THURSDAY 21 JULY PORT FAIRY TO BEACHPORT 245kms
I was up early and took dog for a long walk along the rail trail. When I got back, John was up and making breakfast. Didn’t hurry too much to pack up this morning.
We had decided to travel on into the south-east of SA, to places we hadn’t stayed before together.
So travelled west towards Portland, then took the Mt Clay road to Heywood. Back in 1998, and again on a short family holiday a few years ago, we had stayed at both Portland and Narrawong, so didn’t feel the need to visit these again.
From Heywood, through Dartmoor to Mt Gambier, through a mix of grazing country and pine plantations.
Mt Gambier was fairly busy – more traffic than we really like, but the route through the town and out onto the Millicent Road – the Princes Highway still – was easy enough. We stopped at the Visitor Information Centre in the Mount, where there was parking for the rig. I collected some tourist information, we gave dog a short walk around on lead, and ate the rolls I’d prepared this morning, for lunch.
Again, Mount Gambier was a place we had visited before, so we had no wish to stay there. Instead, it was on up the highway, through Millicent, and onto the coast road that would take us to Beachport. This was an attractive stretch, through undulating farming land, with good looking scrub areas in patches, and alongside the quiet road.
I had visited Beachport and stayed there a number of times in the past, both when teaching at Lucindale – a small town about 90kms away – and at the more distant Hamilton. A friend had a family holiday house up on the hill at Beachport, with a wonderful outlook across the bay, and we used to have weekend gatherings there, in the days before children. So, for me, it was a favourite and nostalgic place to return to.
We booked into the Ocean View Caravan Park, for a week, intending to use it as a base from which to explore the area. The powered site cost $25 a night, with the seventh night free.
We were able to select a site for ourselves as there were few travellers here at this time of year. The park had a section of permanent cabins and vans and, separately, some terraced beautifully grassed levels for travellers. Set ourselves up on a high terrace that gave us an outlook across the road to the superb Rivoli Bay. We were not too far from the clean and adequate amenities block. The only drawback of our chosen site was that said amenities were at a lower level than our terrace, so there was a steep little clamber back up the slope, or a long walk around the flatter internal roads.
The day had turned out sunny, so arriving in pleasant weather created a really favourable impression of the place, for John.
After setting up, we went for a quick drive around the streets to give John an idea of the layout. The small area of shops was not far from the caravan park – well within walking distance for me to get papers or other oddments. Being a small and seasonal tourist place, there were not many shops, but a sort of general store, a hotel, newsagency, fish and chip place ensured our needs would be well met.
Rather like Port Fairy, Beachport started out in the 1830’s as a whaling station, then transitioned eventually to a port servicing the surrounding area, and fishing. From the 1840’s and 50’s, pastoralists spread out through the south east area, coming both westwards from the settled areas around Portland, and overland from Adelaide. The Victorian gold rushes of the 1850’s saw ships landing Chinese miners along this coast, who would travel overland in an attempt to evade the tax levied on them entering through Melbourne.
The magnificent jetty was completed in the early 1880’s, to enable wool exports from the hinterland. It was originally over a km long, but these days has been reduced to just under 800 metres.
With this history, Beachport has some beautiful old buildings, constructed from the local limestone, mostly, as well as little cottages that were the homes of fishermen, sailors and port workers.
Apart from tourists, these days the main industry in Beachport is cray fishing, but this only happens across the cray season over summer. My friend used to have a permit to put out a couple of cray pots, during the season, and we had some great cook ups of the catch, in the back yard, using a fireplace constructed to hold cray boilers. I thought it was a pity we were here out of season – would have been great to buy ourselves a feast.
I directed John up the hill and around the bends, past friend’s house – which as far as I knew they still visited, from their current home in a Murray River town.
We continued on along the well named Scenic Drive for a few kms. It wound through the dune hills, past the super-salty Beachport Lake, became a good unsealed road and ended at a lookout over the ocean. We returned the same way.
There would be time to explore the features along the route, later in the week. I guess we hadn’t explored much along that Scenic Drive area, back in the day, because it was far more spectacular than I remembered.
Back at camp, we took dog for a walk along a path that bordered the foreshore. There were several access points to this along the caravan park fence.
Then it was the usual afternoon and evening. Stir fry and rice for tea.