Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse, Western Australia

Naming Australia's Coastal Features

The diversity in the names of the coastal features of Australia reflects the vast number of nations that, over a period of 300 years, ventured towards a coastline that had remained largely unknown and unexplored for centuries. There are Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, Malay, French and English names, not to mention a few of Aboriginal origin to remind us that, long before the Europeans came, the island continent was home to the Aboriginal peoples.

French and British names are most predominant, the desire of their respective Governments to check out the viability of extending their colonial empires to include Australia leading to a scurry of exploratory activity beginning with James Cook in 1770 and continuing for a further 70 years. The French, bouyed on by Napoleon Bonaparte's territorial aspirations, dotted the coastline with the names of just about every famous French person of the 18th century. The British countered with a show of their political might and maritime dominance by honouring their politicians, royalty, military leaders and navigators of note.

During the naming of many coastal features, the French and British were at war. This has led to the unlikely situation of a number of coastal features being named after an admiral on one side, then the next bay or headland along being named after his counterpart on the other side, the two having engaged each other in battle. Many coastal features were given two names, one British and one French. Some even ended up with three. Because of the discord between the ship's crew and the scientists of Nicolas Baudin's expedition, some coastal fearures were given two different names by the one expedition, one by Captain Freycinet and another by Francois Peron.

Interwoven with the French and British names are the names of the the men behind the Dutch East India Company whose ships first discovered and charted the west and north coasts of Australia during the 17th century and decided early in the piece that New Holland had nothing to offer them.

Cape Leeuwin (WA) - Head of the Gt Australian Bight (SA)
Head of the Gt Australian Bight (SA) to Port Phillip Bay (Vic)
Port Phillip Bay (Vic) to Batemans Bay (NSW)
Tasmania and Bass Strait Islands
Batemans Bay (NSW) to Mackay (Qld)
Mackay (Qld) to Cape York (Qld)
Cape York (Qld) to Darwin (NT)
Darwiin (NT) to Cape Leveque (WA)
Cape Leveque (WA) to Cape Leeuwin (WA)
Naming Australia
Dutch names on the Australian Coastline