Portland is Victoria’s first permanent European settlement, the state’s birthplace.
What became Portland and its district formed part of the lands ranged by the Gunditjmara people,whose presence dates back thousands of years. The first Europeans to sight this region were Lieutenant James Grant and the crew of the Lady Nelson, sailing from west to east in 1800. Grant sighted and named Portland Bay on 7 December 1800.
The early maritime explorers did not set foot ashore. The first Europeans to do so were sealers from Tasmania who landed in Portland Bay in the 1820’s and stayed for extended periods. Sealers were followed by whalers, who established whaling stations around Portland Bay in the early 1830’s.
Permanent, successful European settlement was established at Portland Bay in November 1834 by the Henty Brothers, until this point, the European presence had been seasonal. the Henty aimed to develop extensive inland sheep stations.
Renowned explorer Major Mitchell made his way to Portland in 1836, informing the Henty’s of the excellent lands inland. This led to a wave of settlers pressing inland via Portland, Melbourne and Geelong to establish sheep runs in ” Australia Felix”.
Whaling, however underpinned the prosperity of the settlement in the pioneering 1830’s and 1840’s. The settlement developed into a major regional port and staging point for the transportation of goods inland and wool overseas. By 1850, Portland had a population of 1200.
The Gold rushes of the 1850’s generated prosperity for Portland with the arrival of many immigrant vessels from Britain.
by 1860, Portland had a population of 3000 and a robust and diverse economy. The settlement became a borough in 1863. Coastal steamers contributed much to the settlements development, as did the completion of the railway link with Melbourne in 1878. By Federation in 1901, Portland’s port served the needs of an extensive hinterland.
When Victoria commemorated its centenary in 1934 Portland led of the state’s celebrations. Portland became a town in 1949 and the redeveloped port was opened in 1960. In 1984 Portland celebrated the 150th anniversary of its establishment and became a city in 1985.
An international port and prosperous city, Portland is rich in history and enjoys links with significant personalities including the pioneering Henty brothers and William Dutton, explorer Major Mitchell, Artic explorer Sir John Franklin, mariner and harbour master James Fawthrop, reformer Vida Goldstein, acclaimed World War 11 photographer Damien Parer and Mary MacKillop.