The doughty citizens of Port Fairy have been going down to the sea in ships for nigh on 200 years - first as whalers plying the Southern Ocean and these days as crews of modern fishing vessels. In fact in the mid and late nineteenth century it was one of the largest ports in Australia.
These days Port Fairy is more attuned to tourists who are entranced by the ocean and river frontages and the town’s beguiling array of heritage buildings, more than 50 of which are classified by the National Trust. The History Centre gives detailed information on these fine old buildings.
The area has safe swimming beaches, good restaurants and stores to attract antique and collectible bargain-hunters.
Port Fairy, set on the eat coast of Portland Bay, 290km west of Melbourne, is best explored on foot. Shank's Pony will take you through the heritage-rich streets, along the wharves and, across a footbridge, to Griffith Island.
The island supports a large, migratory colony of short-tailed shearwaters, or mutton birds. Each year the birds return like clockwork on or within a day or two of the vernal equinox (September 23) from a 15,000km winter odyssey through the Pacific, mate and the hens lay their eggs in burrows. The parents and their young stay on the island until mid-April and you can watch their daily comings and goings from viewing platforms.
Find out more about the Shipwreck Coast
section of the Great Ocean Road.