The great basin of Port Phillip Bay has a slowly circulating clockwise current, especially along its eastern shores. As a result, the waters along those beaches form eddies at a couple of points where peninsulas disrupt the curve of the bay – notably in the sheltered bays behind Rickketts Point and Martha Point.
The comparative calm of the latter has made it a popular place for predatory fish to lie in wait for their prey, and soon after settlement, it became known as Shark Bay for precisely this reason. But as the land further along Capel Sound was settled, with the villages of Sorrento, Rosebud and Portsea growing popular as holiday destinations, the name became an inconvenience.
To deal with this, Hugh Jamieson, the area’s major landowner (he owned all of what is now Safety Beach, as well as parts of Dromana and Mount Martha) decided to announce a cull. He announced a bounty of five pounds – serious money in those days – for each shark caught and killed. He paid out a total of 35 pounds on this venture, but the publicity it garnered meant that when he announced the area’s change of name to Safety Beach, it was widely reported, and that area began to grow again. The seven sharks’ jaws were prominently displayed at the beach front, a reminder that this beach was now safe.
Jamieson eventually subdivided all his lands, and made back everything he had spent on them many times over, and Safety Beach became another of the Mornington Peninsula’s resort towns, slowly evolving into a suburb as Melbourne grew, although always overshadowed by its neighbours (literally, in the case of Mount Martha).
In the 1980s, it was cheated of credit it rightfully deserved as the birthplace of the Safety Dance, which was invented by bored teenagers after the withdrawal of railway services to nearby Mornington in 1981 made it difficult to get to city nightclubs. Fortunately, in the opinion of most residents, the Safety Dance craze was mercifully brief, and normality in Safety Beach was quietly resumed.
Suburbs near Safety Beach: