The clip clop of hooves on timber cause us to stop and stand aside. We let the beautiful big clydesdale horse pulling the tram pass and continue our walk across the jetty. The gentle sea breeze washes over us and the waves lap gently against the pylons as we walk across the jetty to Granite Island. We are staying in Victor Harbour on the Fleurieu Peninsular and are dedicating the morning to exploring Granite Island.
Granite Island known as Kaiki by the local Ramindjeri Aboriginal people has an interesting Aboriginal and European history. The Ramindjeri believe the island was created my the male Supreme Creator Ngurunderi throwing a spear into the sea. The Ngurunderi Dreaming is an elaborate story detailing how much of the landscape from the River Murray down to Kangaroo Island were formed.
In 1802 while charting Australia’s coastline, Captain Mathew Flinders sailed his ship, the Investigator, into the bay in which Granite Island sits. Unbeknownst to Flinders, Captain Nicolas Baudin of the Le Geographé was also charting the same coastline. As Baudin sailed into the bay Flinders called his men to action, getting ready for a potential battle while raising the white flag to indicate a truce. In return Baudin raised both the English and French flags and Flinders boarded the Le Geographé. The men discussed their journey and findings with one another, and Flinders named the bay Encounter Bay to recognize this meeting.
Soon after the Flinders – Baudin encounter a whaling and sealing station was set up on Granite Island and on the mainland at Victor Harbour. The local Ramindjeri people were employed by the Europeans as whale spotters and harpooners. Business thrived until the late 1870’s by which time the whalers were only catching 2 or 3 whales all winter. Whaling operations ceased in 1872. Victor Harbour was considered one of the best harbours within the colony and close to the trade route on the River Murray. The town continued to thrive due to all the shipping activity and even made an unsuccessful bid to become the capital of South Australia.
Train tracks were laid and a steam train would transport goods like wheat and wool from the nearby River Murray to Victor Harbour, where they would be taken by horse drawn tram across to Granite Island and loaded onto ships for export to ports around the world. It was the expansion of the railway network that eventually caused the cessation of the shipping industry and towns like Victor Harbour had to adjust to the new ways of the world.
The walk around Granite Island is called the Kaiki walk and is an easy 1.5 km loop walk beginning at the island side of the jetty. It’s a very picturesque walk with scenic lookouts and interesting rock formations such as Portrait and Umbrella Rocks. These marvelous granite formations were birthed over 480 million years ago, 10 km below the earths surface. Over the millenia the island which was once a part of the mainland has become a windswept outpost, sculpted and ravaged by the ocean, wind and rain. Granite Island is also home to the Little Penguin and the Penguin Interpretative Centre. The Centre rescues and releases injured penguins, as well as offering evening penguin tours and information about these interesting little creatures.
Despite the walk being only a short distance, we spend a good hour and a half walking around, exploring rocks and taking advantage of the many photographic opportunities. The orange lichen growing on the granite boulders provides a mesmerizing contrast against the deep blue ocean of Bass Strait. On the southern side we seem to have the whole place to ourselves, and decide to enjoy the peace and quite and the view.
I think about the days gone by. The aboriginals who called this area home for thousands of years. Of Flinders and Baudin aboard their sailing ships anchored in the bay. The whales and the whalers and the bloody business that went on here for many years. And now the tourists like us, discovering a little bit of history about a place that until this day I knew very little about.
At a Glance
84 km south of Adelaide
1.5 km loop walk around Granite Island
Penguin Interpretive Centre
Check website for details