Port Fairy Accommodation and Travel Guide

Moyne river Port Fairy

About This Guide

Our aim is to provide a comprehensive listing of accommodation, events and attractions in Port Fairy, so whenever anyone searches for Port Fairy Accommodation, or Port Fairy Information on the Internet, they actually get information on a broad range Port Fairy accommodation properties, attractions, restaurants and events in Port Fairy.
We also link direct with each property and supply addresses, phone numbers and web site links for each business - We do not redirect to booking companies or through booking agencies who charge commissions.

Many travel guides describe Port Fairy as a picture postcard seaside fishing village set on the edge of a long sweeping bay.
Port Fairy has also had a very chequered history, beginning as one of the earliest settlements in Victoria, and then in the 1840's it went through private ownership, a change of name to Belfast and then bankruptcy before reverting back to Port Fairy in the 1870's.
This disruption virtually halted all growth in the town and Port Fairy today is almost the same size it was in 1860.
The events which slowed Port Fairy’s growth has creating a quiet seaside fishing village that now attract visitors looking for relaxing holidays by the sea.
In the past few decades, Port Fairy has also attracted many retirees looking to retire in a quiet seaside community, with the result that Port Fairy now has a distinct over 50’s feel, which reflects in the attractions and activities around the town, there are book fairs, classical music weekends, lots of antique shops and coffee and cake restaurants
Without generalising too much, it is fair to say that Port Fairy caters mainly to the affluent over 40’s market, from young families to retired travellers, with restaurants, accommodation and shopping all aimed at the mid to upper price bracket. Don’t expect to find very much budget accommodation or restaurants serving cheap kids meals.

Port Fairy Lighthouse

Griffiths Island Lighthouse

One of many lighthouses built in the 1860 in an attempt to prevent the numerous shipwrecks that occurred along the coast .

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Port Fairy hotel

The Caledonian Inn

Known locally as The Stump, The Caledonian Hotel is Victoria's oldest continuously licensed hotel.

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Port Fairy coastal defences

Russian Defences

In the 1870's towns along the Great Ocean Road prepared to repel invading Russians.

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Port Fairy Attractions

Port Fairy's Story

These days a lot of tourism in Australia is about looking at scenery, be it the 12 Apostles or the Grampians, but towns such as Port Fairy offer a different aspect to tourism in they have an interesting story to tell. In Port Fairy’s case there are dozens of fascinating tales to tell including its involvement with the Henty brothers and the first permanent white settlement in Victoria, the establishment of Irish immigration at a time when the Potato Famine in Ireland was at it worst and buildings still unfinished from the 1850’s when gold was discovered in Ballarat.

History Walks

Port Fairy contains a large number of heritage listed houses and public buildings and is fortunate to have an active historical society who are active in preserving and promoting the towns history. The history group have created a walking tour map which available from the local visitor information centre and takes in most of the towns prominent buildings.

Whaling

Port Fairy's whaling history dates back many years prior to permanent settlement and may have dated back in to the early 1820’s however contemporary research seems to indicate the whaling station commenced operation in the early 1830’s. The station was based on Griffiths island and was only occupied during the whaling season. The only remnants of the whaling station are a few indistinct foundations close to the lighthouse.

Shearwaters

Each year around mid November, Griffiths island becomes a breeding colony for over 10,000 Short Tailed shearwaters (once known as Mutton Birds) In order to protect their chicks the birds nest and raise their young in underground burrows and by mid January ( after the chicks have hatched ) the parents begin journeys out to sea looking for food during the day and only return to the burrows after darkness. The spectacle of thousands of birds circling Griffiths island at dusk attracts many visitors to witness this unique sight and the moment the sun drops below the horizon the birds start landing and the well equipped Mutton Bird watchers get out their torches to see the action .

