Saturday, January 28, 2012

Australia Day 2012

Australia Day has always been a great family day for Altona, with many activities for children, including children workshops, jumping castles, face painting, balloon sculptures, sand sculpture, etc. In particular, we look forwards to the free Cobb & Co and Cinderella rides, which are sponsored by the local Bendigo Community Bank each year. I had been carefully looking for it but no, I did not manage to find any blue shoe left behind in the Cinderella coach.

Video of the stationwagons

It happened that the family we shared the wagon ride with comes from Warrnambool. We booked a holiday accommodation at Cape Bridgewater during the Christmas to New Year vacation break and had spent the time visiting the surrounding areas, including Portland, Port Fairy, Nelson, Mt Gambier, Tower Hill and Warrnambool. Coincidentally, this family too camped at Cape Bridgewater a week ago.

On realizing that we are local Altona residents, they said that they found Altona to be a nice place and asked me how much it would cost to buy a house in Altona. Perhaps, they are thinking of moving to Melbourne?

I told the Warrnambool visitors that at least one thing is common between Altona and Warrnambool/Port Fairy/Portland. They are all coastal and share one iconic feature - streets lined with the majestic Norfolk Island Pines, particularly along the Esplanade (in Altona), Pertobe Rd (Warrnambool), Gipps St (Port Fairy) and Bentick St (Portland). These pine trees are not only physical landmarks but also carry cultural and social heritage values for all these places.

Australia Day 2012 @ Altona 05
Photo on the coach taken by the Visitors from Warrnambool

It is great to see people enjoying the various activities and of course, the free live music at Logan Reserve.

Concert at Logan Reserve - Song by Body & Soul

Many people bring their own chairs, tables and tents and set up their friend and family congregations in different parts of Logan Reserve.

Australia Day 2012 @ Altona 01Australia Day 2012 @ Altona 03

One thing new this year is a photo booth (from Geelong) which provides fanciful wigs, spectacles, hats and other accessories for people to make up and print free photos on the spot.

Australia Day 2012 @ Altona 13

These are our free gifts, which are pretty good! My wife had wanted trying a blue wig but this was quickly snapped up by another person. It's a great day for our family.

Fancy Photo

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tower Hill

Tower Hill is an extinct volcano 275 km southwest of Melbourne, between Warrnambool and Port Fairy, on the Princes Highway (GPS coordinates S38.319084, E142.363028). A violent volcanic eruption 30,000 years ago created a funnel-shaped crater with a distinctive rim formed from deposition of layers of scoria, ash, limestone and clay fragments around it.

Rim of volcano

Subsequent volcanic activity formed a series of small scoria cones within the main crater. These became islands in a lake when the crater filled up with water.

Tower Hill lies at the western end of a line of 30 similar volcanoes, which extends from Colac to Port Fairy. Measuring 4 km wide and 80 m high, it is one of the largest maars in the world and is of national geological significance due to the complex nature of its formation. In recognition of its unique features, it was declared Victoria’s first national park in 1892 and was Victoria's only national park for many years.

Wagon Bay

The fertile volcanic soils supported a diverse range of vegetation including Manna Gum, Blackwood, Black Wattle, Swamp Gum and Drooping Sheoak which attracted fauna. These became a rich source of food for the Koroitgundidj people living in the area at the time of the eruption. Archaeological surveys of the area have uncovered axe heads and other aboriginal artefacts in the volcanic ash layers. Today the Worn Gundidj Aboriginal Cooperative manages the reserve’s Information Centre.

Tower Hill is close to the coast and easily seen from the sea. The first confirmed European sighting of Tower Hill was by French explorers sailing with Captain Nicolas Baudin aboard the ship Le Géographe in 1802, though there are theories suggesting Tower Hill may have been seen by the Portuguese as early as the 17th century. Matthew Flinders, sailing east along the southern coast of Australia, recorded on 20 April 1802 "Peaked Hill position uncertain" in his chart close to the actual location of Tower Hill.

A school inspector James Bonwick waxed lyrical about Tower Hill when he visited it in 1857: “A stroll among the gigantic ferns of the valley … a ramble among the cones and craters …the winding path at the foot of the basaltic rises close to the lake … almost tropical reeds rustle in the breeze ... leafy shrubs and trees form delightful bowers and alcoves … tender emotion in suitable company”.

Bonwick ended with a passionate plea to preserve something of the volcano: "Let the few who value sentiment in the colony [who] sympathize with nature, who love an undisturbed communion with the grand and sublime, join one and all in securing for themselves and posterity the authorized declaration that Tower Hill shall be an everlasting reserve."

Bonwick’s words went unheeded for nearly 10 years. Over the decades of European settlement, the site was rapidly degraded and much of the natural vegetation was cleared for grazing, growing crops, quarrying and logging.

