Things to Do in Portland, Victoria – The Ultimate Portland Guide

Portland is a beautiful port town on Victoria’s far southwest coast. It is the oldest European settlement in Victoria & an important transporting port between Adelaide and Melbourne.

A walk along Portland’s town centre will bring visitors to over 200 heritage buildings. Portland’s ideal seaside location also spoils visitors to numerous pristine beaches and impressive coastal reserves. There is something for everyone to enjoy here in Portland & it has made Portland a great travel destination for all ages to enjoy.

Since Portland is at the western end of the Great Ocean Road, it makes a fantastic additional stop during a Great Ocean Road road trip. For people visiting Portland directly, Portland is about a 4-hour drive from Melbourne via the inland drive; just over a 3-hour drive from Geelong and Ballarat; just over a 2-hour drive from Halls Gap (The Grampians National Park); 1 hour and 15 minutes drive from Mount Gambier.

There are many cultural, historical, and natural attractions to discover in Portland. Hence, you will need a few days in Portland to cover all its attractions. However, if you only wish to visit Portland’s highlights, one day can be sufficient for visiting Portland.

Since tourism is a booming industry in Portland, there are many accommodation options around Portland. For a list of holiday accommodations in Portland, you can check out here on Booking.comOpens in a new tab..

Dutton Bluff Lookout

Dutton Bluff Lookout is one of the first lookouts visitors will drive by when visiting Portland. It is a great place to stretch your legs after a long drive and to enjoy a picturesque view of the surrounding areas.

From Dutton Bluff Lookout, you can obtain a breathtaking view of the magnificent Southern Ocean right in front of you; get a stunning view of the beautiful Portland Harbour on your right-hand side; admire the expansive and pristine Victorian coastline on your left.

A small playground is also available at Dutton Bluff Lookout for families with kids. However, there are no public toilets available at Dutton Bluff Lookout. If you need to find a public toilet after your long drive, you may wish to check out Portland’s foreshore area or Portland Visitor Centre first.

World War 2 Memorial Lookout Tower

Portland’s World War Two Memorial Lookout Tower is located right next to Portland’s stunning coastline, only minutes from Portland’s city centre. Once an old water tower, it was transformed into a memorial tower and museum to commemorate the Second World War.

In addition to its historic value, this 25-metre tall memorial tower also offers a lookout platform at the top. From the lookout platform, visitors can obtain an unparalleled panoramic view of Portland. On a clear day, you can also get an impressive view of Lawrence Rock, Cape Nelson, and Mount Richmond.

Portland’s World War 2 Memorial Lookout Tower used to be accessible to visitors throughout the year. However, as a result of the current pandemic, public access to this memorial tower was not available when I visited (May 2022). However, make sure you check it out when visiting if public access becomes available again.

With that being said, even if you are unable to access the memorial tower, there is also a well-maintained lookout platform right beneath the tower. From this lookout platform, you can obtain a spectacular view of Portland Harbour and the nearby Portland Lighthouse. During the winter months (June to August), it is a great spot for whale-watching as well.

Portland Lighthouse (Whalers Bluff Lighthouse)

Portland Lighthouse, aka Whalers Bluff Lighthouse, is a stubby lighthouse only a short distance from Portland’s foreshore area. It was originally erected in 1859 on Battery Point & later relocated in 1889 to its current location, Whalers Bluff.

Although Portland Lighthouse is still a working lighthouse, it is located only metres away from nearby residential areas. With the lush green grass beneath it & a blue sky as a background, the view of Portland Lighthouse is extremely picturesque.

Even though there is no public access to the lighthouse, visitors can still obtain a spectacular view from just beneath Portland Lighthouse. From this spot, you can get a sweeping view of the entire port of Portland and admire the clear blue water within the bay.

Portland Visitor Information Centre & Maritime Discovery Centre

Just like many other well-established visitor information centres in Australia, Portland Visitor Information Centre is a fantastic place for getting professional and local advice on visiting Portland. A small cafe and well-equipped public toilets are also available within Portland Visitor Information Centre for your convenience.

A Maritime Discovery Centre is also located within Portland Visitor Information Centre for visitors to learn the stories of Portland’s maritime past. Access to this Maritime Discovery Centre is free.

