The harbour city of Portland in Victoria is one of the best places to stop on the Melbourne to Adelaide coastal route. More than just a spot to stretch the legs, Portland is in fact the birthplace of the state of Victoria. Established by the Henty brothers as the first European settlement in the state, it has prospered from fishing, pastoral and agricultural industries and today a growing tourism industry!
Portland is a great destination for all ages and there are plenty of things to do in Portland Victoria. Whether you are an animal lover, a nature lover, or a lover of food and wine, you will find something that tickles your fancy in Portland.
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Things to Do in Portland Victoria
#1 Visit the Local Gannet Colony at Port Danger
One of the more interesting things to do in Portland Victoria is to visit the local Australian gannet colony at Point Danger. Portland is home to the only mainland gannet bird colony in Australia where approximately 300 pairs of gannets congreate. These seabirds have a wingspan of up to two meters, mate for life and are relatives to the unique blue-footed boobies.
A local volunteer is usually stationed at the entrance to the gannets who will guide you on an up-close and personal tour. The best time to visit the gannet colony in Portland is between July and April when the colony is nesting and raising young; however, we visited during the month of March and were able to see plenty of gannets at Point Danger.
- Address: Point Danger
- Cost: Free
#2 Follow the Norman Wade Scenic Drive to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse
Another great thing to do in Portland Victoria is to take a drive along the Norman Wade Scenic Drive to the Cape Nelson Lighthouse. Along the Norman Wade Scenic Drive, you will pass scenic viewpoints as well as a few walking trails.
Our favorite walking trails on the Norman Wade Scenic Drive were the Yellow Rock Coastal Park trail and the Enchanted Forest Walk. The Yellow Rock Coastal Park trail takes you down to the beach where you can watch surfers catching waves and the Enchanted Forest walk winds towards the ocean through low brush and trees native to the area providing gorgeous views through the foliage.
The final destination along the Norman Wade Scenic Drive is the Cape Nelson Lighthouse. Although it took 30 years for the advocates of the lighthouse to finally convince the town of its need, the lighthouse still stands tall today guiding vessels as they cross the Bass Strait along Shipwreck Coast. The aptly named stretch of coastline is renowned for the treacherous waters which have claimed many ships over the years.
Guided tours are available each day at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm providing an in-depth look at the history of the lighthouse and even a peek inside the inner workings.
- Address: Cape Nelson Rd, Portland West VIC 3305
- Cost: Free / $$
- Just to look: Free
- Guided tour: Adult $15, child $10 and families $40
#3 Stroll Along the Cape Bridgewater Seal Walk
Just 20 minutes from the largest mainland Australian gannet colony, you will find the largest mainland seal colony. Home to over 1,000 Australian and New Zealand seals, this natural wonder is a must on any list of the best things to do in Portland Victoria especially for animal lovers.
You can tackle the 6-kilometer return Cape Bridgewater Seal Walk, which hugs the coastline as it edges toward the lookout point some 130 meters above the seal colony. Alternatively, embark on the 45-minute seal tour from the Cape Bridgewater Cafe.
You can also reach the lookout point from the Cape Bridgewater Blowholes although the round trip will take you approximtaely a 3-hours return rather than 2-hours return.
#4 Spot Blue Whales from May to October off the Portland Coastline
Hands down the greatest spectacle and one of the best things to do in Portland Victoria is to spot blue whales off the coastline during whale season. From May to October each year, whales can be spotted off the coast of Portland as they migrate north.
The signal that whales are in the area is the whale watching flag at the Portland Visitor’s Center. When the Whale Flag is flying there is a likely chance that you may glimpse these magestic animals in one of the nearby bays.
#5 Visit the Bridgewater Blowholes and Petrified Forest in Cape Bridgewater
Not only is Cape Bridgewater the home to Australia’s largest mainland seal colony, but Cape Bridgewater is home to a few interesting natural wonders as well. The Bridgewater Blowhole is a great vantage point to look out over the wild Southern Ocean and to experience the roaring waves below. The seacliffs along this Melbourne to Adelaide coastal drive are some of the best in Australia!
And while you are visiting the Bridgewater Blowholes, continue along the walking trails to the Petrified Forest. An interesting natural attraction, the limestone cylinders resemble a forest and were once thought to be remnants of an ancient coastal forest petrified over time.
#6 Hike the Great South West Walk
An excellent way to see Southwest Victoria is the Great South West Walk. The Great South West Walk begins in Portland and is a 250km circular loop through southwest Victoria.
If you dont’ have the time (or stamina) to complete the full circuit, the circuit can be broken up into shorter walks to explore the area. Those completing the full circuit can expect to traverse through four distinct areas.
Depending on your direction of travel you will walk through Australian eucalypt forest, along the banks of the Glenelg River, across the windswept and exposed Discovery Bay and along the coastal capes and bays surrounding Portland.
The 14 campsites along the 250 kilometer loop each include a shelter, pit toilet, table and rainwater tank and most have a fireplace (although firewood at times can be scarce).
#7 Explore the Nearby Henty Wine Region
While technically not in Portland, a day trip exploring the Henty Wine Region makes for a great way to explore the beautiful area of Southwest Victoria without undertaking the 250 kilometer Great Southwest Walk. The tiny Henty Wine region includes nine wineries that can be visited either at their cellar door or by appointment. The closest winery to Portland is Suffoir in nearby MacArthur or Crawford River Wines in Condah.
Where to Stay in Portland
Free Camping in Portland
Free camping is available for vehicles that are self-contained just a five-minute walk from the city center of Portland at Henty Park Campground.
Self-contained means if you do not have a van or caravan with a toilet and tank for wastewater, no containment. Visitors are allowed to stay for up to 48 hours giving you plenty of time to explore the area. Henty Park offers toilets, a water tap, and a dump station for its guests. Showers are also available for $3 at the Portland Leisure and Aquatic Center.
- Address: 2 Bentinck St, Portland VIC 3305
- Cost: Free
Pro-tip: Don’t confuse Henty Park Campground with Henty Bay Beachfront Holiday Park which is a paid caravan park.
Hotels in Portland
Admella Motel offers basic accommodation just 300-meters from Nuns Beach and the historic city center. Each room is equipped with a basic motel kitchen with a toaster, mini-fridge, and microwave. This is a great spot to stay for a night or two in Portland.
- Address: Via Percy street, 5 Otway Ct, Portland VIC 3305, Australia
- Cost: $
Looking for More Places to Stop along from Melbourne to Adelaide?
The road trip from Melbourne to Adelaide along the coastal route is a beautiful drive. From small coastal communities to wine regions to beautiful national parks, this section of Australia’s coastline is something special. Continue exploring this beautiful section of the universe with one of our Melbourne to Adelaide coastal drive stops below!
- Melbourne to Adelaide Coastal Drive: Everything You Need to Know Before You Go
- 10 Great Things to Do in Robe South Australia
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