"Port Fairy" Top 5 Page for this destination Port Fairy by iandsmith
Port Fairy Travel Guide: 48 reviews and 104 photos
Port Fairy is one of those delightful towns where you feel as though if you stay another day you suddenly might find a whole extra world of things to see and do. There are museums, historic walks, varied and pleasant stretches of coastline, an interesting harbour, charming olde worlde cottages from the 19th century whose new paintwork gleams in the sun and the Port Fairy Folk Festival (in March) is recognised as one of the best of its kind in Australia.
Port Fairy is located 290 km west of Melbourne on the eastern headland of Portland Bay. It was inhabited by the Knarn Kolak Aborigines before the arrival of Europeans. Their middens (mounds of crustacean shells) testify to the success of their fishing.
In the earliest years of the nineteenth century whalers and sealers worked along this stretch of rugged coastline. Seals were used for their leather and oil and whales were vital parts of the corset, perfume and soap industries as well as providing large quantities of oil.
As early as 1810 Captain James Wishart, a sealer working the southern coast, anchored at Port Fairy. He explored the Moyne River and revisited the area regularly. By the mid-1820s the 'harbour' was known as Port Fairy, presumably after Wishart's cutter 'The Fairy'.
By 1835 a whaling station had been established on the island at the mouth of the Moyne River. It was purchased by John Griffiths who has given his name to the island. It was around this time that two sealers, John and Charles Mills, built simple huts on Griffiths Island which stands at the mouth of the Moyne River where it splits in two. As the seals in the area were killed off the Mills brothers moved over to whaling and were active in the area until whaling ceased in 1843. The whalers built the distinctive and hardy bluestone cottages which are still dotted throughout the town. The houses of both John and Charles Mills still stand in the town.
By 1839 John Cox, who sailed across Bass Strait from Launceston, opened a store in1839 on the site that is now the corner of Cox and Gipps Streets.
In 1843 a Sydney solicitor James Atkinson purchased 5120 acres (2072 hectares) of land at Port Fairy for £1 per acre. He converted the sealing community into a modern port by draining the swamps around the town, subdividing and selling/leasing the land and building the harbour on the Moyne River. So proud was Atkinson of his handiwork that he decided to rename the town Belfast, after the Irish city which he called home. A similar project was undertaken by William Rutledge who had also received 5120 acres in 1843. The result was that Belfast became the largest privately-owned town in Australia and the few local residents, who had simply squatted prior to Atkinson's purchase, suddenly found themselves paying rent to their new landlord.
As a result agriculture in the area developed rapidly and, in 1853, 19 foreign and 56 coastal vessels came to Port Fairy to load onions and potatoes for sale in Melbourne, 4,159 bales of wool, 24,340 bushels of wheat and 1,773 ounces of gold. By 1857 there were 2190 people living in Belfast. It wasn't until 1887 that the town was renamed Port Fairy, this was due to a special act of parliament.
Today Port Fairy prospers on a combination of tourism and fishing. It still boasts one of Victoria's largest fishing fleets. The seas provide good catches of shark (it is a deep sea angler's delight), crayfish and abalone.
- Pros:Historic, pretty
- In a nutshell:A nice destination if you want peace.
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