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(3943, 62 km S, Mornington Peninsula Shire)

Victoria's first official British settlement was established near Sorrento in 1803 by David Collins, who was sent with marines, convicts and free settlers to forestall French interest in the Port Phillip District. Lack of fresh water and fear of the large numbers of Boon wurrung people, however, meant that the settlement lasted only months before Collins transferred his charges to Tasmania. When Europeans returned to the Port Phillip District in the 1830s, lime-burners settled on the eastern point of Port Phillip Heads to turn limestone into building lime for the growing settlement at Melbourne. Fishermen were also attracted to the area in the 1850s. By the late 1850s Queenscliff, on the opposite side of the Heads, had achieved a reputation as a watering place for the wealthy of Melbourne. Ten years later member of the Legislative Assembly Charles Gavan Duffy and entrepreneur George Coppin set about turning Sorrento into a similar resort. Duffy purchased the land, while Coppin provided a paddle steamer to bring visitors down the bay and to cross between Queenscliff and the Sorrento Pier, built in 1870. Coppin built the Continental Hotel and swimming baths and, together with other investors, inaugurated a steam tramway service in 1890 to carry visitors from the Sorrento Pier to the back beach, where they could admire the wild natural scenery and ocean. Many well-to-do Melburnians built summer residences in the town, serviced by new steamers purchased by Coppin's Bay Excursion Co., which continued to ferry summer holiday-makers to Sorrento until the 1940s. A ferry service between Queenscliff, Portsea and Sorrento operates to this day.

Jill Barnard