Portland claims it’s place as the birth place of Victoria with some pride. There are signs everywhere about it. The town was founded by whalers a year or so before Melbourne. The whalers had been coming across from the now Tasmania hunting seals and later whales. Today the town scape is dominated by its working harbour. The Portland Aluminium Smelter requires imports of its raw materials into the manufacturing complex and then exports the completed Aluminium ingots. It is a big operation, as is the pine log and wood chip export terminal. Allthego has never seen so many pine logs lined up for loading into ships and wood chips being stored beside the wharf. The big trucks bring these to the port. The trucks are then raised on ramps to almost 60 dg and the chips slide out the back onto the stockpile. This goes on all day, there seem to be 3 ramps operating at once. One wonders where all the timber comes from and when it will run out. The answer to that question came to us a few days later when we saw the vast pine plantations on the way further west to Nelson. There is plenty of wood out there! Added to this activity is the recent development of the town as a cruise port terminal. The town has about 12,000 residents and when a boat comes in with its 2,000 or so tourists a fair bit of activity is generated.
The town’s touristy highlight is the Portland Tram which rumbles along the waterfront 5 times a day, operating like a ‘hop on hop off’ bus. We enjoyed our ride around the town seeing the highlights. The Botanical Gardens were a particularly impressive stop with the rose displays and old restored gardener’s cottage.
One of the area’s Lighthouses is on ‘Whaler’s Bluff’ directly behind us in the caravan park, the other is at Cape Nelson ,a few kilometres away. Both still operate.
We were lucky to be able to go out to the Gannet colony, on a point near the Aluminium smelter complex, and get inside the protective fence with our guide. This is the only mainland colony of these birds in Australia, the guide estimated there would be about a thousand birds here. There is an island out from this point that is swarming with the birds. They are so overcrowded there that a number ‘migrated’ to the mainland to start the new colony. They are quite big birds and have a wing span of about 175 cm. Amazing sight.
Still further out of town is Cape Bridgewater, claimed to have one of the best beaches in Australia. The arc of white sand stretches for miles and is in fact the rim of an ancient volcano’s caldera. We had lunch here overlooking the bay. Dominating the farm land along the coastline is a large wind farm. These wind turbines certainly look big out in the paddocks, but when you see the individual blades close up their size is appreciated. At 82 m long and weighing 40 tonnes they make an impressive sight on the back of the truck coming towards you.
We have had a few days here in Portland and it is now time to move on to Nelson, 70 km west and almost in South Australia.