When did Home & Away start and who are the most famous cast members?

All you need to know about the Australian soap as it celebrates its 35th anniversary

Home & Away opening title credit
(Image credit: Home & Away YouTube)

Home & Away is celebrating its 35th anniversary later this month (17th January) and fans are wondering when did it start and who are the most famous cast members?

The long-standing Australian soap spans an incredible 33 seasons is filmed in Palm Beach, Sydney (opens in new tab), and after a festive break, fans were keen to know when is the soap returning in the UK? (opens in new tab) After show bosses aired some throwback episodes.

Now the soap is back, it's preparing to celebrate 35 years on screen as we look at all you need to know about the much-loved aussie soap...

When did Home & Away start?

Home & Away started on the 17th January 1988 when the show's first episode aired. In the first episode, Alf Stewart (played by Ray Meagher) made his very first appearance in the soap and he is still in the show today. Before the soap made it onto TV screens a pilot episode was filmed and this feature length episode was later re-edited into a tele-movie which marked the start of this iconic Australian TV soap opera. This 90 minute episode - which was made up of three episodes together - took three years to produce and it aired in Australia on 17th January, 1988 on the Seven Network. The opening storyline focused on the Fletcher family moving to the coastal town of Summer Bay from Sydney.

According to the Home & Away Soap Opera Fandom (opens in new tab), the show's creator Alan Bateman "spent over two years researching case histories of foster children and returned several times to the town where he got the idea from, getting info from locals about the foster home and how they felt."

And this went on to become the heart of the show with a foster family running a caravan park. Pippa first appeared in the pilot episode when husband Tom lost his job and rather than risk losing their five foster children, Frank, Carly, Steven, Lynn and Sally, they decided to move to Summer Bay.

Since then, the show has aired more than 7,000 episodes.

Who are the most famous Home & Away cast members?

The most famous Home & Away cast members are considered to be Chris Hemsworth, Heath Ledger, Isla Fisher, Dannii Minogue, Guy Pearce, Ryan Kwanten, Naomi Watts, Melissa George, Samara Weaving, Tammin Sursok, Steve Peacocke, Isabel Lucas, and Julian McMahon.

Chris Hemsworth

Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth, who plays legendary God of thunder in the Thor movies, is one of the film industry's highest paid actors. He starred as Kim Hyde in the soap between 2004 and 2007 and previously told The Project, "The first time I met Ray Meagher who plays Alf, I was as nervous as meeting Anthony Hopkins."

Chris Hemsworth split screen from Home & Away days to present

(Image credit: Getty)

Heath Ledger

Heath Ledger played bad boy Scott Irwin who dated Sally Fletcher and while Sally really liked Scott, it was clear to viewers he was mostly using her to get into headmaster Fisher's office to steal exam papers. His antics eventually got him expelled and written out of the show but post-Home and Away, his career went from strength to strength, when he starred in rom-com 10 Things I Hate About You, Brokeback Mountain and Dark Knight before his tragic death in 2008.

Heath Ledger split layout from 1997 and 2008

(Image credit: Getty)

Isla Fisher

Isla Fisher starred as Shannon Reed in Home & Away from 1994-1997 and she once admitted in an interview in The Observer that playing her character "taught me how to look good in a bikini," and "how to deliver bad dialogue convincingly."

And she's gone on to have international fame, since leaving the soap she released some fictional books, and starred in The Great Gatsby and other successful films including Wedding Crashers, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Scooby-Doo.

She is a mother-of-three and is married to comedian and actor Sacha Baron Cohen. They got engaged in 2004 and married in 2010 in a Jewish ceremony in Paris.

Isla Fisher

(Image credit: Getty)

Dannii Minogue

Following in her sister Kylie's soap footsteps as an actress in Neighbours (opens in new tab), Dannii Minogue landed a role in rival soap Home & Away as Emma. She was already a household name in Australia after starring on Young Talent Time and was planning to branch out into singing when the soap doors opened. After staying in Summer Bay for 12 months, Dannii quit to launch a music career, like sister Kylie Minogue (opens in new tab) did. Since then she's had huge success as a singer and a judge on The X Factor plus Britain and Ireland's Next Top Model. Her return to Australia saw her judge on their version of The Masked Singer.

Dannii Minogue on Home & Away and split layout with Dannii in recent years

(Image credit: Getty)

Guy Pearce

Guy Pearce might look familiar for fans of Neighbours as he starred in that Australian soap first where he remained for three years before joining the Summer Bay cast in 1991. However his stint in Home & Away at David Croft was short but sweet, as the love interest of Sophie (Rebekah Elmaloglou) left after six weeks. His character was written out of the show when his car was struck by a stolen car driven by Karen Dean. He died in the accident but Sophie didn't find out about his death until she returned from Pippa's mum's house.

These days Guy Pearce is a well-known British-born actor who is estimated to be worth approximately $25million. 

Pearce is known for his performances in the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road (2009), Kathryn Bigelow's war drama The Hurt Locker (2009) and Tom Hooper's historical drama The King's Speech (2010). 

He has also appeared in Ridley Scott's Prometheus (2012), the Marvel action film Iron Man 3 (2013), Alien: Covenant (2017), and the historical biopic Mary Queen of Scots (2018) to name but a few.

Guy Pearce in Home & Away split layout with Guy Pearce more recently

(Image credit: Youtube/ Getty)

Ryan Kwanten

Having played Vinnie Patterson from 1997-2002 in the soap, Ryan's character was written out with him dying in a farming accident. During his dying days it was revealed that he recounted his life in the Bay and spoke of how he wanted to be there for Leah and VJ. They visit Vinnie's grave 18 months after his death to get closure.

