The township of Corinella is on the south-eastern shore of Western Port Bay, about 90 km south-east of Melbourne. It is the site of one of the earliest white settlements in Victoria. Fears of French colonisation prompted an official settlement in Western Port Bay in 1826, first on Phillip Island, at 'Fort Dumaresq'. It soon moved to Corinella, where a party of soldiers and convicts constructed over 50 buildings. As land was cleared, gardens were planted and crops of wheat and maize harvested. Sheep, horses, cattle and pigs were husbanded. Cannons were installed to defend the community. From the settlement, the explorer Hovell made five expeditions into the surrounding country. However, by 1828 the French threat had evaporated and the settlement was abandoned.
The area was first inhabited by the Bunurong tribe. From 1840, a pastoral run encompassed the area but the homestead was on the Bass River to the south. The buildings at Settlement Point, as it was then known, were sometimes utilised by wattle bark strippers and escaped convicts.
In 1851, a township was surveyed at Settlement Point and named Corinella, an Aboriginal word probably meaning running water. Roads and blocks of varying sizes were laid out. A school was established in 1874. At first, all communication was by boat. The construction of a pier in 1884 allowed the shipping of farm produce. Grazing and dairying were the main pursuits, and chicory was grown for a while.
Corinella was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:
Located off the main highway, Corinella did not develop a commercial centre. However, by the 1950s the township began to expand. Greater mobility allowed people to own weekend and holiday homes. Fishing enthusiasts were attracted by the boating facilities and quiet location. People also began to retire to the township.
By the 1980s, families were making Corinella their permanent home, as well as numbers of hobby farmers on the small blocks surrounding the township. Grazing of beef cattle is the main activity on the larger holdings in the district. The township has a shop, hall and Anglican church. A district school, Bass Valley primary, is near Corinella and had 180 pupils in 2014. A barge operates between French Island and the Corinella jetty.
A cairn commemorates the sesquicentenary of the establishment of the old settlement. In 1980, in response to threatened development, detailed archaeological investigations were carried out on the site. Settlement Point is a public reserve and is joined to foreshore reserves along Western Port and Coronet Bays. Corinella was identifed as a location subject to rising sea levels under the Land Subject Inundation Overlay in 2013.
Census populations for Corinella have been:
K. Bowden, The Western Port settlement and its leading personalities, 1970
P.J.F. Coutts, Corinella: a forgotten episode in Victoria's history, part 1, history and description of the settlement, 1983