52 Great Weekends

No 3: Portland

Located a little over 4hrs Melbourne, Portland is well worth the drive. Whether you’re a history buff, foodie, nature lover or adventurer get ready for a great weekend. Wander the beautifully maintained historic streets, dine at the many harbourside pubs and restaurants, visit the nearby 2000 local resident Australian and Fur seals and discover deserted beaches.


Day 1


We hit the road early to miss the after-work traffic. Destination, our luxury two-bedroom villa at Henty Bay Lifestyle Holiday Park. If you’re into near private beaches right at your doorstep, this is definitely the holiday lifestyle you’re looking for!

After checking in and checking out the Henty Bay beach we drove the few short minutes to the Portland town centre. Time to drink in some local history – Portland is the first European settlement in Victoria after all. What better place to do this than at Gordon’s Hotel, Victoria’s longest running pub right on the Portland harbour. Locals and visitors alike filled the grand old rooms and historical photos line the walls, if only they could talk.



After a sunrise coffee on our beach facing deck our first stop was to meet some locals – 2000 resident Australian and Long Nosed Fur Seals.

The Seals by Sea Tour at nearby Bridgewater Bay, (approx. 20mins drive from Portland) is one of the most popular tours in the area. When you get so close you could pat these cute little ‘sea doggos’ it’s obvious why! In just 3 exhilarating minutes our guide Jo had our zippy Zodiac boat at the seal breeding colony, the only one on mainland Australia. For 45 minutes we cruised the dramatic cliffs in an up-close and personal experience with a small group of fellow nature lovers. The seals love showing off for an audience and we were lucky enough to see lots of playful pups. And playful adults too.


It was sad to say goodbye but you can also see (and hear) your newfound friends from our next stop, the start of The Great South West Walk. It is 250km long in full, so we might save the whole hike for another weekend! We set out for Cape Bridgewater with more than a few camera stops on the way – you’ll want to capture the epic expanse of Bridgewater Bay before continuing to the nearby Petrified Forest, approx. 1hr walk away.


Legend has it the Petrified Forest was an ancient forest engulfed by wind whipped sands, petrifying them for all time. But actually, they are hollowed tubes of limestone, eroded into trunk-shaped pipes by millions of years of rainfall. Most are around 3m but some are as high as 20m creating this very lunar looking landscape.


A short distance away you’ll find the wildness of the blowholes. The wind whips the sea into such a frenzy you’ll be forgiven for believing the Petrified Forest story!


We couldn’t believe it was 3PM already, we were so distracted by the sites that we hadn’t noticed how starving we were. Luckily, Bridgewater Bay Cafe didn’t disappoint, the fish burger was the best I’ve ever had! And the veggie stack was also great if you’re wanting a healthier option. Our seaside table was the perfect spot to check out the surf. The sunny 27-degree day and clean waves made it impossible to resist a SUP surf.


There is so much to see and do in Portland, we couldn’t believe it was only our first full day. Exhausted but excited for the next day’s adventures it was time to retire to our seaside cabin for some zzz’s.



There was no time for a Sunday sleep in. With a coffee in hand we explored Portland Harbour. The sands of the peaceful Nun Beach lead us to the fisherman lined Lee Breakwater before watching the historic cable car go by the harbour on its first trip of the day.


Then Cape Nelson Lighthouse was calling and with just enough time we joined Gordon’s 11am tour. Still in operation today, this lighthouse has been keeping many sailors safe on the treacherous Shipwreck Coast since 1884. As you climb the circular staircase Gordon tells tales of its nautical history and paints the picture of what a lightkeepers life before you reach the ginormous light itself, still spinning even in daytime. Then, hold onto your hat as you step out onto the (approx.) 100m high balcony, it the wind doesn’t blow it off the spectacular view will.


At the bottom of the lighthouse is the Lighthouse Cafe, which worked perfectly for us. We knew where we were going next there would be no cafe in sight just endless dunes for us to discover. After a quick snack we set off for Discovery Bay.


As we approached the entrance to Discovery Bay there was already a something to discover – the grand cavern of the Tarragal Caves loomed above us. You can’t miss it from the road and you are glad you didn’t when you hike up the small hill to get inside. The cavern forms the perfect natural frame of the dunes, native flora and sea behind them. Insta worthy!


The day was already full of discoveries, but there was something still left to see, the largest mainland colony of Australasian Gannets at nearby Point Danger. More than 6,000 pairs of these sea birds live here and the nearby Lawrence Rocks and with a wingspan of 2m they just another sight in Portland that is impossible to miss.

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Top 5 things that made the weekend great

  • Seeing over 2000 seals from the sea

  • Having endless beaches to yourself

  • Delving into history in a holiday atmosphere

  • Scenic landscapes that look like they are from another world

  • City buzz with a seaside location

Getting there

Melbourne to Portland is pretty much as 300km straight line via the Princes Highway (M1).

There’s so much to discover in Portland, we’re just getting started! Join me for another great weekend next week.

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Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the Great Ocean Road region the Wadawurrung, Eastern Maar & Gunditjmara. We pay our respects to their Elders, past, present and emerging. We recognise and respect their unique cultural heritage and the connection to their traditional lands. We commit to building genuine and lasting partnerships that recognise, embrace and support the spirit of reconciliation, working towards self-determination, equity of outcomes and an equal voice for Australia’s first people.