A popular bayside residential town and resort on the Bellarine Peninsula that is known for its good fishing and safe beaches. At one time the town claimed the largest caravan park in the Southern Hemisphere. One of the larger towns of the Bellarine, Portarlington sits on the peninsula’s northern side with a safe, sandy beach on Port Phillip Bay. Its foreshore boasts extensive shaded areas with a kiosk, picnic, barbecue and play facilities. On a clear day, Portarlington offers views over the bay of the Melbourne skyline.
Location: 105km by road from Melbourne and 31km east of Geelong on a hillside overlooking Port Phillip Bay at the tip of the Peninsula.
At one time the town claimed the largest Fur Seal in the Southern Hemisphere, today the town is a centre for fishing and aquaculture (mussels).
The Portarlington Mussel Festival is held on the second Saturday in January every year. Since its inception in 2007, the festival has grown year on year and now attracts around 30,000 people. Initially established to promote the Portarlington Mussel Industry, the festival now boasts a full day of activities including: Live entertainment (bush poetry, singing, dancing and more), Kids activities, Cooking demonstrations, Art and Photo exhibitions, Classic car displays, Food and Wine producers as well as products to try and buy. Over 100 food and drink stalls, market stalls, local musicians playing across five stages, roving entertainers for the kids, plus art shows, cooking demonstrations and local beer and wine tastings keep the festival buzzing. Tall Sailing Ship top sail schooner Enterprize frequently docks at the Portarlington Pier during the Christmas/New Year period, Mussel Festival January and Celtic Festival June.
National Celtic Festival
The National Celtic Festival of folk music, dancing, and cultural activities is held in Portarlington over the winter long weekend every June. The Festival is the home of Australia s largest and most diverse Celtic celebration. Visitors return to this internationally-recognised event year after year to experience all the magic of Celtic music, dancing, songs and jigs, pipers and drummers. You ll experience a great mix of traditional and contemporary to suit all ages and musical tastes along with markets, displays, workshops, sessions and so much more. The Festival is one of the premier events of the region and this year celebrates 12 years in Portarlington.
Bay Cycling Classic: Portarlington hosts a full day of events in this world-class criterium series held at select locations around Port Phillip Bay in the New Year.
Portarlington Triathlon: Described as one of the best courses in Australia, it is Victoria’s oldest running triathlon event, and is held in late summer.
Bellarine Agricultural Show: Variety of displays and activities held annually in March on the Portarlington Reserve.
Portarlington has a large flora, fauna and recreation reserve which accommodates camping and caravans. Attractions include a sailing club, an 18-hole golf course, excellent fishing opportunities, boat ramps, a safe swimming beach and a bicycle track that leads around the foreshore to Indented Head, as does the roadway known as The Esplanade.
The area around Portarlington produces vegetables, poultry and dairy products. The Portarlington Markets are held at the primary school in Newcombe St on the first Sunday of the month from September to April. Craft markets are held at Parks Hall in Newcombe St on the last Sunday of the month. An Easter Art Show is held annually.
In Batman Park a cairn marks the spot where John Batman and his fellow Tasmanian adventurers came ashore to camp in 1835. They then moved on to the head of the bay, which they earmarked as the site of a town that was to become Melbourne.
Portarlington MillThe fully restored, four storey steam powered flour mill (1857) was constructed from sandstone quarried from an Aboriginal corroboree site nearby and with Baltic Pine floors. The Portarlington Mill is a heritage site that houses a museum. The four-storey steam-powered Portarlington Mill is located near the beach in Turner Crescent (off Sproat Street). It was built by T.H. Widdicombe of locally-quarried sandstone in 1857 on what is thought to be a former corroboree site. A small jetty was built on the nearby beach and boats carried the flour and bran to larger vessels in deeper waters.
The closure of the mill in 1874 reflected the establishment of wheat-growing in western Victoria. Widdicombe converted it into a brickworks which supplied bricks to Melbourne, Geelong and the Bellarine Peninsula. Widdicombe bricks and tiles were used in the construction of the Anglican churches at Portarlington and Drysdale. Now fully restored it contains Aboriginal artefacts and displays relating to the history of the mill and the area. Ph: (03) 5259 3688.
Two doors down from the mill is the single-storey historic home of Mr Widdicombe which was built of Geelong bricks on a bluestone foundation in 1850. It is housed with antiques and memorabilia collected by subsequent owners.
Point RichardsPoint Richards is a large accumulation of sand that forms the northern tip of the Bellarine Peninsula. The point is still growing slowly to the west, while in the east it is attached to the bedrock at Portarlington. There are three beaches along this 2.5 km section of coast. Point Richards West is 300 m long and grades into tidal flats. Between the point and the Portarlington Jetty is a 2 km long, north facing beach, backed by a large reserve and a caravan park. The third beach runs for 200 m east of the jetty to the bluffs. All three beaches have good access, with a large car park on the point servicing a boat ramp, and a second boat ramp on Portarlington Beach.
Due to the extensive sand flats, swimming and other water activities are best at mid to high tide. However, watch the boat traffic near the jetty and boat ramps. The jetty is the most popular location for fishing.
