For an out-of-the-way place with a permanent resident population of only about 1200 people, Robe has had a disproportionate impact on the history, communities and cultural life of Australia and beyond.
For the peoples of at least three indigenous communities (Tanganekald, Meintangk and Bunganditj) it was a meeting place, rich in cultural and spiritual significance, long before the first white men appeared on the horizon in the early 1800s.
Robe’s coastline was explored by Captain Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802. The township was founded by the South Australian Government as a seaport and village in 1846, only 10 years after the province of South Australia was first settled. It became the first town of any significance established in the south-eastern portion of the colony, and the first centre of administration.
By the mid 1800s, Robe was one of southern Australia’s most important trading ports, drawing immigrants and adventurers from around the world. In the late 1850s more than 16,000 Chinese landed on their way to the Victorian goldfields.
Curiously, as early as the 1870s Robe’s glory days were over and the community slowly faded into isolation and obscurity until rediscovered by holidaymakers in the 1970s, and the seachangers who have been moving there in growing numbers since the early 2000s. During the summer season, the township welcomes up to 15,000 additional people as tourists and seasonal workers in the district’s wine, fishing and tourism industries.
For more than 160 years, Robe has drawn both the famous and uncelebrated to live, work and play, with some families spending their holidays here for more than five successive generations. The roll book includes film makers, poets, writers, painters, sculptors and comics; a Melbourne Cup winning jockey; pioneering women farmers; scientists that changed the world; explorers, merchants, politicians, whistleblowers and bushrangers; Australia’s first saint; chefs and winemakers; and a strong surfing culture, with the town hosting one of Australia’s longest running surfing competition every Easter.
Where is it?
Robe lies on the Limestone Coast of southern Australia , about 350 kms south-east of Adelaide and 600 kms west of Melbourne. It has become a popular stopover for visitors travelling the famous Great Ocean Road along Victoria’s southern coast.