History of Aireys Inlet
Originally known as Managwhawz by the local aborigines, Aireys Inlet is named after John Eyrie who established a pastoral run east of the town closer to Point Roadnight in 1939. For reasons unknown the spelling soon changed to Aireys and the town became known as Aireys Inlet in the 1840’s.
Prior to this, one of world’s most fascinating survival stories unfolded when a convict, William Buckley, escaped custody in 1803 and lived for 32 years among the aborigines mainly in Geelong, along the Surf Coast and into the Otway Ranges. Ironically, he was killed in a traffic accident in Hobart in 1856.
During the Gold Rush, James Haste operated a four-horse wagon that met the regular Cobb & Co service from Geelong to Anglesea, and transported passengers over the extra leg into Aireys Inlet.
In 1887 the area was subdivided into one hundred blocks of land but these were relatively inaccessible and few were occupied. Airey’s Inlet’s emblematic lighthouse was built in 1891 at Eagles Nest Point, which was renamed Split Point in 1913.
The town’s first post office opened in 1893 and a pub and Anglican Church soon appeared to cater to a growing population of timber worker and their families. Timber was the biggest industry in the area until it waned after the First World War.
The Surf Coast’s Great Ocean Road was a major Government initiative, providing work for returning soldiers. An incredible feat of engineering and persistence, the road opened in 1922, with Aireys Inlet a strategic stopping point before commencing the trip to Lorne.
Tucked between Anglesea and Lorne, Aireys Inlet has been a relatively quiet hamlet, and a great place to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle. However, the town’s peace and tranquillity has often been threatened by bushfires in the warmer months, with the worst in 1983 when several people were killed and many properties and homes destroyed.
Points of interest when roaming around Aireys Inlet include the 34-meter high lighthouse, the Bark Hut, which is a replica of a settler’s hut from the 1860’s. The original was destroyed in the Ash Wednesday bushfires in 1983. The Allen Noble wetland sanctuary is located in the centre of the town and attracts a wide variety of native birdlife, while the Memorial Cairn marks the resting place of the early settlers, Thomas and Martha Pearse.