License: Creative Commons - Attribution-No Derivatives Author: denisbin
Long before white settlers moved to this region the bay here was sighted by at least three white visitors. The first was Peter Nuyts the Dutch explorer who came along this coast in 1627 in his ship the Golden Zeepard. The second European to visit this picturesque part of South Australia on the western coast of Eyre Peninsula was Captain Matthew Flinders who sighted and named the bay in 1802. The water was discoloured by streaks so he named it Streaky Bay. The next white man to visit this spot was Edward John Eyre on his explorations of Eyre Peninsula in 1839. Eyre established a camp at a water hole about 2 miles form the bay. Like the Murray Mallee, the South East and Yorke Peninsula the Eyre Peninsula is also a limestone area with no water courses on the land surface. In 1840 Eyre began his disastrous expedition across the Nullarbor Plain from this waterhole. It is signposted a couple of mile s out of the town toward Port Lincoln. Eyre made contact with the Wirunga Aboriginal people on the Peninsula and he was assisted in his explorations with his devoted Aboriginal tracker and friend Wylie whom Eyre had taken into his employ from Albany in Western Australia. The party of two white men and three Aboriginal men set out from Eyre Peninsula in 1841 to cross the Great Australian Bight and the Nullarbor Plain but only Eyre and Wylie managed to reach Esperance and finally Albany.
By 1854 white pastoralists had taken up runs around Streaky Bay on leasehold with Maryvale Station covering the current township area and Pantalpie run adjoining. Maryvale leasehold was taken out by John Lindsay, Main and Acraman covering an area of 50 square miles. One old shepherds hut built in 1857 on Maryvale run still exists near the Streaky Bay Hospital and it is the oldest structure in Streaky Bay. Ketches called into the bay with goods and supplies and took out shiploads of wool for transfer to international ships at Port Adelaide. John MacDouall Stuart visited here in 1858 on way back from exploring the Lake Gairdner country north of the Gawler Ranges. Some thought that Maryvale was the pick of the stations on Eyre Peninsula. In 1858 it changed owners to John Lindsay and Thomas Gibson. The station stayed largely intact until 1888 when it was split into about a dozen smaller properties for the new farming arrivals. But because of the lack of surface water and the type of country most properties were still around 20,000 to 30,000 acres. Gibson also had the leasehold of the adjoining Cooeyanna station upon which the town of Streaky Bay emerged.
The Hundred of Ripon was gazetted in 1885 but the town of Streaky Bay predated that by several decades. It was declared as a township in 1872 but it began as an unofficial town in 1863. One local pastoralist, Thomas Gibson of Cooeyanna station created a small trading store in 1863 on the bay. His Cooeyanna run covered 69 square miles. Then also in 1863 the SA government decided to build the Streaky Bay Police Station on Cooeyanna station near the store and harbour. Only the old jail cells remain from that early building. The first police officer was John Mudge who went on to stay in the town and be a major district pioneer. He acquired extensive pastoral lands and built the Flinders Hotel in 1866 and an early general store 1877. In the 1870s he was the largest grain farmer in Australia with over 2,000 acres planted in wheat on his 30,000 acre farm. Mudge married Agnes in Port Lincoln (the nearest church) in 1864 a year after his appointment began in Streaky Bay and he lived in Streaky Bay until he died there in 1912 but his son Thomas continued the family businesses with his mother Agnes.
In 1872 the government resumed some of the local leasehold runs and the town of Flinders was gazetted in 1872 although it was locally known as Streaky Bay. It was not officially changed to Streak Bay until 1940. A Special Magistrate was based there to keep law and order in conjunction with the local police. In the 1870s the local electorate here which covered sheep stations right up to the Gawler Ranges only had 100 electors and few of them would have been living in Streaky Bay itself. To cement the foundations of the town the government established the first Post Office at Streaky Bay in a small weatherboard office in 1866. The town grew slowly before 1885 as only a limited area had been surveyed for farming and Streaky Bay existed mainly to service the wool growers of the hinterlands. Town and suburban blocks for Flinders (Streaky Bay) were sold in 1886. The District Council of Streaky Bay was formed in 1888 once the grain farmers started to take up their holdings on the resumed pastoral lease lands. Among the first public buildings erected in Streaky Bay were the first primary school in 1872 (the second primary school built in 1901 is now the National Trust Museum), the Flinders Hotel in 1866 as a single storey building (now the Streaky Bay Hotel) and the first Anglican church in 1869 (replaced by the current Anglican Church which was designed by architect William Mallyon in 1912 and with its foundation stone laid by Mrs Agnes Mudge). Later buildings and structures include the neo Georgian hall built in 1934 (replacing the old 1887 Institute), St Canute’s Catholic Church built in 1912, the Methodist Church built in 1911 and the adjoining manse in 1929, Beck’s General Store built in 1890, the old Council Chambers built in 1892 and the town jetty built between 1891 and 1896.The old walled cemetery of Streaky Bay has burials from 1863 but most took place after 1880. The hotels in Streaky Bay have an interesting history. The Flinders Hotel was built for John Mudge in 1866 and the former Criterion Hotel (now an excellent coffee shop) built just along the main street was built in 1868. After John Mudge died in 1891 his wife Agnes continued to run the hotel until 1905 when an entirely new two storey structure was erected on the esplanade in place of the old single storey hotel. In 1965 the community got together and purchased the Flinders Hotel to run it as a community hotel. They then purchased the old Criterion Hotel in 1968 and delicensed it to make Streaky Bay a one pub town. They then changed the name of the Flinders Hotel to the Streaky Bay Hotel in 1983. It is now a thriving business.
From the earliest days Streaky Bay was important as a local port. The jetty was built from 1891 and in use for the next 70 years. All the early communication with Adelaide or even Port Lincoln was by steamer. Bishops visited Streaky Bay by steamer as did magistrates and other government officials. One steamer in service for over 30 years was the Yandra designed for this coast run. It operated from the 1920s but was withdrawn from service in 1940 when it was commandeered by the navy during World War Two. It re-entered the coastal shipping service after the War until it was washed ashore and grounded on Neptune Island in 1959. The coastal service finished at that time. The Yandra made a final farewell visit to Streaky Bay in 1966. Today the jetty is used by holiday makers. The harbour still has a fishing fleet.