The District Council of Robe was proclaimed on 28th October 1869. After rapidly progressing to be an important and busy sea port in the 1850's-60's Robe declined to become a remote and quiet village, still with many of its early buildings standing. It appears that in spite of its decline, Robe has always been popular as a place of beauty and relaxation.

During the 1960's there was some concern that Robe's charm would be lost, and indeed, a few colonial buildings were demolished, some even by the Council of the day.

After discussions lasting many years, with various authorities and private consultants, a town plan was agreed upon. As Robe is now a major tourist town and in recent years a popular retirement centre, it is increasingly important that we adhere to that plan and not destroy the very things that attract people here.

"The little township of Robe, founded as an English Village on the shores of Guichen Bay is unique in the southern seas ......."

Robe's distinctive charm - a rare combination of old fashioned town, dense bush, wild ocean and quiet lakes - has long been appreciated but is not yet fully recognised nor properly preserved.

Robe's coastline was explored by Captain Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802, and Robe was founded by the South Australian Government as a seaport and village in 1846. The Province of South Australia itself had been first settled only ten years earlier.

Age alone and that unique blend of town, bush and water makes Robe worthy of preservation, but Robe is more than simply an old town. It was the first town of any significance to be established in the south eastern portion of the colony. Greytown on Rivoli Bay had been surveyed a few months earlier and was the site of a small settlement but, Robe as the first centre of administration, was the focus of public and commercial life in the region.

 Customs House   

Robe was the major shipping service of the South East for the first twenty years of its existence, serving a hinterland that extended as far as Tatiara and the Victorian border. Most of the wool produced in the district left through its harbour and most imports entered in Guichen Bay which was also the site of numerous shipwrecks.


It was the first active port in the South East. During this period Robe became an international port: at a time when most other ports in South Australia exported through Port Adelaide, Robe was trading directly with London. Great prosperity and the erection of many buildings occured between 1857 and 1863 when 17,000 Chinese landed at Robe and walked to the Victorian Goldfields, bringing an estimated 16,000 pounds into the Robe economy.

The port declined rapidly after the 1860's. Fortunately this decline and a poor economy, has ensured that a large portion of the old town has been preserved so that 84 historic buildings and sites remain. In terms of the number of historically important buildings recognised by the National Trust, Robe ranks foremost in South Australia. Robe is also listed as one of the State's historical towns in the Heritage Conservation Branch's Master Interpretation Plan. Had the town continued to thrive, it is possible that re-development would have destroyed or obscured the remains of its early history.

It is also fortunate and probably unique that the old town has preserved its integrity to a large extent. However, re-development, particularly since the 1960's has destroyed some of the town's historical character and natural features and has made it imperative that the remainder is properly defined and appreciated by the public.


1869, Part 1870

Part 1870


1872, 1875


1876, 1888,1892

1878, 1883, 1885










1900/ 01

1933/ 34

1913/ 14

1915/ 16

1916/17 & 1919/ 20

1929/30 & 1932/ 33

1920/21 & 1921/22

1922/23 & 1928/29

1936/37 & 1940/41

1943/44 & 1945/46

1941/42 & 1942/43

1946/47 & 1947/48

1948/49 & 1952/53


1954/55 & 1957/58


1960/61 & 1968/69

1969/70 & 1970/71

1973/74 & 1981/82

1971/72 & 1972/73

1982/83 & 1986/87

1987/88 & 1990/91

1991 - 2000





W McLean

James Trego Williams

Charles Gell

J Law

Henry Wylie

Arthur Banks

J Hotson

WH Young

Thomas Pickett

H Giles

S Reid

Charles Savage

Andrew Munro

Levi Cooper

William Moule

Thomas Brigland

James Nunan

James Nunan

Charles Savage (Jnr)

Henry James McConville

Samuel Fletcher

Samuel Fletcher

Benjamin John Davidson McBain

Andrew Robson

Eric James Banks

Eric James Banks

Ronald Keith Stewart

John Hoctor Ryan

Herbert Daniel Flint

George Francis Gough

Eric Ronald Cawthorne

Alfred Stanhope

Robert George Powell

William John Quinlan-Watson

William John Quinlan-Watson

Brian James Thompson

Patrick Raymond Enright

John Desmond Sale Rudd

Kenneth John Hurst

Anne Hayes

Peter Darr




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