Continental Hotel

Address:21 Ocean Beach Rd
Suburb:Sorrento

This 4-story limestone building with tower sits was built by the Ocean Amphitheatre Company Ltd. with George Coppin as managing director. The original cost of the hotel was £14,000. The first licence was granted on 4 September 1875. In 1890 the Continental Hotel was bought by Mr Isaac Edward Bensilum for £6,000. Late in 1890 a bridge was built across Constitution Hill Road. The bridge connected the main hotel building with the 1904 ballroom which was built across the road at 14 Constitution Hill Road. During the Bensilum period, The Continental Hotel was renowned as one of the best-run seaside hotels in the Southern Hemisphere. Bensilum sold the hotel around 1913 to T E Hawkins. The bridge survived for another 55 years, before it was demolished.

In ca 1931 it was advertised that the Hotel Continental was:

Built in the most commanding position in Sorrento. From the tower may be obtained a magnificent panorama of Port Phillip Bay, the ocean and surrounding country. Accommodation for 140 guests.  Three commodious Lounges, six private party Sitting Rooms. Suites de Luxe. Hot and cold water. Cafeteria for fish, oyster and lobster suppers. Ball Room. Tennis Courts. Bowling Green. R. G. Sedgwick Proprietor. Phone Sorrento 1. (Text from Victoria, The Garden State of Australia, ca.1931, with photography by Oswald L. Ziegler, courtesy of Nepean Historical Society).

The Conti, as it is affectionately known, is a regionally significant landmark comparable with the Hotel Sorrento on the neighbouring cliff crest. In 1978 the Shire of Flinders Sorrento Townscape Study recognised the Continental Hotel’s historic values as fundamental to the town’s identity. It noted that the distinctive architectural character of the limestone buildings enhanced the quality of its streetscape, and that careful planning in consultation with all interested individuals and groups would encourage the township to age graciously. As the photos attest, the Continental has undergone many changes over its lifetime – none to date have compromised its most commanding position, nor its iconic status.