Port Albert:On Victoria's South East Coast
A short run south west from Yarram will take you to this quiet little former busy port, where many of the early buildings can still be seen.
Explorer/navigator George Bass first sailed into Corner Inlet in 1788 and marked it on his map. As a frontier town in the early days, it was the gateway into Gippsland, then being opened up by the Macmillan families, to run cattle for the Melbourne and Tasmanian markets. Some farmers also ran sheep for wool or meat and of course fishing, whaling and sealing were also industries that attracted new settlers to the township.
In 1892, Port Albert became the railhead for the Great Southern Railway, but the eventual advent of new overland routes and the discovery of the entrance to the Gippsland lakes sent this bustling port into steady decline. No longer are fortune hunters, vagabonds and customs officers to be seen and heard around the township, but it has become a popular holiday venue for boaties and fisher folk, with a foreshore caravan park, hotel and B&B accommodation, plus boat moorings at the mini marina.
The township has had several name changes over the years. First it was known as New Leith, then The Stockyard, before it was finally named after Queen Victorias husband.
There are a number of really note- worthy buildings to admire, including the two storey Port Albert Hotel opposite the pier and jetty. There has been a hotel on this site since 1844 and the current building dates back to 1860. The present establishment has a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, well priced, nicely cooked food and a big roaring fire in the bar in winter months. Here you can enjoy some tasty tucker with the beverage of your choice and look out over the foreshore at the same time. It also has a more formal dining room at the rear.
The former Derwent Hotel, built in 1859, is to be seen opposite the Maritime Museum in the main street. It has had a chequered career, having also been a boarding house, a print works, a store and the government receipt and pay office. It is now two well kept private residences.
The Maritime Museum is small but well worth a visit. Built in 1862, It was formerly a bank, and there gold, from the Omeo, Grant and Crooked River diggings was stored during the gold rush period. At its peak in 1861, ships were taking away over 1000 ounces (30kgs) of gold per week. There are numerous authentic exhibits such as boats, mines and whale oil rendering pots in the gardens and indoors there are many more interesting artefacts to be seen in the various display rooms. The entry fee is small and goes towards the upkeep of the place.
Opposite the museum is the bar of the Ship Inn. It is all that remains of a far more extensive establishment built in 1856. The upper storey was a wonderful viewing point during regattas, it is claimed. A hitching rail and lamp have been erected in front of the remains of the old building.
The 1856 Bond Store and warehouse is one of the oldest in Victoria The store has an unusual hit and miss brick vent in the gable. The present St Johns Church of England was built in 1885 and is quite attractive. Some of its furnishing are reputed to have come from that early wreck - the ®Clonmel. Take a slow cruise around the streets, or walk, if you prefer and enjoy some of the delightful old cottages and their attractive gardens. One of the prettiest is the old toll house at the entrance to the township.
One of the much newer buildings and of no architectural significance can be found right at the end of the main street, past the jetty. That is the fresh fish shop, that also sells what is reputed to be the finest fish and chips in Victoria. The only thing is there is nowhere to eat inside. You choose your fish, have it fried, then go outside and eat it at the big wooden tables overlooking the inlet, if they are not already occupied and nearby the gulls and pelicans will be waiting for the remnants, if you can spare any.
On the way back, if you are passing through Yarram, make sure you stop for coffee or hot chocolate and pastries in the old Coffee Palace. Its a real gem and not expensive.