Plan for an early morning visit to Griffith’s Island to watch the sunrise over the spectacular Port Fairy Lighthouse, at the eastern tip of the island, a short 20 min walk from Martin’s Point Car Park. This iconic beacon was built c.1859 of local bluestone and still sends its light out to sea today. The Island was named Griffith’s Island after John Griffiths, who established Port Fairy’s whaling industry on the island in the 1830’s. As you wander the pathways to the lighthouse keep an eye out for native birdlife and wildlife including the black wallaby (Wallabia bicolor). Continue around the island enjoying the rugged coastline and the small-protected coves. Keep to the walking tracks which traverse through the low lying scrub, keeping a careful eye out for nesting birds, including the shearwaters that migrate from the northern hemisphere each year to their nesting burrows.
Return to the Griffith’s Island car park and head into town to indulge in a cooked breakfast at Bank St & Co, at 28 Bank St, Port Fairy. Set up by some local lads, this smart cafe has a refined decor of polished floorboards, subway tiles and an open fireplace and features an extensive breakfast and tempting lunch menu ranging from crispy Portland squid with apple slaw, to beef brisket burgers and gourmet toasties.
While in the main town browse the boutique Shopping Precinct of Port Fairy and meet the passionate traders who have fashioned this village into a style in its own right. Here, shopping is enjoyable and entertaining and a touch quirky. The charming, old-world main streets house a dynamic collection of home wares, antiques, body care products and ladies’ fashion boutiques which offer fledgling labels, known brands and eclectic styles. Pick-up a unique gift for that special loved one or a classy keepsake. Discover your next favourite read in one of two bookshops or simply browse to your heart’s content.
It is a good idea to also head down Bank Street and pay a visit to the friendly staff at the Port Fairy Information Centre to collect a town map, and a self -guided walking map including the Art Map, the Maritime & Shipwreck Heritage Walk and the Historical Buildings Heritage Walk.
We suggest if the weather is fine that you commence with the Maritime & Shipwreck Heritage Walk, which will take you to Battery Hill and East Beach to discover the history of the Port and its iconic features including Battery Hill, the Powder Magazine and the Historic Lifeboat Station. The guide will also have you passing a memorial to the steamer Casino and the sites of 17 shipwrecks that unfortunately ran aground along East Beach. Or you may choose to complete the Historical Buildings Heritage Walk which will provide a tour around the town historical buildings which can be conducted either on foot or by car if the weather is inclement. Either choice will bring you to the historic River Precinct where you may choose to stop for lunch at the famed Fisherman’s Wharf in Port Fairy. It is a must see for all first time visitors. You will find opportunities for lunch here at the Fisherman’s Wharf or make you way back into the town centre for a bite to eat.
After an energetic morning and leisurely lunch we suggest you visit the Whalebone Gallery as highlighted in the Port Fairy Art Map. Port Fairy is proud of its growing and evolving local artist community who are inspired by the beauty of the region, the captivating history and a strong community spirit. Whale Bone Gallery is a co-operative retail art gallery in Port Fairy. Artist members, who work in a variety of mediums including paint, ink, textiles, glass, jewellery and photography, run the gallery. The artists come together to work collaboratively on installations and generate two major exhibitions of new work annually.
Just a little further down the road you may like to drop into the Port Fairy Day Spa. The Port Fairy Day Spa Offers a comprehensive range of spa, beauty and therapeutic treatments designed to re-balance and de-stress your mind and body. You may choose to experience the peaceful ambiance and pure indulgence of one of the spa packages, either way your time at the spa will be one of total indulgent bliss.
If time allows, and the History Centre Museum is open, drop into the Museum and Archives centre of Port Fairy. The Museum and Archives feature changing exhibitions covering various aspects of Port Fairy’s past. They sell a number of local history publications and offer a wealth of information on the history of the town, its colourful past, historical people and places.
Complete the evening with dinner at the Merrijig Inn, the oldest Inn in Victoria, located in the heart of Port Fairy’s historic village offering a daily written menu of seasonal fare sourced, where possible, from the south-west countryside. A well-crafted wine list features local, regional and international winemakers who craft their wines using biodynamic and organic practices.
And then come full circle at the right time of the year, with a return journey to Griffith’s Island to witness the Short-tailed Shearwaters or Mutton Birds at dusk, one of Port Fairy’s most spectacular summer sights. Each year, towards the end of September the Short-tailed Shearwaters arrive on Griffiths Island as part of their annual migration from their far flung journey in the Northern Hemisphere, the Aleutian Islands near Alaska. Following the preparation of their nests, and laying and incubating of their eggs in January, the birds leave again for the Northern Hemisphere in April. The birds will spend the summer months here raising their young, fishing during the day, returning with food for their young and then set off again in mid-April. So, at dusk join the many birdwatchers who are certainly in for a treat from late September until April as the Short-tailed Shearwaters return daily to their burrows on Griffith’s Island … certainly a memorable ending to your day in Port Fairy.
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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawuurung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Ancestors, 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.