A miniature railway at Point Richards is a firm favourite with kids in school holidays and also a terrific venue for a birthday party. Its track is one kilometre long and on the days whe, trains are running, there are often two operating at the same time. The Portarlington Bayside Miniature Railway is run on a voluntary basis by the local Rotary Club. It operates Wednesdays to Sundays in January and on Sundays only from February to Easter, complete with a little cafe and a local community radio station broadcasting from the back of a van. All proceeds go to support local community projects. The Railway is at the end of Point Richard’s Road – turn left of the C123 Geelong-Port Arlington Road just before you reach Port Arlington.
Stoneacres FarmDown the road, at 330 Scotchmans Rd, is Stoneacres Farm, a large orchard/rose garden/nursery which is situated on elevated ground offering fine views over the bay. There is a rose walk, a wild garden, a hedged terrace, a bluestone wall, a sunken garden, a pond and a bog garden. The nursery specialises in old-fashioned roses, perennials and unusual shrubs. The Cafe is open for Summer Lunch: Wed-Sun, winter Lunch: Fri-Sun, public holidays. Regional wines are featured at this little country cafe with its nursery setting. The views from the Bellarine to the Mornington Peninsulas are stunning. The service is casual and friendly and the menu is changes frequently, but the risotto is always a good choice. Location: 330 Scotchmans Rd, Drysdale. Ph (03) 5259 3109.
Tuckleberry HillDrive along Murradoc Road for a very short distance and you’ll find Becks Rd heads off to the left at No.35. Tuckerberry Hill is a place where you can pick your own blackberries during picking season (December to March). Blueberry jams, juice, chutneys, muffins and toppings and blueberry plants are available all year round. Tuckerberry Hill was started by one of Australia s pioneering blueberry farmers, Margaret Tucker (hence the name!), with her daughter Christine and husband David Lean continuing on the farm. Tuckerberry is the only blueberry orchard on the Bellarine and all their fruit is spray-free and grown under natural conditions. There is no entrance fee, you just pay for what you pick. Tuckleberry Hill also has a picnic area and offers sweeping hilltop views. The Ph: (03) 5251 3468.
In 1802, Lieut. Matthew Flinders landed at nearby Indented Head, becoming one of the first European to visit the area. The township of Portarlington was formally surveyed around 1850 and was at that time named Drayton. It was renamed Portarlington in 1851, reportedly in honour of the English peer, Sir Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington, however it is also suggested, and perhaps seems more likely, owing to the number of early Irish settlers in the area, that the town was actually named after the town in Ireland bearing the same name, Portarlington, which was itself founded by Sir Henry Bennet in 1666. The newly surveyed township was neatly laid out, with broad streets, and planted with English elms and pines.
Among the earliest known European settlers in the vicinity of Portarlington was the former Hobart butcher, Henry Baynton, who was recorded there in the 1840s. Baynton established a cattle shipping service between Portarlington and Van Diemen’s Land. He is believed to have had a station named Westham, which may have occupied a site near the derelict homestead now known as Lincoln’s Farm, overlooking Point Richards. Baynton also had interests at Cowie’s Creek (now Corio), across the Bay. Baynton possibly sold out to John Brown, who is identified as the owner of a Point Richards station in 1847. Other squatters known to have had property around the Portarlington area in the 1840s include William Booth, James Conway Langdon, and William Harding. In 1848 new land regulations were introduced, and the squatters’ runs were subdivided into smaller allotments over the following years, and by the early 1850s the era of the squatters had passed on the Bellarine Peninsula.
A steam-powered flour mill opened in 1857, and after a competing mill in nearby Drysdale was destroyed by fire in 1861 the development of Portarlington began to progress more rapidly. The mill owners built a private jetty and began receiving grain shipments from Geelong, and returning processed flour and bran. Around this time, the Bellarine Peninsula was regarded as the granary of the Victorian colony.
Horse racing began at Portarlington in 1859 on a track near the mill, but didn’t generate much interest until the 1880s, when a new track was established to the west of the town. The new track was fenced-off in 1881, despite opposition from local graziers, and the Portarlington Turf Club was established in 1883, with an annual meeting held on Easter Monday. The track was close to the beach, and was knee-deep in sand in places. It was regarded as the heaviest track in the country.
The Portarlington Pier was constructed in 1859, after a petition from local farmers demanding access to a public jetty, and it quickly became an important port of call for the network of steamers plying the Bay, both for goods and passengers. Portarlington’s picturesque setting and fine sandy beaches attracted visitors from Geelong and Melbourne, and the regular steamer service secured the town’s progress as a popular seaside resort. A public bathing house existed from as early as 1868, and a replacement was built in 1877. Bathing on the open beaches was prohibited in early days “out of respect for public sentiment”.
Origin of name: Portarlington was surveyed c.1850 and named Drayton but was renamed in 1851, perhaps in honour of the Earl of Portarlington. Another claim is that it was named after an Irish village, owing to the predominance of Irish settlers in the area.