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The Colonial Charm Of Port Fairy
port fairyNobody could argue that the wonders of the Great Ocean Road are not well documented. Ocean views and striking limestone structures share a dramatic beauty and complexity that makes each kilometre of the infamous drive memorable and special. And when you near the end of the drive and begin to feel that perhaps the best moments and memories are behind you, you can prepare yourself for one last surprise: the charming town of Port Fairy, which is the cherry on the cake of the Great Ocean Road. As one of the oldest ports in Victoria, the history and the old world charm of this quaint coastal village is captivating and enchanting. Its stunning and peacefully quiet beaches, and wide streets make this a fitting and relaxing end to your Great Ocean Road experience.

Nestled on the banks of the Moyne River's entrance to the sea, the town was initially a base for whalers who used the river as a safe and convenient place to moor. These days the main attraction of the town still remains centred on its whaling history. Whales themselves are an attraction in the winter months, with many tourists flocking to Port Fairy in the hope of viewing these magnificent creatures surfacing off the mainland with their young.

Nearby Logan's Beach is renowned as one of the best land based viewing spots in Australia. A special viewing platform and several boardwalks have been erected allowing you to soak up the stunning surrounds from an entirely new perspective. Many visitors to the town stay in ancient whalers cottages, which give people a real feel for the towns history and a taste of what life was like back in those days.

Port Fairy has retained its colonial charm through the preservation of the architecture from that period, and there is an abundance of intriguing heritage buildings that can be visited and viewed in and around the town. Large Georgian style merchants homes are situated sporadically around the town, interspersed with smaller, cosy whalers and sealers cottages, that were built with thick stone walls.

Fifty of the town's buildings are classified by the National Trust and open to the public, and there are also many art galleries and studios around Port Fairy. This allows it to maintain its reputation as a stronghold in the arts and crafts industry. This also makes for some fascinating walks around the town. In fact walking is the only way to see Port Fairy. In a car you miss out on the important details that give an old town like this its character so it is better to get out on your feet to soak it all up.

The peaceful and quaint aura of the town is heightened by its tranquil beaches, which are ideal for swimming, learning to surf or simply relaxing on the pure white sand. Killarney Beach is a popular choice and is also a hot spot for fishermen who are keen to pull their dinner from the surf. Fishing is one of the main resources here, next to tourism, so the restaurants and cafes are always supplied with fresh seafood. So if you're not a fan of trying to catch you're own dinner, relax in the picturesque surrounds of the waterfront and sample the haul of the fishing boats coming in from sea.

Port Fairy is position on the treacherous, but beautful Shipwreck Coast, which is said to have laid waste to over 700 ships in years gone by. These shipwrecks have become popular attractions, and there are many in the waters nearby that are popular amongst scuba divers.The most frequently visited of these would have to be the 'Thistle', which sank off Port Fairy's East Beach in 1849 and now lies in two metres of water, making it easily accessible to divers and snorkellers. There is also a walk spanning two kilometres that runs from the town and takes in the wrecks of four ships that ran aground during the nineteenth century.

About twelve kilometres from the town are the Crags, which make up a rugged stretch of coastline consisting of harsh rocky outcrops. Similar to many of the features along the Great Ocean Road, these contrast with Port Fairy's serene beaches and help justify the presence of all the shipwrecks in the area. The beautful panoramic views offered by the Crags make them worthy of a visit; a visit that shouldn't be made without a camera.

If you happen to visit outside the whale season, but you would still like to interact with some interesting marine life, you should vonsider getting a charter to Lady Julia Percy Island. Situates just nine kilometres off the coast, this island of volcanic rock is home to more than 20 000 Australian fur seals that have taken up residence along its rocky beaches and in its many caves. The island is a nature reserve, so you are not allowed to land on it, but you are able to get up close to the intriguing seals by boat. Great white sharks frequent the area and feed on the seals, so if luck is on your side you may run into one of these magnificent creatures.

A good holiday is always built around an itinerary, and the best way to plan your stay in Port Fairy is to visit www.portfairyaccommodation.com to organise where you are going to stay and what you are going to see. This simple and easy to use website lists everything you need to know about accommodation options in Port Fairy, and provides important information on tourism operators and sites and attractions to see in the region.

If you are planning a trip to this area, you may want to make it coincide with the Port Fairy Folk Festival. This four day event takes place on the Labour Day weekend in March each year. This festival has thrived since its humble beginnings and is now an internationally renowned event, attracting visitors from all over the world. This time of the year can get busy so make sure you book your accommodation early to ensure your visit to Port Fairy is one you can remember for a lifetime.

Christine Barton

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