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A Seafaring History of Portland, Victoria Apr 18

The city of Portland is home to the only deep-water port between Melbourne and Adelaide. It is located on the far south-west coast of Victoria, midway between Port Fairy and the small town of Nelson, which is near the state border with South Australia. It is also the international gateway for the Green Triangle region.

The port handles bulk commodities in agricultural, forestry, mining, aluminium and fertiliser products. It also exports grain, woodchips, logs, aluminium ingots, livestock and timber products. Imports include alumina, liquid pitch, petroleum coke, sulphuric acid and fertiliser products.

Today, Portland is also known as Victoria’s second fishing port with professional fishing fleets and vessels. Locals and many of the tourists who stay at a Portland hotel also fish for King George whiting, snapper, kingfish, flathead, morwong and bluefin tuna.

Portland, Victoria

Naming the Port

The port’s history started in 1800 when Lieutenant James Grant sailed the Lady Nelson there. He named it Portland Bay in honour of His Grace, the Duke of Portland. By the early 1800s, whalers and dealers took anchorage shelter in Portland while working the strong waters of Bass Strait.

The First Settler

A British man called Edward Henty, who migrated to Western Australia with his family in 1829, arrived at Portland Bay in 1834 during his 34-day voyage of the Thistle. He became the first permanent settler in the Port Phillip district, which was later known as Victoria. His brother, Francis, later joined him to ferry additional stocks and supplies. Soon after, they established a landing place at Portland Bay, which eventually became the town of Portland. Whaling captain, William Dutton, was also a resident.

Development Comes

More than a century later, in 1945, the Victorian Parliamentary Public Works Committee recommended to the Victorian Government that the port needed to be improved to develop Western Victoria. It was officially opened in 1960 and became a commercial aluminium port. It was privatised in 1996. By then, the Alcoa aluminium smelter started operations in 1986 and became a major asset to the port.

Portland Today

Known as “Victoria’s Birthplace by the Sea”, Portland is the main urban centre of the Shire of Glenelg. The port remains a 24-hour commercial shipping control service, as well as a major fishing location. Its history of seafaring is featured in the Maritime Discovery Centre among plenty of informative and interesting displays and exhibits. These include shipwreck showcases and a Portland Lifeboat from the 1850s.

Portland is also home to over 200 well-maintained heritage buildings and private houses from the 1800s. Many of them can be found on the Historic Buildings Walk.

The port is also a popular family holiday location, with nearby Portland accommodation, waterfront restaurants, beaches, harbour cruises, cable tram, and dolphin and whale watching. Surfing locations include Whites Beach, Yellow Rock, Bridgewater Bay, Crumpets, Murrells and Blacknose.

The town’s other attractions include Botanic Gardens, Portland Powerhouse, Motor and Car Museum, Whalers Bluff Lighthouse, and the World War II Memorial Lookout Tower at Anderson Point.

The port of Portland turned 50 on November 19, 2010. Celebrations included an open day, outdoor concert, fishing competition and a golden anniversary ball.

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