An extract from Tourists' Guide to Geelong and the Southern Watering Places, published in 1893.
"This picturesque spot is the first port of call for Melbourne and Geelong steamers. The distance from the Gellibrand Lightship to Portarlington is 22 miles, and the "Courier" covers the distance in a few minutes over the hour. Portarlington is rapidly rising into favor as a watering-place within easy reach of Melbourne, and enjoys a more secluded and sheltered position than most of the pleasure haunts in Port Phillip Bay. It lies on the northernmost point of the "Indented Heads", as this portion of the coast was named by Flinders in 1802. The town rises sharply from the sea-shore, reaching to the summit of a slope, from which a fine view is obtained of the opposite shore of the bay, with the three remarkable hills called the You Yangs as a centre-piece.
Portarlington is much recommended for invalids to recruit their health, and enjoy pure air and sea bathing. The first attraction in Portarlington is the beach. Fronting the beautiful beach are numberless shady nooks and sloping hills. A broad fringe of bright sand runs for many miles in both directions, and pedestrians will find a stroll to Clifton Springs on the west, or St. Leonards on the east, well worth the exertion. A few hundred yards to the east of the jetty, visitors may enjoy excellent bathing in the commodious and well-arranged baths.
Above the beach and a little to the left are the Gardens - a large grassy enclosure, well planted with trees, and supplied with shelter in the shape of pavilions, and numerous seats. This is the best spot for enjoying the view from Portarlington. Across the bay rise the You Yangs on the left; and further off the Dandenong Ranges stretch towards the east. On clear days the Melbourne shipping and the sharp outline of Mount Macedon are easily discernible.
The town is neatly laid out with broad streets, some of which are planted with English elms and pines.
In addition to the pleasures of sea-bathing, delightful scenery and healthy walks and drives, the visitors and residents of Portarlington enjoy many of the conveniences of larger cities. A very pretty and centrally situated Post Office receives and despatches several mails daily. The mail with Melbourne morning papers being delivered by 10 a.m.
Near the Post Office is a well-appointed Free and Circulating Library, with a large and interesting collection of books and newspapers.
Churches of the Wesleyan, Presbyterian, and Church of England dominations are centrally situated, each church having its own Sunday school.
The State school is a handsome brick building, with a good staff of teachers, and shows very good results.
An excellent Private School, under the management of Mr. C. Tonner, draws a number of boarders from Melbourne, and with good school discipline, and the pleasant and healthful surroundings of Portarlington, it is quite easy to understand that such an institution as Mr. Tonners is highly appreciated.
Cobb and Co's. mail coach runs to and from Drysdale railway station, seven miles away, in connection with the morning and evening trains.
The morning coach also runs through to Geelong, returning in the afternoon at 3 p.m.
Excursions will find no difficulty in driving about the beautiful district surrounding Portarlington. During the summer months Cobb & Co's waggonettes run two or three times daily between Portarlington, Drysdale, and Clifton Springs, at a return fare of 3s. Cobb and Co. have also a well furnished stable near the Grand Hotel, where visitors are supplied with family waggonettes, pony phaetons, buggies, etc., at reasonable charges.
The following are interesting drives in the neighbourhood of the Port :-
St. Leonards - 6 miles; good sea fishing, splendid view of entire bay.
Drysdale - 6 miles; this drive is through rich undulating country. Visitors have an opportunity of seeing the United Service Home, butter factory, chicken farm, etc.
Clifton Springs - 7 miles; sulphur baths, mineral waters; beautiful shelly beach.
Bellarine Hills - 8 miles; a round drive, with grand scenery. The hill overlooks Corio Bay, Swan Bay, Port Phillip, and Bass Straits, with fine view of Geelong, Drysdale, Queenscliff, Portsea, Sorrento, etc.
Queenscliff - 14 miles; fine drive through farm lands, grazing and forest country.
Wallington - 12 miles; Strawberry gardens, fruit and flowers in season.
Ocean Grove - 14 miles, and Barwon Heads - 15 miles; fine ocean beach; good fishing, and shooting at Connewarre Lakes.
Geelong - 19 miles; the drive is an exceedingly pleasant one, through fine country; good roads.
First-rate accommodation is provided for visitors at the Portarlington Grand Hotel, Miller's Family Hotel, Bay View Hotel, also the Coffee Palace, and a number of nicely furnished boarding houses.1"
- A. J. Campbell, Tourists' Guide to Geelong and the South Watering Places, Henry Thacker, Geelong, 1893, pp.50-52.
[From the Geelong Historical Records Centre and the files of the Bellarine Historical Society]
Record Sources for Portarlington
- Photographs : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre; various private collections.
- Maps & Plans : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
- Newspapers : Geelong Advertiser Indexes - Bellarine Historical Society & Geelong Historical Records Centre; Geelong Advertiser on microfilm - Geelong Historical Records Centre; various local newspapers - Bellarine Historical Society.
- Miscellaneous Documents & Advertisements : Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre; various private collections.
- Bellarine Shire Council Records : Geelong Historical Records Centre.
- More recent Council Records : City of Greater Geelong.
- Cemetery Records : (Portarlington Cemetery) Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
- Land Records : Registrar of Titles, Melbourne; Bellarine Historical Society; Geelong Historical Records Centre.
Brownhill, Geo. H. Illustrated Guide to Geelong And District, Facsimile edn., Deakin University Press, Geelong, 1990.
Campbell, A. J. Tourist Guide to Geelong and Southern Watering Places, Henry Thacker, Geelong, 1893.
McLeod, Eunice. Early History of Portarlington and East Bellarine, Indented Head and St. Leonards, Eunice McLeod, Portarlington, 1962.
McLeod, Eunice. Portarlington, Indented Head, St. Leonards : History & Reminiscences, Marine History, Portarlington, n.d. (reprint with changes to above publication).
Wynd, Ian. Balla-wein : A history of the Shire of Bellarine, Shire of Bellarine, Drysdale, 1988.
Wynd, Ian. Geelong The Pivot : A Short History of Geelong and District, Cypress Books, Mont Albert North, 1971.