T H E  H I S T O R Y  O F

Port Fairy



I am Port Fairy.

A region of storytellers, seafarers and art lovers, you’ll be captivated with the tales of our region and the rich tapestry of characters weaved throughout it over the ages.

Positioned on the western end of the Great Ocean Road, Port Fairy is a charming fishing village steeped in maritime history. Historic buildings sit just as comfortably in the village as the trendy boutique shops and emerging restaurant scene, all under the towering Norfolk Pines lining the streets. Port Fairy is a delight to discover and you will fall in love with its beauty and character.


European discovery of the area lead to the town of Port Fairy as it stands today, and a rich Indigenous and European influence are celebrated by the Port Fairy community today. Walking through the streets and little lanes, past stone cottages, historic buildings and old pubs it is easy to imagine how life looked in the early days of the town’s settlement.


South Western Victoria has a rich Indigenous history. The traditional owners of the land are the Gunditjmara, also known as the Dhauwurd wurrung.

The Indigenous people of the area were traditionally river and lake people, and had sophisticated systems of working with the landscape for economic gain including aquaculture and farming pursuits. The Gunditjmara enjoyed a rich fish diet including whale flesh. 

When European Settlers arrived in the area, the Indigenous culture and way of life were marred with many massacres and fights. The ongoing battles between the European and Indigenous Australians quickly gave the Gunditjmara people the name “The Fighting Gunditjmara” due to their tenacity and resilience.


The dreamtime narratives of the Gunditjmara are fascinating, with the distinctive volcanic landscape of the area resembling creator, Budj Bim (High Head). Bidj Bim took the form of the volcano known today as Mt Eccles. The erupting lava flows are his blood and teeth, spilling over the landscapeand shaping its wetlands. ‘High Head’ as it is known, refers to the craters brow, which is only accessible today by Gunditjmara men, following sacred traditional dress customs.

Nearby Deen Maar Island (also known as Lady Julia Percy Island) is sacred burial ceremonial ground for the Gunditjmara. Their burial traditions involved wrapping the body in grass bundles and releasing them with their head pointing towards the island Deen Mar, along with burning native cherry wood for guidance from good spirits. The Gunditjmara looked for signs from the spirits that the body had made safe passage to the island and the spirit had risen to the realm of the clouds.

Explore the area and consider these dreamtime stories and the Gunditjmara people as you discover the many sacred and unique sites featured throughout the region.



The town now known as Port Fairy was regularly visited by Tasmanian sealers, and in 1828 Captain Wishart, on an expedition in his small boat “Fairy” was caught in a wild storm. Captain Wishart, his crew and ‘Fairy’ found shelter in a little Bay for the night and once the dawn arrived he discovered the river mouth to a bountiful and well-formed river. Captain Wishart decided to call the Bay Port Fairy to commemorate the good fortune of discovering the bay in his little ship. The Bay todayis a mecca for beach-goers, fishermen and water-sports lovers. The long stretches of beach and the iconic wild coastline make the Port Fairy area a popular tourist destination for nature based adventure.


In the early 1830s on an island at the mouth of the river at Port Fairy, a whaling station was built by Tasmanians Penny & Reiby after hearing of the freshwater river and sheltered bay  discovered by Captain Wishart. Mr John Griffiths bought the whaling station off the men in 1835 and the island is now known as Griffith Island. The station was closed in the 1840s due to the depletion of whale numbers. Thankfully today the whales are back and the Port Fairy area is a rich breeding ground for the whales to mate and nurse their calves. You can spot the frolicking whales from June to October from scenic vantage points across the Bay. Or you can choose to get up close on a whale watching cruise. Tours depart from the Port Fairy Wharf, just footsteps from your accommodation here at Edge 17.



The early seamen of the 1830s discovered the volcanic soils in the area and brought livestock from Tasmania to the rich and fertile lands. A town was established and settlers were encouraged to build their houses on the settlement land. The town of ‘Belfast’ was developed and named after the birthplace of the landowner of the town, James Atkinson. There is still a strong celtic narrative in the area, with place names and architecture as well as cultural events all paying homage to the early Irish roots, however in 1887 Belfast residents petitioned to have the town renamed to Port Fairy, as it is today.

The European history information was gathered from the Port Fairy Historical Society. To book a tour for yourself to find out many more fascinating tales of early Port Fairy life, visit their website

Your Port Fairy adventure starts here…

We visited Port Fairy for 2 nights and we were very lucky to find this great little one bedroom apartment right on the river. Our host Brett gave us lots of information about the area including good restaurants to eat at and surrounding areas to visit. The apartment was exceptionally clean, very comfortable with all the extras needed to make our stay a great experience. 

Jules & Andre

The apartment is right on the water with views quiet & peaceful. Lovely little town restaurant and fish and chips on the water… also has a 2 bedroom cottage behind which is beautiful… great fishing and make sure you try the Thai in town.

Boarding Pass - Trip Advisor