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Published February 6th 2019
South Gippsland certainly isn't unknown to tourists, Wilson's Promontory has to be one of the State's premier tourist destinations. But just to the east of Wilson's Prom, there is an area that has not been fully exploited for its tourism potential.
Port Albert and its surrounding region were once one of the most important places in the entire colony of Victoria. The town itself and the four miles surrounding it was home to 75% of the entire population of Gippsland at one point during the 1850s. It was the link between Gippsland and the wider world for nearly 40 years in the 19th Century. It was the hub that allowed the Gippsland Gold Rushes in places such as Walhalla and Omeo to thrive. For Historical Significance, few towns can beat Port Albert.
Of course today the town is considerably smaller. The coming of the railways in the late 19th century made the town's use as a port redundant. But although the history of the town has been almost forgotten, the town itself still survives. And it's worth a visit.
There are still a number of 19th-century buildings left from the town's heyday, but the majority of the town has been sadly lost. You don't get the feeling of a town that has been large and now gone, you get the (misleading) feeling of a town that has always been small. It also looks, at first glance to be struggling, but that is certainly not true at all.
The food options in town are limited to a couple of takeaway restaurants (albeit ones with good reviews), and some sit-in dining options. The town does get surprisingly busy (the day I went was certainly not what you would call 'peak season' for the area, and yet the queues were out the door for fish and chips), so be prepared for that.
As for what to do, well it certainly isn't what you'd call a tourist hotspot. There is a great walk along the foreshore, the Christopher Robin walk, named after a prominent Greenpeace activist who lived in the area. This leads to the Old Port Walking track, which takes you through the mangroves at the edge of town.
Just out of town is Tarraville, once the largest settlement in Gippsland, but basically a ghost town today. Still, it's worth the drive, just to see how much a town can fade into obscurity. Nearby Robertson's Beach also gives very nice views back towards Port Albert itself.
So why visit then, if the food options and touristy features are lacking? Because the atmosphere of the town is so unique, and the outlook onto the channels and islands of South Gippsland has a beauty to it. The town is also peaceful, as are its surrounding beaches. If you have a boat, the channels around the port would definitely be worth an explore, although the stories of shipwrecks around town suggest that venturing out into the Bass Strait is not advisable. The local Maritime Museum has artefacts and stories of these shipwrecks should you be interested.
Aside from that, it's just a nice place to spend an afternoon. Not all destinations need to have thousands of things to do, some can just be a pleasant place to spend time.
While at Port Albert the Maritime Museum is well worth a visit, it is in the prominent corner building that used to be the Bank, opposite the park. There is a lot to explore in the area, from the Tarraville Church that was built completely without nails to the beautiful Tarra-Bulga rainforest in the hills above Yarram and of course the surf beaches out at Woodside. The area has much to offer