Camping in Portland

Wind farms galore, rugged coastlines, petrified forests and ancient volcanoes all help to make the area around Portland in far western Victoria a a beautiful and fascinating location, well worth a visit.  We’d only been back from Townsville for a day or two when we set  off again, this time in a westerly direction and towing our little van.

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After a shaky start – the tow hitch fitted to our new car was incompatible with the one on the caravan (the only day it’d rained for weeks…) – we recovered our spirits as we drove along the (at last!!) newly duplicated section of the Princes Highway to Colac and stopped at Camperdown for a bite to eat. Who would have thought we’d find such a great cafe with LOTS of healthy and gluten free options out here!IMG_2412 1

Despite my misgivings about not being in a National Park, our mid-town campground in Portland was well-located and comfortable. The Gunditjmara are the traditional owners of the south west, and since 2007 they’ve held Native Title over almost 140,000 hectares of crown land in the region. We visited the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area near Lake Condah finding evidence of their permanent settlements in stone huts, extensive eel traps and aquaculture systems.IMG_2682 1

Portland was one of the first areas of Victoria to be settled by Europeans who drained the swamps and introduced cattle to the area, clashing with the Gunditjmara in the Eumeralla Wars.

We found one pub, Macs Hotel, that did reasonable meals and was playing great blues tracks. A band was setting up for the evening and I was dying to stay but Gary wasn’t feeling the best so went back for an early night. Boo hoo!!

IMG_2666 1Portland is known for its huge aluminium smelter which apparently has a production capacity of 345,000 tonnes of aluminium per year.  But dominating the harbour is the huge wood chip facility where we saw a truck tilted almost vertical to unload – quite amazing!

I would like to spend weeks rather than just a couple of days exploring The Discovery Bay  Coastal Park and Lower Glenelg National Park. Cape Bridgewater is the highest clifftop on this coast, overlooking a stunningly beautiful bay, home to seals, limestone caves, blowholes, perched lakes and an incredible petrified forest. Earmarked for a future camping holiday!

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At Cape Nelson, a little closer to Portland, a spectacular light house sits atop the craggy cliffs. Everywhere there are walks, short or long as desired, and stunning views. I hope to return and do at least part of the 250 km loop Great South West Walk.IMG_2590 1

And the wind turbines – dozens of them in all directions – fantastic!

At the Information Centre in Portland I picked up by far the most interesting leaflet I’ve ever seen about an Australian landscape – perfect for an old geographer like me.

Called the KANAWINKA GEOTRAIL, it’s a detailed map of Victoria’s west coast – Australia’s most IMG_2648 1extensive voIMG_2449 1lcanic province, detailing craters, limestone scenery, waterfalls, caves, ancient volcanic cones, lava flows and lakes and craters.

On our way home we stopped off in Port Fairy again and got talking to a guy who was making a crayfish pot using aIMG_2601 1 mix of cane and ribbed recycled plastic tubing, giving the crayfish something to grab on to – how ingenious! He reckons he could make one in three hours on a good day.IMG_2721 1

Thank you Gary, for introducing me to an area you grew to explore and  love as a young boy!




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