It was cool with rain showers in Port Fairy this morning. After a breakfast at the Oak and Anchor, we spent some time wandering along the main shopping street (Sackville Street). We sheltered under shop verandahs as some showers passed through and bought some ham and cheese rolls to take away for lunch.
Our time for most of the afternoon was spent around the tiny town of Yambuk, to the west of Port Fairy. It isn’t notable for very much at all other than the local roads provide the only access on this section of the highway to the coast. It is thought that ‘Yambuk” was a Gundidjmara Aboriginal word meaning either “moon” or “water”. It is also suggested that it might mean “red kangaroo” and “big lake”. In other words, no one really knows the origin of its name!.
Our first stop ss we explored along the highway was at the impressive Crags Coastal Reserve with its views across to Lady Percy Island. This is a scenic and blustery section of Victoria’s west coast and for thousands of years was a gathering place for indigenous tribes.
There is a small memorial that commemorates a WW2 flight crew of an Avro Lancaster aircraft who did not survive a nearby ditching whilst flying on a coastal patrol. The four man crew was never recovered, however the aircraft rests on the seabed close to a nearby island.
Located on the Princes Highway, the Yambuk Inn was once an important stopping place on the road between Port Fairy and Portland. It was constructed of bluestone in 1870-71 to replace an original timber building which was erected on the same site in 1856. The attic roof structure is characteristic of early building deigns in New South Wales and Tasmania and possibly reflects a provincial style of early Port Fairy. I think it has recently become a victim of Covid as the building is closed and deserted. When it was operating, the car park and gardens never looked as unkempt as they do now. It’s a real pity as the building has lots of character and pubs like this are normally the focal point for the community in small towns like this one.
Eight kilometres south of Yambuk is Yambuk Lake – actually the estuary of the Eumeralla River. It is essentially a fishing lake, a caravan park, a boat ramp and a small fishing wharf. It was a nice place at which to eat our bread rolls and watch some pelicans and other seabirds.
Near the boat ramp, on the eastern side of the lake, is a giant slide in the sand dunes. We remember having lots of fun on this slide when our kids were little. Perhaps the slide has been renovated over time as I’m sure that it was much longer then – but everything seemed larger when we were all younger.
Further along the highway is the Yambuk Wind Farm. Its site was chosen for its ideal wind conditions – it has an average annual wind speed of 30km/h. There are 20 wind generators that produce enough energy to meet the annual needs of 35,000 homes. The turbines have a maximum hub height of 70 metres and maximum blade tip height of 106 metres. It has been estimated that the wind farm operations remove an estimated 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
The furthest point to which we travelled today was to see the mouth of he Fitzroy River at Tyrendarra. Much of Western Victoria is an ancient lava plain – I think it is the third largest lava plains in the world. The river is crossed by the Tyrendarra lava flow, just upstream of the Princes Highway. This lava flow is 30,000 years old and extends down an old flow path of Darlot Creek.
Near the river mouth, is a free camping reserve that is suitable for caravans, big rigs, and tent-based camping. It is very popular with fishermen and other campers interested in water-based activities. The location of the river mouth is dynamic, constantly moving across a coastal sandbar at its mouth.
As in other places, this area is dotted with old ruined houses. Some of these have been abandoned but most have simply been replaced with more modern dwellings as they began to decay and finished their useful life. We spotted this one on the road to the Fitzroy River Mouth and named it ‘The Mansion’.
Our dinner tonight is at the Caledonian Inn, also called ‘The Stump’ in Port Fairy. Built in 1844, This inn holds the longest continuously operating hotel licence in the same building in Victoria. According to its street plaque, the Hotel is pretty much how it was first constructed. This is due in part to the original builders fleeing to the gold-fields during its early days. It was nicknamed ‘The Stump’ because they didn’t finish building the upstairs section, hence there are a number of stumps poking up from the floor.