Day 13 - Warrnambool to Portland

Trip Start Apr 17, 2012
Trip End May 27, 2012

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Where I stayed
Henty Bay Van Park

Flag of Australia  , Victoria,
Sunday, April 29, 2012

The cold mornings in this part of Australia were starting to get a bit repetitive so we wanted to move on from the coldest part of our trip. As we had decided to visit some friends of Julie's family at Portland we didn't have a long drive today so we took our time packing up and leaving Warrnambool. We had a quick stop for brunch at the Pavilion Cafe ( which is right behind the main breakwall - on one side, the ocean swells are crashing into the wall ferociously whereas on the other side there were people swimming. No idea how they were doing this as we were in wool thermals, multiple jumpers and heavy jackets and we were still cold. We sat outside on the deck overlooking the beach and had cake & coffee and watched the freaks in the water.

Once we had finished we had a walk around the breakwall and took some photos of the swell. Middle Island was also in the vicinity so we went over to try and catch a glimpse of the Maremma Sheepdogs guarding the island's penguin colony but they must have been sheltering from the weather somewhere.

On our way out of town we stopped in at the Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve which is a large extinct volcano crater. In the past this was used as a rubbish dump and unofficial motorbike race track and was once flora and fauna free. More than 300,000 native trees have been planted over the past two generations. This has created an environment capable of sustaining native animals such as Koalas, Emus, kangaroos, Magpie Geese, Echidnas, possums, and waterbirds – all of which can be seen within the crater walls of Tower Hill.

We did a quick drive-through and saw some cool wildlife running around in there so we stopped for a short break and took a photo or two, then we were on our way to Port Fairy. The drive wasn't too long - about an hour or so. The day was pretty grey but short bursts of sun were trying to peep through to us. Upon arrival in Port Fairy we were starving, so rather than have a look around we decided to eat first. We went to The Hub, mainly because they had a menu similar to what you'd find in Sydney or Melbourne (rather than country town food like burgers or pies). I had a poached chicken breast with avocado, rocket, tomato & aioli sandwich on brown which was pretty yummy. We refreshed with a ginger beer then went to check out the town.

It actually didn't impress us too much, it seemed to be too close to Melbourne and therefore felt like it was too much of a weekender destination for Melbourne yuppies with lots of overpriced designer jewellers, historic sandstone dockside buildings from days passed which have now been renovated into spectacularly modern and luxurious B&Bs and overnight accommodation which seemed too expensive for a cold, windy and rainy place like Port Fairy. We soon realised that there were nicer and better value towns everywhere on this coast, but only Port Fairy appeared to have been tampered and over invested-in. We walked a few blocks then, unimpressed, we walked back to the van so we could drive to the nature reserve and lighthouse nearby at Griffiths Island.

The island was at the mouth of the Moyne River which is also where the historic fishing fleet was based. It was virtually impossible to try to work out how the estuary looked prior to european settlement. In their efforts to try to tame the ocean and maintain some level of depth in the river mouth so they could sail in & out, they have turned the whole area into a bit of a dog's breakfast. Major excavations, breakwalls & seawalls, concrete and roads are now what makes up the river mouth. Griffiths Island itself is the "supposed" safe haven and breeding ground for a colony of 30,000 shearwaters who arrive from Siberia on 22nd of September every year. On this day, we were horrified to find a graveyard of dead birds - many of them babies but also fully grown ones which have been mutilated in their burrows by foxes and, more disturbingly - dogs! Yes that's right, dickhead inbred bogans from Port Fairy think they are giving their dogs a "treat" and allow them to go on a rampage on the island.

Solution? Arrest dog owners who go near the island and fence the island off so that the foxes can be eradicated......EASY!

So, apart from the thousands of dead birds and the smell they created, we enjoyed the walk to the lighthouse and explored the ruins of the old homestead site. The signs along the walk provided information about how life for the keepers and their families would have been back when the lighthouse was in use. The Griffiths Island area was much more isolated back then (less roads and no breakwalls made access difficult). After an hour or so we started to walk back to the car as the cold was making my bladder feel like it was going to explode and I need to find a loo. Luckily there was a picnic area across the carpark and I was soon back in the warmth of the van. Julie took a few more photos and then we were off to Portland. In conclusion Port Fairy was OK, not brilliant but OK.

About 10 minutes out of Port Fairy (Westwards), we stopped at another seaside vantage point. The basic idea was still there - sandstone structures eroded by the waves. From here we could also view Lady Julia Percy Island which is a fur seal colony. It was quite far to the naked eye, but boat trips can be arranged from Port Fairy if ya wanna take a look at the seals. From here it was about 45 mins further to Portland.

Upon arrival in Portland we did a quick tour of the town and had a look at the tram we had read about. It looked like fun so we decided that we'd take a ride sometime during our stay in the area. It was now getting dar so we checked out all the local caravan parks (there were no camping areas around) and weren't too impressed with the options. Luckily the GPS had two caravan parks not far out of town. We drove up to Bolwarra and didn't like the first one, but Henty Bay Van Park was right on the beach and looked empty so we visited the office. The woman told us we could set up anywhere but added that there was a great campsite up on the mini headland they had at the other end of the park.

As soon as we saw it, we knew we had to stay. We set up the camper literally metres from the water's edge. On one side we had the ocean crashing into the coast but to the rear of the camper was a mini boat harbour they had created with a mini breakwall. Check out the photos & video. The best part was that it was a powered site which meant we could run the heater if it got too cold. We set up camp then walked over to the office to let her know we loved the spot. The temperature started to drop so after having a quick walkaround we headed back to the van to start cooking. We had full strength internet and digital TV so we stayed in and relaxed for the night.
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