Port Fairy beach

General Information About Port Fairy

The small seaside resort town of Port Fairy dates back to the mid 1830’s when whalers and sealers set up temporary camps near the mouth of the Moyne river. The first permanent occupancy was in 1839 with the establishment of a general store, however development began in earnest in 1843 when Irish businessman , James Atkinson was able to purchase part of a special government survey of eight square miles that took in the entire area of the present town. Atkinson invested heavily, draining the surrounding swamps, building a wharf on the river and laying out the township. In 1844 the post office was opened and the township given the name Port Fairy. In 1854, Atkinson decided to rename the township to Belfast (his native city) and in the census of 1857 Port Fairy had a population of about 2200 residents and was a thriving community.
Trouble struck in the mid 1860’s when Atkinson died leaving the privately owned township in financial limbo. It took another 20 years before the economic situation was sorted out and the town eventually passed back into state ownership, by then surrounding towns such as Warrnambool had become the main growth centres and Port Fairy never really recovered from this setback. Since then the township has more or less remain at the same size with the present population levels at around 2500. The lack of growth has meant the township has retained most of its historic buildings and also to retain the historic character of the township.

Explore Port Fairy

Things to see

Port Fairy is one of the oldest towns in the region with its history dating back to 1835 and the first settlement of Victoria and many of the original buildings have been preserved much as they were over 100 years ago. Start around the wharf area as there are quite a few listed buildings with 100 metres of the wharf. In recent times Port Fairy has become popular for a number of Arts and Crafts businesses. There are numerous antique stores around the town and the town holds a number of related functions during the year including book fairs, antique exhibitions, so a short stroll along Banks St might be interesting

History

When James Atkinson acquired ownership of land in 1843 there were only a handful of residents around the township and most of those were in very temporary accommodation ( slab and bark huts). He had in effect a blank canvas to work with and was able to plan the layout of the township to reflect the current trends in town planning. The town was laid out on a grid pattern with wide streets, and situated away from the river and the sea. Access roads in and out of the township skirted the township to prevent through traffic from clogging up the town centre.

Buildings

Port Fairy has a over 50 National Trust listed buildings around the town with many within a few minutes walk from the visitor centre. A popular walk around Port Fairy goes from the visitor centre to Gipps St to see the Moyne Mill which dates back to 1860, also in Gipps st is the old Court House (1859), Captain Mills cottage ( 1840) a quick detour in Cox St to see EMOH which was built around 1847 by William Rutledge and back to the corner of Gipps and Campbell St to see the Merrijig Inn which was built in 1842 A walk along Campbell St to Sackville st shows some early dwellings ranging from the 1850’s to the 1880s , in Sackville st, Motts Cottage is believed to date back to the 1830’s and at the corner of Sackville St and Cox St there are 4 fine buildings on each corner, Seacombe House which was completed in 1847 by Captain John Sanders, ANZ Bank which was originally known as The Colonial Bank opened its doors to the public in 1856, the NAB bank which dates back to the 1880s and the old Council chambers which were built in the early 1900’s Continuing along Sackville St (Port Fairy’s main shopping street) to see Star of the West Hotel which was completed in 1856 used Cobb & Co until the early 1900’s

Port Fairy Night Life

Since the 1950’s Port Fairy has been a favoured holiday destination for well to do graziers and business people with many owning holiday homes in the town. Over the intervening years the number of (holiday) homes owned by non residents has increased to a sizeable proportion of the population and the number of absentee ratepayers and has become a concern to the local council, however there is a positive side to this, rich folks love eating in good restaurants, and having lots of well heeled diners wandering around the town has created a demand for good quality restaurants.
These days Port Fairy has a disproportionate number of good restaurants compared to its population and even though Warrnambool has over ten times the population of Port Fairy’s, there is still quite a bit of restaurant snobbery goes on between the two towns with “our exclusive restaurants are better than your exclusive restaurants”

