The Land On Which We Gather
The Sorrento Writers Festival takes place on the land of the Boon Wurrung people, members of the great Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging, and acknowledge the traditional lands of Monmar and its many sacred sites on the Mornington Peninsula. The Boonwurrung people occupied the area now known as the Mornington Peninsula for thousands of years.
The first Europeans to enter Port Phillip Bay arrived in February 1802, when Lieutenant John Murray of HMS Lady Nelson chose to anchor Lady Nelson off what is now known as Sorrento Beach. On March 8, Murray announced the land now belonged to King George III of Great Britain and a few days later he sailed out through the Heads and returned to Sydney.
In 1803, the British returned and established a convict settlement under the command of Lieutenant Governor David Collins in Sullivan Bay, Sorrento. The site became the first British settlement on mainland Australia outside of the Sydney region. Within a few months, the settlement of around 500 people was abandoned and subsequently moved to Hobart in Tasmania.
After Melbourne was established in 1835, the first pastoralists appeared on the Nepean Peninsula, but soon turned to producing lime from the local limestone. The indigenous trees, cut to fire the lime kilns, were soon replaced by the faster growing tea-tree.
By the 1870s wealthy Melbournians had discovered the beauty of Sorrento. Following the lead of Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, Member of Parliament and later Premier of Victoria, who’d purchased land at Point King in the 1860s and built a holiday house, people flocked to this part of the Mornington Peninsula.
Duffy named his holiday home ‘Sorrento’ after the Italian coastal town. It soon became the name of the village and in 1870 the beautiful Sorrento Park was established using fast growing exotic trees supplied by Ferdinand von Mueller who established the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.
George Selth Coppin actor, entrepreneur, philanthropist and Member of Parliament, is often considered one of the founding fathers of modern-day Sorrento. Copping saw the area’s potential as a holiday destination. In 1875 he built the Continental Hotel, plus a guesthouse, houses and baths and introduced a seasonal ferry service from Melbourne. He developed the main road, Ocean Beach Road , and set out the walking tracks across the back beach foreshore.
Sorrento Post Office opened on 10 January 1871. A horse and steam powered tram which ran between the foreshore and the back beach opened in 1890 and closed in 1920.
Sorrento is 61 kilometres south-west of Melbourne and has a permanent population of just over 2000 people.
Four days, 80+ events, 100+ writers, journalists, thinkers, historians, playwrights, singers… and a thousand conversations.