|The beach at
Portarlington (including Indented Head)
Seaside holiday resort in Port Phillip Bay
Portarlington is a quiet residential town of
2407 people which, in summer, is flooded with
families who take advantage of the largest
camping area on the Bellarine Peninsula, turning
it into a popular if low-key resort town. It is
located on a hillside overlooking Port Phillip
Bay 104 km south of Melbourne and 31 km east of
Geelong at the tip of the Peninsula which
extends out into Port Phillip Bay.
The area was originally inhabited by the
Wathawurung Aborigines. European visitation of
the bay dates back to 1802 when Lieutenant
Murray spent over three weeks exploring its
features. He was soon followed by Matthew
Flinders who mistook Port Phillip Bay for
Western Port. Flinders made camp at Indented
Head, 6 km south-east of Portarlington, and
named it after the cleft which the coastline
observes at this point.
Two French ships were also exploring the
southern waters at this time and, largely to
forestall French claims to any part of the
continent, the first European settlement on Port
Phillip Bay was established by the British in
1803 (see entry on Sorrento). A convict escapee
from this settlement, named William Buckley,
made his way to the Bellarine Peninsula and was
adopted by the local Aborigines who thought him
a reincarnation of a dead leader. He lived with
them for over 30 years, most of it presumably
spent on the Bellarine Peninsula. In 1835
Buckley allegedly overheard the Aborigines
plotting to attack a party of whites at Indented
Head and he gave himself up to the party of John
Wedge (for more information on Buckley see entry
on Point Lonsdale).
John Wedge entered Port Phillip Bay shortly
after John Batman who is known as the founder of
Melbourne. A stone cairn on a small reserve at
Indented Head marks the spot where Batman landed
in May 1835, before proceeding to the head of
the bay where his party encountered the future
site of Melbourne, en route to the You Yangs.
Batman's sister-in-law became the first white
woman to land at Port Phillip when she came
ashore on the future townsite of Indented Head.
An area known as White Woman's Rock is named in
honour of this event.
Portarlington was surveyed c.1850 and named
Drayton but was renamed in 1851 in honour of
Lord Arlington (another claim is that it was
named after an Irish village, owing to the
predominance of Irish settlers in the area).
The construction of an enormous flour mill in
1857 reflects the reputation the Peninsula
acquired in the 1850s and 1860s as the 'granary
of the colony'. It provided a considerable
stimulus to the development of the area and a
jetty was built to facilitate the shipment of
the mill's produce in 1859. It was extended then
replaced in 1871 as Portarlington began to
benefit from the steamer traffic in the bay.
Fishing also became important to
Portarlington and a number of fishing vessels
can still be seen about the pier today.
Later in the 19th century paddlesteamers
began bringing Melburnian holiday-makers who
enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, fishing, water
sports and safe bathing. Built in 1886, the
Grand Hotel in Newcombe St is a reminder of the
Portarlington has a large flora, fauna and
recreation reserve which accommodates camping
and caravans. Attractions include a sailing
club, an 18-hole golf course, excellent fishing
opportunities, boat ramps, a safe swimming beach
and a bicycle track that leads around the
foreshore to Indented Head, as does the roadway
known as The Esplanade.
The area around Portarlington produces
vegetables, poultry and dairy products. The
Portarlington Markets are held at the primary
school in Newcombe St on the first Sunday of the
month from September to April. Craft markets are
held at Parks Hall in Newcombe St on the last
Sunday of the month. An Easter Art Show is held
Things to see:
The four-storey steam-powered Portarlington Mill
is located near the beach in Turner Crescent
(off Sproat Street). It was built by T.H.
Widdicombe of locally-quarried sandstone in 1857
on what is thought to be a former corroboree
site. A small jetty was built on the nearby
beach and boats carried the flour and bran to
larger vessels in deeper waters.
The closure of the mill in 1874 reflected the
establishment of wheat-growing in western
Victoria. Widdicombe converted it into a
brickworks which supplied bricks to Melbourne,
Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. Widdicombe
bricks and tiles were used in the construction
of the Anglican churches at Portarlington and
Now fully restored it contains Aboriginal
artefacts and displays relating to the history
of the mill and the area. It is open Sundays
from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. from September to
May and, in Januarys it is also open Wednesdays
and Saturdays from 2.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel:
(03) 5259 3688.
Historic Home and Tourist Information
Two doors down from the mill is the
single-storey historic home of Mr Widdicombe
which was built of Geelong bricks on a bluestone
foundation in 1850. It is housed with antiques
and memorabilia collected by subsequent owners
and is open daily from 10.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
and it doubles as a local information entre.
Tourist information is also available from
the Geelong Otway Tourist Information Centre in
Geelong (tel: 03 5222 2900, or free-call 1800
620 888), from the Queenscliff Information
Centre (tel: 03 5258 4843) and from A Maze 'n'
Things, tel: (03) 5250 2669.
Lavender Cottage Gallery
The Lavender Cottage Gallery is located at 26
Fenwick St. It has paintings, lavender products,
pottery, cottage crafts and lace and is open
from 10.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. from Wednesday to
Sunday and every day in school holidays and
public holidays. Morning and afternoon teas and
light lunches are available, tel: (03) 5259
2983. The Gallery is closed throughout August.
Indented Head is a tranquil settlement of 453
people located 6 km south-east of Portarlington,
on the eastern edge of the Peninsula and the
western shore of Port Phillip Bay. The beach
offers safe swimming and the foreshore area is
very pleasant. There is a bicycle track, a
camping area, toilets, a boat ramp and a caravan
park. These waters are noted for their fishing.
There is a stone cairn in Batman Park
(opposite The Esplanade) which marks the spot
where John Batman stepped ashore in May 1835. It
was here that modern Melbourne has its origins.
The landing of Matthew Flinders at Indented Head
in 1802 is also commemorated. Flinders gave the
site its European name after observing the shape
of the coastline. The woodlands of the area once
supplied firewood to Melbourne.
The baysteamer, Ozone, which once carried
passengers to and fro from Melbourne to the
resorts of the Bellarine Peninsula, was sunk
offshore in 1925 to form a breakwater. The
paddlewheel can still be seen above the
|The wreck of
the Ozone at Indented Head
The Queenscliff Rd heads south out of
Portarlington (off Fisher St). About 5 km along
this road turn right into Scotchmans Rd. On the
left, at no.330, is Stoneacres Farm, a large
orchard/rose garden/nursery which is situated on
elevated ground offering fine views over the
bay. There is a rose walk, a wild garden, a
hedged terrace, a bluestone wall, a sunken
garden, a pond and a bog garden. The nursery
specialises in old-fashioned roses, perennials
and unusual shrubs, tel: (03) 5259 3109.
Scotchmans Hill Winery
A little further along Scotchmans Hill Rd, at
no.190, is Scotchmans Hill Winery which was
established in 1982. It produces pinot noir and
an award-winning chardonnay, along with small
amounts of a cabernet-merlot blend, sauvignon
blanc and riesling. The cellar door is open
daily from 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., tel: (03)