Port Fairy Restaurants

Port Fairy Pubs and Take Away

Port Fairy Accommodation

Accommodation in Port Fairy is generally a bit more expensive than the equivalent accommodation in Warrnambool, but on a par with places like Port Campbell and Apollo Bay, and like of many of the smaller holiday destinations, the accommodation seems to be predominantly, apartment, B&B and cottage style and geared towards longer term stays.
Port Fairy also has a good caravan and camping facilities (a legacy of the local folk festival) with two commercial caravan parks on the highway and a large council operated camping ground at Southcombe Park (the Folk Festival site) plus the original camping ground at the Gardens Reserve (the local football and cricket oval), however none of these are adjacent to the beach, the Gardens Reserve is the closest at about 500 metres from the beach.
Port Fairy has three motels, one on the highway and the other two close to the main street..

Killarney Beach HouseKillarney

Mid Price

The Killarney Beach House is a modern family home set on four acres in front of the ocean. This luxurious property features two separate suites and your hosts will make your vacation memorable in ev ery way, far away from noise and bustle.

AVG/NIGHT$120 WEB SITE VIEW ON MAP

Port Fairy Central Motel Port Fairy

Economy

The quaint bluestone building of Central Motel offers a 3.5 star rating, 19 units tucked away in a quiet cul de sac set in landscaped gardens off the main street of Port Fairy. Located close to restaurants, boutiques, hotels, cafes and galleries.

AVG/NIGHT$100 WEB SITE VIEW ON MAP

Clonmara Port Fairy

485 reviews

A charming Bed & Breakfast which retains the history and character of Port Fairy, but features modern comfort and facilities and only a 15 minute stroll from the centre of Port Fairy. Clonmara cottages are self contained and have spa bath bathrooms.

AVG/NIGHT$110 WEB SITE VIEW ON MAP

Eastern Beach Holiday Units Port Fairy

485 reviews

Only a two minute walk to our surf beach and Surf Lifesaving Club. Six 3 1/2 stars fully self-contained units available, each containing two bedrooms (one double and one twin, accommodating up to five), a kitchen, bathroom and comfortable lounge area..

AVG/NIGHT$95 WEB SITE VIEW ON MAP

Ocean Breeze Villa Port Fairy

423 reviews

Located close to Port Fairy's South beach, Ocean Breeze is a fully furnished and tastefully decorated 3 bedroom house with large flat screen TV, leather lounge suite, 3 bedrooms, two bathrooms separate lounge and dining area, plus fully equipped laundry and lock up garage. to find out more about Ocean Breeze.

AVG/NIGHT$120 WEB SITE VIEW ON MAP
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Port Fairy Map

Port Fairy Travel Options

Getting Here

Port Fairy is only 20kms from Warrnambool and although it doesn't have its own air or rail service, it shares these services with Warrnambool.
The Airport is located about mid distance between Warrnambool and Port Fairy so it is just as convenient to arrive or depart from either location. The rail service terminates at Warrnambool and there is a connecting coach service that continues on to Port Fairy
The Melbourne to Warrnambool's train runs three trains per day and the Port Fairy coach connects with each train

Local Travel

Port Fairy is part of Warrnambool's bus service operated by Transit South West and the No 8 bus runs 5 services per day around Port Fairy and connects back to Warrnambool (via Koroit). The bus covers a wide area of Port Fairy and provides a quasi local service although only every two hours. There is also a coach that links up with the Melbourne to Warrnambool train service and this service stops in Port Fairy before continuing on to Portland and Mount Gambier. In addition there is a tourist coach service to the Halls Gap and Ararat that runs three times per week ( Tuesday, Friday and Sunday) that links Port Fairy with the Grampians.

Tours and Charters

Most visitors to Port Fairy arrive by car or coach and even those without transport find getting around the centre of the township quite easy but with a population of about 2500, Port Fairy is large enough to support a local taxi service which provides a taxi and mini bus service to the town.
Port Fairy has one local touring company who specialises in running mini bus tours to the local wind farms along the coast. There is at least three fishing and scenic charter businesses who operate from the Port Fairy wharf.