Port Fairy to Melbourne itinerary
Whether you are returning to Melbourne from a trip down the Great Ocean Road, or headed to Adelaide take the alternative route from Port Fairy to Melbourne. This drive along the National Highway takes you past some beautiful coastal towns and lesser known attractions in rural Victoria.
The drive along the Western Highway through Ballarat is certainly quicker. However unless you are planning a trip to Halls Gap and the Grampians National Park, the remainder of the trip will take you through endless crop fields and small towns, with little to see along the way.
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End of the Great Ocean Road
If you are continuing your journey from the South Australian “Limestone Loop”, you can head from Penola through the vineyards and cool pine plantation forests to the seaside town of Port Fairy.
From the end of the Great Ocean Road, it is worth continuing through Warrnabool to Port Fairy, before continuing your inland drive back to Melbourne. Alternatively, you can make this trip in reverse, continuing through Penola and the “Limestone Loop” to Adelaide.
Port Fairy, known as one of the “prettiest coastal towns in Victoria”, is a popular seaside resort. The historic 19th century sealing and whaling port has more than 50 buildings classified with the National Trust.
A heritage walk will take you past many of the significant buildings, including the whitewashed “Caledonian Inn”, Victoria’s oldest pub.
Norfolk pines line the main street of Port Fairy and along the riverside, restored bluestone cottages sit side by side with modern holiday homes.
Climbing to the top of Battery Hill on the other side of the river gives you sweeping views over the Southern Ocean and Moyne River. Amid the Flagstaffs you will find many of the original canons and bunkers in the 1861 fortification.
From Port Fairy you can enjoy ocean cruises and sightseeing tours, as well as day trips to surrounding national parks and hiking trails.
It is certainly taking a short trip out of town to “The Crags” lookout. Rocky limestone outcrops, dating back many thousand years are home to hundreds of bird species. The lookout provides breathtaking scenery of the rugged stone formations that give the “Shipwreck Coast” its’ name.
Well fenced pathways lead you to the viewing platforms at the lookouts, weaving through now dense natural vegetation. The very rocks themselves are prone to crumbling, so the lookout provides a safe, close up view of the spectacular scenery.
From the lookout you can see Lady Julia Percy Island, six kilometres off the coast. The island is home to one of the world’s largest colony of fur seals and a rookery for fairy penguins. From Port Fairy you can take a sightseeing trip out to the island to see the colonies up close.
The beach area below the lookout is a breeding ground for Hooded Plovers, one of Australia’s most threatened bird species as well as numerous other bird life.
The Crags rock formations near Port Fairy
Returning to the city of Warrnambool is just half an hour from Port Fairy. Maritime enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Flagstaff hill Maritime Village. The heritage listed village overlooking Lady Bay is also home to Victoria’s largest shipwreck collection.
The area is also a popular coastal resort, where you may enjoy spending a few days relaxing by the sea.
Crater lakes at Camperdown
Just an hour from Warrnambool, the historic pastoral town of Camperdown looks much like any other Victorian country town. The streetscape is lined with elm-trees and imposing 19th century buildings. The clock tower in the middle of the town and the agricultural machinery outlets are all quintessentially Australian.
The town has an extensive sheep and dairy farming history dating back to the Victorian gold rush era. There is also a growing tourist industry, catering for visitors who want to explore the local archaeology, or simply enjoy the water sports the surrounding lakes offer.
Camperdown is located on the world’s third largest volcanic plain. Surrounded by large freshwater lakes, it offers spectacular views, easy walking trails and a great opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
Driving to the top of Mt Leura, one of two scoria mounds, you have panoramic views across the surrounding dairy farms and the surrounding crater lakes which dot the rural landscape. The landscape looks like a giant patchwork quilt, the crumbling stone fences dividing the paddocks.
Volcanic craters dot the landscape at Mt Leura
Scottish immigrant farmers erected these drystone walls as a solution to the rabbit problem during the 19th century. The walls are an historic feature of this part of Victoria. Many of them are now heritage protected
Mt Leura and nearby Mt Sugarloaf provide a range of walking trails, picnic areas and interpretive displays. A 45 minute walk takes you along the entire 1.7 kilometre panoramic circuit.
The largest crater lake, Lake Bullen Merri, is located just outside Camperdown. It is a popular destination for camping, fishing, swimming and water skiing.
The final leg of our trip towards Melbourne brings us through rural farmlands, to the city of Geelong.
If you are returning from a trip down the Great Ocean Road you will have passed through Victoria’s second largest city on the way.
Explore the foreshores of Corio Bay, or the local historic attractions including the Australian Wool Museum. You will find plenty of wineries in the surrounding area and beautiful beaches on the Bellarine Peninsula.
Along Corio you bay you will find working fishing vessels and luxury yachts. Cunningham Pier was once a major cargo centre, which has been redeveloped into a restaurant and function complex.
Over 100 recycled pylon piers from Limburners Point to Rippleside Park have been transformed into unique sculptural artworks depicting Geelong’s history. Along the two hour Bollard Trail walk along the waterfront you will meet early settlers, local identities, even the Geelong Cats AFL team members.
Bollards along the Geelong Bollard trail
Walk along the iconic Cunningham Pier, once a cargo depot and today home to restaurants and a function centre were you can enjoy an exquisite meal overlooking the Bay.
If you are travelling to Adelaide, you can reverse this route. Connect with the “Limestone Loop” through Penola and Naracoorte for a scenic trip through rural Victoria.
Geelong is just 75 kilometres, or an hour’s drive from the Melbourne CBD.