Portarlington: Festivals and Fine Wine
Portarlington, a town of 3000 on the Bellarine Peninsula, has several claims to fame. The coastal community is considered the mussel capital of Australia and, for a long time, boasted the largest caravan park in the country. Due to a prime location on the Bellarine Peninsula, Portarlington has long since been a favourite holiday destination for families, as well as a retreat for Melbournians wishing to soak up the seaside atmosphere. Throughout the year, all sorts of events take place in town, including sporting competitions and festivals celebrating the diverse heritage of Portarlington’s inhabitants. A short drive from the coast, the Bellarine Peninsula’s wineries and farm gates beckon, allowing visitors to taste locally produced food and wine. A well-established holiday hotspot for the last century, a wide range of rentals are spread throughout Portarlington, from modern loft style apartments on the beachfront to cosy cabins overlooking the hinterland.
Family-Friendly Portarlington Activities
Portarlington is a favourite holiday destination for Melbourne families, offering sheltered beaches, an expansive but quiet waterfront and several attractions specifically designed for the little ones. Portarlington Beach, backed by a leafy reserve with picnic areas and a playground, has few waves, ensuring it is safe for younger children to swim in. Fire up one of the public BBQs for a family lunch outside or grab a snack from the kiosk and make a day out of your Portarlington Beach visit. For more family fun, go for a ride on the Portarlington Miniature Railway, operated by the Drysdale Lottery Club and set within the Rotary Children’s Park. As you ride, you’ll be privy to unobscured bay views. After the train ride, children of all ages will be able to enjoy the vintage-style equipment at the playground.
Portarlington’s Food and Wine Scene
Portarlington is the ideal base for foodies and wine connoisseurs, with a wide array of fresh seafood reaped from the waters off the coast and numerous vineyards in the hinterland, just a short drive from town. Most of the wineries feature cellar doors and restaurants, where you can sample local fare paired with speciality wines. Bellarine Estate is a winery and brewery specialising in handcrafted liqueurs, whereas Terindah Estate is a boutique winery with an array of award-winning bottles. Meanwhile, foodies may wish to travel along the Bellarine Taste Trail, comprised of restaurants and farm gates showcasing the region’s produce and delicacies. You can either participate in a tour led by a local guide or set up a self-guided tour based on your interests. One of the most popular stops along the Bellarine Taste Trail is right in Portarlington, which is known for its mussels. In fact, each January, the town hosts the Portarlington Mussel Festival, where over 100 vendors sell mussels and other types of seafood. Festival activities include local band performances, cooking demonstrations and even some beer and wine tastings.
Portarlington Festivals, Markets and Sporting Events
Portarlington may be a small community, but the coastal town is recognized as a hub for festivals and sporting events of all sorts, with visitors from around the State flocking to participate in, or observe, the events that spark their interest. At the end of the summer each year, the oldest triathlon in Victoria is held in Portarlington. It is widely considered to take place on one of the best courses in Australia. In addition, Portarlington’s residents are very well connected with their heritage, which they proudly showcase during the National Celtic Festival in the winter and on Saint Gregory, an important holiday for the Maltese community, which coincides with Australia Day weekend. The National Celtic Festival features folk music, dancing and a wide range of activities for the whole family. On the last Sunday of each month, Parks Hall hosts the Portarlington Primary School Market, where you can purchase all sorts of artisanal crafts and homemade treats against an ocean backdrop.
History and Heritage in Portarlington
While on holiday in Portarlington, history buffs will be able to soak up local heritage as they stroll through town, as a number of Portarlington’s original buildings are still around and in operation. Take a guided tour of the National Trust Flour Mill, erected in 1857, and learn about the settlement’s early days as you step back in time. The fully-restored mill now hosts several rotating exhibits a year. Another heritage building in Portarlington is the Ol’ Duke, which was built in 1855 and was the first hotel in town, now serving as an upscale restaurant. The Celtic-style building is considered the starting point to Portarlington’s self-guided historic walk, which will take you past traditional timber houses, St Patrick’s Hall with its atypical harlequin glass windows and along a coastal footpath offering views of Corio Bay and the You Yangs mountain range.
Getting to Portarlington
Portarlington is located an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Melbourne and only half-an-hour from Geelong. In addition to driving, you can easily access Portarlington via public transport. If you’re coming from Melbourne, you can take the train to Geelong and then catch a bus. If you’re arriving by air and landing at Avalon Airport (the closest airport to Portarlington), you can take a designated shuttle all the way to the Bellarine Peninsula.