In 1866, some areas of Tower Hill were reserved as public land and the government appointed the Tower Hill Acclimatisation Society to manage the reserve. In order to raise funds for fencing and rangers, the self-supporting Society permitted more timber felling, grazing and clearing, and let people live on parts of the reserve, further contributing to the degradation of the vegetation. In pursuit of their ideals, they also planted exotic trees and introduced rabbits, goats and other animals. By the time the National Parks Act was enacted in 1956, Tower Hill was omitted because it had virtually been stripped bare and the only wildlife to be found were waterfowl that came to the crater lakes.

In 1961, it became a State Game Reserve and under the then Fisheries and Game Department, a major revegetation program began. Little was known about the original vegetation until a dusty painting named "Outlook" by Viennese artist cum botanist Eugene Von Guerard resurfaced. Von Guerard was commissioned in 1855 by James Dawson, owner of "Kangatong", a pastoral property near Mount Eccles to the west, to show the vegetation as the Aborigines knew it and just before the Europeans were to ruin it. On a visit to Tower Hill in 1891, Dawson was appalled at the condition of the place and was glad he had the foresight to commission the painting: “....fortunately for future generations, I commissioned a celebrated artist to paint the scene in oil on a large scale, and he carried out my wishes faithfully and beautifully. On visiting the scene later, I was amazed and disgusted to find everything altered, the fine trees on the cones, and in the craters of the island all gone excepting half a dozen or so.

Painted from Von Guerard Lookout (refer to Google Map below) which I did not visit

Dawson’s initiative in having the relatively undisturbed scene captured on canvas, however, proved to be more valuable than he could have dreamed. In 1966, Mrs E. Thornton, the grand-daughter of James Dawson, presented the painting to the Victorian Fisheries and Wildlife Division. The painting shows grass and ferns on the island, teatrees, wattles, sheoaks, banksias and eucalypts on the cones with reeds and tussocks in the marshes. It is so detailed that botanists were able to identify some individual plant species. With the invaluable assistance of many volunteer groups, more than 300,000 native trees have been planted in the last 40 years. As these plants became established, introduced plants and weeds were removed. More recently, pollen analysis at Tower Hill has helped identify other plants growing prior to European settlement.

Native wildlife that have been successfully reintroduced include koalas, emus, grey kangaroos, wombats, sugar gliders, magpie geese, echidnas, brushtails and ringtail possums. The aim of the restoration program today is to reintroduce indigenous understorey plants, including ferns and grasses. You can read more about the future directions of Tower Hill here.

Koala 01Koala 01

Tower Hill is divided into 3 principal areas: Main Island, Fairy Island and Hat Island. There are several self-guided walks, each with a different theme.
  • Wagon Bay Loop (30 mins, easy)
  • Lava Tongue Boardwalk (wetlands - 30 mins, easy)
  • Peak Climb (orientation and geology - 30 mins, steep)
  • Hat Island Habitat Track (revegetation - 45 mins, easy)
  • Whurrong Walk (Aboriginal foods - 1 hour, easy)
  • Journey to the Last Volcano (geology - 1 hour, moderate).

All walks start from the picnic area, except for the Whurrong walk, which begins near the bird hide. Additional tracks can be used to link several of the above walks. Click here to download the map. I have created a Google Map of Tower Hill.

View Tower Hill, Victoria in a larger map

As my wife was tired, she refused to do any walking. The kids had dozed off during the journey and while they were sleeping in the car, I made the half-hour Wagon Bay Loop, where I took the video of the roaming emus in their natural habitat as well as the Lava Tongue Boardwalk, shown in the photo below. When I returned, the kids had just woken and it was the right time to have lunch in the nice picnic ground, in the company of emus and koalas.

Besides picnic tables, there are also free barbecues and toilets. The Worn Gundidj Visitor Centre on Main Island has displays on the geology, flora, fauna and human history of Tower Hill as well as an account of the revegetation story, linking it to a magnificent colour reproduction of Eugene von Guérard’s invaluable painting. It is open on weekdays between 9am and 5pm and 10am–4pm during weekends and public holidays.

The building, made of local material in the shape of a volcanic cone, is designed by Melbourne architect Robin Boyd who played a major role in the development of architecture in Victoria from the 1940s to 1970s. It was completed around 1970.

Nestled on the northern slopes of Tower Hill is Koroit, a small town rich with Irish heritage. The discovery of gold in Tower Hill Lake, the resulting demand for agricultural produce and the devastating potato famine of the 1840s encouraged many Irish families to settle in the area. Koroit now boasts Australia's largest concentration of people of Irish descent and proudly celebrates its heritage with an annual Irish Festival on the weekend before the first Thursday in May. To know more about its attractions, click a, b.

I did not visit Koroit and my tour of Tower Hill is very brief so I will return in the future if I could. I hope that Tower Hill will regain its national park status one day.

