The tea gardens and recreational picnic area at Point Henry was a business that went through “boom and bust” cycles. They suffered from the shallow waters and the need to tranship passengers from the larger steamers with the consequent tragic dangers
The gardens were known by various names --The California Tea Gardens (1840’s), Point Henry Tea Gardens, Henshaw’s Victoria Tea gardens (1870’s), Bellarine Tea Gardens (Howard Smith) (!890’s)
By 1889, The (William) Howard Smith Company had taken over the area, and the gardens were restored to their former glory. The gardens were located on a high cliff that projected towards the Corio Bay entrance, with an Esplanade with an avenue of trees on the top of the steep banks about 60 feet above a pebbled beach. An entertainment building with verandahs was constructed, that offered refreshments, wine and lodgings to both tourists and invalids. A wine cellar,10000 gallon water tank, lawn and rotunda were also constructed onsite. The triangular shaped gardens occupied 5 acres of ground and there were about 2000 trees, including berry and fruit trees.
The “Edina” transhipped passengers to the gardens, The hulks “Briton” and “City of Melbourne” were used during this time as transhipment points for visitors, they were moored offshore where the Edina dropped them off and the “Bellarine” ( formerly “Dispatch”) with its shallow draft collected them for the trip to the tea gardens. Summer houses were subsequently built along the beachfront, and a large pavilion to accommodate 350 people was constructed, the facility offered temperance drinks. The site attracted over 22000 tourists from Melbourne and 50000 from Geelong in 1890 and eventually a “Bellarine” hotel was constructed. This was the most successful period for the gardens
Click on the photos to enlarge They show the Bellarine Hotel-BHS Collection, The steamer “Bellarine”(formerly “Dispatch”-SLSA Collection and a painting by Walter Withers c1900 owned by National Gallery of Victoria
Note “P S Bellarine” (formerly PS Dispatch)
117 gross tons. Built as “Dispatch”at Milang (Milang is a town and locality located in South Australia on the west coast of Lake Alexandrina about 71 kilometres (44 mi) south-east of Adelaide) in less than 9 weeks in 1877 by Thomas Smith and Frank Potts for A H Landseer. She was 111.6 feet (32.4m) long, had a draft of 18 inches (457mm), could accomodate 60 passengers with bunks for 8 females and 12 males. Serviced the Milang-Meningie mail service across the lakes. She was a Royal Mail vessel and a vital link in the overland service between Adelaide and Melbourne. November 1888 sold to W H Smith & Sons Ltd of Melbourne and steamed to Port Phillip under her own power. 1889 renamed Bellarine, worked on Corio Bay Geelong