Six reasons to visit Portland

Coastline of Portland in south western Victoria.
Coastline of Portland in south western Victoria. Photo: Jessica Shapiro

Richard Cornish heads along the Great Ocean Road for some fish and history.

1. UPWELLING FESTIVAL
EVERY November, when the spring winds blow, the cold water from deep in the Southern Ocean rises up, bringing nutrients on which phytoplankton thrive, kicking off a feeding frenzy that extends right up the food chain. Known as the Bonney Upwelling, this event is celebrated in Portland each year with the Upwelling Festival, a community fun day combining art, food, performance, science and a street parade involving just about every school kid in town. Previous years have featured massive whale sculptures, but this year the star is a gigantic Phloating Phyto, a 100-metre-long replica of the microscopic organisms that support the web of ocean life. This art installation will be temporarily anchored to the sea floor off Henty Beach for the day of the festival, which will also include talks by leading marine scientists.
November 3, 7.30am-5pm, upwellingfestival.com.au

2. ANCIENT CULTURE
NEARBY Lake Condah was drained in the 1800s, but the local Aboriginal people have reinstated the natural course of the waterways and the lake is now full once more. Visitors can explore this magical, ancient landscape — and learn about the Gunditjmara people’s aquaculture system, including stone eel traps and channels, with Budj Bim tours (www.budjbim.com). The tours visit the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area, a reserve of native bush on rugged volcanic ground, through which flows the clear water of Darlot Creek with replicas of indigenous stone houses and hand-woven fish traps.
Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area, Ettrick-Tyrendarra Road, Tyrendarra.

3. HISTORY MUSEUM
IN 1834, by the cliffs overlooking Portland Bay, young Englishman Edward Henty turned
the fi rst sod of earth in Victoria. Europeans had been living along the southern coast
since the early 1800s, but factors such as their low social status as whalers and
sealers, appalling interactions with Aboriginal women and precarious tenure meant they
were never really considered worthy to be our first settlers. But Henty, whose family were
English bankers, arrived with grape vines and a plough, symbols of agricultural civilisation.
That plough and myriad other exhibits, including artefacts from the life of Sister
Mary MacKillop and extensive genealogical records, are on display at History House, a
museum in the bluestone former town hall that was built in 1863.
75 Cliff Street, daily 10am-noon,
1pm-4pm, cost $2.50, 5522 2266

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4. PETE’S FISH SHOP
PETER Deegan’s fish shop should be a contender for best in the country. Deegan picks up seafood fresh from the trawlers: look out for rosy pink flathead fillets, gleaming baby snapper, boxes of perfect cuttlefish no bigger than your thumb, plump skate wings and fish you rarely see in the market such as hake. Deegan opens every day of the year, fries fish and chips only during the week, and on Fridays makes sushi as well, using a recipe taught to him by a Japanese mate.
Deegan Seafoods, 106 Percy Street, Mon-Thurs 9am-6pm; Fri 9am-7pm; Sat-Sun 10am-4pm, 5523 4749

5. SPONGES
DOWN a quiet street next to a butcher shop is what appears from some distance to be a nondescript fish and chip shop. But this is Short Street Takeaway, one of a dying breed of old fashioned home-style bakers selling good cream-filled sponges, slices and apple turnovers.
Sponges, 80 Short Street, Mon-Tues 7am-8pm; Wed-Sun 7am-8.30pm, 5521 7732

6. CAPE BRIDGEWATER
PERFECTLY formed rollers gently break on the great arc of white sand. A flock of terns lifts from the surf as one. Nestled between two headlands, Cape Bridgewater has one of Victoria’s most beautiful beaches. Patrolled in summer by the Portland Surf Life Saving Club, and with its easy gradient, Bridgewater Bay is a favourite for young families. Light meals are available at the Bridgewater Bay Cafe (1661 Bridgewater Road, 5526 7155). On the headland above the bay is the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm. Twenty-nine turbines sit in the rolling dunes, and in the late afternoon, when the sea mist and towers are backlit by golden light, it is an other-worldly sci-fi landscape.

6reasons@richardcornish.com.au

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