During the nineteenth century Bellarine was more extensive than today, probably including todays Drysdale. During the 1860s it had an estimated population of 350 persons, and the reduction of its area produced a population figure of around 50 in the 1890s.
A Presbyterian church and a school were established in about 1854. Later there were a Wesleyan church and school (1865) and a mechanics institute (1858). Mount Bellarine is east of the village.
On 18 September, 1865, the Bellarine shire was proclaimed. It extended from Boundary Road, Geelong and along the east side of the Barwon River to Ocean Grove, occupying all of the Bellarine Peninsula except Queenscliff. Other coastal townships included Clifton Springs, Indented Head, Portarlington and St. Leonards. Inland are the Drysdale township and farmlands with good soil for agriculture. The shires area was 332 square kilometres.
The Peninsulas industries included creameries, wattle liquor factories and boiling-down works. Cereal crops were phased out when the north Victorian wheatlands were developed.
Bellarine shire became a rural city on 12 December, 1989, and Drysdale remained the municipalitys administrative centre. On 18 May, 1993, Bellarine rural city was united with five other cities and parts of two shires to become Greater Geelong city.
Bellarine municipalitys census populations were 3,802 (1871), 4,009 (1921), 7,015 (1954), 18,791 (1971) and 41,310 (1991).
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