Ref: 1, 2, 3, 4

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yambuk and Codrington

Yambuk is a small town 18 km west of Port Fairy and 296 km west of Melbourne, where the Princes Highway crosses the Shaw River. At the 2006 census, the town and surrounding area had a population of 540.

"Yambuk" has been variously interpreted as referring to the red kangaroo, full moon, eel lake, big water and so on. Whatever the meaning, there is no doubt that Yambuk was originally the home of aboriginal people who enjoyed the abundant food in the area. The limestone cliffs to the east of the town have yielded numerous middens which indicate that aboriginal settlement in the area dates back at least 2300 years.

European pioneers began settling in Yambuk in the 1840s. Amongst them was Annie Baxter Dawbin who described in journals her fascinating life in Yambuk as a pioneering woman. The site of her homestead, the Yambuk Station, is now occupied by the Shaw River Buffalo Cheese Factory which makes unique cheeses and yoghurts from the milk of Australia’s only milking water-buffalo herd.

Yambuk Inn

Known formerly as the Commercial Hotel, this is the town's most historic building and was once an important stopping place on the road between Port Fairy and Portland. Originally constructed from timber in 1856, it was replaced with bluestone in 1870-71.

Yambuk Inn

The present building was designed by pioneer architect Captain John Mason and features walls of squared basalt with a dormered attic. The steeply-pitched iron roof is regarded as evocative of early building traditions in NSW and Tasmania. The bullnose verandah was added in the early 20th century.

Yambuk Lake

The lake is accessed via Yambuk Lake Road, which ends in a carpark (GPS coordinates S38.34068 E142.05258). We happened to witness sheep being herded back to their enclosure from their pastures along this road.

Yambuk Lake is actually an estuarine lagoon which receives freshwater inflows from the Shaw and Eumeralla Rivers as well as tidal seawater from Bass Strait when opened. When the estuary's mouth is closed by a build-up of silt, the lake is flooded by freshwater until the entrance is opened mechanically.

This area is part of the Yambuk Important Bird Area (IBA), a 10 km2 tract of coastal land fronting Bass Strait which encompasses the lower reaches of the Eumeralla River and Yambuk Lake. Together with the adjacent Yambuk Nature Conservation Reserve and Deen Maar Indigenous Protected Area, the IBA is home to a wintering population of critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrots. It also supports a breeding population of Hooded Plovers and has regular records of Australasian Bitterns. The Eumeralla River is the main stronghold of the rare fish Dwarf Galaxias pusilla.

The coast is dominated by dune shrubland, featuring Coast Wattle and Coastal Beard-Heath with scattered emergent trees. Behind the dune scrub, the margins of the lake support saltmarsh, reed beds and other forms of wetland vegetation, with patches of closed swamp scrub and low open eucalypt woodland on the northern inland side. Several species of rare plants, including Coast Ballart, can be found on the river and lake edges.

Yambuk Lake and the adjoining wetlands are used for fishing, duck-hunting, boating, walking and bird watching, with over 100 species being sighted. There is a boat ramp, a small adjoining fishing wharf and a playground by the lake. The lake is not suitable for waterskiing and swimming. Before reaching the carpark, you will pass by the Yambuk Lake Caravan Park which has 40 powered sites, 2 barbecues and a basic amenities block.

Yambuk Beach is unpatrolled and have dangerous waters so while careful wading is fine, one should not venture too far out to sea. You can see Lady Julia Percy Island in the above video - this appears as an elevated line above the sea horizon. Read more on this island from this post.

Yambuk Slide

This is an iconic giant slide in the sand dunes on the eastern side of the lake opposite the boat ramp.  It appears from this video on the history of the slide that the original slide was built in 1982, with the aim of safeguarding the hill from erosion and with the parts being transported from Melbourne. The original slide was higher, steeper and slid faster.

Eumeralla Garden and Rugosa Studio

Situated on 5 acres, this garden features features groves of lilacs, elms and birches with perennial borders planted with irises, lilliums and bulbs. It also has plantings of rugosa and other old-fashioned roses. There is a viewing platform over a blue, white and gold garden, a children’s garden and kitchen garden. Rugosa Studio lies amongst this beautiful setting and is the studio for internationally renowned artist Brian Dunlop.

Located in Fingerboard Rd, it is open at weekends and on public holidays from 10am to 5pm or by appointment. Entry costs $3 per person.


This town, located 10 km west of Yambuk, is the only Australian township that is named after a bushranger. In 1850, Codrington Revingstone held up the Portland to Port Fairy mail coach three times and the area became known as "Codrington's Forest". In the 1870s, a township was surveyed on the projected road to Portland close to the coast and named, unwittingly, as Codrington. A road was later built inland and the proposed coastal township is never established.

