Sorrento Foreshore

Address:The Esplanade
Suburb:Sorrento

Take a moment to imagine this place prior to European settlement, as our indigenous peoples, the Boon wurrung aboriginals, would have known it. The bay, the undulating dunes, the coastal vegetation – home, a nurturing environment, a place for living in harmony with country.

Then imagine the Sorrento Foreshore as George Coppin must have seen it in the late 1860s and early 1870s, perhaps as the oldest photograph of Sorrento depicts it, with a road, and some attempts at settlement. Coppin had a vision for Sorrento as major seaside holiday resort town. He built his own home The Anchorage,1873, overlooking the Bay, the Hotel Continental, 1875, and the steam tram to take visitors from the Bay to the Ocean. As the images show, Sorrento grew rapidly into a thriving, bustling town.  Up to 50,000 visitors a day came by steamer every summer. A special bridge was constructed from the pier to the tram platform. Refreshment rooms were built for the travellers. Baths constructed for the bathers and swimmers.

Sorrento’s bay beach was aptly described in the publication ‘Victoria: the Garden State of Australia’, 1931 (courtesy of Nepean Historical Society Archives).

“Along the Bay frontage runs a well kept esplanade Reserve, planted with lawns and shady trees. This affords an ideal picnic ground. There is further attraction also, a Band Pavilion in which concerts are often held.

“The Sorrento Baths have everything in their favour for ideal bathing conditions. They extend 850 feet from shallow into very deep water, with a clear sandy bottom affording perfect safety to bathers of all ages. Dressing rooms, seats and tables, and refreshment rooms, have been built around the reserve, offering facilities for every comfort and convenience to visitors.

“The long, angled pier makes an excellent promenade, and here thousands of holiday makers land from the steamers that come from the city in the summer season.”

Historic photographs document the way the town was set out – along a linear pattern from Bay to ocean. The early panoramic views show major viewpoints dominated by now iconic hotels – particularly the Continental and Sorrento.