Points of Interest Category: Historical POI's 1841-1860, Historical, Infrastructure | Landmark, Marina | Harbour, Pier | Jetty, and Site | InfrastructurePoints of Interest Tags: Bellarine Peninsula, History | Historical - Bellarine Peninsula, Pier - Bellarine Peninsula, and Portarlington to St Leonard's Foreshore Trail - Bellarine Peninsula
Though little remains of the original pier of 1859, the location is exactly as it was back then.
Interestingly, it was up until the year 1937 that steamers arrived daily to transport passengers and cargo across Port Phillip Bay. The pier was integral to the town and the entire Bellarine Peninsula – it was the centre of the economic and recreational activities of this beautiful, seaside village. Still, today, it is rare to see the pier without locals and tourists alike, enjoying the beauties it bestows.
The Portarlington Pier is actually not the first pier to be built in the town. The first documented pier was privately owned and located westward along the beach, in front of the Portarlington Mill. A map of Portarlington dated 1854, notes a ‘Landing Place’ whereas a Map from 1858 clearly shows a diagram of the jetty . . .
This larger, public pier, was built in 1859. The pier has undergone many changes over the past 150+ years during which time it was extended, reduced to a single lane, the wooden structure gradually converted to concrete, and so forth . . . Today, it has been returned to a double lane pier and forms the western perimeter of the ‘Portarlington Safe Harbour and Marina’.
The ‘Portarlington Pier’ plays a vital role to the Port Phillip Bay aquaculture industry. A fleet of fishing vessels, mainly mussel boats, are based at the Pier – it is not unusual to see crews setting out or returning from harvesting the Blue Mussels grown in farms just offshore. In fact, Portarlington has become quite famous for its mussels, hosting the Mussel Festival in the January of each year. The festival embraces and teaches visitors how to cook and enjoy these yummy treats from the sea.
An evening stroll on the Pier reveals the stunning night time views across the Port Phillip Bay to the big city lights of Melbourne on the horizon – Wow !!! – it truly is a sight to behold . . .
The historic pier now forms the western perimeter of the newly established marina.
The Pier’s Beginnings . . .
During the early years, from the 1850’s onwards, the condition of the roads to Geelong were very poor. Added to that, there were the shire road tolls rendering the exorbitant costs and time-frames of transporting produce via land unsustainable.
Transport by sea was the only option. A petition by local farmers demanding access to a public jetty resulted in the construction of the ‘Portarlington Pier’ in 1859. Steamers regularly traversed Port Phillip Bay, often trading their goods directly from the piers – bringing supplies, passengers, mail and news to the region. The return journey would ensure the region’s produce would quickly reach Geelong, Melbourne and beyond.
The Petrel was the first vessel to service the direct run to Hobsons Bay. She was reportedly doing a brisk trade by 1866 – delivering hay, butter, eggs, cheese, potatoes, wheat, flour, geese, turkeys, poultry, bacon, pork, and pigs – and returning to Portarlington with supplies of tea, sugar, coffee, wine, beer, spirits, and other commercial items.
Sometime prior to 1868 the Portarlington Bathing House was completed, which assisted the commissioner’s decision to extend the pier, as well as commence a regular steamer run from Portarlington to Melbourne via Geelong.
The jetty was extended in 1870, allowing sufficient depth for vessels to dock at any tide. Soon daily steamers ran from Melbourne – the first to pick up passengers and cargo was the SS ‘Despatch‘, in 1872 . . .
The direct run to Melbourne provided markets with large deliveries of potatoes and onions from all around the Bellarine Peninsula. Lines of carts laden with produce were a common sight heading down to the port. At times up to eight or nine lighters would be loading cargo destined for Melbourne, as well as a steamer.
The pier was reconstructed in 1872, at which time storage sheds were added.
The SS ‘Edina’ serviced the Melbourne to Geelong passenger trade from 1875 up to 1937, gaining enormous popularity owing to her longevity. In 1899, she rammed and sank her rival, the Excelsior, in Hobsons Bay, Port Phillip.
As a result of the natural harbour and hence the pier facilitating transport across the bay, Portarlington soon began to flourish. A post office opened in 1863. Police were stationed in the town from 1871. Schools, churches, halls and other public buildings were built during the 1870’s and 1880’s. Sporting clubs and population soon followed, though the town did not flourish to the extent as was first expected . . .
– Close proximity to Town Centre – obtain Directions here
– Car Parking available adjacent to the Pier
– Adjacent to the Walking / Cycling Trail
– Parking for Larger Rigs (this is a RV Friendly town)
– Facilities available at Portarlington include:
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- Parking & Transfers:
- Off Street Parking
- Sealed Road