Guidebook Port Fairy: historic 19th-century maritime charm


Port Fairy: historic 19th-century maritime charm

Established as a whaling and sealing station in 1833, Port Fairy is “all about heritage bluestone and sandstone buildings, whitewashed cottages, colourful fishing boats and wide, tree-lined streets,” says Lonely Planet. It’s a town with “some of the best restaurants in Victoria, excellent coffee and boutiques stocking pricey independent designers,” writes Brigid Delaney in The Guardian, and the sunsets are “magnificent, the birdlife unusual” and the air has “a kind of sparkly, fresh quality that one usually associates with alpine regions, but instead it was infused with a heady brininess from the nearby Southern Ocean.”

Port Fairy is “filled with exciting and thrilling stories,” explains Isabell Greigeritsch on The Culture Trip. Start at the History Centre, where visitors can “engage in their very own historical re-enactments in the courtrooms and explore photographs of the town’s history in the centre’s gallery.” Then discover the Wharf area, which was one of the busiest locales in the community back in 1850. “The Wharf was previously a central departure point in the state of Victoria for ships loaded up with wool, gold and wheat exports bound for Britain … today, it is still busy around the wharf with luxury yachts and weathered boats sitting in rows down the marina,” says Greigeritsch.

You’re surrounded by water. “One of the delights of Port Fairy is to swim on East beach on a perfect summer’s day and to have no one – I mean no one – else in the water with you,” says Brigid Delaney in The Guardian. A more genteel water experience can be found at Griffith Island, across a footbridge from the main town. “This is a delightful way to spend a few hours, writes Traveller. “There is a track around the island which includes the Mutton Bird Viewing point and the lighthouse on the island's eastern extremity.” The large colony of muttonbirds (short-tailed shearwaters) “arrive within three days of the 22 September each year, settle in last year's burrow, mate in early November, the eggs are laid around 25 November and take around a month to hatch which means that the young start to appear in mid-January. In mid-April the birds head off on their annual migration around the Pacific,” travelling around 15,000 km in two months. “Viewing the birds from the platform on Griffiths Island is best at dusk between September and April,” says Traveller.

And then there’s the food. At the top of the list is Fen, located in a 19th-century bluestone building, “a twice-hatted restaurant that uses native and coastal ingredients to create innovative dishes with a strong sense of place,” notes Hilary Simons at The Urban List. (see Guidebook’s Best Eating Out of Town section). Bank St + Co is a “next-level foodie café” with “moose art on the walls, a sunny outback courtyard, elaborate terrarium gardens” and an all-day brunch menu that includes interesting items like gravlax ocean trout with beetroot relish and Persian feta (“outstandingly pretty”) and a brûlée bowl with poached fruit, caramelized bananas and crème anglaise (“for Instagram appeal”). Meanwhile, “hidden down a walkway in a modern lot” is Farmers Wife, which “doesn't need a heritage building to impress,” according to Lonely Planet, adding that the seasonal brunch menu “features tempting items such as pork belly Benedict brioche, chilli fried eggs with pork quesadilla and salsa, and sourdough fruit toast.”

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