire’s agricultural outputs was $17.49 million for crops, $16.24 million for livestock products and $11.78 million for livestock slaughtered. Accommodation takings were $8 million. Surf related businesses were estimated to directly employ over 500 people at the creation of the shire.

Torquay is the shire’s administrative centre.

The shire’s census populations have been:

census date population
1996 17,845
2001 19,401
2006 21,771
2011 25,870

Further Reading

Surf Coast Shire: Surf Coast heritage study, 1998

Farmland, forest and surf: environmental history, Surf Coast Shire, 2009

Barrabool and Winchelsea shires entries