Welcome to Portsea, the richest town in Australia and a stunningly beautiful seaside resort that most certainly has the wow factor. Situated on the point of the Mornington Peninsula, some 60 miles southeast of Melbourne, Portsea is the embodiment of the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
Millionaire mansions line its cliffs and shoreline, homes for Melbourne’s rich and famous, while the gorgeous clean waters and beaches of Port Philip Bay are filled with pleasure craft, surfers and swimmers. While buying a house here might be well beyond the reach of most of us, for holidaymakers there’s the opportunity to move in temporarily by searching for holiday rentals in this most glamorous of towns.
Portsea takes its name from its English namesake, Portsea, near Portsmouth, from where the first British settlers sailed to Australia in the 18th century. Its plentiful limestone was used in the building of the mighty city of Melbourne and the remains of many kilns established during that time can still be seen.
The barracks at Point Nepean were built in 1882 to defend Port Philip Bay – the southernmost tip of the Peninsula is only 3km from Point Lonsdale on the western side of the bay, making the entrance to the bay a narrow and, at times, treacherous one. Closed to the public for a century, today Point Nepean is a national park and its labyrinth of tunnels and fortifications make it a thrilling visitor attraction. Don’t miss the Quarantine Station, built when a ship carrying passengers sick with yellow fever entered Port Philip Bay in 1852.
While Portsea is considered an upmarket resort and holiday rentals here are often at a premium, there is still a good choice of accommodation, including holiday villas and apartments.
The main appeal of Portsea is, of course, its beaches which actually surround the town – you can, in fact, walk from the “back” beaches on the southern shore of the Peninsula where swimmers and surfers take on the challenge of the Bass Strait waters to the more tranquil “front” beaches on the northern shore. Scuba diving and snorkelling are popular activities with charters leaving the Portsea pier daily during the warmer months – the wreck of the HMAS Canberra, a sunken warship, is a popular spot for divers. Deep-sea fishing charters also depart daily along with dolphin spotting boats.
Portsea’s golf course, bang on the shoreline, is one of the top 100 in Australia and, although a private club, is open to visitors keen to challenge themselves on its greens and fairways.
Millionaire’s Walk will take you past the swish 19th century mansions and more modern houses that are home to Portsea’s wealthiest residents, and another great way to see the town is from the bay itself. If money is no object, splash out on a yacht charter and imagine you’re one of the idle rich for the day. Or hope on board the ferry that sails from Sorrento to Queenscliff and stops at Portsea along the way.
The hardy will want to walk the length of the coastline on the Coastal Walk from the rock arch known as London Bridge to Cape Schanck, a walk that usually takes two days to complete, but you can join the route at any one of the 30 access points and simply amble along to wherever takes your fancy. You’ll be happy knowing you can kick off your hiking boots and relax in your holiday accommodation at the end of a strenuous walking day.
Hot summers and cool winters are the climatic hallmark of the Mornington Peninsula. The average summer temperate is 25°C, while the mercury rarely rises above 16°C during winter. Do remember, however, that Portsea’s position, surrounded by water, means the weather can be extremely changeable, regardless of the season. Visitors unused to Australian summers should take care to cover up well with sunscreen and if you’re venturing out on to the water, make sure you have a jacket with you. The great thing about having a local base with your Portsea holiday accommodation is that you are never far from home if the weather does change rapidly.
Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport is the gateway to the state of Victoria and the Mornington Peninsula. UK visitors can fly to Melbourne from London’s Heathrow Airport with some of the biggest airlines, including Qantas, BA and Emirates, flying direct all year round. A bus runs direct from the airport to the southern Melbourne suburb of Frankston from where local buses go to Portsea, while trains run daily from Melbourne to Frankston. Renting a car will give holidaymakers more freedom to explore more of the Peninsula from their holiday rentals.