Within the Maritime Discovery Centre, you will first come across a 14-metre-long sperm whale skeleton from Portland’s whaling days. There is also an 1858 lifeboat within the Maritime Discovery Centre, which is one of Australia’s oldest wooden vessels & has participated in many rescue missions back in the 1800s. A range of smaller artefacts is on display as well, showcasing Portland’s early fishing, whaling, and sealing industry.

Just next to Portland Visitor Information Centre, you can also find the beginning/end of the 250km long Great South West Walk. It follows along the breathtaking coastline of Portland and passes through multiple impressive national parks and reserves, such as the remarkable Discovery Bay Coastal Park and Cape Nelson State Park.

The entire Great South West Walk will take about 2-week to complete. Since this walk passes through various popular Portland coastal attractions, you can also participate in only parts of the walk to get a taste of the magnificent coastline around Portland.

Portland Foreshore

The Portland Foreshore area is one of the most lively places in Portland. It is the perfect location for a leisure stroll along the water & a relaxing picnic with family and friends. With the breakwater nearby, the water around Portland’s foreshore area is also relatively calm, which is great for families with kids.

For people who love fishing, there is a huge variety of fish to be hooked around Portland’s foreshore area, such as snappers, flatheads, and whitings. With the new multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Portland’s foreshore area, fishing is made even easier with the new Portland Town Jetty and designated fishing pontoons.

Portland Foreshore also provides locals and visitors with a range of facilities for an enjoyable day out. Cafes, restaurants, and various shops are available along nearby Cliff Street. Well-established kid’s playground and BBQ facilities are available to keep all ages entertained. Public toilets are also available along this beautiful foreshore area.

Portland Town Centre

Since Portland is the birthplace of Victoria, there is a range of historical buildings all around Portland town centre for visitors to discover. Many of these historical buildings were also constructed in bluestones back in the 1800s.

Out of the over 200 heritage buildings around Portland, many of them are still immaculately maintained. Some of the examples of these well-maintained buildings and landmarks are the Portland Court House, the Customs House, Mac’s Hotel, the Town Hall, the former Police Quarters, and the Old Post Office.

For a list of these historic buildings and landmarks, make sure you check out the Portland Visitor Information Centre (mentioned above) before heading to the town centre.

Cape Nelson Lighthouse

Cape Nelson Lighthouse is located in Cape Nelson State Park, only a 15-minute drive from Portland town centre. Established in 1884, this ivory-white lighthouse has been standing tall and guiding vessels through this notorious shipwreck coast ever since.

With the rugged coastline and deep blue ocean as background, the sight of Cape Nelson Lighthouse is simply captivating. A 3 km clifftop walk is also available around Cape Nelson Lighthouse for visitors to discover the breathtaking views along Cape Nelson. This impressive walk is also part of the famous Great South West Walk.

The elevated coastal location of Cape Nelson has made it one of the best places for whale watching around Portland. During the winter months (June to August), Cape Nelson is ideally positioned for spotting a large number of migrating Southern Right Whales. During the warmer months, the giant Blue Whales also like to visit Cape Nelson for its rich supply of krill. If lucky, you can literally spot whales near Cape Nelson all year round.

Just next to Cape Nelson Lighthouse, there is a small cafe, Isabella’s Cafe, offering a decent selection of lunch choices. It is really handy for people visiting Cape Nelson Lighthouse, especially when you are planning to wait around for a while to spot whales.

The original keepers’ cottages are still standing strong near Cape Nelson Lighthouse. However, they have now been transformed into self-contained holiday rentals. It is a great place to stay for a night or two to fully experience Cape Nelson. For more information on staying in these exclusive cottages, you can check out here on Cape Nelson Lighthouse CottageOpens in a new tab..

Tours of Cape Nelson Lighthouse are available daily at 11 am & 2 pm. During the tour, visitors will be guided through the histories of Cape Nelson and the shipwreck coast. It also provides the opportunity for a sweeping view of the magnificent Cape Nelson and the Southern Ocean from the lighthouse’s top viewing platform.

A small fee is required for participating in a Cape Nelson Lighthouse Tour, which is currently AUD 15 per adult (August 2022). Bookings are strongly suggested to secure yourself a spot in this well-sought-after lighthouse tour. For up-to-date tour pricing and booking information, you may wish to check out here on their websiteOpens in a new tab..

