Although all of early settlements along the Southern coast of Australia relied totally on the sea there are very few remnants of our seafaring past left, in fact only two townships remain which could be described as historic fishing villages, and in both cases they have suffered misfortunes which crippled there growth and left them as the time capsules we see today
The area around King George square in Port Fairy is a picture postcard view of a typical seaside fishing village with clusters of century old buildings and a multitude of sailing vessels moored at the pier. You could image that little has changed since the 1870's in fact this area of Port Fairy hasn't changed since then. In the 1840's just as Port Fairy was beginning to prosper, the town fell into private ownership.
The new owners James Atkinson and William Rutledge carefully controlled the growth of the town and all was going nicely but in 1862 James Atkinson died and later that year the company run William Rutledge was declared bankrupt which dealt a crippling blow to the new township. The Atkinson family held onto James Atkinson’s estate and it was not until 1886 that the land became available to purchase freehold. By then settlers has moved away to other towns in the region and virtually halted all growth in the town. Port Fairy today is almost the same size it was in 1860. The events which slowed Port Fairy’s growth has created a quiet seaside fishing village that now attract visitors looking for relaxing holidays by the sea.
Port Fairy Lighthouse
The Griffiths Island Lighthouse was built in 1859 by Scottish stonemasons out of bluestone. The unique stairway is cut with each step being inserted in the next course of stone in the outside wall. Originally located on an area known as Rabbit Island, the island has since been encompassed by the neighbouring Griffiths Island. The last lighthouse keeper lived on the island from 1929 till 1954, with one more light keeper employed for a short time before the light was automated
Port Fairy Beachs
Port Fairy features three main beach areas. The man beach along Ocean Drive extends several kilometres from the golf club to Griffiths Island and the lighthouse forming a neat semicircular bay which gets some protection from the Southern ocean by Griffiths Island. This is Port Fairy's main beach swimming beach and during the summer holidays is quite busy.
On the opposites side of Griffiths Island is South beach which is refered to by local as Pea Soup beach which offers a fairly safe swimming spot during low tides but the beach submerges during high tide and no really suitable for swimming
South Mole Beach which was formed during the construction of the harbour entrance walls (called moles) at the mouth of the Moyne River. The beach lies on the north side of Griffiths Island,
Port Fairy History
Port Fairy started life in the 1830's as one of Victoria's first settlements and grew steadily as new settlers arrived, however in 1843, just as the town was beginning to prosper it fell into private ownership. The new owners James Atkinson and William Rutledge set about improving the port facilities and layout out their vision of a new township, and everything seemed to be going nicely, until 1862 when James Atkinson died and later that year the company run by William Rutledge was declared bankrupt which dealt a crippling blow to the new township.
After James Atkinson's death the family held onto his estate and all building and investment ceased, and it was not until 1886 that freehold land became available to purchase. By then settlers has moved away to other towns in the region and virtually all growth in the town came to a halt. Port Fairy today is almost the same size it was in 1860. The events which slowed Port Fairy’s growth has created a quiet seaside fishing village that now attracts visitors looking for relaxing holidays by the sea.
In the past few decades, Port Fairy has also attracted many retirees looking to retire in a quiet seaside community, with the result that Port Fairy now has a distinct over 50’s feel, which reflects in the attractions and activities around the town. There are book fairs, classical music weekends, lots of antique shops and coffee and cake restaurants