port fairy river

Everything You Need to Know About Port Fairy

Located in the Great Ocean Road region, Port Fairy is a little town chock full of character and interesting things to do. The history of the town of Port Fairy dates back to the 1800s when the area was settled as a whaling station and fishing community but prior to that, it was inhabited by the  Gunditjmara peoples for thousands of years.

Today, Port Fairy is a thriving coastal community. It was dubbed the winner of the world’s most liveable small community in 2012. Then in 2021, it came second for the best Small Tourism Town in Australia. Both local and international visitors love to visit Port Fairy in Victoria.

On anchor in Port Fairy

Port Fairy’s coast and waters are part of the reason why visitors return again and again. The Moyne River empties into the ocean at Port Fairy, making it a pleasant place to walk along and a sheltered place to moor your boat. While the Bay of Port Fairy makes for some family-friendly beaches and great surf breaks.

Discover all there is to experience with this comprehensive guide of things to do in Port Fairy.

How Far is Port Fairy from Melbourne?

Port Fairy is located in Victoria about 285 kilometres from Melbourne along the highway. It will take approx. 3 and a half hours to reach Port Fairy from Melbourne along the B140 to B120. However, if you are travelling along the Great Ocean Road it will be a little longer.

Beach Side Living At Port Fairy Australia

You can plan to drive about 5 and half hours and approx. 379 kilometres. Account for lots of stops along the way and plan to stay at least one or two nights along the Great Ocean Road to make the most of your trip to this region.

Things to Do in Port Fairy

From outdoor activities to wild animals, festivals and cultural events, this is no shortage of things to do in this coastal town. Explore the top things to do in Port Fairy here.

Admire the historical buildings

Port Fairy is known for its 1800s architecture. Take a walk around the well-preserved center and keep an eye out for the more than 50 buildings classified by the National Trust. Some buildings of particular note include The Merrijig Inn, Moyne Mill, Lecture Hall and the former Court House (which is now a museum).

port fairy from above

Even if you don’t go hunting down historical houses one by one, you’ll still enjoy meandering past the traditional and colourful streets of one of Victoria’s first towns.

East Beach

Port Fairy’s East Beach is a family-friendly beach that is patrolled in the summer months. It is framed by the blue waters of the Bay of Port Fairy and has kilometres of white sand. It is also dog friendly in some parts (with the expectation of holidays) so feel free to bring the pups along. There is free street parking along the beach, grassy areas to picnic and public facilities.

Pea Soup Beach and South Beach

These beaches make up 2 kilometres of shoreline on the South end of town. They are sandy beaches laid out beside each other fringed by reefs that tend to protect them. At low tide, you’ll find fun rock pools to explore.

Beach At Port Fairy Au

Just keep in mind, that walking out onto uneven ground can be challenging at high tide but that’s when snorkelling is at its best at Pea Soup beach.

Play at round at Port Fairy Golf Links

If you are into golf don’t miss a round at the Port Fairy Golf Links which has been named one of Australia’s top 100 golf courses. It is open to both members and visitors and has views out to the sea.

Visit Basalt Wines

Indulge in a wine tasting at Basalt Wines, which is located just 9 kilometres east of Port Fairy. Enjoy their beautiful cellar door, nibble on some snacks and save room for lunch at the restaurant on site. The friendly staff will tell you all about the wines, how they are made in this unique climate along with tales of yesteryear.

Hear the cannons fired at Battery Hill

Battery Hill was established in the late 1800s, along with several other fortifications along the coast of the Southern Ocean. The colony feared invasions from the Russians so they set up a flagstaff, six cannons and other artillery buildings. Walking around here you’ll find privileged views of the bay, old war memorials and you might even spot black wallabies that call the area home.

Cannon at Battery hill in Port Fairy, Australia

If you visit in January, don’t miss the firing of the cannons at Battery Hill. The Port Fairy Historic Lifeboat committee organizes for them to go off every Sunday morning in commemoration of the new year and to give visitors insight into the historical significance of the area.

Go surfing

Port Fairy is popular with surfers. There are a number of reef and point breaks but the Lighthouse and Passage breaks tend to be the most well-known. The Lighthouse is located just off of Griffits Island and the Passage is located just off of South Beach.

the passage

If you have never surfed before, give it a try with a local surf school. Go Surf and the Port Fairy Surf School both offer lessons.

Visit the Griffits Island Reserve

Griffits Nature Reserve is located at the mouth of the Moyne River and is a haven for animals and nature. It was named after John Griffits, who established the area’s first whaling station.

