Portland is an very attractive and spectacularly scenic holiday destination situated on Portland Bay 361 km west of Melbourne and 75 km east, by road, of the South Australian border.
Portland is a major deep-sea port in Western Victoria. It is 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, wool stores, 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 abounds in outstanding natural attractions.
Popular Locations near Portland
The Glenelg River rises in the Grampians and winds 400km to the sea, over its last 15 km has carved a 50m deep spectacular gorge through limestone. The river offers excellent opportunities for flat water canoeing over the 75 km from Dartmoor, to its mouth near Nelson. For much of this distance, the river flows through the Lower Glenelg National Park, enabling water enthusiasts to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. This area is great for single or multi day canoe camping trips or is an excellent place to camp in one of the many riverside camp sites. Swimming, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, power boating, walking, bird watching opportunities abound.
What we offer in the park
- Gourmet Food served at your camp
- Gourmet Walks
- Half to multi day canoe adventures
- Walks along the river section of the Great South West Walk
Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park
The Grampians is a magnificent natural wonder. The ranges, formed mainly of sandstone, run nearly north/south and are almost 100 km long. This area is an awesome place to have an outdoor adventure and sight local wildlife. The park is a world class rock climbing destination and has many excellent walking tracks with stunning rock architecture and breathtaking lookouts. The area has a rich aboriginal history with many aboriginal art sites in the park.
What we offer in the park
Is a beautiful historic city located on the coast approximately three hours drive west of Melbourne.
What we offer in the area
Mount Arapiles – Toohan State Park
Mount Arapiles is a world renowned rock climbing destination and has been ranked as one of the top five rock climbing destinations on the planet. It is an excellent place for beginners and the experienced alike boasting more than 2500 climbs. Camping is available at Mount Arapiles or in the nearby town of Natimuk there is alternate accommodation.
What we offer in the area
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, Bridgewater 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.
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.
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.
From the Bridgewater kiosk, drive up the hill and pull in at the car park 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 for another 3 km to the Blowholes car park. The Blowholes 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.
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 West Walk). This route is about three hours return and it takes in the highest coastal cliffs in Victoria (130 metres).
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 car park 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.
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 whale meat 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 Portland Strawberries. Pick your own from October to April, tel: (03) 5523 1834.
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.
What we offer in the park
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
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.
What to do in Portland Town
- Take a scenic ride on the Tram
- Visit Portland Leisure and Aquatic Centre
- Take a self guided historic buildings walk
- Visit the Portland Maritime Discovery Centre – Portlands Information Centre
- Visit the Gannet Colony
- Walk the Great South West Walk or a section of the walk
More Information on Portland
You will find detailed information at the Maritime Discovery Centre – Portlands Information Centre. The Centre is located on the foreshore of Portland and is the local information centre.
It is open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. or phone 1800 035 567.