Cape Paterson 3995The seaside resort of Cape Paterson is 131 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. The cape was named by Lieut. James Grant while exploring the coast in 1801, honouring Lieut. Col. William Paterson of the New South Wales Corps.
Black coal was discovered in an outcrop near Cape Paterson by the explorer William Hovell in 1826. Although rediscovered and investigated over the next forty years, mining was never economically viable. Two companies sank shafts in the area in the 1850s. A tramway was laid along the coast to carry coal to the cape where it could be transhipped to waiting vessels. But these difficulties of transport and the thinness of the seams doomed the venture. Eventually, much better coal seams were found north of Cape Paterson in the valley of the Powlett River. The State Coal Mines and the town of Wonthaggi were established there from 1909.
By the early 1920s, some Wonthaggi residents had built huts at several locations along the nearby coast. These huts were constructed of scrap timber, driftwood and flattened kerosene tins and were used by fishermen and by mining families for weekends and holidays. During periods of unemployment or strikes, they became pernament homes where people were able survive cheaply on fish and rabbits. There were eventually about fourteen huts at Cape Paterson. To reach Cape Paterson, a track along the coastal cliffs followed the route of the old tramline, traces of which are still visible. Later, a track was cut through heavy scrub on the approximate path of the present road.
In the 1930s, the road to Cape Paterson was improved, allowing as many as one thousand visitors to use the safe sheltered swimming beach or the surf beach on a fine Sunday. Cape Paterson was now to be a seaside resort, so the government wanted to evict the hut dwellers. The matter was disputed and it was not until the mid 1950s that the huts were removed.
Meanwhile, facilities such as kiosk, public conveniences and changing sheds were constructed. A shallow wading pool was carved out of rock at the swimming beach and a life saving club was established in 1938. Camping sites and residential subdivisions were allocated. For many years, Cape Paterson was a popular destination for large public picnics. From the 1980s, the town has grown steadily. By 1984 there was a resident population of 300, reaching 450 by 1988. The number of houses and flats, mainly for holiday use, has increased from 400 in 1984 to 700 in 1992.
The coastline for seventeen kilometres east and west of Cape Paterson has been declared a marine and coastal park. The Bunurong Cliffs are comprised of steep sea cliffs, rocky headlands and small sandy beaches. The intertidal rock platforms provide a rich reef habitat. Remnant examples of coastal vegetation survive within the park. The area is popular for fishing, snorkelling, hang gliding and beachcombing as well surfing and swimming.
Cape Paterson is a well-serviced resort town with extensive caravan and camping facilities, with sewerage to developed and undeveloped building lots.
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