Inverloch is a coastal rural town in South Gippsland, 125 km south-east of Melbourne. It is at the mouth of Anderson Inlet, which is the estuary of the Tarwin River, and is about 8 km east of Wonthaggi.
Anderson Inlet, a water area of about 25 sq km, is protected from Bass Strait by a large sand spit on which the town of Venus Bay is situated. The inlet’s coastline varies with flood and tidal movements, and the beach at Inverloch is similarly variable. From time to time jetties have been smothered in sand or left high and dry.
The inlet was named after Samuel Anderson, a settler at Bass River (1835), who found it but reported that the land was too poor for grazing. The coast was surveyed by Assistant Surveyor George Smythe who named Point Smythe, south of the town centre, in 1841. Despite Anderson’s poor opinion, the area was taken up for the Tarwin and Wild Cattle pastoral runs (1840, 1846). In 1876 the first farm settlers came to what was then called Anderson's Inlet, and in 1883 the Anderson's Inlet town was surveyed.
A school was opened in 1886 and three years later the town was named Inverloch, possibly as a compliment to Sir Henry Loch, Governor of Victoria (1884-89). By 1896 there were two licensed hotels, including the Esplanade, and a mechanics’ institute opened in 1897. Annual boating regattas were held on New Year’s Day. Inverloch was described in 1903 in the Australia handbook:
In 1909 the Wonthaggi coal mine came into production and for nearly a year the coal to Melbourne was dispatched from the Inverloch jetty. The Inverloch beach had a bathing enclosure and when a railway to Wonthaggi opened in 1910 visits and holidays at Inverloch became more popular. A foreshore committee (1914-17) set about town promotion, making camping reserves and running annual New Year events. They hit their stride in 1937, publishing an elaborate program promising ‘the big event of the day, 3 pm sharp, Miss Inverloch 1937 (in bathers)’. After the event onlookers could retire to the Tarax lounge and later dance at the Tarax Palais, with ‘perfect music supplied by Jager’s amplified system’. (Tarax soft drinks came from a Victorian country manufacturer.)
Electricity was turned on in 1934, at about the time when families affected by the financial depression built shacks on the Venus Bay beach, 7 km south-west of Inverloch. The fragile coastline suffered from foot traffic and the last of the shacks was removed in 1974.
By the 1970s the foreshore committee had created over 800 foreshore camp sites and the condition of the landscape was nearly a copy of Shack Bay. Inverloch itself was also growing, the population nearly doubling to 1500 during 1966-76. The local (Woorayl) shire council was divided on the question of land subdivisions and development, but generally favoured coastal rates as a municipal cash cow. The Conservation Council of Victoria drew attention to the fragile landscapes and loss of indigenous vegetation (1977). Inverloch’s attraction as a retirement location, with the protected Anderson Inlet beaches, ensured that residential lots were absorbed by the housing market. The Golden Sand and Ruttle estates were released in 1990 and 1996. A new jetty was built in 2001.
The Conservation Council’s concerns were heeded with the proclamation of the Bunurong coastal and marine parks from south of Wonthaggi to the western edge of Inverloch in 1991. The park includes beaches, cliffs and the prominent Eagles Next formation. (The Bunurong Aborigines occupied coastlines from Port Phillip to Wilsons Promontory).
Until the 1990s there was commercial fishing in the inlet, although catches had declined.
Inverloch has remained a spot for quiet family holidays, with swimming, sailboarding and waterskiing the most popular activities. The information centre in Inverloch houses a shell museum and an environment centre. Anderson Inlet attracts numerous migratory and resident wading birds and is also the most southerly habitat of mangroves.
The main shopping area is in a’Beckett Street. There are two hotels, motels, several caravan parks and a RACV resort (2002). Close to a’Beckett Street there are a health service, Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches, a community centre (1983) and a recreation reserve. The jetty (2001) is east of the town centre and the surf life saving club (1956) is to the west. An annual jazz festival has been held each March since 1994. The Inverloch primary school had 367 pupils in 2014.
Census populations for Inverloch have been:
On census night in 2011 about half the dwellings were unoccupied, mostly holiday houses.
Lis Williams, Shifting sands; Inverloch – a fascinating place, Inverloch, 2002
Anderson Inlet Inverloch: a short A-Z history, Inverloch, 1997
M. Branton, A resort despoiled: a study on Inverloch and Venus Bay, Conservation Council of Victoria, 1977