Codrington Wind Farm 01
Bird statue guarding the entrance to Codrington Wind Farm

There are a few places of interest in Codrington:
  • Wormwood Garden and Nursery (4887 Princes Highway) is open Wed to Sun and most public holidays, 9am-5pm. It has several display gardens, a lavender walk, a keyhole garden and "the nook by the brook", all set around an Edwardian home (c.1900). 
  • Codrington Nursery is open Wed to Sun, 10am-5pm and specialises in native trees, shrubs and ground covers with an emphasis on coastal plants and indigenous species.
  • Codrington Wind Farm has been running popular mini-bus tours (generally Thur-Sun, 10am-4pm) since it opened in 2001. Besides informative commentary on the wind farm's development and operation, visitors are treated to magnificent views and close encounters with wandering sheep and cattle. A kiosk in the car park provides information and sells windsocks, souvenirs, excellent coffee and snacks. For those not wanting a tour, information boards and a viewing platform are available.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Crags

The Crags, located 12 km west of Port Fairy, features one of the most rugged, wild and scenic sections of the Victorian coast. From Port Fairy, drive west on Princes Highway and turn left into Crags Rd, which ends in a carpark (S38.37122 E142.11115), from which you walk about 2 minutes to the viewing platform.

An appreciation of why this area is named The Shipwreck Coast can be seen from the menacing rock formations jutting from the seabed as well as from the ferocious waves pounding the coast as seen in the following video.

120,000 year ago, the land here was underwater. As the ocean retreated, sand dunes formed. The sand gradually compacted and cemented to form a kind of limestone known as calcarenite which you see today in these cliffs and rock platforms.

Lady Julia Percy Island, 6 km offshore, is seen as an elevated line above the sea horizon in the photo below. Formed by an undersea volcanic eruption 8 million years ago, it rose to the surface 6.2 million years ago and was connected to the mainland via a land bridge. It was only until 10,000 years ago that it became an island when the land bridge became submerged due to rising sea levels. The island was once twice as large as it is now, having been continually eroded by the sea. Its flat top has been created by horizontal lava flows and weathering. This is why it appears as a straight line from The Crags.

View of Lady Julia Percy Island from The Crags

Lady Julia Percy Island is home to the world's largest colony of Australian fur seals (estimated 27,000) as well as breeding colonies of little penguins (2000 pairs), short-tailed shearwaters (15,000 pairs). fairy prions (1000 pairs) and common diving petrels (1000 pairs). It is also occasionally visited by Australian sea lions and southern elephant seals. Many of the bird species can be viewed from The Crags as they move across the ocean in search of feeding grounds. The island's aboriginal name is Deen Maar meaning "this man here", which refers to Bunjil the Creator.

The area around The Crags is an important archaeological site with indigenous cultural sites listed on the National Estate. It is part of the traditional homelands of the indigenous Peek Whurrung speakers of the Dhauwurdwurung (Gunditjmara) Nation and has spiritual connections with Deen Maar Island, visited by the aboriginal people for ceremonial purposes and from which Bunjil left the world. Over many thousands of years, the coastal reserve was used as a place of gathering, ceremony and feasting for indigenous people. There were originally 6 aboriginal midden sites but these have been reduced to 4 due to trampling.

When we were walking back to the carpark, someone pointed to us a platypus hiding behind the bush. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photo of the animal as it was very well concealed.

Quaint Fishing Village of Port Fairy

Port Fairy is a coastal town on the Moyne River in southwestern Victoria, 290 km west of Melbourne (4 hours drive) and 28 km west of Warrnambool. It is where Dr. Denis Napthine, the 47th Premier of Victoria, lives.

The Knarn Kolak aboriginal people have long inhabited the area. Port Fairy was named in about 1827 when Captain Wishart sheltered from a storm at the mouth of the River Moyne in his cutter Fairy. In the early 19th century, whalers and seal hunters used the coast in this region. John Griffiths established a whaling station on Griffiths Island in 1835 and the first store opened in 1839.

In 1843, a Sydney solicitor James Atkinson purchased 2023 hectares of land in the town, built a harbour on the Moyne River, renamed the town "Belfast" after his hometown in Northern Ireland and encouraged Irish immigrants to settle. Agriculture developed in the region and Belfast became an important transport hub. In the mid-to-late 19th century, Belfast was one of Australia's largest ports, catering to the whaling industry. In 1887, the State Parliament passed an act to revert the town to its original name Port Fairy. A railway was extended to Port Fairy in 1890 but closed in 1977. It has been converted into the Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail.

At the 2006 census, Port Fairy had a population of 2,599. Its main industries are tourism and fishing, and it is the home port for one of Victoria's largest fishing fleets.

Attractions of Port Fairy

View Port Fairy, Victoria in a larger map

Moyne River and Fishermans Wharf

The main focal point of Port Fairy is the Moyne River. The Fishermans Wharf area along the river is lined with boats and fishing craft.

