Loch Sport

Loch Sport is a coastal town in East Gippsland on the south side of Lake Victoria, Gippsland Lakes. It is separated from the Ninety Mile Beach, Bass Strait, by Lake Reeve which is behind a wide coastal dune. Loch Sport is reached by the road from Sale, via Longford. 

The area was first occupied by the Tatungalung tribe. A number of middens have been found along the Ninety Mile Beach. In 1841, the lakes were explored by boat by a party led by Angus McMillan. They found open grassland on the ocean side of Lake Victoria and the area was later taken up as pastoral runs. During the initial pastoral invasion of the Gippsland Lakes, there were violent confrontations between squatters and Aborigines.

The area was isolated with few tracks. Seacombe, to the south-west of present Loch Sport, provided a port for the settlers. From the 1860s, a busy shipping trade developed in the lakes, and was the main communication for the settlers. During the 1870s and 1880s steamers brought shooters to Sperm Whale Head, a peninsula east of Loch Sport, and pleasure seekers to Ocean Grange on the coastal dunes.

When smaller holdings were selected, cattle, sheep and horses were grazed. The most influential family in the area, the Bartons, also raised angora goats. Wattle bark was stripped for tanning, and firewood cut to fuel the steamers. Dolomite was mined from several locations. By the 1920s, dense regrowth, caused by overstocking and bushfires, had overtaken the grassland, causing most farmers to leave. In 1927, the property of the remaining family, the Bartons, on Sperm Whale Head, became a national park. The park was fairly inaccessible as, by the late 1930s, the steamer traffic had ceased. The port of Seacombe had also declined.

The township of Loch Sport is situated on a part of the peninsula previously known as ‘The Narrows’. The urban area is about 5.5 km long and 0.5 km wide and has 2900 allotments. It was developed in the 1950s by a family who enjoyed fishing and boating in the area, hence the descriptive name chosen for the venture. The streets are mainly named after local flora and fauna. When the first subdivision of 70 blocks was offered in the early 1950s, sales were slow. The developers helped improve the road access, built a jetty, and provided a water bore, water tank, playground and hall. A shop and post office agency were established. At first, the area was fairly isolated, the road being only a sandy track. There were no services and only a few permanent residents.

By 1991, there were 1188 dwellings, 315 of which were permanently occupied. Large numbers of people had retired to the town. People involved in the oil and gas industry also settled there. During the holiday season, there are 6500 to 7000 people staying in the town.

An active Ratepayers’ Association has worked for many town improvements, such as a community hall, a primary school (1985), a community health centre and a community church.  Electricity was only connected in 1980 after a vigorous public campaign. There are many sporting and civic clubs, as well as a rural fire brigade, State Emergency Service, a Returned Services League (1987) and a caravan park. An ambulance branch was added in 2004. Loch Sport primary school had 19 pupils in 2014.

On the Lake Victoria side of Loch Sport there are a marina and two jetties. Lake Reeve, on the south side, is crossed by a causeway to the ocean beach. About half the allotments were built on by 2006, leaving substantial amounts of remnant vegetation on empty blocks (subject to fire hazard clearing). There were few or no footpaths. Vegetation losses occurred where new houses were built for views. There is foreshore erosion along Lake Victoria, and some lakeside allotments are monitored for risk of inundation.

Tides and floodwater inundated low lying areas of Loch Sport in 2007, and grass fires are an ever present danger. Development progressed, however, and in 2011 reticulated sewerage was brought to more than 2000 properties in the township.

Loch Sport’s census populations have been:

census date population
1981 251
1986 514
1991 700
1996 791
2001 948
2006 778
2011 689

On census night in 2011, 79.3% of dwellings were unoccupied. The median age of residents was 61 years (Australia, 37 years).

Further Reading

entry based on Wellington lakes

N. Lake, A brief history of Loch Sport, 1979

P.G. Gittens, Where the pelicans fish: a brief history of the Loch Sport area of Gippsland, 1992