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Port Fairy is a coastal town in south-western Victoria, Australia. It lies on the Princes Highway in the Shire of Moyne, 28 kilometres (17 mi) west of Warrnambool and 290 kilometres (180 mi) west of Melbourne, at the point where the Moyne River enters the Southern Ocean.

Port Fairy
Port Fairy, main street, 30.11.2009.jpg
The main shopping precinct
Port Fairy is located in Shire of Moyne
Port Fairy
Port Fairy
Coordinates38°22′0″S 142°14′0″E / 38.36667°S 142.23333°E / -38.36667; 142.23333Coordinates: 38°22′0″S 142°14′0″E / 38.36667°S 142.23333°E / -38.36667; 142.23333
Population3,340 (2016 census)[1]
Elevation6 m (20 ft)
LGA(s)Shire of Moyne
State electorate(s)South-West Coast
Federal Division(s)Wannon
Mean max temp Mean min temp Annual rainfall
18.6 °C
65 °F
9.5 °C
49 °F
770.1 mm
30.3 in


The Gunditjmara aboriginals lived in the Port Fairy area prior to European arrival.

In the early 19th century whalers and seal hunters used the coast in this region.[2] The bay is reported to have been named by the crew of the sealing cutter The Fairy (Captain James Wishart) in 1828.[3][4] Whatever its origins, the name Port Fairy was in general use by 1835.[5]

John Griffiths[6] established a whaling station in 1835 and a store was opened in 1839. In 1843, James Atkinson, a Sydney solicitor, purchased land in the town by special survey. He drained the swamps, subdivided and leased the land, and built a harbour on the Moyne River. He named the town "Belfast" after his hometown in Ireland.

In the 1840s, significant conflict between pastoral squatters and aboriginals occurred. In 1842, 27 squatters from the Port Fairy neighbourhood signed a letter to Superintendent Charles Latrobe reporting many 'outrages' committed by the 'natives' and requesting the government provide security. These clashes later known as the Eumeralla Wars, formed part of the battle over land use and resources between traditional owners and Europeans across the Victoria's western district. [7]

The post office opened on 1 July 1843 (the post office actually opened in 1837[8] as "Port Fairy" but was renamed "Belfast" on 1 January 1854 before reverting to the original name on 20 July 1887.)

Agriculture developed in the region, and Belfast became an important transport hub.

By 1857 the town had a population of 2,190. In the mid-to-late 19th century, Belfast was one of Australia's largest ports, catering to the whaling industry. In 1887 the town was renamed Port Fairy as a result of an Act of Parliament.

A railway was extended to the town in 1890, but closed in 1977.[9] It has been converted into the Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail.


At the 2016 census, Port Fairy had a population of 3,340.[1] Its main industries are tourism and fishing, and it is the home port for one of Victoria's largest fishing fleets. A pharmaceutical factory owned by Sun Pharma is located on the outskirts of the town. Port Fairy is home to two Primary school education facilities, The Port Fairy Consolidated School [10] and St. Patricks Parish Primary School.[11]

Port Fairy was voted as one of the world's most livable cities with a population under 20,000 after winning the 2012 International LivCom award.[12]

Port Fairy has a rich history and 50 buildings are protected by the National Trust of Australia. Griffiths Island nearby holds a breeding colony of the short-tailed shearwater or Australian muttonbird.

The Port Fairy Folk Festival is held during the Labour Day long weekend in March each year. The festival has run continuously since 1977. In 2016, Port Fairy will celebrate the 40th edition of the Folk Festival from 11 to 14 March. Over the 40 festivals there have been around 3,500 acts including over 500 international acts and over 12,000 musicians to an audience of beyond 240,000 ticket holders and 1,000,000 attendees.[13]

The other major celebration in the town is the Moyneyana festival, held over summer from Christmas Eve to 26 January.

Port Fairy also has a highly rated 18-hole links golf course, the Port Fairy Golf Club, situated on Woodbine Road.[14]

The town has an Australian rules football team, the Port Fairy Seagulls, which plays in the Hampden Football League.[15]

Port Fairy has many surfing spots for all skill levels including the Old Passage, a right hand rocky break at the old entrance to the Moyne river; the Lighthouse, a right-hand point break off Griffiths island; and the East Beach with many right and left beach breaks.

Notable peopleEdit



  1. ^ a b Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Port Fairy (State Suburb)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 7 July 2017.  
  2. ^ Neil, Jan; Sayers, M. C (1973), Port Fairy : pioneer whaling station, Mullaya Publications, ISBN 978-0-85914-007-2
  3. ^ "Portland Bay Extracts", The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 4, 23 March 1843, retrieved 13 February 2011, quoting the Portland Mercury
  4. ^ Cox, Philip & Stacey, Wesley (1973), Historic towns of Australia, Melbourne, Lansdowne, p.146. ISBN 0701801840
  5. ^ Launceston Advertiser, 26 November 1835, p.3
  6. ^ "Griffiths, John (1801–1881)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 1. Canberra: Australian National University. 1966. Retrieved 15 February 2011.
  7. ^ "NATIVES AT PORT FAIRY". Launceston Courier. II, (76). Tasmania, Australia. 18 April 1842. p. 2. Retrieved 13 January 2019 – via National Library of Australia.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  8. ^ Premier Postal History, Post Office List, retrieved 11 April 2008
  9. ^ Sid Brown (March 1990), "Tracks Across the State", Newsrail, Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division), pp. 71–76.
  10. ^ The Port Fairy Consolidated School, retrieved 5 August 2015
  11. ^ St Patrick's Parish Primary School Port Fairy, retrieved 5 August 2015
  12. ^ John Davis, Port Fairy, retrieved 3 May 2014
  13. ^ "The 40th Port Fairy Tales Project". Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  14. ^ Golf Select, Port Fairy, retrieved 11 May 2009
  15. ^ Full Point Footy, Port Fairy, archived from the original on 6 October 2008, retrieved 25 July 2008
  16. ^
  17. ^ "A rollicking good tale". Seacombe House website. Retrieved 6 January 2010.

External linksEdit