Rich in history and natural beauty, Port Fairy has always been a popular destination for Victorians seeking a weekend getaway or a couple of weeks by the sea.
With a beautiful swimming beach to its east, rugged rocky coastline to the west, and the Moyne River, it’s possible to enjoy a plethora of aquatic activities, ranging from swimming and surfing to fishing and long walks along the sand.
It’s also a great spot for wining and dining, with plenty of options to suit all tastes and budgets, from the pub grub at the historic Caledonian Inn (The Stump) to the authentic Italian cuisine at L’Edera.
Established in 1844, the Caledonian Inn on Bank Street is Victoria’s “oldest continually licensed hotel” and you may get some old- fashioned service, including a free joke (whether you want it or not) from the bartender.
It’s got a good, loud public bar filled with locals and visitors and the bistro is always busy. The food isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s good value with generous helpings.
The menu features twists on some old favourites, such as the variety of chicken parma options that include the Mexicana, which is kind of like nachos but with a schnitzel in place of corn chips. It’s trashy but tasty.
Diagonally opposite the Caledonian, L’Edera looks like a boutique Italian restaurant. But behind the elegant façade is a large space with a bar and two rooms making it excellent for functions.
My dining experience here was at a wedding. If the food was anything to go by, its excellent reputation as an a la carte restaurant is warranted. There was no rubber chicken and beef option.
Starters included a nice range of antipasto and scrumptious seared prawns. The main meals, including delicious lamb cutlets, were fresh and well presented.
THE TOP SHELF AT COFFIN SALLY. PICTURE: DAVID BONNICI
Around the corner on Sackville Street is a great example of the new guard breaking into the region’s hospitality scene.
Coffin Sally is a hip little pizza restaurant and bar that, as one punter put it is like going through a wormhole straight to Brunswick.
It does have an inner-city vibe to it and I must confess feeling well beyond the target demographic. My first impression was this was a pretentious hipster bar, but my prejudices were soon discarded.
The pizzas were fantastic. They were a very decent size with fresh ingredients and a crust that you’d be forgiven for thinking was cooked in a wood-fire oven, all reasonably priced at about $14.
The drinks list is very impressive but it was only when we decided to camp at the bar, near the glorious bluestone fireplace, that I realised how seriously this place took it’s booze.
There’s nothing but top-shelf stuff here. The barman, Marcus, has a passion for his craft that’s evident through his knowledge of the drinks he serves and the stories behind the labels on the bottles.
Coffin Sally co-owner Trent Eggington opened the place with chef Peter Charlton in 2012 after gaining experience in Lorne and Melbourne at establishments such as Cookie.
After several stouts (the beer list is extensive) – including Youngs Double Chocolate from England, a very nice Sri Lankan porter called Sinha (which Marcus lamented was no longer available in Australia) – I was a Coffin Sally convert and tweeted to anyone who cared that “I have found the best bar in Victoria and it’s not in Melbourne”.
Sobriety has not tempered my opinion.
Port Fairy has no shortage of breakfast spots. I could be writing about any, but it was The Hub, prominently situated on the corner of Bank and Sackville streets, that we happened on.
There’s a substantial breakfast and lunch menu, but I couldn’t go past the simply named “breakfast roll” – Turkish bread with egg, bacon and cheese.
Yes, this is simple fare that anyone can make, but this was put together in perfect proportions. The first morning we were there, my partner, doing her best to stay in shape for the wedding, opted to forgo brekkie but decided on having a bite of mine … then two, then three.
Accommodation options are plentiful in Port Fairy, ranging from B&Bs to motels and huge holiday houses in town or along beaches or river. A personal favourite is Wytonia (pictured above), just outside town along the rugged eastern beach.
It has well-appointed apartments and a self-contained studio for two on what’s as close to absolute beachfront property as you’ll get in Victoria.
The views of the breaking waves can be enjoyed without even getting out of bed.