The sleepy township of Port Fairy is a charming surprise, hidden at the far western end of the Great Ocean Road. Although it’s known for its historic buildings, excellent food and wine, and most famously the annual Port Fairy Folk Festival, I’m the visitor who’s always on the lookout for the best walk in any area I visit. I was pretty stoked with Griffiths Island.
Griffiths Island (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Griffith Island or Griffitts Island) was named after John Griffiths who was responsible for kicking off the town’s whaling industry here in the 1830s, but fortunately, there’s not much left to suggest that this ever happened now. The island is now protected as a sanctuary for shearwaters – also (less impressively) known as mutton birds – and other incredible birdlife
The island is accessed via a causeway from the Griffiths Island Carpark at Martin’s Point. Bikes are allowed on the island if that’s your preference. You could easily ride to the lighthouse and back (1.2 km return) but sections of this circuit cross beaches and sand dunes so you’re probably better walking if you want to take in the whole island unless you’ve got some chunky tyres.
From the end of the causeway, head left toward Port Fairy Lighthouse. The track winds its way through low-lying scrub, where you should start keeping an eye out for birdlife. Griffith Island is a bird watcher’s paradise, with 80 to 90 different species spotted here. Visit around sunrise or sunset for the best bird-watching opportunities. The famous colony of shearwater can be seen in spring and summer and a viewing platform has been erected on this section of the walk where people watch them swarm their burrows in the scrub at dusk. Please stick to the walking tracks to avoid disturbing their burrows.
As you approach Port Fairy Lighthouse on Griffiths Island’s eastern tip, swamp wallabies can be seen grazing amongst the taller vegetation. The lighthouse itself is worth visiting, built of local bluestone sometime around 1859. It’s now automatic and runs with solar power, the last lighthouse keeper having lived n the island in the early ‘50s.
Continuing the circuit from Port Fairy Lighthouse, you’ll pass through scrub and across the sand dunes to some picturesque beaches. Port Fairy is a popular spot for spotting the Southern Right Whales as they pass this coastline from June to October, so this section of the walk is perfect for whale watching. There’s also a possibility of seeing echidnas and blue-tongued lizards, but tiger snakes aren’t uncommon here in the warmer months, so watch your step. Eventually, you’ll return to the causeway where you can return to the car park.
Need to Know
Length: 3.1 km
Time: 1 hr
Grade: Easy / Grade 3 (according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System)
Region: South West Victoria
Park: Griffiths Island Reserve
Closest Town: Port Fairy
Car Access: Head all the way to the east end of Port Fairy’s main street (Regent Street), then turn right onto Gipps Street, which becomes Ocean Drive. Follow this until you see the signed Griffiths Island Carpark on your left.
Map: No map is necessary. We recommend you follow the circuit in a clockwise direction.
Have you visited Port Fairy? Got it on your bucket list? If you have any stories, updates or corrections, please let us know by commenting below.
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