Cape Nelson Lighthouse, Chris Groenhout / Explore Australia Publishing

Population 9824

Portland is the most westerly of Victoria's major coastal towns and the only deep-water port between Melbourne and Adelaide. It was also the first permanent settlement in Victoria, founded in 1834 by the famous pastoralist Henty family. The township, which features many National Trust–classified buildings, overlooks Portland Bay. The Kerrup–Tjmara people, who once numbered in the thousands, were the original inhabitants of the district and referred to it as 'Pulumbete' meaning 'Little Lake' – a reference to the scenic lake now known as Fawthorp Lagoon.

Visitor Information

Lee Breakwater Rd; (03) 5523 2671 or 1800 035 567


Nearby national parks

  • Mount Eccles National Park

    Mount Eccles National Park is Victoria’s first co-managed national park, being managed by the traditional owners,...more

  • Brisbane Ranges National Park

    In Brisbane Ranges National Park low mountains are dissected by rugged gorges and hidden gullies with basalt grasslands and woodlands. An...more

Nearby towns

  • Port Fairy

    Port Fairy was once a centre for the whaling industry and one of the largest ports in Australia. Today many visitors are attracted to its...more

  • Hamilton

    Hamilton is a prominent rural centre in the heart of a sheep-grazing district. This industry is such an important part of the town's economy...more

  • Warrnambool

    Warrnambool lies at the end of the Great Ocean Road on a notorious section of coastline that has seen over 80 shipwrecks. The best known was...more

In Town

Portland Maritime Discovery Centre The centre features a 13 m sperm whale skeleton, and the lifeboat used to rescue 19 survivors from the Admella shipwreck in 1859. Another wreck, the Regia, is displayed in 2 m of water. The centre shares the building with the information centre. Lee Breakwater Rd.

Botanical Gardens: established in 1857, with both native and exotic plant life. A restored 1850s bluestone worker's cottage is within the grounds and open to the public; Cliff St.

Historical buildings: more than 200 around town, many National Trust–classified. The best way to explore buildings such as the courthouse, Steam Packet Inn and Mac's Hotel is to take either a guided or self-guided walk; details from visitor centre.

History House: a historical museum and family research centre in the old town hall; Charles St.

Burswood: a bluestone, regency-style mansion that was once the home of pioneer settler Edward Henty. The house is set amid 5 ha of gardens; Cape Nelson Rd.

Fawthorp Lagoon: prolific birdlife; Glenelg St.

Powerhouse Car Museum: Percy St.

Watertower Lookout: displays of WW II memorabilia on the way up the 133 steps to magnificent 360-degree views across Portland and the ocean, where whales and dolphins can sometimes be spotted; Percy St. Another good spot for whale-watching is Battery Hill.


Cape Bridgewater This cape is home to a 650-strong colony of Australian fur seals. A 2 hr return walk leads to a viewing platform, or you can take a 45 min boat ride that leads into the mouth of a cave to see them up close (bookings essential, (03) 5526 7247). Across the cape towards Discovery Bay are the Petrified Forest and the Blowholes spectacular during high seas. 21 km SW.

Lower Glenelg National Park The Glenelg River is a central feature of the park. It has cut an impressive 50 m deep gorge through a slab of limestone. Watch for platypus, water rats, moorhens and herons around the water's edge. Bushwalking, camping, fishing and canoeing are all popular, and Jones Lookout and the Bulley Ranges offer great views. Also in the park are the Princess Margaret Rose Caves on the north side of the river you can drive there via Nelson or Dartmoor. Alternatively, boat tours operate from Nelson. Contact Parks Victoria on 13 1963; 44 km NW.

Cape Nelson: here a lighthouse perches on top of tall cliffs and lightstation tours are available; 11 km SW.

Narrawong State Forest: a short walk leads to Whalers Pt, where Aboriginal people once watched for whales; 18 km NE.

