Exploring Portland - Victoria's Oldest Settlement

portland, victoria old town hall  

Arriving in Portland meant we were out of Tasmania, out of the Bass Strait and out of the Roaring 40's. The way the wind has been blowing, you'd never know it. There have been no worries about insufficient power; the wind generator is definitely churning out amps.

The city of Portland is the oldest European settlement in the state of Victoria. It's a pleasant little city, easily accessible on foot. It's been an important deep-water port for the past 150 years, first as a whaling/fishing port, then sheep and wool. Now it is home to the third largest aluminium smelter in Australia and exports aluminum ingots, mountains of wood chips and mineral sand, primarily to Asia. We have a layer of brown sawdust on the deck to attest to the wood chip exports.


portland, victoria st stephens anglican church1


Originally founded by Edward Henty in 1834 (though the Aborigines were here millennia before), there are historical buildings along every one of Portland's main streets … 200 or more in town that date from the 19th century. Most are constructed of dark bluestone with which we were unfamiliar … a marked contrast to the golden sandstone we'd seen in Tasmania. Victorian bluestone is a basalt, quarried locally and one of the most common building materials of the 1850s during the Victorian Gold Rush. We took an historic walk through town, admiring these sturdy, built-to-last buildings. Most are still in use. The English Gothic style St. Stephens Anglican church and the old Town Hall were particularly impressive. Edward Henty's house is still around; we just haven't found it yet.


portland victoria dahlia with bug


After a couple of days of sailing, it was good to stretch our legs. We took a long, self-guided walk along the Norfolk pine-lined foreshore to the Portland Botanical Garden. The garden is renowned for its manicured croquet lawns and its dahlias. Though it was a bit early in the season (March-April is prime), we still saw some dazzling dahlias.


portland victoria corella


We picnicked and observed hundreds of birds enjoying the day. Crazy looking long-billed corellas stared down at us from branches high above. Red wattle birds, honeyeaters and lorikeets flitted from tree to tree. We meandered along a canal and around the Fawthrop Lagoon where scads of waders, black swans and Australian pelicans were at work.


portland victoria fawthrop lagoon black swans


We haven't really shopped in a proper supermarket since Christmas Eve in Hobart. Little ports along the way have offered limited choices at high prices. We waltzed through the aisles of a new Super IGA, an Aldi and a Safeway, all within easy walking distance. What joy! We wanted everything: fresh greens and veggies and fruits, fresh chicken and mince, a loaf of bread that didn't cost $6.


portland victoria vegemite and cheese sausage


Though we regularly complain about food prices in Australia, I guess it's all what you get used to. After Tasmania, the prices here seem a bargain. The limiting factor for purchases has been how much we can carry in a load, although multiple trips are not out of question. We did pass on the Vegemite and cheese sausage we saw advertised in the local butcher shop though. You gotta set some limits.

Dirty clothes have really been piling up. You'd think with just the two of us, it'd be easy to keep up with laundry, but that's not always the case. The cold weather has kept us in sweatshirts, t-necks, long pants and fleeces, all of which have become rather salt-caked and crusty, in need of major laundering and not easily done by hand. Then there are sheets and towels. It's endless, no matter where you are. We lugged everything to the local laundromat and I babysat four washers while David hunted down some new phone and internet vouchers. There's an “amenities” building in the town center which offers free hot showers. Clean sheets, some exercise, hot showers and freshies … life is good here.

Just as well that we like Portland because based on the current weather forecast, we might be here a few more days. No worries. The Tourist Info Center at the Maritime Discovery Center is only a stone's throw away on shore and it's loaded with info on walks and interesting things to do here. When the wind gods throw you lemons....

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