Griffiths Island Lighthouse

There are some great walking trails on the island. Admire the coastline and stop by the historic lighthouse whose stones were all carved by hand by stonemasons from Scotland.

Beach Port Fairy

If you visit in the summer you can see the spectacular convergence of Mutton birds (also known as short-tailed shearwaters) who return to the island each year to nest and raise their young. They arrive in September and leave around April, to embark on a 15,000-kilometre migration.

Port Fairy Maritime and Shipwreck Heritage Walk

Take this self-directed walk that has been designed to take visitors past some of the town’s most iconic sights including East Beach and Battery Hill. There are many plaques to give you further insight along the way too.

Port Fairy Folk Festival

Port Fairy is crazy about its folk festival. It is the largest folk music festival in Australia and takes place on the long weekend in March each year. This four-day celebration started back in 1977 in the back of a pickup truck but has grown into an event that brings together people from all over the world. It is chock full of music, food and drink, activities and family-friendly things to do.

Other festivals which take place in Port Fairy include the Jazz Festival in February, the Moyneyanna Festival in January and the Irish Festival in April.

Take a cruise out to the seal colony on Lady Julia Percy Island

Lady Julia Percy Island is home to the largest colony of Australian Fur Seals in the Southern Hemisphere. Take a boat tour from Port Fairy to observe these incredible creatures up close and you might even spot dolphins and whales along the way. Once you’ve arrived you will visit the blowhole and you will circumnavigate the island.

 australia fur seals

There are several charters who will take you there. It is Port Fairy nature and wildlife at its finest.

Whale watching in the winter

From June to September the waters just off of Port Fairy act as a nursery for female calving Southern Right Whales. The enclosed bays are perfect for breeding and you might be able to see them breaching from shore. However, for a great chance of spotting Southern Right Whales up close go out with a charter company.

Read Next: Your Guide to Warrnambool Whale Watching

Visit Coffin Sally

Coffin Sally has become something of an icon in Port Fairy. However, the building’s former occupation is what gets most people’s eyebrows rising. It is located in the building of a former undertaker and coffin builder. However, you won’t find the remanents of that spooky stuff today. If you visit Coffin Sally you’ll find a bustling vibe and thin-crust pizza people are crazy about.

Tower Hill Nature Reserve

Located between Port Fairy and Warrnambool, about 17 minutes from the town center is Tower Hill Nature Reverse. This reserve is really unique. It is the site of a dormant volcano and in 1892 it became the state of Victoria’s first National Park.

Tower Hill Reserve

It is a haven for native flora and fauna. Over a hundred bird species live here along with koalas, grey kangaroos, and emus. Expect well-established walking trails, a visitor and educational center, guided walks and more. There is a lot to learn about the unique ecosystem of the park and the indigenous people’s connection to it.

Relax at the Port Fairy Day Spa

Relax and rejuvenate at the Port Fairy Day Spa, this highly-rated spa offers a wide array of relaxation and beauty treatments and as well as spa packages. There is a sauna to indulge in on-site too.

Visit the museum

The Port Fairy Museum is located in the old stone courthouse. It has various permanent and changing exhibitions about the history of Port Fairy including its whaling days and shipwrecks. Admission is $5 per adult and free for children. On particular days a guided walk and tours of the museum are available 

Discover the wharf and riverside area

Walk along the Moyne River for those iconic views of Port Fairy. There are walkways to follow with facilities and eateries along the way. Watch the fishermen come in with their catches and admire all the boats. It’s the perfect place for a stroll in the sun.

Boats mooring at Moyne river at Port Fairy, Australia

However, if you would prefer to drop a line and catch fish yourself, then do so at the breakwater near the end of the river.

Visit local galleries

Support locals and the country’s artisans by visiting the local galleries. The creative community is thriving in Port Fairy.

  • The Glass Blowing Studio offers jewelry and kitchenware, straight from the source.
  • Jan’s Fine Glass is located in the Western District. You can visit and chat with Jan about her process and works of glass and limestone. Check out the What’s On section of her website for events and workshops.
  • Blarney Books and Arts is a quirky book shop and art gallery. They often hold events but otherwise, the shop is still worth a walk around to admire the art and get your holiday reads.
  • Limestone Gallery is part cafe, part art gallery and gardens. This is stunning property which is not to be missed.

Read Next: The Best Port Fairy Accommodation and Places to Stay

Port Fairy is the pride of Western Victoria. With so many tours, history to discover, ocean activities, wildlife and nature to explore it is no wonder people keep returning to this fun town in the Great Ocean Road region. Whether you come for vacation or for the Port Fairy Folk Festival, it will leave an impression on you either way.

Have you been to Port Fairy?