Discovery Bay Coastal Park: Cape Bridgewater is included in this park, though the majority of it is remote and relatively untouched. The Great South West Walk (see below) offers the best chance to take in the park's scenery. Behind Cape Bridgewater are the Bridgewater Lakes (19 km W) popular for waterskiing and fishing. A walking track leads from here to the beach.

Mt Richmond National Park: a 'mountain' formed by an extinct volcano. The area has abundant spring wildflowers and native fauna, including the elusive potoroo; 25 km NW.

Heywood: home to the Bower Birds Nest Museum, and the Wood, Wine and Roses Festival in Feb. Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape, the traditional lands of the Gunditjmara people, is also located here. Visitors can experience the aquaculture system including stone eel traps, permanent stone houses and smoking trees; Budj Bim Tours (03) 5527 1699; 28 km N.

Nelson: a charming hamlet near the mouth of the Glenelg River. There is good waterskiing in the area; 70 km NW.

Great South West Walk: this epic 250 km walking trail takes in the full range of local scenery the Glenelg River, Discovery and Bridgewater bays and Cape Nelson are some of the highlights. It is possible to do just small sections of the walk; maps and details from visitor centre.

Fishing spots near town

Portland 1 km

‘I reckon Portland is Victoria’s best kept angling secret,’ local angler Bob McPherson told me in 2004. At the time, I believed he was right. Within two years Portland was no longer a secret, becoming... Find out more

Port Fairy 56 km

Port Fairy is an unimposing historic seaport between Warrnambool and Portland. While it might come across as a sleepy, seaside resort, Port Fairy always seems to attract exciting piscatorial headlines. During the 1960s... Find out more

Nelson 62 km

The Glenelg River is situated at Nelson near the border with SA. The long river is one of the state’s premier fisheries for bream to 1.8 kg, estuary perch and mulloway to about 20 kg. Victoria has some excellent... Find out more

Warrnambool 77 km

Warrnambool is a big, tidy city. It’s a great place to take the family for a holiday, particularly if you have fishing on your mind. All forms of angling are available, but the most popular water is the Hopkins... Find out more

Konong Wootong Reservoir 95 km

Coleraine in the Western District is in the heart of prime wool- growing country. The small town is famous for its chocolate factory, but less well known is the trout fishery in the picturesque 60 ha impoundment just out... Find out more

Eco-friendly activities around town

Mount Eccles National Park 40 km

At Mount Eccles you can walk for 2 kilometres around the rim of a volcanic crater then descend for a swim in the lake at its heart. It is a great spot for a picnic, with koalas and kangaroos, and the camping facilities... Find out more

Picnicking at Lake Pertobe Reserve 77 km

Lake Pertobe Reserve on Warrnambool’s foreshore is known as one of the best adventure playgrounds around, with plenty for kids of all ages. There are paddleboats and canoes, a maze and flying fox, free barbecues... Find out more

Picnicking around Mount Gambier 92 km

Mount Gambier has some extraordinary picnic spots around collapsed caves that are now beautiful sinkhole gardens. Try Cave Gardens or the stunning Umpherston Sinkhole, which has free barbecues and good facilities.... Find out more

Golf courses around town

Port Fairy Golf Club 59 km

An endearing quality of the great links layouts of Britain and Ireland is their natural setting. Wild, windswept holes rolling between sand dunes that have stood tall for centuries are the norm. The links of Port... Find out more

Cafes & restaurants around town

Bridgewater Bay Beach Cafe

The original kiosk overlooking the ocean, the beach and the bluff to the seal colony has morphed in recent years into this casual licensed cafe with outside deck. It is worth the 15-minute detour by car west of Portland... Find out more

Fergie's Cafe & Wine Bar

Housed in the old post office in the town centre, this 1882 building overlooks Portland Bay. An up-market restaurant, it serves contemporary dishes. For starters, try seared scallops with crispy pork belly, apple and... Find out more