Fisherman's Wharf 21

There are good views of river activity from the footbridge over the Moyne or from the fortifications at Battery Hill.

Fisherman's Wharf 33

The walk along Fishermans Wharf is delightful and can take you up into the town (if you head north) or towards Griffiths Island if you head south. The wharf is used by both amateur anglers and commercial fishermen who bring their catch in from the Southern Ocean.

Cruises around Port Fairy Bay and to Lady Julia Percy Island also operate from the wharf.

Fisherman's Wharf 02

There is a big carpark off Gipps St at King George Square (GPS coordinates S38.388142, E142.240966). Alternatively, you can park your car at the south end of the wharf near the playground and the causeway to Griffiths Island. It takes about 10 minutes to walk the entire length of the wharf.

Notorious at Martin's Point

The Notorious is a full-size replica 15th century caravel built by a sailor and cabinet maker, Graeme Wylie, in Bushfield near Warrnambool. Made entirely from reclaimed timber (mostly Monterey Cypress), the ship is 21 m long, 6 m wide, 17 m high, 55 tonnes in weight and covered in 600 litres of tar. Inspired by the southwest's legendary Mahogany Ship, Graeme took 10 years to research, design and construct the ship, relying on period drawings of caravelles and advice from historians.

Martins Point's Notorious 01

According to this legend, two sealers were walking on a beach westwards to Belfast (Port Fairy) in 1836, after capsizing of their boat and drowning of their companion near the Hopkins River mouth. They came across a wreck in the sand dunes - a very ancient ship of unusual appearance and having very hard dark timber like mahogany. Seen by many locals over the next 3 decades, it was last sighted in 1880 after which she was concealed by drifting sands.

The ship was speculated to be of various origins - Spanish, French, Chinese and Portuguese. Later work by renowned historian, Sir Kenneth McIntyre, uncovered evidence that this Mahogany Ship may be one of 3 caravels that was sent on a secret Portuguese expedition from the Spice Islands in 1522, under Cristóvão de Mendonça, to look for Jave la Grande. This is a large landmass between Indonesia and Antarctica indicated on a series of 16th century French world maps, the Dieppe maps.  The location of the Mahogany Ship remains a mystery despite a $250,000 State Government reward offered in the early 1990s and many searches by scientific and interested parties.

Griffiths Island

Griffiths Island is a small island at the mouth of the Moyne River and is linked to the mainland via a pedestrian causeway (right side of photo below). A walking track, including some beach-walking, circumnavigates the island.

The causeway forks into 2 circular branches (left and right) which join the island, enclosing a lagoon and a beach (top left quadrant of photo below).

Griffiths Island A

The water in the lagoon is sparkling clear and its motley of colours (darker areas interspersed by lighter areas) may be due to the presence of corals.

As shown in the following video, the lagoon seems to brimming with life with its gently rippling, scintillating water.

Rock formations and coastal vegetation integrate seamlessly with the surrounding lagoon, making a picture-perfect photo.

The island was originally known as 'mallone' or 'mallin' in the local aboriginal language. It was named after John Griffiths, who established Port Fairy's whaling industry on the island in 1835. Sealers were also established on the island at about the same time but overhunting soon eradicated the local seal population. Whaling too ceased in 1843. In about 1850, a mission to the island aborigines was established, which only lasted for 3 years.

Griffiths Island Lighthouse 01

On the eastern end of the island, 400 metres from the causeway, is the 11-metre high Griffiths Island Lighthouse, built in 1859 from bluestone by John Griffiths, employing Scottish stonemasons. It was originally built at the tip of Rabbit Island which has since merged with Griffiths Island through landfill and the construction of a breakwater. The lighthouse was automated around 1956 using a solar-powered light with a wind-assisted generator and is still sending out light to sea today.

Rocky shore at the Lighthouse

Following automation, two bluestone cottages built for the lighthouse keepers were demolished. In 2000, volunteers helped to restore the site by revealing the foundations of the cottages, which had been overgrown. The gardens established by the lighthouse keepers still live on with many hardy plants flowering in the appropriate season.

Along the way to the lighthouse, panelling details the island's indigenous and whaling heritage. You will  pass grazing swamp wallabies and underground burrows of shearwaters.

Wallaby carrying a baby in its pouch

Much of the land area of Griffiths Island is covered by the underground burrows of an estimated seasonal breeding population of 30,000 Short-tailed Shearwaters or Australian Muttonbirds. These birds arrive here late September from the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. At dusk, they return in swarms to their nests to incubate their eggs and subsequently feed their chicks, after a day hunting at sea. The young birds leave in early May to the northern hemisphere, after the adults have departed. A viewing platform has been built for visitors to enjoy the spectacle. I did not manage to see or spot the shearwaters but did see many butterflies at this viewing platform.

