Port Fairy:
A Magical Seaside Township

Just past the official end of the Great Ocean Road is the seaside town of Port Fairy, which has a population of less than 3,000. Along the mouth of the Moyne River and looking out upon the Southern Ocean, Port Fairy offers a place to stop for the night, or a lifetime.

History of the Area

Rich in history and tradition, the town has long been home to the Aboriginal Knarn Kolak. In the early part of the 19th century, it served as home to sealers and whalers who established a whaling station and a store around 1839. The year 1843 saw the first improvements to the area by James Atkinson, an Irish solicitor from Sydney who purchased part of the town.

Atkinson leased land, improved the area by draining swamps, and built the first harbor on the Moyne River. He christened the town Belfast from his hometown in Ireland, but when the post office opened, it bore the name Port Fairy. The name did change to Belfast in 1854, but reverted back again 33 years later by an act of parliament.

The area had a thriving agricultural community and developed into one of the leading ports for Australia. The location on the river and the sea made it an important transport hub for Victoria. The railway was brought to the town in 1890 and service continued there for almost 90 years before it became unprofitable.

The Town Today

The modern township serves as a fishing port that has one of Victoria's largest fishing fleets. Historic structures abound as approximately 50 buildings are protected by the National Trust of Australia. Other than fishing, tourism is the main industry.

Other commercial endeavors of the locale include a pharmaceutical factory and a breeding colony for the Australian Muttonbird on nearby Griffiths Island. Through changing times, the population has varied little in over 100 years.

The old railway is being converted to a Rail Trail connecting Port Fairy to Warrnambool, 28 kilometers to the West. The Port Fairy Golf Club is a highly rated course that looks out into the Southern Ocean.

Even though the town is small, it has an Australian Rules football team. The Seagulls play in the Hampden Football League.

Port Fairy Folk Festival

For 34 years, the town has held the Port Fairy Folk Festival. Each March, artists come from points near and far to play in the festival that features blues, bluegrass, Celtic, jazz, country and rock, and all kinds of music from around the world.

In addition to the International and National artists performing each year is the Children's Folk Circus, which is a free festival held in the streets. The four-day event has markets and many types of interests for the entire family.

The 35th version of the festival promises to have twenty international acts and over one-hundred acts from Australia. Although the town is in a rural setting, the festival fills the area to overflowing each year. Melbourne is only 290 kilometers to the west, so the reputation of the event brings a stream of urbanites and visitors from around the world.


For a small place, the tourist trade is very good to Port Fairy. The natural beauty of the country and the great river fishing of the Moyne River present a wonderful place to escape the confines of city life and enjoy a peaceful interlude.

Accommodations can be both rustic and refined, and there are many bed and breakfast locations that have stood in the same locations for over 150 years.

You could consider the Seacombe House hotel for a vacation and sleep in rooms that were built in 1847 by Captain John Sanders. Through remodeling and time, the external appearance is said to have changed very little from its inception. Rich in history, there are many incredible stories surrounding these premises originally known as the Stag Inn.

Captain Sanders decided to make Port Fairy his home when his schooner, the Dusty Miller, ran aground in 1842 on the rocks just off Rabbit Island. The Stag Restaurant located in the 1847 dining room provides a regularly changing menu based on the best locally available produce and coastal fare.

The Stag Restaurant offers up hearty bold flavorful dishes along with fine wine and cold beer. It is a great stop off for backpackers in search of a quick meal in such a historical location.

Some items on the menu at the Stag include:

* Grass fed Quinlan's Rump with marrow butter, salsa verde, sauteed potatoes * Fish of the Day with almond skordalia and a fresh summer salad * Chocolate Mousse with caramel sauce and peanut brittle * Tipsy Gypsy Cherry Trifle with vanilla vodka jelly * Smokey fried almonds and house pickles * Smokehouse Eel with a goat cheese and beetroot tart * Shaw River Buffalo Mozzarella salad with mint, smoked eggplant, and lemon dressing * Roast Peaches with meringue snow and an iced Bellini

Oscar's Waterfront Boutique Hotel is just as billed, conveniently located on the Moyne and close to fishing for all the anglers. Oscar's is not large, but it has French provincial settings with large king bedrooms.

Escape to Port Fairy if you are interested in fabulous scenery and slower pace. Port Fairy offers one of the best opportunities to have a great enjoyable getaway that you will long remember. Come to stay awhile or, if you are on a limited schedule, long enough to soak up the sun and the history of one of Australia's greatest port resorts.

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