The Lido Larder

Housed in a lovely Federation-style heritage building, this contemporary cafe bakes everything fresh on the premises – frittatas, quiches, chicken and coriander sausage rolls, delicious slices and cakes. It fills... Find out more

Nearby breweries

Flying Horse Brewery 81 km

Whales and ales are now the twin attractions for the pretty seaside Victorian city of Warrnambool, following the development of the sprawling Flying Horse Bar & Brewery complex by joint owners Matt Monk, Matt Stewart... Find out more

Campsites around town

Mallee Camp (walk-in camping) 9 km

Mallee Camp is 15 km from Trewalla Camp, a hike that takes you around Cape Nelson. Portland is another 21.7 km to the north.... Find out more

Cubbys Camp (walk-in camping) 12 km

Cubbys Camp is a 20 km trek north-west of Portland. It’s located in the eastern fringe of Cobboboonee Forest.... Find out more

Trewalla Camp (walk-in camping) 12 km

From the Springs Camp, a walk of 15 km takes you around the edge of the cape, past its famous fur seal colony, and skirts Bridgewater Bay before reaching Trewalla Camp. It’s a further 15 km to Mallee camp.... Find out more

Narrawong Holiday Park 13 km

This scenic place is 13 km east of Portland on the Princes Hwy. It has its own natural moat, the Surry River, which circles the campground before flowing out past the local beach. Many of the grassy campsites are... Find out more

Sawpit camping area 14 km

This old sawmill site attracts campers because of its access to ocean views. Take the easy track to Whalers Lookout and see if you can spot some passing cetaceans. To reach the site, follow the signposted Boyers Rd from... Find out more

The Springs Camp (walk-in camping) 19 km

White Sands to Swan Lake is 28.5 km, from Swan Lake to the Springs is 32 km, and from there to Trewalla is 15 km. The Springs camp is on Cape Bridgewater, not far from some spectacular blowholes and a petrified forest.... Find out more

Surry Ridge camping area 20 km

The Great South West Walk passes straight through this serene picnic and camping area. To get here, follow the Portland–Nelson Rd for 22 km west of Portland and take the signposted turn-off north onto the T&W... Find out more

Cut-out Camp (walk-in camping) 20 km

The 15 km walk between Cubbys Camp and Cut-out Camp leads you into Cobboboonee National Park. It’s 9.4 km from Cut-out Camp to Cobboboonee Camp.... Find out more

Fitzroy River Public Purposes Reserve camping area 23 km

Surrounded by coastal scrub at the mouth of the Fitzroy River, this campground is only a short walk from lovely ocean beaches. You’ll find it 4 km down Thompsons Rd, which is 32 km east of Portland on the road to... Find out more

Caravan parks around town

Portland Tourist Park 1 km

Set in a residential area of town about 1.6 km from the town centre, this owner operated park has good facilities and a corner store is conveniently located opposite the park. Bookings are required at Christmas, Easter... Find out more

Henty Bay Beachfront Van and Cabin Park 5 km

This large, spacious park is located on the beachfront 6 km north-east of the centre of town. The park has a well-stocked shop with takeaway food and a good selection of fishing tackle and bait. Bookings are required at... Find out more

Narrawong Holiday Park 13 km

This pretty park is in a fabulous, quiet beachside and riverfront position off the Princes Highway. Offering a range of accommodation, it is close to Portland and has good fishing and swimming, and a range of facilities... Find out more

BIG4 Port Fairy 55 km

This quality, owner-operated park has large shade trees and informal grassy sites, and is conveniently located alongside the Princes Highway just 1.5 km from the town centre. The park has very good amenities including... Find out more

Belfast Cove Caravan Park 55 km

This is a lovely boutique park with magnificent gardens. It has very good facilities including a tennis court and a boat parking area. Bookings are required at Christmas, Easter and long weekends, with a minimum-stay... Find out more

Port Fairy Gardens Caravan Park 56 km

This is a large council-owned park about 5 minutes’ walk from the town centre and just 200 metres from the beach, with level grassy sites, good amenities and a tennis court. Bookings are required at Christmas,... Find out more