Battery Hill and Fort

The site of the Port Fairy Battery has been used for defence purposes since 1867 when a 32 pdr smooth-bore muzzle-loaded artillery piece was installed. Another was installed in 1872. One was sold to the Borough Council and moved to the Botanic Gardens for use as a monument around 1887. In 1874, further defences were added including a redoubt. The site now contains 6 guns, comprising two 80 pdr rifled muzzle-loading guns mounted on iron carriages and slides, and two 32 pdr and two 68 pdr smooth bore guns mounted on wooden carriages.

Battery Hill Reserve 01


Port Fairy has 3 main beach areas. East Beach is a patrolled surf beach facing Port Fairy Bay and can be accessed via Beach St.

Along Ocean Drive and facing the Southern Ocean is South Beach and Peas Soup, a lagoon popular with families. Secluded beaches can be found on Griffiths Island.

Historic and Art Walks

Much of Port Fairy's appeal lies in its well-preserved 19th-century buildings, of which 50 are protected under the National Trust of Australia. Many of the oldest buildings are located around King George's Square and include the Merrijig Inn (1844), the Customs House (1860) and the Moyne Steam Flour Mill (1860). The 1859 Courthouse at 30 Gipps Street, hosts the History Museum with displays dedicated to the settlement's development and shipwreck history.

The town has 2 historic walks, an art walk and a maritime and shipwreck trail, with maps available from the Information Centre on 4 Bank Street. Port Fairy has emerged as an artists' colony over the past 20 years.

The Art Walk takes in 11 galleries and studios, which include:
  • Whalebone Gallery (39A Bank Street, open 10-5 most days, Sun 10-4) - a co-operative showcasing the work of 7 local artists. It features metal and ceramic sculptures, blown glass, silver jewellery and some intriguing pieces incorporating stained glass, fabrics and layered collage by artist Jill Edwards.
  • Wishart Gallery (19 Sackville St) - a large contemporary art gallery exhibiting works by local and leading Australian artists.
  • Glass blowing at Eclectic Designs Studio (62 Regent Street, open 1-5pm daily except Wed).
  • Little Doll House Museum (34 James Street, Thurs-Mon 10.30am-4pm) 
  • Preston Studio/Gallery (41 Regent Street, open 7 days), displaying the works of realist painter Wilma Preston.
Further details: 1, 2

  • Port Fairy Folk Festival - this most famous annual event is held during the Labour Day long weekend in March each year since 1977.  
  • Moyneyana Festival - the other major town celebration is held over summer from Christmas eve to 26th January.
  • Port Fairy Spring Music Festival - held over a weekend every October since 1990.
  • Port Fairy Show - held on the Port Fairy Showgrounds on the 1st Saturday of November each year, since 1854.
  • Tarerer Festival - held at Killarney, just east of Port Fairy, this event celebrates Koori culture with music, song, dance, visual arts and displays.


Port Fairy hold both regular markets and markets to coincide with its many annual festivals. The Farmers Market is held monthly on the 3rd Saturday. The Craft Markets are held on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month as well as on the 1st Saturday from June to September to coincide with the Winter Weekends. The markets are always held on the Village Green, at the corner of Bank and Sackville Streets, except for the New Years Day and January markets which are held at King George Square down at the wharf.

Other Attractions
  • Whale viewing, particularly of the huge Southern Right Whales, in winter between June and October.
  • Boat tours from the Wharf to around Lady Julia Percy Island, 22 km southwest of Port Fairy.  It is Australia’s only off-shore volcano formed 7 million years ago by violent underwater eruptions that finally separate Australia from Antarctica. It is one of 4 Australian fur seal breeding colonies in Victoria and possibly the largest colony in Australia.
  • The Botanic Gardens first established in 1858 and the expansive Southcombe Park which fronts a significant area of the town's southern coastline.
  • Kite flying - the Kite House at 27 Cox Street offers free kites during school holidays. It also rents bikes ($22 for 24 hours). 
  • The iconic avenues of Norfolk Island Pine Trees that line the streets of Port Fairy have been protected in the Victorian Heritage Register. The 269 trees, which were planted in the nature strips of the roads bounded by Gipps Street to Victoria Street, Campbell Street, Albert Street and Regent Street define the original 1843 town plan of Belfast, now known as Port Fairy.

Gipps Street 01
Norfolk Island Pines along Gipps Street

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Note: I have not included in this post the spectacular Cape Bridgewater and Cape Nelson, which are considered attractions of Portland because they deserve separate coverage.

Portland is located on Portland Bay 360 km west of Melbourne and 75 km east of the South Australian border. It is proclaimed a city on 28 Oct 1985 in the presence of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. It has a current population of around 12,000.

