Why Port Fairy? Simple-not-simple. I bought a Mornington Peninsular calendar thinking it’d be a fun idea to visit each of the 12 destinations. My partner agreed. Turned out is wasn’t a Mornington Peninsular calendar, but a Great Ocean Road calendar (my bad.) The deal stood.
So, we’ll find ourselves venturing on weekend-long trips throughout the year. First up: Port Fairy in January.
Problem. When you Google ‘Port Fairy’, you get nada. Well, okay, you’ll see there’s a wildlife park nearby, plus mini golf and an annual festival. Search results do not inspire.
We learned the best way to discover things to do in Port Fairy is to ask people who’ve visited. So we’re paying it forward – with options to suit your style.
Where to stay?
This is Port Fairy – staying in a whaler’s cottage is a no-duh. There are lots to choose from on Airbnb, but I challenge you to not book Hanley House now you know it exists. It’s a historic 1850s cottage, divided into a few apartments. We hid away Edward’s Den out the back, which is disgustingly cute and perfect for couples. We’re feeling a winter visit, where we’ll switch on the gas fireplace in the ‘Workers’ Quarters‘.
Where to for breakfast?
Two recommendations. Set off to see The Farmer’s Wife and follow the yellow Dutch bike. It’s tucked down a narrow laneway (very Melbourne) of hidden dinosaurs and lizards. (You’ll see.) Their coffee’s okay, but their scrambled eggs and smashed avo are on point.
Across the street, the perpetually popular Rebecca’s Cafe is modest, though not mundane. People rave about their wild rice porridge, so order that or risk dish envy. If that’s not your flavour, they double as an ice cream shop. All made in-house. Uh huh.
Go soft: Mid-morning meander
Peruse The Port Fairy Community Market. Its 100+ stalls include food trucks, fashion, fresh veg, jewellery, art and handmade er’thang. Say hi to Janabell for me. She makes these adorable box-frame stone pictures that’ll make you smile. The market runs Saturdays in January, then pops up on the second and fourth Saturday of each month.
The Port Fairy Community Market
Railway Place, Port Fairy, Vic, 3284
Go hard: Mid-morning adventure
Take a self-guided walk, spot the wildlife and learn about the area’s Aboriginal Heritage at Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve: a mammoth volcanic crater only 20-minutes’ drive from Port Fairy. Tip: If an emu charges at you, raise your hand straight up above your head.
Tower Hill Wildlife Reserve
105 Lake View Rd, Tower Hill, Vic, 3283
Where to for lunch?
Save yourself. You had a big breakfast.
Go soft: Afternoon angle
Go fish. If you want to stay close, drop a line off Moyne River and catch a bream, mullet, and silver trevally (this time of year). You may score a snapper up by the river’s entrance. Pick up a recreational fishing license from the Port Fairy Sports and Toy Store and research size and bag limits.
Port Fairy Sports and Toy Store
64 Sackville St, Port Fairy, Vic, 3284 | (03) 5568 1788
Go hard: Afternoon adventure
Book a snorkel safari and swim with the fish. These generally begin at 2pm. Tip: Pick up underwater housing for your smartphone and use this opportunity to snap some pics for Instagram.
Port Fairy Surf School
33 Bank Street, Port Fairy, Vic, 3284 | (03) 5568 2800
Truth. I’ve listed two (awesome) ideas for your afternoon activity. In reality, we didn’t make it past the pub. But come on, it’s the ‘oldest licensed hotel in Victoria’, so I guess herein lies afternoon option three.
The Caledonian Inn, 41 Bank St, Port Fairy, Vic, 3284 | (03) 5568 1044
Where to for dinner?
We asked a long-time local for a recommendation. Without a breath, he said ‘Coffin Sally’. And he deserves a high five. We ordered a bunch of pizzas and the clear winner was the Buffalo Sally, with Shaw River buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. (Yes, I’m vegan-ish.)
Where to for drinks?
Conlan’s Wine Store had been open for 12 days when we visited, but it felt like it’d been around forever. Dave, the bartender, doubles as your concierge and true local. Ask him anything about the town. Stacy, the friendly sommelier, is the first in Port Fairy, like, ever. Matt knows their menu back to front and will make any alterations you need. Their menu is spectacular. It’s pescatarian-friendly and made for sharing. Come for a glass, stay for a bottle, and settle in.
Truth. These last two stops are back to front. In reality, on our second night, we took our pizza to-go, grabbed a bottle of ‘Boom Town’ from Conlan’s, trekked the 12 metres back to our Airbnb and got seriously wasted watching The O.C. re-runs. That’s called adulting.
Oh yeah, and there are beaches all up and down this area. It was a colder-than-normal January weekend, so no real beach time was had. Here’s a beach shot (with mad filters added) to close things off.
Recommendations and hangovers aside, this is a town so adorable you’ll think you’re an extra on the set of a romcom. I’d love to learn about more things to do in Port Fairy, so if you’re visited, please share your fave spots for our next trip!
I wrote this article for postcoder.com.au where it was originally published.