Kywong Caravan Park 62 km

Located on the northern side of town, this large budget-priced park has good facilities. It is about 1.5 km from the centre of the small township. There is good value here. Bookings are required at Christmas, Easter and... Find out more

Discovery Holiday Parks – Warrnambool 76 km

Across the road from the beach, this well kept park is ideal for a holiday or just a few days away. With its excellent facilities, including a popular undercover camp kitchen and a movie room, the park can be busy.... Find out more

Surfside Holiday Park – Warrnambool 77 km

This is a large, very good-quality council-owned park right on the beachfront. Great for a family beachside holiday, the park has good facilities and is just 1 km from the city centre and close to Flagstaff Hill.... Find out more

Fig Tree Holiday Village 78 km

Centrally located about 600 metres from main shopping precinct, this is a very good quality and good value park in a quiet off-highway position. It has a heated indoor pool and a tennis court but cannot fit big rigs.... Find out more

Hotels, motels & B&Bs around town

Clifftop Accommodation Portland

These three studio apartments are built right on the edge of a cliff, and the views can resemble what a captain might have from the bridge of his ship. The views over the ocean are almost 180 degrees. Guests, like that... Find out more

Sheoak Tinntean

From the comfort of your own private balcony, early rousers can watch the sun rise over Bass Straight and see the local fleet leave for the nearby bountiful fishing grounds. These two second-floor studio apartments are... Find out more

Rest areas around town

The Sawpit camping area 14 km

T/O at Narrawong

In the forest 3km (partly unsealed) north of the highway.

Fitzroy River rest area 19 km

23km E of Portland (R) or 48km W of Port Fairy (L)

Well off the highway under trees on the riverbank.

Annya Forest camping area 36 km

T/O 81km E of Mt Gambier (L) or 7km W of Heywood (R)

In the forest 7.5km (partly unsealed) north of the highway.

Lake Surprise Camp Area 42 km

T/O at Port Fairy

Large campground located 48 kilometres north of the highway (9 kilometres east of Macarthur) in a pleasant open forest setting near Lake Surprise in Mount Eccles National Park. Good facilities and shade.

NOTE: Access road part unsealed.

Fort O'Hare camping area 54 km

At Dartmoor

Under shady trees on the east side of town.

Glenelg River park area 54 km

33km SE of SA border (L) or 40km NW of Heywood (R)

Just off the highway among a few trees.

Branxholme park area 56 km

At Branxholme

Adjacent to the recreation area in the middle of town. 

Killarney Beach camping area 62 km

T/O at Killarney

Near the foreshore 2km east of the highway.

Princess Margaret Rose Caves camping area 67 km

T/O 1km E of SA border (R) or 76km NW of Heywood (L)

Near the caves 10km (unsealed) south of the highway via Princess Margaret Rd in Lower Glenelg National Park.

Wannon Falls camping area 77 km

T/O 17km E of Coleraine (L) or 18km NW of Hamilton (R)

Large grassed area 9km north of the highway at the falls lookout.

Pinnaster rest area 79 km

18km SE of Mt Gambier (L) or 70km NW of Heywood (R)

Just off the highway among the trees.

Penshurst park area 80 km

At Penshurst

Just off the highway and adjacent to the caravan park.

Nigretta Falls park area 81 km

T/O 17km E of Coleraine (L) or 18km NW of Hamilton (R)

Large grassed area 9km north of the highway at the falls lookout.

Casterton park area 86 km

At Casterton

Under shady trees on the eastern bank of the Glenelg River.

Mount Gambier Park Area 92 km

North-east side of town

Parking area at the Lady Nelson Visitor Information Centre.

Cavendish camping area 99 km

At Cavendish

Adjacent to the recreation area on the north side of town.

What's on around town

Anzac Day Floral Display: Apr.

Portland Bay Festival: Nov.

3 Bays Marathon: Nov.

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