As the only deep-sea port between Adelaide and Port Phillip, it is a major exporting centre for southwestern Victoria and southeastern South Australia, principally exporting wool, grains and secondary products made in Portland itself. Other contributions to the local economy are made by the Alcoa aluminium smelter (Australia's third largest and employing 700 people), the fertiliser industry, woolstores, tourism, wind energy production and the fishing industry (focusing particularly on crayfish, lobsters, shark, abalone and deep-sea trawling).

Portland was once occupied by the Kerrup-Tjmara people who called the area "Pulumbete" meaning "Little Lake" which refers to the current Fawthrop Lagoon. It was settled by Edward Henty in November 1834 before Batman settled in Melbourne, making it the oldest European settlement in Victoria.

Map showing the various attractions of Portland

View Portland & Cape Nelson, Victoria in a larger map

Portland Maritime Discovery and Visitors' Centre

Located on the foreshore of Portland, adjacent to Lee Breakwater Rd (GPS S38.34596, E141.60739) and open daily 9 am to 5 pm, this functions as the local information centre and also has displays on local maritime and settlement history, whaling, shipwrecks, marine life and exploration, etc. There is an admission fee to enter the Maritime Discovery Centre which is located beyond the information section.

Portland Maritime Discovery Centre 02
Portland's Sperm Whale Skeleton

World War II Lookout Tower Museum

This 25-metre tower in Wade St, Anderson Point (GPS S38.333683, E141.607946) was built in 1931 to store drinking water pumped from underground. It faced closure and demolition as its function was taken over by a water supply system developed in the 1970-80s at Bald Hill.

WWII Memorial Lookout Tower 01WWII Memorial Lookout Tower 04

In 1994, it was converted into a lookout and memorial museum with displays relating to Portland's involvement in World War II.

WWII Memorial Lookout Tower E

An internal spiral staircase leads to several landings, each with exhibits and to the top lookout which offers 36-degree panoramic views of Portland and surrounding areas. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Portland Harbour and Foreshore 

These feature a playground area, a pier and a marina (carpark GPS S38.348426, E141.6075620). Pedal steamers operate on weekends and in the summer school holidays at Henty Beach.

Portland Marina A

You can drive your car on the Lee Breakwater, which forms the northern boundary of the harbour and runs in an east-west direction. It is 1.179 km long and its extremity is in 12.2 metres deep of water.

Lee Breakwater A

From Lee Breakwater, there are excellent views of the expansive white sands of Nuns Beach which lies north of the breakwater.

Nuns Beach from S.L. Patterson Berth A1Li

Whalers Bluff Lighthouse

This lighthouse at the end of Lighthouse St on Whalers Bluff, also known as Whalers Point, stands about 1.5 km north of Portland's city centre and overlooks Portland’s harbour. It is operated by the Victorian Channels Authority, part of the Port of Melbourne Corporation.

Whaler's Bluff Lighthouse 01

The lighthouse was originally built at Battery Point in Portland in 1859 and was known as the Portland Bay Light. In 1889 it was relocated, stone by stone, to Whalers Bluff in order to make room for gun emplacements at Battery Point. Another reason given for the relocation was that it was less vulnerable to attack on Whalers Bluff.

Portland Botanic Gardens

This is located at the eastern end of Glenelg St (GPS S38.35254, E141.605754). Along with Geelong Botanic Gardens, these are the second oldest in Victoria. With the help of Ferdinand von Mueller, the then curator of Melbourne Botanic Gardens, work on the gardens began in 1857. The land was prepared by 80 Chinese prisoners from Portland Gaol.

Portland Botanic Garden 02

Near the front gate is a 2-storey bluestone cottage, home of the gardens' curator. It features a bedroom, nursery, kitchen, parlour and annex, furnished as a late nineteenth century workman's cottage.

Portland Botanic Garden 06

The front part of the gardens includes somewhat unusually a croquet lawn, which is well used by a very active croquet club. The back half originally included a creek and some islands but the islands were removed and the creek became a canal with downsizing of the gardens. It is now home to an impressive array of native plants.

Portland Cable Trams

Established as a tourist venture in June 1996 and run by volunteers, the Portland Cable Trams link Portland's major attractions, including the Botanic Gardens, Maritime Discovery Centre, Powerhouse Car Museum, WWII Memorial Tower and Cable Tram Museum. The tram track is one of the most scenic in Australia. It runs along Henty Beach, providing a closeup view of a working deepwater harbour before climbing up the cliff top affording panoramic views of the harbour and Portland Bay. It then passes alongside the historically significant "ploughed field" on the way to the WWII Memorial Lookout Tower. The return trip takes about 1 hour.

WWII Memorial Lookout Tower with Cable Tram  01

The trams used are refurbished saloon cars and an exact replica of a grip car. While original cable trams are propelled by gripping underground cables, Portland's trams are driven by a concealed diesel engine. The tram depot is located at Henty Park and houses a vintage ticket office, gift shop, maintenance workshop, museum and theatrette which features films of 1888-1940 Melbourne cable trams.

