"Historic Port Albert" Port Albert by TheWanderingCamel

Port Albert Travel Guide: 17 reviews and 51 photos

Named for a faraway prince

A sleepy little fishing port just over 200km from Melbourne, a scattering of quaint old buildings, a reputation for the "best fish and chips" in Australia (more of that later), proximity to some of Victoria's favourite holiday areas .... that would be what would draw most of Port Albert's visitors to the town for a few hours, or maybe an overnight stop.

They might know of its long-past importance as the first port in the Gippsland region.

Maybe they'll make the connection between the name of the town and the state (Prince Albert was Queen Victoria's consort).

For some, that's it .... except that little towns like this have a charm that is all their own, and they repay those who take the time to walk their streets and pathways, look closely at their buildings, read their plaques, browse the displays in their museums, talk to locals, with a sense of history and the oft-talked-of spirit of place that is theirs alone.

Early days

At the dawn of 1841, new arrivals in the fledgling colony of Victoria knew nothing of the rich secrets hidden between the rugged slopes and densely forested gullies of the yet-to-be-explored-and-named mountain ranges and the harsh and seemingly barren coast of Australia's south-eastern corner - the area now known as Gippsland. Within a few months, a shipwreck and rescue, and the report of an returning overland explorer were to change all that, and the way was open to a steady stream of pioneers who came to stake a claim to their share of the wealth the region had to offer - magnificent timber, land for farms and, later, abundant fishing grounds.

When the "Clonmel", a paddle-steamer enroute from Sydney to Melbourne, foundered on a sandbar near the entrance to the present harbour, the rescue party from Melbourne brought back reports of both good land and a safe harbouring along with the survivors. At much the same time, explorer Angus MacMillan had reached the Gippsland coast at the same point via the inland. His reports were equally favourable and it wasn't long before settlers followed and took up land along the Albert River.

MacMillan's arrival is recorded on a marker at the entrance to the town. Artifacts from the "Clonmel" are housed in the town's Maritime Museum and the wreck itself can be seen from boats sailing over the bar at low tides.

Ups and downs

The discovery of gold in the 1850s turned a trickle of new arrivals into a flood and, for many, Port Albert was their first point of contact with their new life. Until the advent of good overland routes and the coming of the railway, it was the main port for arrival of both goods and people and the transit point for the gold that was being brought out of the goldfilelds to the north.

The comings and goings of the port required substantial government buildings both by the harbour and further out of town. The bank with its gold vault was built. Private enterprise saw shops, hotels and other local businesses established. Bullock teams lined the wharf as goods were unloaded for transport to the hinterland. Port Albert was booming.

But the good times didn't last long. By the end of the 1860s the decline had begun and the next few decades saw Port Albert's importance fade until it was no more than another small and struggling fishing port. The latter years of the 20th century saw a revival of fortune in a small way as weekend sailors and recreational fishers found their way here. Now, good roads and new tourist initiatives make Port Albert an attractive proposition for a weekend away from the city. The historical importance of the town combined with its lovely setting add to its charms.

We came to stay for a night, sample the fish and chips (the best in Victoria, remember?)and move on. The old fish shop was gone, demolished completely, a victim of time and asbestos but a great B&B find, dinner at the new cafe in town and the link to the past and the small-town pleasures Port Albert offered kept us there for two. A good decision.


Update: September 2008 - the new fish bar is up and running and the owners have also opened a swish new restaurant - Wildfish - with the same great fish catches on the menu. Now you can choose to eat your fish and chips from the traditional paper wrapping somewhere outdoors or sitting down, snug and warm out of the wind when a southerly buster blows.

  • Last visit to Port Albert: May 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (15)

Comments (18)

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Oct 18, 2011 at 11:19 PM

    To take a long walk on the 90 Mile Beach sounds to be great! Very interesting to read about the history of this area!

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Oct 18, 2011 at 7:18 AM

    I?m sure Richard Wagner would have been pleased if he had known that all that gold came from a town called Walhalla. That sounds like a charming B&B you found ? even with a special "mother-in-law" rate for the second room.

  • hopang's Profile Photo
    Mar 28, 2009 at 7:57 AM

    Superb Port Albert page with excellent photographs! It is a lovely tourist destination. Thanks for sharing. We hope to visit Port Albert some day. ~ho & pang

  • dancinbudgie's Profile Photo
    Feb 23, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    I love the detail that you have put into these tips. Really interesting and informative! '144 kilometre beach' is a bit of a mouthful... makes me laugh to think it even... :o)

  • kyoub's Profile Photo
    Feb 16, 2009 at 9:32 AM

    The 90 mile beach looks and sounds like a great area. Lucky you to also find a super B&B. Your restaurant tip makes me long for some "fresh" seafood.

  • saraheg77's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2008 at 5:50 AM

    This pregnant lady must stop reading restaurant tips. Everything makes me hungry :) That B&B looks perfect! Thanks for the tips, Leyle!

  • JLBG's Profile Photo
    Apr 12, 2008 at 9:32 PM

    This B&B looks awsome ! The Terre-Buga National Park looks truely like another world. Dinosaures would feel at home, wouldn?t they ? It is good to spot a mailbox that is not feeting with the standards but special

  • Mar 11, 2008 at 9:08 PM

    you know, ive never had the chance to get down to port albert and the surrounding area. it really does look lovely. perhaps next time, if im not too busy walking up and down chapel street blowing my $$$! :)

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Feb 20, 2008 at 4:33 PM

    Your ability to describe places, people, and cultures is not only astonishing but also a gift that few others possess. I really enjoyed your fine insights and natural enthusiasm. The B&B sounds so wonderful.

  • leffe3's Profile Photo
    Dec 16, 2007 at 6:10 PM

    Hoping to get there next week for a few days. Thanks for sharing - PA wasn't on the list of places until I read your pages! Be well - Keith

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