The Best Things To Do In Portsea
Portsea is a popular seaside holiday town on the Mornington Peninsula and is the most westernmost settlement. During the summer, wealthy Melburnians flock to Portsea to escape the city.
You’ll spot enormous 19th-century mansions, gardens and tennis courts, which demonstrates that Portsea is a rather exclusive place to live and holiday. In 1802, Lieutenant Murray spent a few weeks exploring the area and named Point Nepean. At the time, there was high demand for lime which was used as a mortar in building. The Mornington Peninsula became the site where a number of kilns were set up and remnants of them can be seen at Point King.
In 1882 there were fears of a Russian invasion, so a fort was built at Point Nepean to defend Port Phillip Bay. Limestone was plentiful and this was ideal for constructing underground passages. By the turn of the century, the fort was the most heavily armoured in the Southern Hemisphere.
Another reason Portsea is famous is because it is the area where an Australian prime minister went missing while spearfishing off Cheviot Beach in 1967. Harold Holt’s body was never recovered and the area where he went missing is now known as the Harold Holt Marine Reserve.
Today, Portsea remains a popular summer holiday destination but people flock to this area all year round. In this guide we’ll tell you everything there is to know about Portsea including:
– Popular Events
– How to get to Portsea from Melbourne
– Things to do
– Where to eat
– Where to stay
Popular Events in Portsea
Portsea Pro-Am Classic
The Portsea Pro-Am Classic is an annual golf tournament that is held at the Portsea Golf Club. It’s considered one of the best tournaments of its type in Australia and the sand-based fairways create a great wet course. The Portsea Pro-Am is held on January 2nd each year.
Portsea Swim Classic
The Portsea Swim Classic is an annual 1500 metre ocean swim that provides the Portsea Surf Life Saving Club funding to keep the beach safe. There are a number of male and female divisions for different age groups and 2021 will be the 35th annual swim race.
Melbourne to Hobart Yacht Race
The Melbourne to Hobart Westcoaster is an annual yacht race that starts in Portsea. From Portsea the yachts head out to Port Phillip Heads, past Lonsdale Reef and then heading out to the entrance of Port Phillip Bay before the change of tide. The yachts then have to cross Bass Strait and make it over to Tasmania. This race happens at the end of December each year and is a total of 435 nautical miles.
Portsea Polo is an annual event where six teams with three players per side compete in the sport of polo. It’s also an excuse for people to dress up and have a few drinks while they watch the polo players rush by on horseback.
How to get from Melbourne to Portsea
If you’re heading down to Portsea for the day from Melbourne, you can hire a bus or minivan to take you down with your group of friends. If you’re driving to Portsea from Melbourne, you can take the scenic route along the Nepean Highway, or the quicker way is to take the Mornington Peninsula Freeway. It’s about a 1 hour and 40-minute drive to Portsea.
Things to do in Portsea
Take a cruise
The best way to see this part of the Victorian coastline is to take a cruise. There are plenty of boat charters that offer cruises including one day and overnight options. You’ll be able to experience the spectacular views of Port Phillip Bay. Some cruise options include gourmet lunch and wine. If you’re lucky, you might even see a dolphin.
Point Nepean National Park
Point Nepean National Park is located at the Port Phillip Heads and is the second oldest permanent quarantine station in Australia. There are over 50 heritage-listed buildings and a number of military forts dating back to the late 1800s.
When you reach the end of Point Nepean Road, there is a visitor centre where you can hire bikes, or if you prefer you can go on foot. You’ll need to pay a small fee to enter but it’s a great place to explore.
From the main track there are a few different walking tracks including:
– The Walter Pisterman Heritage Walk
– The Cheviot Hill Discovery Walk
– The Fort Pearce Heritage Walk
– The Fort Nepean Walk
Make sure to check out the cannons at the fort. Allegedly during both world wars, these cannons fired the first shot on Britain’s side. On the weekends and school holidays there are also guided walks available.
The ferry that runs from Sorrento to Queenscliff makes a brief stop at Portsea. This two-hour trip is a great scenic ferry ride with possible dolphin and seal sightings. You can also book fishing trips, boat charter services, scuba diving and snorkelling trips.
For scuba diving enthusiasts, you can book a trip to the HMAS Canberra wreck. There are opportunities for divers with different levels of experience, from open water level to advanced wreck divers to enjoy this site.
London Bridge is a local attraction in Portsea, which is located to the west of Portsea Back Beach. It’s an impressive rock formation that lines the coastline. There are many rock formations dotted along the coast, but none as eye-catching as the London Bridge. You can check it out from the lookout or wander down to the beach to see it up close.
The Coastal Walk
The Coastal Walk runs from London Bridge to Cape Schanck and is a total of 28 km. If you don’t want to do the whole walk there are a number of subsections that you can do. Along it you’ll see spectacular jagged cliffs, rock pools, sand dunes, rock formations and beautiful beaches including Blairgowrie, Rye, St Andrews and Gunnamatta. Not all of these beaches are safe to swim or surf at so it’s important to swim between surf lifesaving flags. Keen birdwatchers should look out for giant petrels and albatrosses out at sea.
Shelley Beach Walk
Shelley Beach is located between Portsea and Sorrento and is an enjoyable walk. You’ll see colourful bathing boxes and a lovely sandy beach. There is very limited parking so it’s much better to walk there from Portsea.
Where to eat in Portsea
The Portsea Hotel is a popular drinking establishment with excellent views of Port Phillip Bay. During the summer months, people flock here from all over the Peninsula including Rosebud and Rye, so if you’re hoping to grab a table it’s best to get here early. You’ll find plenty of local beers and wines on the menu, as well as wood fired pizzas and other pub classics.
Where to stay in Portsea
Coast & Country have plenty of holiday accommodation options both in Portsea and neighbouring towns. We offer accommodation that is:
– Good for large groups
– Includes a swimming pool / spa
– Walking distance to the beach
If you do have a pet that you’d like to bring, please arrange this with us prior to booking. We also charge a $80 cleaning fee.
Our Portsea Place house is less than a 200 metre walk to the beach. There is a total of five bedrooms that can sleep up to 10 people. The house features a large entertainment deck with BBQ, an open wood fireplace, air conditioning and plenty of other amenities.