It is wintry and very cold and windy in Port Fairy on Victoria’s west coast. We rug up and walk around Griffiths Island which is only metres from the shore. This is a place that holds a special meaning to me as I once worked with a gentleman by the name of John Griffiths who was a direct descendant of the Tasmanian entrepreneur and sealer John Griffiths who established a sealing business on this island long before Port Fairy was established.
There is lichen covered basalt, oyster catchers dart across small beaches and tiny turban shells called Italian White Snails are buried in the dunes. There is a small lighthouse at the end of a long bluestone pathway, a quarry on a rocky shore and Norfolk pines planted by the lighthouse keeper who once lived here. We miss seeing the arrival of the shearwaters (mutton birds) by only a few days.
Port Fairy is a town of cottages, fisherman’s cottages, some stone, some weatherboard. There are so many and most are in good condition as they are now experiencing a new life as trendy holiday rentals. Once upon a time the river Moyne was a safe haven for mariners, it is now the outlook of private hotels and the well heeled. Pelicans nest in the samphire flats, cormorants on the rocks dry their wings. The boardwalk gives us a close up view of yachts from faraway places and of the gracious houses. The Merrijig Inn (1844) is Victoria’s oldest hotel and the Caledonian Inn (also 1844) is the oldest continually licensed hotel.
Footnote: Port Fairy or Belfast as it was known was where my three times Great Grandparents first set foot on Australian soil in 1857.