The indigenous people of the Anglesea area are the Wathaurong people who have been here for thousands of years. Some early farmers tried to graze the area but were unsuccessful and by the 1860’s the white settlers had discovered the fishing and timber industries.
Sporting parties would come to the area from Melbourne and camp by the river and fish during the day and by the 1880’s the area was being subdivided and land was soon bought by the visiting white people. The earliest buildings were boarding and guest houses, many of which overlooked the river.
In the early 1900’s the shores of the Anglesea River were covered in bathing boxes to cater for the influx of bathers and holiday travellers coming to the area for the summer.
There were two shipwrecks along the rigged coastline here in 1881 and 1902. In 1881 an iron clipper, The Hereford was wrecked off Point Addis on a coral reef and in 1902 a three masted baroque, The Inverlochy was stranded on Ingoldsby reef and abandoned. This reef is now part of the marine national park that covers 4,600 hectares.
With the arrival of the car, the Cobb and Co mail service coach ceased operation in the 1920’s. The car made the area a lot more accessible to holiday makers from the capital and other large towns in Victoria and the area became known as a tourist destination.
After WWI the area flourished with the construction of the Great Ocean Road and forestry started as a new industry in the area. In 1960 brown coal was discovered and an open cut mine and power station were built to service the Alcoa Aluminium works at Point Henry located on Corio Bay.
The area became a premier summer holiday town but a disastrous bushfire struck in February of 1983, known as Ash Wednesday. More than 140 homes were destroyed and several people lost their lives on this terrible day when fire covered much of Victoria and South Australia. Most of the town and acres of the surrounding bush was destroyed. Other bushfires occurred in 1966 and 1982 though none as devastating as the 1983 fire.
Now the bushland has regenerated and native animals have returned like nothing has happened the way the Australian bush fights back. There are now more than 700 plants and several native animals to be seen in the parks and bushlands around Anglesea. The town has been rebuilt with many people returning to the area and rebuilding their houses. More people have settled in this beautiful seaside town with it river and beach setting. It still thrives on the tourists who come in their thousands each year from all over Australia and overseas.