Kilcunda is a coastal village in south Gippsland, situated on the Bass Highway 13 km north-west of Wonthaggi. The coast is exposed to Bass Strait and Kilcunda looks westwards to Cape Woolamai on Phillip Island.
The origin of Kilcunda's name is thought to be an Aboriginal word conveying a form of exclamation.
Settlement at Kilcunda beyond the usual pastoral occupation began with the discovery of a commercial seam of black coal near the coast in 1865. Mining began in 1873. Coal was transported by a tramway to San Remo and thence by boat to Melbourne. A school was opened in 1880 for the children of mining families. Kilcunda was described in the 1903 Australian handbook:
In 1910 a new company sank a shaft east of the village and near the newly opened railway line. A miners' housing settlement, locally known as Happy Valley, was developed in a sheltered area. Two mines operated at Kilcunda during 1910-50, and activity appears to have peaked during World War II if the school's attendance (70 pupils, 1941) is an indication. The last coal was taken in 1953, and operations ceased because the seams were less than one metre thick and water seepage was troublesome. The railway line closed in 1978.
Kilcunda has an exposed beach with cliffs and rock platforms. It has long been an attraction for surf fishing enthusiasts and divers. There is a foreshore reserve, a recreation reserve, a caravan park and a coastal walking track, which includes a spectacular railway trestle bridge. The village has a hotel-motel, two general stores and a public hall. Mine tailings are evidence of the coal industry, and the farm hinterland is used mainly for grazing. A long and bitter campaign has been fought by a range of protestors against the proposed desalination plant on 30 hectares at Kilcunda since 2007.
Kilcunda's census populations have been:
Veronica Carew, Digging deep: a history of the Kilcunda coal mines, Newhaven College, 1991
Joseph White, One hundred years of history, Shires of Bass and Phillip Island, 1974