The land around San Remo was occupied for thousands of years prior to European colonisation by the Bunurong Aborigines. San Remo was the landing point for surgeon George Bass on his important 1797 voyage during which he explored about 1000 km of coastline on board an 8.7 metre open whaleboat. It entailed the European discovery of Westernport and the confirmation of the existence of the Bass Strait. William Hovell explored this coast on foot in 1826.
The Anderson Peninsula was named after Samuel Anderson who migrated from Scotland in 1830 and took up a grazing lease in the area in 1841 after working for the Van Dieman's Land Company and then farming wheat in South Gippsland. The European setlement of the local area was related to the establishment, around 1840, of a deepwater port at Griffiths Point, for the exportation of wattle bark, cattle and farm produce and, from the 1870s, coal. The latter was relayed to Grifiths Point from Kilcunda, 11 km south-east, via tramway.
The township that developed around the port became a drawcard for tourists and was named San Remo in 1888 after the famous resort town on the Italian Riviera. Commercial fishing comenced early in the 20th century when the railways enabled access to the Melbourne markets. A ferry relayed tourists to Phillip Island until a suspension bridge was built in 1940. The present bridge dates from 1969. Today there is a fishing co-operative near the bridge that supplies good fresh fish, particularly the King George whiting for which the area is known.
San Remo offers visitors a range of accommodation - bed and breakfasts, motels, caravan parks - as well as restaurants, a shopping centre and sporting facilities. Families can enjoy sheltered bathing at Children's Beach while surfers will appreciate the more exposed conditions at Foots Beach. Children's play facilities, toilets and barbecues are available on Back Beach Rd and Marine Parade.
The San Remo Challenge is held in February and the San Remo Festival in March.