Location and features
It lies between the ocean and Bathurst Harbour, which is linked by the Bathurst Channel. The inlet leads north into Payne Bay (into which Davey River flows), with Payne Bay being defined by the features of Davey Head to the west, and Mount Berry to the east.
The eastern aspect (Joe Page Bay, and Bathurst Harbour) is sheltered from the Roaring Forties that buffet the south and west coasts of Tasmania by a narrow part of the inlet that effectively makes the land to the south a peninsula. The north south ranges on the peninsula South West Cape Range, and Melaleuca Range lie to the west of the Southwest Conservation area which is a section of land excluded from the South West National Park that exists between Melaleuca Inlet (on the south side of Bathurst Harbour) and Cox Bight on the south coast.
Port Davey is not populated, but for many years Deny King and family resided at Melaleuca, engaged in alluvial tin mining. Since the death of Deny King in 1991, the family retain a leasehold within the national park and are actively involved in conservation programs but are not permanently resident.
The French navigator Marion du Fresne was the first European to record the inlet now called Port Davey, in March 1772. On 13 December 1798, when Flinders was off the West Coast, he mentioned Marion's small chart of the area, and tried to take the Norfolk in closer to investigate the opening marked on Marion's chart. That opening was clearly marked on Flinders' first map of "Van Diemen's Land" Published in 1800. James Kelly has always been seen as the first to discover Port Davey – However Kelly would have seen Flinders' maps and may have had them with him.
In the 1800s, a small piners settlement and boatyard was located on Payne Bay on Port Davey's north. The settlement remained until the 1900s when the Huon Pine trade ceased. Another temporary settlement was located at Bramble Cove behind the Breaksea Islands to serve the whaling industry in the early 1800s. Nothing remains of the site except for a few huon pine headstones from an old cemetery.
The Bathurst Harbour/Port Davey area was marked on early 1800s maps as being the site for a settlement named Bathurst. The exact location of the proposed settlement varied depending on the map. Locations included Bramble Cove, Joe Page Bay below Mount Mackenzie and the Rowitta Plains. By the Victorian era, cartographers discontinued marking the settlement along with others such as Montgomery south of the Spero River, Cracroft on the Arthur Plains and Huntley in the Upper Florentine Forests west of Mount Field National Park.
In the late 1930s, the British Zionist League considered a number of other places where a Jewish homeland could be established. The Kimberley region in Australia was considered until the Curtin government (in office: 1941–1945) rejected the possibility. Later and with the support of the then Premier of Tasmania, Robert Cosgrove (in office from 1939), Critchley Parker proposed a Jewish settlement at Port Davey, in south west Tasmania. Parker surveyed the area, but his death in 1942 put an end to the idea. See Other Possibilities for A Homeland For the Jewish People
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- Kelly, James, 1791-1859. First discovery of Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour [microform] p. 160-181 "Royal Society of Tasmania: Papers and Proceedings, 1920. Issued separately 24th December, 1920" Microfiche. Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2004