Portland Cable Tram Museum 1

The tram runs daily, 10am-4pm in summer and 10am-3pm in winter. Tickets can be used to travel all day and visitors can get on and off as they please at any of the 5 stops along the way.

Powerhouse Motor & Car Museum

This museum is located at the corner of Glenelg St and Percy St adjacent Fawthrop Lagoon. It features more than 30 vehicles and 600 items, including veteran, vintage classic cars and motorcycles, a Penny Farthing bicycle, a 1920s Cable Tram and Grip car, stationary engines, antique signs, petrol pumps, tools, model cars, tractors, garage equipment and other memorabilia. There are also interactive displays for the children including a moving steam engine, two-sectioned, push button operated motors, an early model Holden 6 cylinder grey motor and a Mazda rotary motor.

Fawthrop Lagoon

Originally known as the "Pulumbete" or "Little Lake" to the aboriginal Kerrup-Tjmara people, this lagoon was named after Portland's first harbour master. It was the estuarine lagoon of Wattle Hill Creek and had been extensively modified as a storm water retardation basin. It is now a wetland, home to about 150 species of birds throughout the year, including black swans, pelicans, red-tailed black cockatoos and royal spoonbills.

The 5 km of path around Fawthrop Lagoon (map) is fully paved and suitable for walking, running, wheelchairs, prams and bicycles. There is a bird hide on the western section of the lagoon, free undercover barbeques and exercise equipment behind the soccer field. The lagoon is accessible from the canal bridge and Glenelg St. Parking is available on Glenelg Street 100m past the Powerhouse Museum, on Hood Street behind the soccer field, on View Street and at Henty Park.

Burswood Homestead & Gardens

At the southern end of Bentinck St is a bridge which spans the canal that links the ocean to Fawthrop Lagoon. On the far side of the bridge, to the immediate left, is Burswood, a fine single-storey bluestone Regency-style mansion built in the early to mid 1850s for pioneer settler Edward Henty. His third home, it is said to be a copy of a Henty family home in Sussex. He brought the framework, 18 000 hardwood shingles and 2500 bricks from Tasmania. It is now a bed-and-breakfast.

Portland Battery

Batteries were constructed in the 1870s in Portland (built in 1889), Port Fairy and Warrnambool to defend Victoria against a feared Russian invasion. Portland Battery is located at Battery Point, Victoria Parade. The site was gazetted for defence purposes in the 1840s. The Portland Lighthouse was built on the site in 1859, which was then relocated to Whalers Point to make way for the Battery. The Battery comprised a magazine, an upper chamber, a parapet wall and 3 gun emplacements. During WWII, the Battery was used by Volunteer Air Observer Corps for aircraft movement observations.

Portland Battery 01

In 1984, the Battery underwent a major restoration and now comprises a 80 pounder rifled muzzle-loading gun original to the Battery and 32 and 68 pounder smooth bore guns on wooden carriages (not original to the Battery). There is also a 68 pounder smooth bore cannon located outside Glenelg Shire Council Offices in Cliff Street, Portland. Due to the rarity and intactness of the cannons in Portland, two are identified as being of high significance at an international level and two as being of exceptional international significance.

Point Danger at Cape Sir William Grant

Follow the Madeira Packet Rd south out of town, along the coastline and past the golf course. It leads by Blacknose Point and Crumpets (both noted surfing areas). Before you get to the aluminium smelter, take the signposted left which leads to Point Danger. Point Danger is located 6 km south of Portland's city centre in Cape Sir William Grant, the smallest of the 3 capes, the other two being Cape Nelson and Cape Bridgewater.

A viewing area overlooks the offshore Lawrence Rocks (2 km south of Point Danger) which nests the largest Australasian gannet colony (more than 6000 pairs) in the Southern Hemisphere. The gannets arrived in the spring of 1995 and fly between Point Danger and Lawrence Rocks.

Smelter Nature Walk

If you ignore this turnoff and continue along the main road, it leads past the smelter to a dead end which is the start of the Smelter Nature Walk, a 2.2-km paved track that passes through coastal cliff-top scenery. It is wheelchair friendly and a motorised wheelchair is available. The walk provides nice views of Portland Bay and passes historic sites such as a sealing station and bay used for quarantine purposes in the 1800s.

Portland Bay Festival and Events

In November during the weekend preceding the Melbourne Cup, the city comes alive with the Portland Bay Festival featuring:
  • Break Fest - a youth rock concert
  • A major Rotary Art Show in the Civic Hall 
  • The celebrated Three Bays Marathon, Relay & Walk

Annual events include:
  • Foreshore Carnival in January
  • Fishing Competition in February
  • Dahlia Festival in March
  • Jazz Festival and Pioneer Week in November 
  • Surfboat Marathon in December