He went on to play jay Robertson in American drama Summerland and joined the cast of True Blood from 2008-2014, playing the role of Jason Stackhouse.

Between 2018-2019 Ryan Kwanten produced and starred in the crime drama series The Oath as Steve Hammond. His most recent roles include 2067, an Australian-American science fiction film in which he plays Jude Mathers, 2021's Them, as milkman George Bell, and Kindred, a TV adaptation of Octavia Butler's Novel of the same name.

Ryan Kwanten Home & Away and split layout with more recent

(Image credit: Getty)

Naomi Watts

British actress Naomi Watts played Julie Gibson in 1991, Julie was wheelchair bound following a car accident and started a relationship with Nick Parrish. Naomi wasn't in the soap long, after joining 23rd April 1991 she left 30th May that year. Her character splits up and struggling with the heartache she leaves the Bay to attend university.

Off-screen Naomi moved to America where she struggled with acting roles until landing a part in David Lynch's psychological thriller Mulholland Drive in 2001 as an aspiring actress. This role started her rise to international prominence.

She went on to land roles in The Ring (2002) and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as a grief-stricken mother in Alejandro González Iñárritu's film 21 Grams (2003) and again as Maria Bennett in The Impossible (2012)

Going from strength to strength, Naomi had roles in I Heart Huckabees (2004), King Kong (2005), Eastern Promises (2007), and The International (2009).

In the 2010s, she starred in such films as Birdman (2014), St. Vincent (2014), While We're Young (2015), The Glass Castle (2017), and Luce (2019). 

And her blockbuster career continued with the Divergent franchise (2015–2016).

Naomi Watts on Home & Away split layout with Naomi Watts more recently

(Image credit: YouTube/ Getty)

Melissa George

Melissa George played Angel Parrish in Home & Away from 1993-1996. Her character had a romance with Shane Parrish (played by the late Dieter Brummer). Upon leaving Australia she appeared to isolate herself from her Aussie fans after it was reported she once declared, "I don't need credibility from my country anymore; I just need them all to be quiet. If they have nothing intelligent to say, please don't speak to me anymore."

Despite starring in Mulholland Drive, her biggest success has been in TV shows, having made a success for herself in shows like CharmedGrey's AnatomyMonk, Friends and The Good Wife.

Melissa George from Home & Away days split layout with photo of Melissa more recently

(Image credit: Getty)

Samara Weaving

Playing the role of Indigo Walker in the soap, Samara Weaving starred on screen from 2009 - 2013. She started out appearing for five weeks at at time before being brought in as a permanent member of the cast a year later and bowed out in 2013 to pursue new roles.

Her film credits include Mayhem (2017), The Babysitter (2017) and she won the cast a Screen Actors Guild Award for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), before taking lead role in American film Ready or Not (2019).

Dipping in and out of TV and films, she starred in Picnic at Hanging Rock (2018), Hollywood (2020) and Nine Perfect Strangers (2021), and having roles in the films Guns Akimbo (2019), Last Moment of Clarity (2020), The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020) and most recently Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020).

Samara Weaving in Home & Away split layout with Samara Weaving more recently

(Image credit: Getty)

Tammin Sursok

Tammin played Dani Sutherland on Home & Away from 2000 to 2004 - Dani was the rebellious daughter of the Sutherland family who took overt he running of the Bay's Caravan Park. Speaking about landing the role Tammin said, "It was my first audition, so I thought it always worked like that, and you always get your first audition, but that is not the case." 

After Home & Away she went to appear on The Young And The Restless before landing a role in America's mystery-thriller Pretty Little Liars, and in 2022 had a minor role in Joe vs Carole, based on the hugely popular Netflix documentary Tiger King (opens in new tab).

During the pandemic, she returned from America to live in Australia with her husband Sean McEwen and their two daughters.

Tammin Sursok on Home & Away and split layout with recent image of Tammin Sursok

(Image credit: Getty)

Steve Peacocke

Steve went from playing bad boy Darryl 'Brax' Braxton in Summer Bay between 2011 and 2016 to making his blockbuster debut in 2014's Hercules opposite Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.

At the time he said, "It's a supporting role in a very big film so it's probably the best introduction you could have to that sort of Hollywood world where everything is on a big scale," 

And that led him to star opposite other big names including Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke in the romantic drama Me Before You in 2016.

Among his other Hollywood successes are Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which featured fellow Aussie Neighbours star Margot Robbie (opens in new tab), as well as Little Monsters and Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.

Steve Peacocke Home & Away days and split layout with more recent photo of Steve Peacocke

(Image credit: Getty)

Isabel Lucas

You might remember her best as Tasha Andrews and she won a Logie award for her role in the new popular talent category. But Isabel quit the soap in 2006 to star in big movies including Transformers Revenge of the Fallen, Immortals and Careful What You Wish For.

Isabel Lucas in Home & Away split layout with Isabel Lucas more recently

(Image credit: Getty)

Julian McMahon

Julian McMahon started out his acting career on Home and Away where he played the role of Ben Lucini. This led him to successful roles as Cole Turner in the hit series Charmed and plastic surgeon Christian Troy on Golden Globe winning show Nip/Tuck.

Julian McMahon in Home & Away and split layout Julian McMahon recent

(Image credit: YouTube / Getty)

Home & Away is popular in Australia as it is the most-watched soap opera and in 2021 it was streamed by 4.9 million viewers.

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Selina Maycock
Senior Entertainment Writer

Selina is a Senior Entertainment Writer with more than 14 years of experience in newspapers and magazines. She currently looks after all things Entertainment for Goodto.com, Woman&Home, and My Imperfect Life. Before joining Future Publishing, Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism. She is fully NCTJ and NCE qualified and has 100wpm shorthand. When she's not interviewing celebrities you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories.