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The Whaler's Bluff lighthouse

Portland (including Narrawong)
Major port in Western Victoria
Portland is an attractive and scenic holiday centre situated on Portland Bay 361 km west of Melbourne and 75 km east, by road, of the South Australian border. As the only deep-sea port between Adelaide and Port Phillip it is a major exporting centre for the produce of south-western Victoria and south-eastern South Australia - principally wool, grains and secondary manufactures made in Portland itself. Other contributions to the local economy are made by an aluminium smelter (employing 700 people), the fertiliser industry, woolstores, and the fishing industry (focusing particularly on crayfish, lobsters, shark, abalone and deep-sea trawling).

The city has a current population of around 12 000 and is situated at an elevation of 45 metres. Portland features many historic buildings and short stretches of beach fronting safe still waters, ideal for family recreation. Portland Bay is ideal for boating, fishing and sailboarding and there are many fine surfing spots in the area. The district is also profuse with outstanding natural attractions.

The Portland district was once occupied by the Kerrup-Tjmara people who called the district 'Pulumbete' meaning 'Little Lake' (a reference to what is now called Fawthrop Lagoon). Although there were thousands of indigenous inhabitants in the 1830s the usual sorry tale surrounding white impact on Aboriginal communities meant that virtually none remained by 1885.

Matthew Flinders' reports of seals on the Furneaux Islands of Bass Strait in 1798 fostered the rapid establishment of a sealing industry along the southern coast. Although there are few records it seems likely that individuals engaged in sealing did become acquainted with, and probably even set up camp within, the large sheltered confines of Portland Bay. The only hard evidence consists of two sealers' graves (dated 1822 and 1828) on Julia Percy Island at the entrance to the bay.

At any rate it is known for certain that, in December 1800, Lieutenant James Grant passed by the bay aboard the Lady Nelson, naming it after the British home secretary, the Duke of Portland. In 1802 this section of the coastline was scrutinized more closely by French navigator Nicolas Baudin.


The cliffs at Portland

In 1828 and 1829 William Dutton visited the bay on two sealing expeditions. He built a hut in 1829 and resided there between subsequent sealing expeditions. The crucial event for the emergence of a permanent settlement at Portland Bay occurred in March 1833 when Dutton, acting for a Captain Griffiths of Launceston, established a very substantial and lucrative whaling fishery at the bay for the extraction and shipping of whale oil and whale bone (previously processed at Launceston).

This industry employed not only seasonal whalers (many from Cornwall in England) but a permanent staff of factory hands, shipwrights, sailmakers, coopers, blacksmiths, bricklayers and other artisans. Buildings were erected and Dutton grew potatoes and other vegetables. Most importantly, the fishery entailed the establishment of Portland Bay as a port.

In 1833 Edward Henty undertook an unsuccessful voyage to South Australia in search of good land for the family's rural enterprises. On the way back he stopped in at Portland Bay to pick up whale oil for the family company in Launceston. He made a favourable report of the immediate environs to his father Thomas (who had made his name as a merino sheep breeder at Sussex in England) and returned for a closer look.

After paying a visit himself Thomas Henty decided the land at Portland Bay was suitable for the establishment of a branch of the family firm.

Thus Edward arrived with stock and servants to manage this putative enterprise in November 1834. He was joined in December by his brother Frank who brought with him the first merino sheep in Victoria. They set about whaling, sealing and cropping and, in November 1835, sheared the first sheep in Victoria. They also planted Victoria's first grape vines.

The Hentys are widely regarded as the first Europeans to establish a permanent settlement in Victoria (in part as a result of their self-promotion on that subject). Consequently in November 1984 Victoria's 150th anniversary celebrations commenced at Portland. The Prince and Princess of Wales visited Portland the following year. However, there seems no doubt that permanent European settlement commenced with Dutton's large-scale fishery in March 1833 which was not, as some have assumed, a purely seasonal enterprise.

Surveyor and explorer Thomas Mitchell visited Portland Bay during his search for good pasturage south of the Murray River in August 1836. He was amazed to find the settlement in existence. Indeed when an Aboriginal guide asserted that he could see houses and a ship at anchor Mitchell was disbelieving. However, when a boot print and broken bottle were found in the sand, and cattle tracks nearby, he was convinced and so named the beach area the 'Convincing Ground', by which name it is still known today. As the explorer approached the settlement both parties initially suspected the other of being bushrangers. Mitchell noted some 200 people at Portland. At the Hentys' request he named the nearby river the Surry after the family benefactor Lord Surry.

Inspired by Mitchell's reports of good land to the north of Portland, the Henty family moved inland in 1837, marking the start of European settlement in the Western district. In this respect the Henty dynasty was important to the history of the state. The port served as the point of export for their produce.

There were at least seven whaling establishments at Portland Bay by 1838. 5000 tons of oil and five thousand hundredweight of whalebone were exported from Portland between 1833 and 1843. The enterprise peaked in 1838 when 40 boats were whaling in the bay. After 1840 the industry went into rapid decline as numbers declined. Only twelve whales were killed in the bay between 1851 and 1868. Dutton himself was involved in the last such episode. Like Edward Henty he died in 1878 and his grave is marked by a cenotaph outside the main enclosure at Narrawong Cemetery.

In 1839 police magistrate Foster Fyans (see entry on Geelong) was sent by Governor Gipps to Portland Bay as the Hentys were believed to have first-hand knowledge of an Aboriginal massacre in the area. Fyans sent no report of the massacre but wrote much to recommend Portland Bay as the site of a port and township. A survey was carried out from November 1839 and land sales proceeded in 1840, despite the objections of the Henty family. A police magistrate was also appointed at this time. A building boom ensued with six hotels and four churches appearing. The Portland Mercury (Victoria's second-oldest newspaper) and the Guardian were established in 1842. The first trading bank appeared in 1846 and the first savings bank the following year.

As the hinterland was more closely settled, pastoral and agricultural produce underscored the importance of the port. The first jetty was built in 1846. Shipping activity was further intensified by the goldrushes of the 1850s and 1860s. A National School appeared alongside earlier denominational schools in 1856 and a new pier was built in 1859. The settlement was declared a borough in 1863.

Mary MacKillop, declared a saint in 1995 for her tireless work in the fields of education, social reform and assistance to the poor and disadvantaged, arrived at Portland in 1862 to act as governess to the daughters of Mrs Duncan Cameron, a relative of the family. She became sacristan at All Saints Catholic Church. In 1863 she obtained her first formal teaching position at a local common school (now All Saints Primary School). She rented a house owned by Stephen Henty and there reunited her scattered immediate family. In 1864 she set up a seminary for 'young ladies', teaching school subjects, as well as drawing, singing and music, in addition to her work at the common school. However, her seminary struggled, she lost her position at the common school and family tensions emerged in the household. Although she left Portland in January 1866 to return to Penola, she took with her the experience she had garnered in the fields of education and administration.

By the end of the 1860s Portland had become a thriving commercial centre. A meat-preserving works opened in 1869 and, in 1873, a fish-preserving company and a wool-selling operation were established. They joined a flour mill, a brick-and-tile company and the Portland Steam Navigation Company.

The 1870s were to prove a boom period. The railway from Hamilton, which arrived in 1878, provided a further fillip to trade. However, when a system of preferential rail rates was introduced it made it just as cheap to transport produce to Melbourne as Portland and the trade quickly declined.

Work on a breakwater was abandoned in 1873 and, instead, prisoners were employed in opening up the creek to form an inland fishing basin (completed in 1891). However, siltation proved a problem and it was feared the harbour was doomed. The construction of a deep-water pier from 1898 to 1901 (extended in 1914) provided a new lease of life making Portland a centre for the export of West Victorian produce. However, trade again declined when bulk-handling facilities were established at Geelong.


Boats moored at Portland with the Grain Handling facilities in the background

Portland was declared a town in 1949. That same year a major harbour development program was organised. As a result two breakwaters now enclose 100 hectares of sheltered water. There are bulk grain facilities, shipping berths, an oil wharf, an all-purpose bulk berth and a fishing berth.

The ALCOA aluminium smelter was built, amidst controversy, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Portland won an award in 1984 for its innovative work in harnessing geothermal energy from the artesian basin and it is now a major source of energy to Portland's municipal buildings. It became a city in 1985.

Annual events include a foreshore carnival in January, a fishing competition in February, the Dahlia Festival in March, a jazz festival and Pioneer Week in November and a surfboat marathon in December.



Things to see:   [Top of page]

The Portland Maritime Discovery Centre, Tourist Information and Sundry Activities
The Portland Maritime Discovery and Visitors' Centre is located on the foreshore of Portland, adjacent Lee Breakwater Rd. It functions as the local information centre and it also has displays concerning aspects of local maritime history whaling, navigation, rescue, shipwrecks, marine life, marine exploration and the story of European immigration and settlement. It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5523 2671 or free-call (1800) 035 567. The centre also has a souvenir shop and a restaurant with fine views of the bay.


The Whaler's Bluff lighthouse

You can make accommodation bookings here, organize itineraries and enquire about organizations operating harbour cruises, fishing trips, diving tours, abseiling, mountain-bike excursions, canoeing, caving, joy flights, horseriding, tours of Cape Nelson Lighthouse, and free bus tours to the aluminium smelter which takes in the wetlands and the smelter's extensive nursery. They are conducted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10.00 a.m. and 1.00 p.m. Maps are also available concerning the Historic Shipwrecks Trail which follows a series of signposts around the coastline to wreckage sites, and the Wood Wine and Roses Forest Drive which heads north-west through the Cobboboonee State Forest to Heywood. A Volcanic Trail is also being developed which takes in the area's volcanic sites.

The Centre can also provide information about the opportunities for whale watching between June and September when the whales sometimes visit the harbour.


Harbour Foreshore
The harbour foreshore features a playground area and pedalsteamers operate on weekends and in the summer school holidays (weather permitting) at Henty Beach, tel: (03) 5526 5360. There is a considerable fee.


Historic Walks
The Mary MacKillop Walk takes in buildings and sites which were in existence during Mary MacKillop's stay at Portland from 1862 to 1866. Another leaflet outlines a broader historic walk which takes in some of the town's 200 National Trust-classified heritage buildings.


Historic Walk - Mary MacKillop Buildings
From the information centre wander across to the intersection of Bentinck and Henty Streets where you'll find All Saints Catholic Church (1857-62). Mary MacKillop worshiped here from 1862 to the start of 1866 and acted as the sacristan. The spire was added in the 1880s. The small brick chapel at the north of the church was built in 1848. Over the road, at 3 Henty St, is a brick store dating back to 1879.

Walk north along Bentinck St. Halfway along the block, to the left, is the Christian Community College. It has been built around, and completely incorporates, a 6-room stone-and-iron house built for Stephen Henty in 1851. Mary MacKillop rented that house (then known as 'Bay View') from 1863 to 1866 and there reunited her scattered family. She established her first school on this property. When Father Woods visited the MacKillops he stayed in the stables and these remain. When Mary first moved to Portland she lived with the Cameron family as a governess a little further north along Bentinck St.


Historic Walk - Tyers St
Turn left off Bentinck St into Tyers St. At no.5, to the left, is Victoria House, a two-storey, bluestone Georgian-style building dating back to 1853. It became McKenzie's Hotel in 1856 and a guesthouse in 1864. Next door is a worker's cottage from the 1850s. A little further along the road is the Presbyterian Church. The nave was opened in 1850. At the corner of Tyers and Percy Sts is the Royal Hotel, built as the Lamb Inn.


Historic Walk - Percy St and Side Trips
Walk south along Percy St. The building at the south-western corner of Percy and Henty Sts was built in 1876 as a drapery. No.82 Percy St was built as a store in 1858.

Walk west along Henty St. About halfway along the block, to the left, is a two-storied stone house with wooden louvres that dates back to the mid or late 1840s.

Return along Henty St and turn right, back into Percy St. In the green outside of the Wesley Uniting Church is a Spanish cork tree planted c.1875. The foundation stone of the church was laid in 1865. 57 Percy St is a single-storey bluestone structure built in 1867-68 for merchant and town mayor Joseph Marriott.

On the other side of the road, at no.60, is a two-storey bluestone shop and residence built in 1860-61.

At the north-eastern corner of Percy and Julia Sts is the ANZ bank, built of bluestone in 1856 to a Classical design for the Union Bank. It features a pilastered portico, Venetian windows and an iron palisade fence.


Historic Walk - Julia St
Turn left into Julia St. To the immediate right, at nos 41-43, is the old Britannia Inn (1847), now commercial premises.

Walk back along Julia St across Percy St to St Stephen's Church (1856), a Gothic bluestone structure which has strong associations with the first generation of the Henty family. The building was intended to be of iron construction and when stone was decided upon, Edward Henty (who conducted Portland's first services in a woolstore in 1834) bought the iron edifice for the town's flour mill. The first Anglican church, erected in 1843, is the present church hall.

Further along Julia St, on the same side of the road (at no.65) is 'Claremont' (1852), a gracious two-storey residence built by Stephen Henty for his brother Francis. Note the paired timber posts and timber balustrading.

Cross over Hurd St. At 81 Hurd St is a two-storey bluestone home built in 1854. Continue along Julia St. On the Palmer St corner is the National School (1856), now a private residence.

Return along Julia St, back across Hurd St. To the left, at 72 Julia St, is a single-storey stone cottage built before 1856. The two-storey bluestone Georgian home adjacent dates from 1855 or 1873, depending on which source is credited. Further along Julia St, also to the left, is a two-storey white doctor's residence (1878). 58a Julia St is a two-storey brick-and-bluestone warehouse built c.1853.


Historic Walk - Percy St Continued
Turn right into Percy St. To the left, set back from the road a little, at no.36, is a former Masonic Lodge (1876) which became the Baptist Church in 1889. A little further along, on the same side of the road, is the Old State Bank Gallery (1880). The facade has been modernised.

Cross the road and walk back along Percy St a short distance to St Stephen's parish hall which was constructed in 1843 as a school. A little further along, set back from the road, at no.33, is 'Sandilands' (1850s), an imposing two-storey stuccoed mansion with Classical motifs and a Doric portico. It is now a restaurant.

Adjacent is the Classical facade of the Portland Club built of bluestone as a woolstore and auction room in 1860. It has also served as a school and as Salvation Army headquarters. At no.23 is Benjamin's, a two-storey bluestone structure built in 1854.

Turn left into Gawler St. To the immediate right, at no.25, is the newly restored Builder's Inn (c.1847).

Turn left back into Percy St. At no.4 is the Portland Inn (1840) which is the oldest building in Victoria still on its original site. It is now a private home.

The single-storey cement-rendered brick attic house at 5 Percy St was built c.1857 with a later cast-iron verandah.


Historic Walk - Glenelg St and Bentinck St South
Turn left into Glenelg St. The timber cottage at no.16 dates from 1854 and the small wooden cottage at no.8 date from the 1840s.

Turn right into Bentinck St. The house at 19 Bentinck St is a bluestone Classical structure built in 1873 with an unusual and detailed timber verandah. The pair of bluestone cottages (c.1865) at 9-11 Bentinck St are considered typical of working-class vernacular cottages.

Head north, back up Bentinck St. Cross Glenelg St. To the right is the former Western Artllery drill hall (1888). On the other side of the road is the Steam Packet Inn.


Steam Packet Inn
The Steam Packet Inn is located at 33 Bentinck St. One of the oldest extant structures in town, it was built some time prior to December 1842 on land purchased in the town's first allotment sales. Later used as police barracks and reputedly a house of prostitution, it is a 'balloon' frame prefabricated construction with a steep shingled roof, gables and attic dormer windows. The inn was built of Tasmanian timber owing to the lack of milling facilities in Portland. A rare example of its type it is now a guesthouse. The Inn is open to the public on Thursdays and Sundays from 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5521 7496. There is an information sheet on the building's history and construction available from the Discovery Centre.


Botanic Gardens
Return south along Bentinck St and turn left into Glenelg St. At the eastern end of Glenelg St are the Botanic Gardens. Work began on the Gardens in 1857 with the assistance of Ferdinand von Mueller who was the curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. The land was prepared with the help of 80 Chinese prisoners from Portland Gaol. There are croquet lawns, historical trees and particularly impressive floral displays.

Within the grounds is a quaint two-storey bluestone caretaker's cottage built in 1858 for William Allit who had worked in Kew Gardens. It has been furnished in period style and is open by appointment, tel: (03) 5523 3820.


Historic Walk - Cliff St
Cross over Glenelg St and walk along Bligh St. At the corner of Bligh St and the aptly named Cliff St is a cottage built in 1872 for the governor of the gaol.

Turn left into Cliff St. On the immediate left is the Classical-style courthouse with its Tuscan portico. It is one of a group of very early bluestone public buildings on the cliff above the port. Built in 1845 it is thought to be the state's oldest courthouse. When the court was in session the judge used to make the journey from Melbourne by sea. The gaol is next to it. It is said that, when Beach Rd was being constructed, an escape tunnel was found leading from the gaol to the cliff.

A little further along Cliff St, by the Charles St corner, is the Rocket Shed (1887) which was used to house rockets and breeching buoy equipment to assist ships in distress.


History House
Duck down Charles St to History House, a museum dedicated to local history which features maritime displays, a photographic collection and family research. It is located in the old bluestone town hall which was built to a Classical design in 1863. The central chamber features a basalt pediment and Tuscan pilasters. It is open from 10.00 a.m. to midday and from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. daily, tel: (03) 5522 2266.


Historic Walk - Cliff St Continued
Return to Cliff St and continue west towards Bentinck St. To the left is a watch house (1850), which was later used as a police residence.

Next door is the old customs house (1849) which is the oldest Commonwealth building still used for its original purpose. It replaced a bark-and-slab hut erected in 1840. The partially sunken basement consists of rough-hewn bluestone with contrasting dressed stones in the office section. It is considered a unique example of Tasmanian colonial architecture.

At the corner of Cliff and Bentinck Sts is Mac's Hotel (1856). The three-storey cast-iron balconies were a 1909 addition. The town's first street light was erected outside.


Historic Walk - Bentinck St
Turn right into Bentinck St. To the left, at no. 57, is an old two-storey brick woolstore with a shingled roof built 1845-46. The internal floors are of timber.

The Gordon Hotel, at no.63, was built in 1890 to replace an earlier building dating from 1842 when the licence was first issued. It is the oldest continuous license in Victoria.

At the corner of Bentinck St and Julia St is the former London Inn, a two-storey rendered brick structure built from 1844 on land purchased by Stephen Henty in 1840. It was the site of Portland's first council meeting in 1856 and is now a shopping complex.


Historic Walk Concluded - Julia St East and Richmond Henty Hotel
Turn left into Julia St. At no.3 is a wool storage shed which was owned by Stephen Henty (1840s). No.7 is a bluestone store (1854). To its rear is a late 1840s brick store. 21 Julia St was built in 1849 as the Union Inn.

Cross over the road and return back towards Bentinck St. At nos 8-10 is a two-storey bluestone woolstore and, at no.6, the Old Bond Store (1852). Both were built for the Henty brothers' business. The former is possibly the state's oldest surviving warehouse and the Portland Observer was printed at the latter from 1889.

Turn left into Bentinck St. To the left is a whitewashed bluestone wall which is all that remains of one of the first Henty family homes (1846). They are now part of the Richmond Henty Hotel complex). Edward and Frank Henty built a hut on this site in 1835.


Wando Villa
'Wando Villa' is a two-storey stuccoed bluestone Regency Gothic villa with stables. It was built in 1864 for a pastoralist is located at 89 Wellington Rd.


Lookout Tower Museum
The World War II Memorial Lookout Tower in Wade St (which runs off the northern end of Bentinck St) offers fine panoramic views of Portland and the surrounding district. This 25-metre structure was built as a water tower in the 1930s. In the 1990s it became a lookout and museum with displays relating to Portland's involvement in World War II. It is open daily from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. There is an admission fee for adults, tel: (03) 5523 3938.


Burswood Gardens
At the southern end of Bentinck St is a bridge which spans the canal that adjoins the ocean to Fawthrop Lagoon. On the far side of the bridge, to the immediate left, is Burswood, a fine 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. For a fee visitors can explore the fine 12-acre gardens which feature 330 species, including a geometric rose garden.


Fawthrop Lagoon
The Canal Bridge is one point of access to Fawthrop Lagoon which was named after Portland's first harbour master. It is a permanent wetland offering 5 km of gentle walking tracks and birdwatching opportunities (there is a birdhide). Another point of access is from Glenelg St.


Car Museum
Adjacent the lagoon, at the corner of Glenelg and Percy Streets, is the Powerhouse Car Museum which is home to a collection of veteran, vintage classic cars and motorcycles, stationary engines, antique signs, petrol pumps, tools, model cars, tractors, garage equipment and other memorabilia. It is open weekdays from 1.00 p.m. to 5.00 p.m. and weekends and school holidays from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5523 5795.


Portland Battery
Like many such structures, the Portland Battery was built in 1889 during a pervasive fear of Russian invasion. It has been fully restored and includes the original lamp passage and powder magazine. One of the canons dates back to 1811. Contact the Visitors' centre for firing times. It is located in Victoria Parade.


Kingsley Winery
Kingsley Winery is located in an historic mansion (1893) at 6 Kingsley Court (which runs off Bancroft St), high on Battery Hill overlooking the harbour. It is open daily from 1.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m. (longer in summer) and offers riesling, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, tel: (03) 5523 1864.


Point Danger
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. There is a viewing area (binoculars are recommended) which overlooks Lawrence Rocks, just offshore. This is the largest nesting site of the Australasian gannet in the Southern Hemisphere.


The 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. A recent fire has destroyed the numbered information posts but it is still a very pleasant and easy stroll, tel: (03) 5523 2671.


Cape Nelson State Park
Cape Nelson State Park (210 ha) is 12.3 km south of the centre of Portland along a sealed road. It features high rugged cliffs, a species of eucalyptus known as soap mallee which is found nowhere else in Victoria, and a fine historic lighthouse.

From the city centre follow Bentinck Rd south. It becomes Cape Nelson Rd once it crosses the canal bridge, then veers south-west and out through undulating countryside. En route you will pass Nelsonberry which sells fresh brambleberries and raspberries, tel: (03) 5523 2947.

9 km from Portland, at the intersection of Cape Nelson Rd and Scenic Drive, is the signposted start of the Sea Cliff Nature Walk. A guiding leaflet is available from the box near the signpost or from the Discovery Centre. The 3-km loop track focuses on the area's natural history, leading west through scrubland, open countryside and along the cliff-line. Binoculars are recommended.

If you wish, when you reach the cliffline, you can follow a portion of the Great South Walk around the coast to the lighthouse. Alternatively, you can drive south for another 3 km to the end of Cape Nelson Rd where you will find the circular-plan lighthouse (1883-84) and two lighthouse keepers' residences, one of which features four bedrooms available for rental (a backpackers' is also being organised). It stands guard over the treacherous entrance to Bass Strait. Tours of the complex are conducted daily, for a fee, at 10.00 a.m., 10.30 a.m., 11.00 a.m., 11.30 a.m., midday, 2.00 p.m., 2.30 p.m., 3.00 p.m. and 3.30 p.m., tel: (03) 5523 5100. The top of the tower is 76 metres above the sea and offers fine views. Excellent views are also available on the Lighthouse Nature Walk (6 km) which heads north then veers east out to the coast.

The return to Portland can be made along Scenic Road (unsealed) which heads east from the Sea Cliff Nature Walk carpark out to the coast. En route is a side road on the right which leads to a picnic area.

When Scenic Rd reaches the coast, you can turn right for a trek along the edge of Nelson Bay or left to return to Portland. If you take the left back to Portland it leads past 'The Enchanted Forest' where an old land slip below the level of the clifftop has been covered by dense vegetation. A 45-minute round trip walk passes through the canopy to lookouts and boardwalks with views over the cliffs and ocean.

A little further along Scenic Rd is Yellow Rock, a large limestone formation on the edge of the cliff. There is a 10-minute return walk. This is a popular surfing area. There are no campsites within the park.


Shelly Beach
Follow Otway St westwards off Bentinck St. It soon becomes Bridgewater Rd which traverses rolling farmland. 16 km out there is a signposted side track which leads down to Shelly Beach on Bridgewater Bay. There are fine views and good fishing from the rocky outcrops.


Bridgewater Beach
3 km further along Bridgewater Rd is Bridgewater Beach, an outstanding 4-km

beach noted for its surfing, sailboarding, swimming and surf-fishing opportunities. Boats can be launched from the beach. There is a kiosk and surf lifesaving club.


Cape Bridgewater
From the Bridgewater kiosk, drive up the hill and pull in at the carpark opposite the tearooms. There are excellent views. This is the starting point of a strenuous two-hour walk due south past Seal Caves to a viewing platform at Cape Bridgewater that overlooks one of the largest colonies of Australian fur seals on the mainland. The return journey takes in views of the Bridgewater Lakes to the north and Discovery Bay to the west.

Bridgewater Rd continues on past the tearooms for another 3 km to the Blowholes carpark. There is an information board directing you to the Blowholes which are formations worn in the volcanic rock at the base of the cliffs. During a good swell spectacular spouts of sea spray are forced through these formations with a roar. The local Aborigines attached many legends to this phenomenon and there are a number of middens along the cliff tops. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes and take care with children.

From the Blowholes, red markers lead north for 2 km past spectacular lookout points to a green marker which denotes the spot of the 'watering place'. In the 19th century, when fresh water was scarce, cattlemen herded their stock out to the cliffs and down a specially constructed ramp at this spot to freshwater pools which had been created by subterranean springs spilling out onto the rock platforms.

You can also walk south-east along the coastline from the Blowholes to the seal-viewing platform (part of the Great South Walk). This route is about three hours return and it takes in the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria (130 metres). There are also organized daily boat tours to the colony with Seals by Sea, tel: (03) 5523 5617. The best weather conditions prevail from January to March although the seals are there all-year round.

This walk from The Blowholes leads past the 'Petrified Forest' which is thought to have developed when a moonah forest was smothered by a large sand dune, creating unusual sandstone formations around the decaying tree trunks. Cape Bridgewater itself was once a volcanic island linked to the mainland when a sand spit calcified and turned to limestone.


Discovery Bay National Park
Cape Bridgewater is part of Discovery Bay Coastal Park (8590 ha) which constitutes an outstanding sweep of coastline extending westwards for 50 km to Nelson, taking in vast expanses of rolling white sand dunes, sweeping beaches, Aboriginal middens, tranquil lakes and rugged rock formations. There are grey kangaroos, red-necked wallabies and over 140 bird species. Coastal, swamp and heath vegetation is prolific. The more westerly sections of the park are accessible off the Portland-Nelson Road. There are boat-launching ramps and surf fishing opportunities.

Camping is available at Swan Lake Flats (access is signposted off the Portland-Nelson Rd) from whence a walking track follows Johnston's Creek to the ocean beach. There are also camping facilities on the grassy flats around Lake Monibeong, a freshwater lagoon where trout fishing and birdwatching are the main activities. Walking tracks lead east to Cape Montesquieu (2 km return) and west to Nobles Rocks (12 km return). Long Swamp is a large, shallow tidal lagoon which supports some unusual plant species. For more information ring (03) 5523 1180 or 131 963.


Bridgewater Lakes and Limestone Caves
If you return along Blowholes Rd and Bridgewater Rd you will come to a turnoff on the left into Bridgewater Lakes Rd which heads north to the freshwater lakes, located just inland from Descartes Bay. Coastal lagoons separated from the sea by sand dunes, they are sheltered and well-suited to picnics, swimming, waterskiing, fishing, canoeing and boating. There is a boat ramp at the Aquatic Club. Opposite the entrance to Bridgewater Lakes are limestone caves which provide an excellent viewing area across Discovery Bay. Cars can be parked in the Lakes carpark from whence an easy-going walking track leads to Discovery Bay. Bridgewater Lakes Rd loops back eastward, becoming Heath Rd which rejoins the Portland-Nelson Rd just to the north-west of Portland.


Mt Richmond National Park
Mt Richmond National Park (1733 ha) is located just behind Discovery Bay National Park. It is essentially an extinct volcano formed of porous rock covered with a layer of sand blown inland from Discovery Bay. It was named after Richmond Henty, Stephen Henty's oldest son and one of the first white children born in the area.

The park is noted for its spring wildflowers and abundant wildlife including koalas, echidnae, wallabies, potoroos, Eastern grey kangaroos, copperhead and tiger snakes, emus and numerous other bird species. There are over 450 plant species, including 50 varieties of orchid. A number of pleasant walking tracks lead though heathland and forest. They are outlined in a pamphlet available from Parks Victoria, tel: 131 963.

A sealed road leads to a lookout tower atop Mt Richmond which offers panoramic views of Discovery Bay, Cape Bridgewater and Portland. Visitors can enjoy picnicking (there are wood barbecues), birdwatching, walking and wildflowers. To get there follow the road to Nelson for 16.2 km and take the signposted turnoff into the park.


The Great South Walk
The Great South Walk constitutes more than 250 km of circular walking track which starts and finishes at Portland. Constructed by community groups it initially heads north through farmland, veering westwards through native forests and the Lower Glenelg National Park, following the southern bank of the Glenelg River to its mouth near Nelson, then returning eastwards along the coastline through Discovery Bay National Park, with optional detours past Lake Monibeong and to Mt Richmond. It then leads to Descartes Bay and around Cape Bridgewater, past The Springs, the Petrified Forest, the seal colony, Bridgwater Bay, Cape Nelson, Point Danger and back to Portland. Sections are accessible by car to allow shorter day or weekend walks. The best times are from October to December or late March to early June. A detailed brochure is available from Parks Victoria offices. There are canoeing opportunities and numerous camping spots.


Narrawong is 16 km north-east of Portland on Portland Bay, via the Princes Highway. It is a small town with an artesian bore, a caravan park and a safe swimming and surfing beach. Bream fishing is popular in the Surry River and there is a boat ramp at the camping reserve. The Narrawong cemetery contains the grave of William Dutton, the first European settler at Portland.

Boyers Road leads off the highway to the Saw Pit Picnic Area in Narrawong State Forest. There is a replica of the old sawpit which was once located here. The original was probably used to process the area's first commercial timber. A short walk leads to Whaler's Point where Aborigines once watched for whales. They lit fires to alert whalers who then made the kill and gave some of the whalemeat to the Aborigines as recompense for their assistance.


Portland Bay Lavender Farm
Portland Bay Lavender Farm is located on the Princes Highway, 10 km east of Portland between Narrawong and Allestree. It has a shop and cafe selling products, gifts, plants and refreshments and is open most days from 10.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5529 5316.


Surrey Ridge Picnic Area
Travel north on the Heywood Rd and just after crossing the Surrey River bridge turn left down Coffeys Lane (it should be signposted for Surrey Ridge). After about 5 km it reaches a T-intersection. Turn left into Jacky Swamp Rd. Continue along to the next T-intersection and turn right onto Cutout Dam Road. It is signposted about 3 or 4 km along this road. The picnic area is situated amid messmate forest on a bend in the Surrey River. There are facilities and two walks through river vegetation, blackwood, manna gums, ferns, rushes, sedges, taller flowering shrubs and Australian clematis. For further information ring the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, tel: (03) 5527 1302.

Also on the Heywood Rd is Bolwarra Berries Strawberry Farm. Pick your own from October to April, tel: (03) 5523 1834.


Barrett's Winery
Barrett's Winery, established in 1983, is located 20 km west, off the Portland-Nelson Rd at Gorae West (follow the signs from the Portland-Neslon Rd). It sells riesling, traminer, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon and is open daily from 11.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., tel: (03) 5526 5251.


Jackass Fern Gully
One of the most attractive and popular picnic spots in the area is Jackass Fern Gully. Follow the Nelson Rd for about 20 km then turn into the T & W Road and it is 19 more kilometres to the signposted entrance (consult the Discovery Centre for further details). There are picnic facilities and walking tracks which lead to the fern gullies.


Lower Glenelg National Park
For information on Lower Glenelg National Park see entry on Nelson.


Within the breakwaters of Portland's harbour is a large area for safe boating and sailing. As it is protected from westerly winds, the bay may be fished in nearly all weather conditions. There are double concrete boat ramps near the yacht club (on the foreshore at Henty Beach) and at the Henty Bay Caravan Park, along with three jetties and a cleaning table. Beach access is at Wally's ramp (Fergusons Rd) for 4WDs and small boats.

There are also boat ramps at Narrawong (17 km to the north-east via the Henty Highway), at the mouth of the Fitzroy River near Tyrendarra East (35 km east on the Princes Highway), at Bridgewater Beach (see previous entry), the Bridgewater Lakes Aquatic Club (see previous entry) and from seven landings along the Glenelg River to the west of Portland.

For those without a boat, there are rock ledges and plenty of spots for surf and pier fishing. Bridgewater Lakes and the Glenelg, Fitzroy and Surry Rivers are also popular spots. A fishing guide is available from the Discovery Centre.


Mary MacKillop Tours offer a guided walk of sites associated with Mary MacKillop's stay in Portland, tel: (03) 5523 6845. Tours of the town's heritage buildings are available from Footstep Tours, tel: (03) 5523 5755, and group tours to a gannet colony and to Yellow Rock are available from Finck's Off Road Tours, tel: (03) 5523 2671. Historical and port tours for groups are available from Tours of Portland, tel: (03) 5523 1645.


There are two excellent books on the Great Ocean Road which we strongly recommend to anyone planning to spend extended time in the area.

Explore The Great Ocean Road has very detailed information on all the attractions and excellent maps of the towns and the coastline. It is an ideal companion if you are going to do some bushwalking or you want to reach beyond the regular tourist destinations. See for more information.

Great Ocean Road: A Travellers Guide has been written by a photographer consequently the pictures are excellent and his focus has been on providing detailed information on the accommodation and attractions in the area. It has a comprehensive listing of all the Bed and Breakfast and Guest Houses along the road with photographs and prices. Very handy if you are planning to stay somewhere other than a motel or caravan park. See for more information.

Both can be ordered from the Walkabout Books and Maps location.





Broadwalk Business Brokers

Broadwalk Business Brokers specialise in General Businesses for Sale, Caravan Parks for Sale, Motels for Sale, Management Rights & Resorts for Sale, Farms for Sale, Hotels for sale, Commercial & Industrial Properties for Sale.


Phone: 1300 136 559














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Northern Territory

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