Aireys Inlet, a holiday resort on Bass Strait,
is between Anglesea and Lorne and is 105 km. in a direct line south-west
of Melbourne. It is reached by Geelong and the coastal Great Ocean Road.
The inlet receives river waters from iron bark forests of the Otway State
Forest and from several streams which rise in the Angahook Forest Park.
In 1839 John Airey took up a pastoral run near Point
Roadknight, east of the inlet. By 1842 his holding expanded along the coast
beyond the inlet and was named the Angahook/Angohawk Run. It is probable
that Aireys Inlet is named after him, although his brother George was a
Commissioner for Crown Lands in the Geelong district, 1839-44.
In 1887 the relatively inaccessible inlet area was subdivided and about
one hundred blocks were sold. A few were occupied. In 1890 the construction
of a lighthouse was begun on the site known as Eagle's Nest Point (renamed
Split Point in 1913). The lighthouse, 100 metres above sea level, is made
of cement-rendered concrete.
A school was opened in 1893, for children of families involved in Otways
timber milling and of the few families at the inlet. The first school room
was in a boarding house, and it continued until local timber milling declined
after the first world war.
The Grand Hotel opened in 1894 and by 1903 there were also a post office
and an Anglican church. Agricultural and pastoral activities supported the
village. Access to Aireys Inlet, however, was by travel along the beach
from Lorne at low tide or by road over the mountainous Otway Ranges. In
1905 a survey disclosed that a track along the edge of the coast was possible,
and its construction was taken up as a project to employ returned soldiers.
The Great Ocean Road Trust was formed and the road between Lorne and Anglesea
was opened in 1922. (Completion of the road westwards to Apollo Bay took
another ten years, which put Aireys Inlet on a coastal through-route.)
The opening of the Great Ocean Road ultimately produced a sufficient population
for a school to be reopened in the 1930s, and for an Anglican church to
opened in 1936. The population was borderline, though, and the school closed
in 1942. It remained so until 1960 when classes were recommenced.
Aireys Inlet has a hotel, motel, caravan park and numerous flats and bed-and-breakfasts.
The town centre does not have a large range of shops, as tourism depends
on the coastal and bush-walking activities. The Angahook Lorne State Park
(22,350 ha.) contains heath lands rich in orchids and ground plants, several
types of eucalypt forest, meluleuca swamp and a fern gully. There are walking
tracks on the lighthouse reserve.
During the early 1950s the Australian crime author, Arthur Upfield, lived
at Aireys Inlet. His novel The New Shoe (1951) is based on the township
and some of its characters drew on local identities. (The body was hidden
in a cupboard in the lighthouse.)
West of Aireys Inlet, on the other side of the inlet, there are the surf
beach and residential settlement of Fairhaven (1948) and the older settlement
of Eastern View which had a guest house around 1910. The Eastern View subdivision
estate was sold in the 1920s to raise money for the Great Ocean Road. Moggs
Creek is nearby.
The median house price in Aireys Inlet in 1987 was $74,250 and in 1996 it
was $140,000. The low figure in 1987 was three years after the Ash Wednesday
fires which destroyed 219 houses in Aireys Inlet, 177 in Fairhaven, 87 in
Moggs Creek and 32 in Eastern View. Dame Joan Hammond's house at Aireys
Inlet and her career's memorabilia were destroyed. Although 83% of dwellings
in 1976 were holiday homes, the proportion has fallen to less than two-thirds.
Aireys Inlet's census populations have been 62
(1921), 93 (1961), 271 (1981) and 675 (1991).
"Aireys Inlet to Eastern View Structure Plan", Geelong Regional
McLaren, Ian, "Aireys Inlet From Anglesea to Cinema Point",
Anglesea and District Historical Society Inc., 1988.
Wynd, Ian, "Barrabool: Land of the Magpie", Barrabool Shire,
| Anglesea | Lorne