Port Fairy

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 Stag Inn, currently the Seacombe House hotel, was built in 1847 by Captain John Sanders. The external appearance is little changed from the time of its opening[2]
The harbour on the Moyne River
Moyne River, Port Fairy

Before British colonisation, the Port Fairy area was known as Pyipkil or Ummut and was inhabited by the Pyipkil gunditj clan, also known as the Yarrer gunditj.[3] They spoke the Peek Whurrong language.[4] The regional ecology consisted of dense Banksia-dominated bushland and large swamps.[5] The Pyipkil gunditj constructed stone and timber fishing weirs called yereroc across creeks to catch fish and eels. They also cut canals called vam to drain swamps and made woven eel pots called arabine to trap eels.[3] The Eastern Maar people are now considered the traditional owners of the Port Fairy area.

In the early 19th century whalers and seal hunters used the coast in this region.[6] The bay is reported to have been named by the crew of the sealing cutter The Fairy (Captain James Wishart) in 1828.[7][8] Whatever its origins, the name Port Fairy was in general use by 1835.[9]

John Griffiths[10] 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.[11]

The post office opened on 1 July 1843 (the post office actually opened in 1837[12] 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 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.[13] It has been converted into the Port Fairy to Warrnambool Rail Trail.

The Port Fairy Magistrates' Court closed on 1 January 1990.[14]

Traditional ownershipEdit

The formally recognised traditional owners for the area in which Port Fairy sits are the Eastern Maar people,[15] who are represented by the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC).[16]


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[17] and St. Patricks Parish Primary School.[18]

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.[19]

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 celebrated 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.[20]

The annual Moyneyana Festival is held over summer from Christmas Eve to 26 January.[21]

The annual Tarerer Festival, taking place over a weekend, is a celebration of the region's multicultural identity, its history relating to its Aboriginal peoples (Koori, in particular those of the Warrnambool district[22]), and the environmental significance of the land. It features music and dance as well as art and performance workshops, and includes music from a variety of cultures, including non-Indigenous ones.[23] Begun in 1996 by a group of people in Framlingham Forest, it is the only festival of its kind in Victoria. The name derives from the Aboriginal name for Tower Hill, the nearby area of volcanic lakes. In 2008, it featured the rock reggae band of the 1980s, No Fixed Address, as well as a Sudanese band.[22]

Sports and recreationEdit

Port Fairy also has a highly rated 18-hole links golf course, the Port Fairy Golf Club, situated on Woodbine Road.[24]

The town has an Australian rules football team, the Port Fairy Seagulls, which plays in the Hampden Football League.[25]

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. ^ "A rollicking good tale". Seacombe House website. Archived from the original on 26 March 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  3. ^ a b Clark, Ian D; Robinson, George Augustus (2014). The Travels of George Augustus Robinson, Chief Protector, Port Phillip Aboriginal Protectorate 1839 - 1852.
  4. ^ Dawson, James (1881). Australian aborigines : the languages and customs of several tribes of aborigines in the western district of Victoria, Australia. Melbourne: Robertson.
  5. ^ Powling, J.W. (1980). Port Fairy, the first fifty years. Maryborough: McPherson's.
  6. ^ Neil, Jan; Sayers, M. C (1973), Port Fairy : pioneer whaling station, Mullaya Publications, ISBN 978-0-85914-007-2
  7. ^ "Portland Bay Extracts", The Sydney Morning Herald, p. 4, 23 March 1843, retrieved 13 February 2011, quoting the Portland Mercury
  8. ^ Cox, Philip & Stacey, Wesley (1973), Historic towns of Australia, Melbourne, Lansdowne, p. 146. ISBN 0701801840
  9. ^ Launceston Advertiser, 26 November 1835, p. 3
  10. ^ "Griffiths, John (1801–1881)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 1. Melbourne University Press. 1966. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 15 February 2011 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  11. ^ "NATIVES AT PORT FAIRY". Launceston Courier. II (76). Tasmania, Australia. 18 April 1842. p. 2. Retrieved 13 January 2019 – via National Library of Australia.
  12. ^ Phoenix Auctions History, Post Office List, retrieved 20 January 2021
  13. ^ Sid Brown (March 1990), "Tracks Across the State", Newsrail, Australian Railway Historical Society (Victorian Division), pp. 71–76.
  14. ^ "Review of Legal Services in Rural and Regional Victoria" (PDF). Parliament of Victoria Law Reform Committee. May 2001. pp. 291–292. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  15. ^ "Map of formally recognised traditional owners". Aboriginal Victoria. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation". Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  17. ^ The Port Fairy Consolidated School, retrieved 5 August 2015
  18. ^ St Patrick's Parish Primary School Port Fairy, retrieved 5 August 2015
  19. ^ John Davis, Port Fairy, archived from the original on 14 February 2017, retrieved 3 May 2014
  20. ^ "The 40th Port Fairy Tales Project". Retrieved 5 August 2015.
  21. ^ "Moyneyana Festival". Ozevents Online. 3 May 2020. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  22. ^ a b Jackson, Andra (15 November 2008). "Tarerer festival a Koori showpiece at home in the sand dunes". The Age. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  23. ^ "Tarerer Festival". I AM PORT FAIRY. Retrieved 22 April 2021.
  24. ^ Golf Select, Port Fairy, retrieved 11 May 2009
  25. ^ Full Point Footy, Port Fairy, archived from the original on 6 October 2008, retrieved 25 July 2008
  26. ^ [1][dead link]

External linksEdit

  Media related to Port Fairy at Wikimedia Commons