Sullivan Bay, Victoria

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For more details on the 1803 British settlement, see History of Victoria.

Sullivan Bay lies 60 km due south of Melbourne on Port Phillip, one kilometre east of Sorrento, Victoria. It was established as a short-lived convict settlement in 1803 by Lieutenant Colonel David Collins,[1] who named the bay after the Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, John Sullivan.

Map of Sullivan Bay, Victoria

The site was chosen because of its strategic location near the entrance of the Bay. The settlement is significant because it was the first attempt to settle Europeans permanently in what is now Victoria and is a key link in the expansion of the colony of New South Wales into Tasmania and Victoria, and the control of Bass Strait as a trade route.

In April 1803 the HMS Calcutta and the transport ship Ocean came from England, via the Cape of Good Hope, carrying officers, a marine detachment, free settlers and convicts to Port Phillip. They arrived on the 10 October 1803.

The new colonists quickly discovered that water was scarce, and suitable timber could not be found. The treacherous entrance to the bay made the site unsuitable for whaling and with few marines, the settlement was vulnerable to attack. Collins decided to abandon the settlement and move to Van Diemens Land (now Tasmania) in January 1804 where John Bowen had established a settlement at Risdon Cove in 1803. They were moved as two parties, the second group leaving on 20 May, just over seven months after the settlement had been established.

During the brief occupation, 21 convicts escaped.[2] One of these was William Buckley who lived in the area around Geelong for 33 years before meeting with John Batman's party in 1835.

Map of Sullivan Bay, Victoria

Little evidence of the settlement exists. Four graves on the eastern headland, and parts of barrels, leg irons, bottles and other pieces are all that remain.[3] The Collins Settlement Historic Reserve is protected under the Victorian Heritage Register and the Mornington Peninsula Planning Scheme.[4]


  1. ^ "Collins, David (1756–1810)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1. MUP. 1966. pp. 236–240. Retrieved 6 June 2008. 
  2. ^ "Escape From Prison To Join The Blacks.". Townsville Daily Bulletin (Qld. : 1885 - 1954) (Qld.: National Library of Australia). 19 August 1952. p. 2. Retrieved 18 January 2012. 
  3. ^ "Collins Settlement Historic Site, Sorrento", Park Notes (Parks Victoria), July 2003, retrieved 2011-11-01 
  4. ^ "Collins Settlement Site, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H1050, Heritage Overlay HO255". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Marjorie Tipping. Convicts unbound : the story of the Calcutta convicts and their settlement in Australia South Yarra, Vic. Viking O'Neil, 1988
  • Crook, William Pascoe, (1983), An Account of the Settlement at Sullivan Bay, Port Phillip 1803,(ed John Currey) The Colony Press, Melbourne.
  • Bonwick, James, (1883), Port Phillip Settlement, Samson, Low, Marston, Searle & Rivington Publishing, London.
  • Angell, B, (1984), Voyage to Port Phillip 1803, Neapean Historical Society, Sorrento.
  • Cotter, Richard (2001) No place for a colony: Sullivan Bay, Sorrento & the Collins Settlement.
  • Coutts, J. F. (1981) Victoria's first official settlement: Sullivan Bay, Port Phillip. Victoria Archaeological Survey, Ministry for Conservation.

Coordinates: 38°20′52″S 144°45′38″E / 38.34778°S 144.76056°E / -38.34778; 144.76056