Need to escape the City? Looking for a destination to leave the hustle and bustle behind? Then a weekend in Port Fairy might be just the place you are looking for.
Port Fairy is a picturesque fishing village located at the junction of the Moyne River and the Great Ocean Road. Situated approximately 300km from Melbourne, it will take you around four and a half hours to drive there if you include a refreshment break along the journey.
The village was settled in the mid-1800's and one of the main charms for visitors is the beautiful assortment of 19th century buildings which have been faithfully preserved throughout the town.
From the moment you first drive into the town centre the combination of pine-tree lined streets and century old buildings evokes a sense of peace and relaxation into the weary traveler.
For there is indeed something special about Port Fairy, a kind of magic tonic blowing in from the sea, forcing City dwellers to slow down and be more like the locals.
As Port Fairy is so clearly a town built around the water, many of the activities on offer are likewise built around the river or sea.
An absolute must for any visitor is a walk along the river foreshore where the fishing boats return with the daily catch. A good place to start is from the excellent playground at Southcombe Park. Head south along the wharf and amble along, breathing in the river smell and admiring all the different boats moored alongside the jetty.
Maybe stop for a takeaway fish and chips lunch from Wishart's at the Wharf. A special recommendation has to be made of the calamari rings. So fresh and beautifully cooked were they that our nine-year old son, who has never previously been willing to even try calamari, had one bite of my lunch and proceeded to order 8 of his own.
From the wharf you can take a trip on the charter boat, Mulloka, which operates half hour cruises of the Port Fairy Bay. We enjoyed the cruise for the friendliness of the operators, for their beautiful dog Milly who kept our dog company on the journey, and for the chance the children got to drive the boat. After taking control of the wheel for a few minutes, each child was then given a certificate recording their driving feats.
The cruise passes past Griffiths Island which you can also walk or bike ride to from the foreshore. The island houses the Port Fairy Lighthouse and is an easy and interesting family friendly walk.
Fishing is another popular activity for visitors to Port Fairy – or it certainly seemed that way from all the people perched along the various jetties and bridges throughout the village. We walked past one very happy young man who had landed himself quite the catch, so it seems the fish do bite for those patient enough to try.
And being on the Great Ocean Road, the surf is another reason people flock to Port Fairy. East Beach has a surf life saving club, complete with a café restaurant, Charlies on East. I sampled the coffee and for a coffee snob like me, it was an enjoyable brew.
Surfing lessons are provided at East Beach and the male members of our family braved the late April water for a spot of boogie boarding. Despite the chill they were in the water well over an hour, a testament to how good the waves were. And no matter when we called past the beach, there always seemed to be dedicated surfers in the waters.
A rail trail runs through Port Fairy and provides a scenic bike ride through farming countryside for those after a break from water-based activites. We also rode out past the Port Fairy Golf Links which seemed very popular judging by number of people on the course and cars in the carpark.
For the children some other activties available include scrambling around the rocks on South Beach, playing in the indoor swimming pool or hurtling down the giant slide in the sand-dunes at Yambuk.
Yambuk is located 16km from Port Fairy and as well as the giant slide is well worth a visit for the sheer beauty of the place. We climbed up to the lookout and were rewarded with views from Yambuk Lake to the ocean.
Finally, mention must be made of the gourmet food side of Port Fairy. For a small village, the town is blessed with a number of excellent cafes serving up good coffee as well as a variety of tasty treats.
We had dinner at Lemongrass Thai Cuisine Restaurant and highly recommend it, both for it's food and the relaxing décor and family friendly environment. While one of our waiters on the night appeared far to young to be serving and seemed out of his depth with the busy Easter crowd, the food was so good we soon forgot about the service.
Interestingly when we ordered takeaway from Lemongrass on another night, we did not enjoy it nearly as much as our dinning in experience.
Our venues we ate at included Rebecca's Cafe, which is famous for it's yo-yo biscuits. Their berry muffin was one of the best I have had in a long time and well worth breaking the diet for.
We also visited The Hub at Port Fairy for both afternoon tea and Bruch. Our brunch meals were big, served quickly and thoroughly satisfying on all levels.
As to accommodation, there are many options available. On our first visit to Port Fairy we camped at one of the local caravan parks. This time we utliised the friendly service of Langley's Port Fairy Booking Service and stayed in a newly renovated 3 bedroom fully self contained home.
At first glance, Port Fairy might seem deceptively simple – a historic little fishing village. But with only a little effort, and whether you are visiting with children, on a romantic weekend or perhaps a girls weekend away, you will easily find ways to wile away the time.