SA Whale History

From Railways to Whaleways

SA Whale History

SA Whale History

The SA Whale Centre’s prominent location in Victor Harbor owes much to the former use of its 150 year old heritage building. It was first used as a railway goods shed in the late 1800s, which explains a few of the mysterious and fascinating features of the Centre.

The black markings on the interior walls are soot, the hallmark of the steam engines that used to pull into the building to unload their freight. If you look outside at either end of the Centre, you will see the railway tracks that still run underneath the east end of the building. Inside, a huge brown crane marks the spot where it would swing freight from the trains on to awaiting platforms in the goods shed.

At one stage in its history, the building was used to house the famous horse trams that run the length of the causeway to Granite Island. The trams now have a new home, the glass Tram House near Warland Reserve.

The SA Whale Centre revitalised the historical old railway goods shed for a new and exciting purpose in 1994. During the initial renovations the building was given a new roof and floor. The cellar was cleaned out to create the huge open space that we still use today. Many years have passed since the SA Whale Centre first found it’s home here, but, Some of the original exhibits; such as the Sperm Whale Vertebrae, still stand and enthrall visitors to this day.

The Centre has undergone a number of redevelopments during its lifetime, the most recent of which in 2018, helped bring the centre into the new millennium. What will you discover when you enter the Whale Centres’ historic walls?


Victor Harbor without the U?

It appears that the spelling of Victor Harbor without the ‘u’ started in the early days of the Colony. It was around the turn of the century that the u crept into the spelling of Harbor with new businesses beginning to include it (which is the way most people would have been taught to spell harbour.)

The Victor Harbour Railway Station is still signposted today with the spelling including the ‘u’. Victor Harbor was declared a legal Port on the 28 June 1838 and was officially known to the Harbour’s Board as Port Victor until 1921.

In 1921 due to the similarity of the name to Port Victoria on the Yorke Peninsula and the confusion it caused, it was decided by the Harbour’s Board to change the name back by proclamation to it’s original name of Victor Harbor.

The local newspaper the ‘Victor Harbor Times’ has always been published without the ‘u’ since it started in 1912. It was gazetted in 1914 that the township was named as the ‘Municipal Town of Victor Harbor’.

All six (6)Harbors in South Australia are spelt without a ‘u’.
Outer Harbor
Franklin Harbor
Rosetta Harbor
Victor Harbor
Blanche Harbor
Yatala Harbor

It can be surmised from the above spelling of all South Australian Harbour’s without the ‘u’ that it originated probably from a spelling error made by an early Surveyor General of South Australia.


Open daily from 10:30 – 5:00pm (excluding Christmas Day)
South Australian Whale Centre, 2 Railway Terrace, Victor Harbor SA 5211
Tel: 08 8551 0750   Fax: 08 8551 0751   Email: whalecentre@victor.sa.gov.au