Enchanted Forest Walk

The Enchanted Forest Walk is located along Norman Wade Scenic Drive, on the way from Portland to Cape Nelson. As the name suggests, this walking trail is simply serene and enchanting.

After parking at the designated carpark, the first section of the walk will include a set of staircases, leading you to a spectacular coastal view. Then you will be mostly walking amid a lush-green and well-sheltered forest.

This walk is about 3 km one-way. You can either return to the carpark via the same track or along the Norman Wade Scenic Drive. Since the Enchanted Forest Walk is also part of the Great South West Walk, you can also join this walk together with adjacent scenic walks to make it more epic.

Yellow Rock Coastal Park

The Yellow Rock Coastal Park is located at the Portland end of Norman Wade Scenic Drive, along the drive between Portland and Cape Nelson. It is part of the 50 km stretch of Discovery Bay Coastal Park & the Great South West Walk.

The spectacular views of Yellow Rock Coastal Park are well-hidden from the main road & there is barely anything you can see or hear from the Yellow Rock carpark. Therefore, make sure you are not judging the book by its cover. Otherwise, you will miss out on arguably the best views around Portland.

After a short walk from the carpark, you will first hear the loud crashing waves before being presented with the incredible views of Yellow Rock Coastal Park. There are a couple of viewing platforms at the clifftop for a bird’s eye view of this rugged coastline. These platforms are relatively easy to access & may also be suited for people with limited mobility.

From the clifftop, there is a set of 161 stairs for descending to the beachfront. These stairs can be strenuous for some people, but the views from the foreshore area are remarkable & well worth the effort.

From the beach, you can feel the strong currents coming into the bay; admire surfers catching each rough surf the ocean delivers; check out the impressive yellow rocks up close. However, the water at this beach is deep and unsettled, so it is not suited for swimming.

Public toilets are available at Yellow Rock Coastal Park & they can be found near the park entrance. Dogs are not permitted within Yellow Rock Coastal Park.

Blacknose Point

Blacknose Point is a 10-minute drive from Portland town centre. It is a quiet beach with a stunning ocean view.

From the designated carpark, there is a short 5-minute walk to access Blacknose Point. A viewing platform is available just above the beach for visitors to enjoy the amazing ocean view and the spectacular coastline.

The actual beach at Blacknose Point is very rocky and not suited for sunbathing, but it is a perfect place to enjoy some alone time and to watch the sunset.

Crumpets Beach

Crumpets Beach is a 10-minute drive from Portland town centre & nearby to Blacknose Point. At Crumpets Beach, there is no typical soft sandy beach to be found. Instead, you will find a beach covered in small pebbles.

With each wave coming in and out at Crumpets Beach, the water and the pebbles will make an interesting rhythmic sound, which can be very fascinating to hear.

I initially arrived at Crumpets Beach hoping to discover something that resembles crumpets (hence the name). But I couldn’t find any. I also tried to search online for the name origin of Crumpets Beach, but there was no reference at all.

After staring at the beach for a long while, I eventually figured out one explanation for the name ‘Crumpets Beach’: it is because of the pebbles! Between the pebbles, there are small air sockets. When waves come in, the water will sink into these air sockets like how maple syrup will sink into crumpets. Hence, it is named Crumpets Beach.

This is the only explanation I could find for Crumpets Beach & I would love to know if you have a better explanation for the name origin of Crumpets Beach.

Point Danger Gannet Colony

Point Danger Gannet Colony is the only mainland gannet colony in Australia, with around 300 pairs of gannets residing on a small headland at Point Danger since the mid-1990s. A much larger number (about 6000 pairs) of gannets can also be found offshore on nearby Lawrence Island.

To protect this only mainland gannet colony, a wired fence is placed between the general public and the gannet colony. Maremma Sheepdogs are also deployed to ward off predators, such as feral cats and foxes.

An elevated viewing platform is built nearby for visitors to better observe these interesting creatures without disturbing them. Volunteers are also stationed at Point Danger Gannet Colony during gannet nesting seasons to provide visitors with better information +/- guided tours of this gannet colony.

The best season for visiting Point Danger Gannet Colony is from July to April each year. During this time, you will find a huge number of gannets congregate at the colony to nest and raise their young.

For the best viewing experience, a pair of binoculars is highly suggested for visiting Point Danger Gannet Colony. It will allow you a much better view of how gannets catch pilchards, how gannets eat, and how gannets nurse their young.

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