The Great Ocean Road is one of the most scenic coastal drives in the world, it’s really a must do experience if you are visiting Victoria.
With beautiful beaches, spectacular vistas, lush forests and wild life encounters, it’s a journey you’ll never forget.
Many travellers get as far as the 12 Apostles and then head back to Melbourne. But, if you keep going, you’ll find the historic fishing town of Port Fairy.
My partner spent many a summer holiday camping in Port Fairy as a kid. Whenever we go back, it’s always in summer, with most of our days spent at East beach playing in the waves or hanging out at the Gardens Caravan Park.
Summer in Port Fairy is a ton of fun with beach goers and, during the famous Port Fairy Folk Festival, the town’s population increases from around 2000 to over 40,000!
So, if you’d rather visit when it’s a little quieter, autumn through to spring is just as beautiful in this part of the region.
We changed our routine and visited in a September. Here’s where we stayed and what we did:
There is a huge variety of accommodation options in Port Fairy to suit any budget, from campsites to luxury boutique B&Bs.
54 on Bank a little piece of affordable luxury conveniently located in the heart of Port Fairy.
You can choose from three styles of self-contained units ranging from queen suites that sleep two (ideal for a couple’s getaway), to the Premium Cottage, which is big enough to accommodate five.
My little family of three had the pleasure of enjoying the Cottage for two nights and we found it very comfortable and the perfect place to base ourselves whilst discovering Port Fairy. My daughter loved her little bedroom nook and we all enjoyed walking to dinner every evening.
Tip: During peak season you’ll have to book early (even for a caravan site), but in the off season you can take your pick of the best the area has to offer making Autumn, Winter and Spring an ideal time to visit.
Port Fairy boasts wide streets lined with 19th century cottages, great Norfolk pines and old stone churches.
With more than 50 buildings classified by the National Trust and many fine examples of 1800s architecture, walking around Port Fairy feels like you are stepping back in time.
Grab a Historical Walks Map from the tourist information center and immerse yourself in the town’s history.
And, if you love a vibrant garden, the ones around town are beautiful in spring.
Port Fairy’s historic fishing port precinct is still one of the busiest in Victoria. If you are there at the right time, you watch as the fishermen unload their catch.
The wharf is lined with sailing boats and fishing craft, and you can enjoy good views of river activity from the footbridge over the river at the end of the wharf. Kids will love seeing the fishing boats close up.
Tip: you can dine at The Wharf restaurant, overlooking the river (family friendly).
On the outskirts of town is Griffiths Island The return walk to the lighthouse is suitable for younger children, and, if you’re all up for it you can walk around the entire island, which will take between one and one-and-half hours.
The walking track circuit winds through low lying scrub and in some sections will take you over secluded beaches with the highlight being the historic bluestone lighthouse built in 1859. It still functions today with a solar powered light and a wind assisted generator.
You’ll see lots of wildlife, including colonies of sea birds, wallabies and if you are lucky, you may even spot an echidna.
Between Warrnambool and Port Fairy is Tower Hill, a wildlife reserve nestled in a dormant volcano crater.
Declared a national park in 1892 (Victoria’s first), you’ll find all sorts of iconic Aussie wildlife here.
We got up close and personal with emus and koalas, as well as lots of birds and reptiles in the wetland area.
Take a guided walk with a knowledgeable indigenous guide to learn about Aboriginal history and cultural heritage, bush tucker and even how to throw a boomerang. Our experience at Tower Hill was our daughter’s number one highlight of the weekend.
TIP: Just a few minutes’ drive west from Port Fairy is the giant Yambuk slide, which is great fun for kids and adults! At the top is a breathtaking view of the ocean and Lady Percy Julia Island.
Port Fairy is a culture and arts hub which has a vibrant community of artists and craftspeople. Grab an art map from the information centre and explore the town’s creative side.
We loved visiting Eclectic Designs Glass Studio to watch how art glass was made, and enjoyed the book illustration exhibition at Blarney Books & Art. Many of the studios and galleries are located in historic homes set in beautiful well kept gardens, which were in full bloom during our Spring visit.
Nearly every Saturday you’ll find either the Port Fairy Farmers Market or the Community Market located at railway place next to the Tourist Information Centre.
The Farmers Market has a focus on local produce, and if you are lucky the ‘Bacon & Egg roll guy’ will be there so you can grab a quick breakfast as you browse the stalls.
The beach is beautiful any time of the year in Port Fairy. The ‘Pea Soup’ beach is ideal for families, where you can do some rock hopping and carefully look in the rock pools. Just remember to leave the shells where they are, as the marine life use them for homes.
Oh, and they say the remains of the Mahogany Ship, is hidden in the sand dunes nearby!
Tip: for more maritime history, go to Flagstaff Hill in Warrnambool.
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.