Port Welshpool

Port Welshpool (including Welshpool and Barry Beach)
Quiet port on the Gippsland coast.
Port Welshpool is located 191 kilometres south-east of Melbourne via the South Gippsland Highway. Located at the north-eastern margin of Corner Inlet, it is not surprising that it initially relied almost exclusively on the ocean's marine life for its prosperity. An anchorage, apparently established offshore near Snake Island, was used by whalers as early as the 1830s.

The region was explored in the 1840s by the Gippsland Company, whose interest was stimulated by Count Paul Strzelecki's explorations of Gippsland and by the wreck of the Clonmel near the entrance of Port Albert. The area became part of a substantial land lease, stretching from the Albert to Agnes Rivers, taken out by John Gellion and partners, a Mr. Rickard and a Mr. Stratton.

According to an early surveyor, the town was named after Patrick Welsh, who settled in the district and became a land-holder in the Alberton area. He had plans to make the port a major transportation centre for the produce of Gippsland. However, the journalist John Stanley James, claimed in 1886 that the name came from a village on the border of Wales and Shropshire.

The town was gazetted as Welshpool in 1851, and was only officially renamed in 1952. Settlement and trading began almost immediately as the town was thought to have considerable potential. An 800-foot jetty was constructed in 1859 but burned down soon afterwards. Its replacement was used to facilitate the shipment of cattle and timber to New Zealand and Tasmania and to receive the fishermen's catches and imported supplies. The famous Australian novelist Hal Porter, who wrote portions of his autobiography, The Watcher on the Cast-Iron Balcony (1963), at nearby Hedley, recalled that cattle were steered in their hundreds across a long sand bar to Snake Island for pasturing.

Chinese communities established themselves around the inlet as curers of fish and wandering Indian hawkers with their exotic wares became part of the local landscape. In 1889, a steam sawmill was built at Hedley by Mr Maison, who transported his railway sleepers, jetty piles and fish baskets to the port by bullock train, until a tramline was laid. Maison also received a badge of honour from the French government for the quality of the paving rocks he supplied for paving the streets of Paris.

A hotel from a temporary township called Seaforth became the Port Welshpool Post Office in the late nineteenth century and it still serves that function today, although it has been considerably altered over the years. An early dwelling in Turnbull St, known as 'Crescent', dates from c.1873.

In 1891, the arrival of the railway boosted the local fishing industry as it meant that the produce could be transported directly to Melbourne on a daily basis. The fish were carried to the station by horse and wagon until a tramline, which also ferried locals about for social occasions, was laid in 1904. Rail was eventually replaced by road transport in 1940.

When they were exploring the area Bass and Flinders recorded a flock of approximately 133 million mutton birds in the area. They reported that it was 80 yards long, 300 yards wide and, travelling at an estimated 50 m.p.h., took 90 minutes to pass overhead. The birds return to the Inlet every November, although in significantly reduced numbers. A rather more unfortunate event connected with nature was the beaching of 300 whales in 1957, which attracted about 10,000 people to the township.

Today, Port Welshpool is a popular holiday and beach resort destination.

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Things to see:

Attractions in the area
Fishing is hugely popular with both gummy shark and trevally being particularly common. Wilsons Promontory National Park and the islands of Corner Inlet can be reached by launch or sailboat from the port. There is a launching ramp and boats can be hired locally. Hog deer, an endangered species in their native Asia, have been introduced into a State game reserve on Snake Island, in order to bolster their numbers.

Port Welshpool Museum
The Port Welshpool Museum, open daily, features marine displays and an unusual assortment of maritime curios. The house, built in 1881, was one of the first substantial dwellings to be constructed at Port Welshpool. The builder, J. Avery, had to walk 21 miles from Port Albert every Monday, and returned by foot each weekend. It is thought to be one of the oldest buildings in the shire of South Gippsland. On the lawn is the fishing boat, the Janet Isles, which was used by the house's owners, the Smith family, for several generations.

Barry Beach
Barry Beach, a few kilometres west, is a supply base for the oil rigs of Bass Strait. Steel platforms are constructed here and towed into the strait, where piles are driven through the hollow legs and a deck is welded on. An observation area, overlooking the terminal, has been organised.

The area was reputedly named after jack-of-all-trades, John Baragwanath, who owned land at the mouth of the Agnes River. Skilled at ironwork, photography, and surveying, he manufactured his own camera and telescope and assisted the locals in the guises of an informal doctor, a legal counsellor, and a bush dentist - always carrying a set of forceps with which to yank out troublesome teeth.

Harold Lasseter - the man who made and prompted numerous expeditions to central Australia by claiming that a mother lode of gold, known as Lasseter's Reef, was there to be mined - lived in the area for his last thirty years. He died returning from one of his own trips in about 1931.

Welshpool and other attractions
The township of Welshpool, a few kilometres to the north, relies upon the dairy and wool industries. 9 km north-west of Welshpool you can visit one of the highest waterfalls in Victoria at the Agnes Falls Reserve, where the river plunges 60 m over the gorge. The damming of the river above the falls ensures the water supply to Welshpool and other local towns. Walking tracks, picnic and barbecue facilities are available. To get there, head west along the highway and turn off at Slades Hill Road, near the school. The route is signposted. Return via Toora for maximum scenic value.

Pier Port Hotel
Lewis St
Port Welshpool VIC 3965
Telephone: (03) 5688 1333

Welshpool Hotel/Motel
Main St Welshpool 3966
Port Welshpool VIC 3965
Telephone: (03) 5688 1209

Long Jetty Caravan Park
Lewis St
Port Welshpool VIC 3965
Telephone: (03) 5688 1233
Rating: **

Port Welshpool Caravan Park
Lewis St
Port Welshpool VIC 3965
Telephone: (03) 5688 1273
Rating: **

Pier Point Hotel
Lewis St
Port Welshpool VIC 3965
Telephone: (03) 5688 1333

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