St Leonards was given its name from St Leonards Station, a pastoral farm in the area which was named after a town bearing the same name in Sussex, England. Firewood became a major source of income for the towns, and today other than a few hectares of native timber close to Ocean Grove, there is no original bush lands on the entire peninsula.
Like much of the Geelong and Bellarine Peninsula, the Wathaurong people lived in the Indented Head and St Leonards area well before Europeans discovered this part of the world. Explorer Matthew Flinders landed in the area in 1802 and named the whole peninsula Indented Head.
John Batman, the founder of Melbourne, and his party lived in the area for a short time whilst looking for an ideal location for what was to become Melbourne. He is said to have landed in Indented Head but moved more towards St Leonards as there was fresh water available. Today a stone memorial in the parkland along the Esplanade near Indented Head commemorates his stay.
Around the 1840’s quite a few people, believed to be of Chinese origin, settled around St Leonards for the rich fishing in the area, but many of them moved to seek their fortune in the gold rush during the 1850s. After the gold rush people started coming back to the region for the fishing and farming.
By the 1920’s, with the service by paddle steamers to nearby towns and the start of motorised transport, the area received a bit of growth and became popular as a camping destination which it has remained til this day with large campsites along the foreshore.
The area around Indented Head and St Leonards gained major exposure during the late 1990’s with the ABC television show Sea Change which used the landscape in the area and many of the buildings.
Around 1600 people call St Leonards home with many of the residents being retirees moving to a new peaceful life. The town swells to many times this size over the Summer months.
Real estate & design
Today St Leonards and Indented Head are seaside getaways for the hundreds who visit the area in the Summer and the countless retirees or people who want to have their own sea change, to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities and enjoy the tranquility and fresh sea breezes that these townships have to offer. So many people visit down this way, relax and just don’t want to leave.
Less than 20 years ago the esplanade shadowing the coastline was packed with holiday houses and retirement houses. The strip was a cheap place to build a getaway home but in recent years many of the fibro and wooden houses have been replaced with stunning architectural design, double storey and large outdoor areas to enjoy the fresh sea air and tranquil views.
The area is still a popular family holiday destination and facilities include a sailing club, a boat ramp, jetty and numerous sandy beaches. The shoreline also hosts a number of historical boat sheds.
St Leonards has a good shopping strip with cafes, restaurants, a supermarket and a few specialty stores with the St Leonards pub and its expansive beer garden sitting proudly on the corner of The Esplanade and Murradoc Road overlooking the St Leonards pier.
Sports Fitness & recreation
The towns have good sporting amenities including a golf course, tennis club, bowling club and yacht club. The Bellarine Sharks AFL Football Club also play during the Winter months alternating with the cricket club in the Summer.
Distance from The CBD and transport
St Leonards is situated at the eastern end of the Bellarine Peninsula and the northern end of Swan Bay. Situated 33kms east of Geelong.
Famous landmarks & attractions
St Leonards is not the place for huge attractions and plenty to do, the charm of this seaside resort towns is quite the opposite, little to do other than relax and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. If you want more action, the rest of the Bellarine Peninsula and Geelong are under half an hour’s drive away. These two towns are perfect to kick back and slow down from everyday life and enjoy peace and quiet.
Swan Bay is to the south of the township overlooking Queenscliff and is a shallow 30 square kilometre marine embayment. It is one of the region’s most important fish breeding grounds and nesting sites for many of our native birdlife. The bay is now part of the Port Phillip Heads Marine National Park and as legend tells it is home to hidden treasure which was planted by a pirate named Benito who stole it from Lima in South America back in the early 1800’s.
The town of St Leonards is surrounded by salt marsh wildlife reserves which provide habitat for hundreds of birds, including the critically endangered Orange-Bellied Parrot of which there are less than 200 in the wild.
The paddle steamer, Ozone (or the remains of it) are one of the more interesting sights in Indented Head. The steamer was sunk in 1924 to form a breakwater for the beach. It was built in Glasgow in 1886 and was used to service the bay. The vessels anchor can be visited at Taylors Reserve just up from where the wreck lies offshore.
The official motto for St Leonards is “where everyday is Sunday”.
Schools & education
St Leonards local Primary school is located in Murradoc Road.
Just 10 minutes up the road in Drysdale you will find a selection of prestigious private and public primary and secondary schools.