Portarlington lies at the north eastern shore of Bellarine Peninsula surrounded by Drysdale, Clifton Springs and indented Head. Situated approximately 31km east of Geelong, Geelong- Portarlington Road is the main entrance to the town from Geelong. Portarlington is a popular destination for holiday makers
Before the arrival of Europeans, Wada wurrung language group of aborigines inhabited this area whose territory extended from Werribee river to Painkalac Creek at Aires Inlet. The first European to visit the area was Lieutenant John Murray in 1802. He spent three weeks exploring the Bay’s features. Mathew Flinders camped at intended head within ten weeks of Murray’s visit. In February 1803, Surveyor General Charles Grimes landed here and spent several days exploring the region. The ship ‘Cumberland’ landed at Portarlington and Grimes and team went on foot to Point Henry.
First surveyed in 1848, Portarlington was initially named as Drayton but was renamed Portarlington in 1851 in honour of Sir Henry Bennet, 1st Earl of Arlington. When the land sales began in 1850’s, it was taken up very quick due to its fertile land. Its black volcanic soils were capable of yielding prolific crops. In its initial years of settlement, the major crop was onion. The land sooner or later became ‘’onion sick’’ and became the subject of eel worm attack. Farmers gradually made a changeover to peas and later Barley and Wheat. By the mid-19th century, the Peninsula was known as ‘the granary of the colony’. In 1859 a jetty was built in Portarlington to take its produce to Melbourne. The jetty soon became an important port of call for steamers plying Port Phillip Bay, both for goods and passengers
In no time Portarlington became a major holiday resort for people from Melbourne. Paddle steamers brought holiday makers to the township. In 1886 Grand Hotel was opened in Newcombe Street to provide accommodation to holidaymakers.
Today Portarlington is a thriving township with people aged 65 years and over making up 39.1% of the population. The main commercial street is Newcombe Street. There are many shops in this street doing business since the 1880’s.
Attractions of Portarlington
The Mill Museum: Located at Turner Court in Portarlington, Portarlington Mill is a significant example of the earliest mills. It is one of the oldest surviving mills in Victoria. It was built in 1857 from locally quarried stone. The mill used steam driven machinery to prepare flour from grain grown in Bellarine Peninsula.
The mill operated only for 17 years and was closed in 1874. Its original builder then used the building for his brick works. In the later nineteenth century, it was a factory, first processing seaweed for use as upholstery stuffing, later producing printing ink then artificial fertiliser. It was later converted to flats for holiday makers. In 1962, Shire of Bellarine purchased the mill to save it from demolition and handed it to the National Trust. Today it is a Museum.
Opening Hours: September to May, Sunday, 12 pm to 4 pm.
Closed: Closed during June, July, and August. Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and other public holidays.
Portarlington Pier: The first Pier in this location was constructed in 1859 after demands from local farmers. The Jetty was extended in 1870 to enable bigger vessels to dock. Steamers transported goods and people to Geelong and Melbourne and back.
The Pier was reconstructed in 1872 and storage sheds were added. Now there is a new pier alongside the old pier, which has been condemned as unsafe. It makes a feel-good walk along the pier to the breakwater, where the ferries berth. On weekends one will find quite a lot of people dangling their fishing line in the water along the ferry and around the breakwater.
Portarlington Rotunda: Portarlington Rotunda was opened to public on August 1910. With its unique design rotunda remains an attraction and a landmark.
Point Richards Flora and Fauna Reserve: Situated at the western edge of the town, this 62 ha reserve has important ephemeral wetlands, the nationally ‘vulnerable’ Growling Grass Frog and a wide diversity of coastal woodlands and wetland bird species.
Portarlington Miniature Railway: Location: Corner Boat Rd and Pt Richards Roads. Train rides are available every Sunday throughout the year and also Wednesdays during Xmas school holidays. The railway is located on eight hectares of open picturesque native parklands.
Portarlington Mussel Festival: The Portarlington Mussel Festival started as a street festival back in 2007 as a way to celebrate and promote the local mussel industry. Today it’s grown into one of the most popular community festivals in Victoria with over 30,000 visitors, live music all day long, hundreds of market stalls and a whole lotta delicious mussels. A great day out for the whole family.