With its location for almost two centuries on the deep-water harbour of Portland Bay, the city of Portland is Victoria’s oldest European settlement. Originally a sheltered haven for sealers and whalers from the treachery of the Bass Strait’s often wild waters, the city was first settled in earnest in the 1830s with the arrival of farmers and stockmen from England. For most of its years as a port, its main trade was in wool and fishing for barracuda, salmon and crayfish, and nowadays the harbour holds a 60-strong fishing fleet, including deep-sea trawlers.
Portland is a hub for visitors planning to take the 250km Great South West Walk through rainforests and gorges, and along cliffs overlooking glorious bays. The city is a perfect base for ecotourists for its large koala population, the seals who haunt the harbour and the humpbacked and southern right whales which regularly enter the bay. The city is known for its artists’ community, featuring painters, sculptors, potters, musicians, actors, writers, photographers and more.
The waterfront, always bustling with loading and unlading cargoes, is the heart of the city. Here, visitors can organise boat trips or sailing, fishing and cruising. Harbourside eateries serve the freshest of seafood, and just strolling in the evening is a favourite occupation here. History buffs will enjoy the city’s over 200 heritage buildings, constructed using the local bluestone, and the unique cable tram gives a journey along the foreshore past the Botanic Gardens, the Maritime Discovery Centre, the Powerhouse Car Museum and other highlights.
Accommodation options in Portland are similar to those in other popular destinations along the Great Ocean Road, ranging from boutique hotels through mid-range properties to self-catering apartments, holiday homes, motels and bed and breakfasts. Friendly cafés, bars, pubs and a choice of restaurants are found in the town centre and along the Esplanade.